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Discriminating Taste: Racism in America–a Continuing Story

8:06 am in Uncategorized by brasch

by Walter Brasch

For years, my father, a federal employee with a top secret clearance, carried a copy of his birth certificate when he went into Baja California from our home in San Diego. Many times, when he tried to reenter the U.S., he was stopped by the Border Patrol.

My father had thick black hair and naturally dark skin, and the Patrol thought he was a Mexican brazenly trying to sneak back into the country by claiming to be married to the black-haired, blue- eyed, light-skinned woman he claimed was his wife. It was annoying.

Day 108...RACISM SUCKS

Racism Sucks

It was also annoying that once back home, he faced discrimination because neighbors thought he was Mexican. Because we lived in an urban area, not many discriminated against my parents because they were Jews, but there were a few with hatred as great as their ignorance.

When I was 11 years old, we moved two hours North, near Los Angeles, and my parents bought a house in a new tract of about 150 houses, all owned by Whites and a few Hispanics. Three or four years later, a Realtor came by, plastering flyers on all the houses, announcing he had a special real good, one-time only deal. A few wouldn’t sell their houses at any price if it was a Black who was planning to move into the area. Someone in the tract took up the offer, and a Black family–he was a mechanical engineer–moved in. It didn’t take long before other White families began putting their houses up for sale. Only this time, they weren’t getting as much as the first family that sold out. Soon, the prices began tumbling as other Blacks and Hispanics moved in.

But my parents refused to sell their house. They had no intention of becoming involved with what was now known as “block busting.” A few of our Hispanic and Black neighbors wondered why we stayed. My parents always responded they preferred to have as neighbors good people, and it made no difference their ethnicity or race.

Until my father died in 1983, he owned that house in a neighborhood that went from almost 100 percent White to almost 100 percent Black, Hispanic, and lower-class White, refusing to be sucked in by racism.

Discrimination occurs throughout our country, whether we want to believe it or not. A secret tape recording revealed Texaco executives are racist. And we are shocked.

The military revealed that some of its male instructors sexually harassed, and sometimes raped, female recruits. And we are shocked.

A former Avis manager revealed that Avis policy in the Carolinas was to discourage Blacks from renting cars. And we are shocked.

We are shocked because we don’t think these things occur. But, they do occur.

At a local school district, one in which its teachers had “cultural diversity” classes in college and “diversity training” on-the-job, it’s not unusual to hear a few teachers or staff tell racist jokes, not just among themselves in a faculty lounge but also to students. And the students and teachers share a laugh.

White supremacists shout for “White Power!” and Black militants call for “Black Pride!” Each claims it isn’t planning to destroy any other race–although myriad Klan and Skinhead actions prove otherwise–but merely to strengthen their own. Add into the mix, those who cry “racism” when no racism exists and, thus, make it difficult for those with true compassion for justice to separate truth from fiction. Peel the rhetoric, and the core is still a racist fear.

A good friend of mine–a Navy submarine veteran, a former newspaper editor and business owner–worked as a bartender because he couldn’t get hired anywhere else. He scored in the high 90s on numerous state Civil Service tests, but was never hired. He applied to many companies, and was seldom given an interview. It had nothing to do with his abilities. It had everything to do the fact that he was in his late 50s, and didn’t have a college degree. Chalk up ageism and elitism in one interview.
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by brasch

Dissolving a Stain Applied by Henry Ford

11:03 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by Walter Brasch

 

Mark Fields is the new chief operating officer of the Ford Motor Co., second only to the CEO of the 164,000 person multinational corporation.

Normally, this would not be of much concern except to avid readers of the Wall Street Journal. There were several COOs and presidents before Fields. There will be several after him.

But this time it’s different. Mark Fields is a Jew.

Henry Ford, who founded the company in 1903 that bears his family name, was an anti-Semite. When asked in 1920 what the problem with major league baseball was, Ford summed it up in three words—“too much Jew.” At the time, fewer than two dozen Jews had ever played professional baseball during the previous four decades. During the 1920s, Ford’s newspaper, the weekly Dearborn Independent, distributed to every Ford dealership, was loaded with anti-Semitic articles. Several of those articles were compiled into a four-volume set, The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.

By the 1930s, Ford was both praised and honored by the Nazis, including Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS whose mission included the extermination of Jews. Adolph Hitler personally awarded Ford the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, that country’s highest award to a foreigner; Hitler personally kept a picture of the industrialist on his desk.

Ford, of course, wasn’t the only anti-Semite or racist in America. America’s colleges established admissions quotas or excluded minorities entirely. Medical schools admitted only a few Jews, and then only if they promised not to enter clinical practice but become psychiatrists. Apparently, they had to cede psychiatry to Jews because of the pioneering work by Freud, Adler, and other Jews. Jewish scientists—many like Einstein—were trained in European universities and then came to the United States during the wave of immigration between the world wars; they were “carefully watched” and often demeaned. Country clubs denied Jews access, villages denied them residence. And throughout the country, the resurgence of the Klan led to lynchings of Blacks and firebombing of synagogues.

Because of a higher proportion of Jews historically in the sciences, creative arts, social work, mass media, and financial empires than among the general population, a large number of Americans have isolated those professions and blamed Jews for whatever the current problem happens to be. A survey by the Anti-Defamation League in 2007 revealed that 15 percent of Americans held anti-Semitic views. More disguise their views by claiming they don’t oppose Jews, just urban liberals—a higher proportion of Jews live in urban areas than in rural areas, and Jews tend to be more liberal, and more active in social justice, than the general population.

During the late 1940s, Henry Ford II, the founder’s grandson, systematically decreased the company’s virulent anti-union attitudes and increased the company’s affirmative action program, promoting Jews, Afro-Americans, Hispanics, and women into management positions. Mervyn Manning, a Jew, became the first minority ever promoted to a Ford vice-presidency. He once recalled that at the time he was hired in the mid-1950s, the only Black in corporate headquarters was the shoeshine boy. Under Henry Ford II, the company approved and encouraged minorities to own Ford dealerships. But it was never enough.
My family, like hundreds of thousands of other Jewish families, never owned a Ford, nor had any plans to own a Ford, no matter the price, deals, or quality of product. There were other car lines produced by union workers whose bosses may have had attitudes against Jews and other minorities—GM and Chrysler’s affirmative action programs also lagged—but they weren’t as blatant in their Anti-Semitic hate as was the paternalistic creator of the Ford brand who had revolutionized the manufacturing process, paid his workers slightly better than industry averages, and established marketing as a central part to any corporation’s business plan.

Mark Fields was born in Brooklyn, and earned an economics degree from Rutgers and an MBA from Harvard. He began his career at Ford in 1989, and was fast-tracked into several executive positions. Shortly after his promotion to executive vice-president, Fields told an organization of Jewish business executives he “never encountered one iota of discrimination as a Jew during my career at Ford.” He will probably become the CEO within the next two years when the current CEO, Alan Mulally, retires.

It’s possible my family, and thousands of other families, may some day buy a Ford. The stain the company’s founder painted onto his product has faded. Perhaps when Mark Fields becomes CEO—and it’s no longer news that a minority has been promoted into executive management—it might be time to reconsider our decisions.

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is the critically acclaimed best-seller Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at amazon.com, www.greeleyandstone.com, and brick-and-mortar bookstores.]

by brasch

The Trayvon Martin Case: A Lesson Still to be Learned

10:15 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

 

by WALTER BRASCH

For years, my father, a federal employee with a top secret clearance, carried a copy of his birth certificate when he went into Baja California from our home in San Diego. Many times, when he tried to reenter the U.S., he was stopped by the Border Patrol.

My father had thick black hair and naturally dark skin, and the Patrol thought he was a Mexican brazenly trying to sneak back into the country by claiming to be married to the black-haired, blue- eyed, light-skinned woman he claimed was his wife. Once back home, he faced discrimination because neighbors thought he was Mexican; the ones who knew better discriminated because he was a Jew.

When I was 11 years old, we moved about 120 miles north to a suburb of Los Angeles. My parents bought a house in a new tract of about 150 houses, all owned by Whites and a few Hispanics. Three or four years later, a Realtor came by, plastering flyers on all the houses, announcing he had a special real good, one-time only deal. A few wouldn’t sell their houses at any price if it was a Black who was planning to move into the area. Someone in the tract finally took up the offer, and a Black family—he was a mechanical engineer—moved in. It didn’t take long before other White families began putting their houses up for sale. Only this time, they weren’t getting as much as the first family that sold out. Soon, the prices began tumbling as other Blacks and Hispanics moved in.

Eventually, the first Black family moved out. But my parents refused to sell their house. They had no intention of becoming involved with what was now known as “block busting.” A few of our Hispanic and Black neighbors wondered why we stayed; some even said we were crazy. But, until my father died in 1983, he owned that house in a neighborhood that went from almost 100 percent White to almost 100 percent Black, Hispanic, and lower-class White, refusing to be sucked in by racism.

Discrimination occurs throughout our country, whether we want to believe it or not. Just in the past year, thousands of incidents show that America still has a long ways to go.            At a synagogue in Sunbury, Pa., someone painted a swastika. In New York City, unidentified individuals threw several Molotov cocktails against a rabbi’s residence. These weren’t isolated incidents. The Anti-Defamation League says there were 1,239 reported incidents in 2010. (The 2011 number is still being tallied.)

Several American communities and the states of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah have enacted oppressive anti-immigration laws. On the surface, it appears they want to rid their areas of illegal immigrants, acting only to protect law-and-order. But, the deeper structure is that they fear Hispanics, more of them legal immigrants or citizens of the U.S. than undocumented workers, will get political, educational, and financial power and would reduce the influence of the ultra-conservative White population.

At the University of California at San Diego, a fraternity of Whites sent out invitations to a “ghetto-themed” party, which it called the “Compton Cookout.” The invitation noted that “ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes.” At that same school last year, a Klan hood was placed on a statue of Dr. Seuss.

In Kentucky, two men shouting anti-gay slurs kidnapped and beat a gay man. In Tulsa, Okla., an 18-year-old was beaten unconscious by men shouting slurs.

Several firebombs were thrown at an Islamic cultural center and a Hindu house of worship in New York City. Throughout the country, local government and citizens, in defiance of the First Amendment, are trying to prohibit the building of mosques and cultural centers.

At innumerable local schools, where the teachers had “cultural diversity” classes in college and on-the-job “diversity training,” it’s not unusual to hear a few teachers telling racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic jokes, not just among themselves in a faculty lounge but also with students. 

White supremacists shout for “White Pride!” and Black militants call for “Black Power!” Each claims they aren’t planning to destroy any other race–although myriad Klan and Skinhead actions prove otherwise–but merely to strengthen their own. Add into the mix, a few who will shout “racism” when no racism occurs and, thus, make it difficult for those with true compassion for justice to separate the truth from the fiction. Peel the rhetoric, and the core is still fear.

And that may be why the death of Trayvon Martin is so important. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader in Sanford, Fla., killed Martin, Feb. 26. Zimmerman acknowledges he killed Martin, but claims it was in self-defense. Under Florida’s reactionary “stand your ground” law, borne from fear rather than logic, people who feel threatened can take whatever action they think necessary, even shooting Black teenagers who are armed only with a pack of Skittles.

There are numerous versions of what happened, all of them advanced by myriad people with social and political agendas rather than a search for justice, no matter what they claim. But, fear is at the core of the rhetoric.  Mistrust and distrust, often fueled by the mass media with their own agendas, may lead some to irrationally believe that entire demographics of people—White, Black, Hispanic, gay, Jew, Muslim—may pose threats to their own safety, leading them to react as if the threats were real rather than imagined.

The reasons no longer matter to Trayvon Martin. The lesson however, should matter to the rest of us.

[Walter Brasch is the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. distinguished service award. His latest book is Before the First Snow; a major theme of the book looks at issues of racism and bigotry. The book is available from Greeley & Stone Publishers or amazon, in both hardcover and ebook formats.]

 

by brasch

Stories We Will Still Have to Write in 2012

8:22 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by WALTER and ROSEMARY BRASCH

 In January 2009, with a new president about to be inaugurated, we wrote a column about the stories we preferred not having to write, but knew we would. Three years later, we are still writing about those problems; three years from now, we’ll still be writing about them.

We had wanted the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop the government-approved slaughter of wild horses and burros in the southwest, but were disappointed that the cattle industry used its money and influence to shelter politicians from Americans who asked for compassion and understanding of  breeds that roamed freely long before the nation’s “Manifest Destiny.”

We wanted to see the federal government protect wolves, foxes, and coyotes, none of whom attack humans, have no food or commercial value, but are major players in environmental balance. But, we knew that the hunting industry would prevail since they see these canines only as competition.

We wanted to see the Pennsylvania legislature stand up for what is right and courageously end the cruelty of pigeon shoots. But, a pack of cowards left Pennsylvania as the only state where pigeon shoots, with their illegal gambling, are actively held.

For what seems to be decades, we have written against racism and bigotry. But many politicians still believe that gays deserve few, if any, rights; that all Muslims are enemy terrorists; and publicly lie that Voter ID is a way to protect the integrity of the electoral process, while knowing it would disenfranchise thousands of poor and minority citizens.

We will continue to write about the destruction of the environment and of ways people are trying to save it. Environmental concern is greater than a decade ago, but so is the ignorant prattling of those who believe global warming is a hoax, and mistakenly believe that the benefits of natural gas fracking, with well-paying jobs in a depressed economy, far outweigh the environmental, health, and safety problems they cause.

We will continue to write against government corruption, bailouts, tax advantages for the rich and their corporations, governmental waste, and corporate greed. They will continue to exist because millionaire legislators will continue to protect those who contribute to political campaigns. Nevertheless, we will continue to speak out against politicians who have sacrificed the lower- and middle-classes in order to protect the one percent.

We will continue to write about the effects of laying off long-time employees and of outsourcing jobs to “maximize profits.” Until Americans realize that “cheaper” doesn’t necessarily mean “better,” we’ll continue to explain why exploitation knows no geographical boundaries.

The working class successfully launched major counter-attacks against seemingly-entrenched anti-labor politicians in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. But these battles will be as long and as bitter as the politicians who deny the rights of workers. We will continue to speak out for worker rights, better working conditions, and benefits at least equal to their managers. We don’t expect anything to change in 2012, but we are still hopeful that a minority of business owners who already respect the worker will influence the rest.

There are still those who believe education is best served by programs manacled by teaching-to-the-test mentality, and are more than willing to sacrifice quality for numbers. We will continue to write about problems in the nation’s educational system, especially the failure to encourage intellectual curiosity and respect for the tenets of academic integrity.

Against great opposition, the President and Congress passed sweeping health care reform. But, certain members of Congress, all of whom have better health care than most Americans, have proclaimed they will dismantle the program they derisively call “Obamacare.”

During this new year, we will still be writing about the unemployed, the homeless, those without adequate health coverage—and against the political lunatics who continue to deny Americans the basics of human life, essentials that most civilized countries already give their citizens.

We had written forcefully against the previous president and vice-president when they strapped on their six-shooters and sent the nation into war in a country that posed no threat to us, while failing to adequately attack a country that housed the core of the al-Qaeda movement. We wrote about the Administration’s failure to provide adequate protection for the soldiers they sent into war or adequate and sustained mental and medical care when they returned home. The War in Iraq is now over, but the war in Afghanistan continues. The reminder of these wars will last as long as there are hospitals and cemeteries.

We had written dozens of stories against the Bush–Cheney Administration’s belief in the use of torture and why it thought it was necessary to shred parts of the Constitution. We had hoped that a new president, a professor of Constitutional law, would stop the attack upon our freedoms and rights. But the PATRIOT Act was extended, and new legislation was enacted that reduces the rights and freedoms of all citizens. At all levels of government, Constitutional violations still exist, and a new year won’t change our determination to bring to light these violations wherever and whenever they occur.

The hope we and this nation had for change we could believe in, and which we still hope will not die, has been minced by the reality of petty politics, with the “Party of No” and its raucous Teabagger mutation blocking social change for America’s improvement. We can hope that the man we elected will realize that compromise works only when the opposition isn’t entrenched in a never-ending priority not of improving the country, but of keeping him from a second term. Perhaps now, three years after his inauguration, President Obama will disregard the disloyal opposition and unleash the fire and truth we saw in the year before his election, and will speak out even more forcefully for the principles we believed when we, as a nation, gave him the largest vote total of any president in history.

We really want to be able to write columns about Americans who take care of each other, about leaders who concentrate upon fixing the social problems. But we know that’s only an ethereal ideal.  So, we’ll just have to hope that the waters of social justice wear down, however slowly, the jagged rocks of haughty resistance.

 

[Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist, former newspaper investigative reporter and editor, and journalism professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a social issues mystery novel. Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, Red Cross national disaster family services specialist, labor activist, and university instructor of labor studies.]