Racial inequality has deteriorated further with COVID-19

In an article in The Charlotte Observer a few days ago by Gene Nichol called “What the pandemic has done to racial inequality in North Carolina,” racial inequality has become even worse. Nichol is a contributing columnist and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, with a focus on poverty. The article can be linked to below, but here are a few key paragraphs:

“It doesn’t happen as often as one might wish. But, on occasion, you can still be surprised by what someone says. For example, earlier this month, the Donald Trump-appointed Chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, explained to the Senate Banking Committee:

‘Disparate economic outcomes on the basis of race, have been with us for a very long time, they are a long-standing aspect of our economy, and there is a great risk that the pandemic is making them worse. Because the people who are most affected by the job losses are people in relatively low-paying parts of the service industries that happen to skew more to minorities and women, there is a real concern that if we don’t act as quickly as possible to support these people then we’ll leave behind an even more unequal situation. We need to do as much as we can to avoid exacerbating inequality.’

The traditional patterns of racial economic subordination Powell referenced have long dominated every component of life in North Carolina. Today, for example, twice as many African-American Tar Heels live in poverty as whites. The numbers are even worse for Black kids – nearly three times as many are poor as whites.

Racial income disparity is huge. But racial wealth disparity astonishes. Black households, on average, claim less than a tenth of the economic assets of white Tar Heel families. Racial minorities are dramatically more likely, in North Carolina, to be unemployed, uninsured, food insecure, housing insecure, and trapped in low wage work. Such defining disparities have existed throughout the entirety of our state’s history. Radical, systemic, disproportional racial economic impact, as Chairman Powell put it, has ‘been with us for a very long time.’

And then came the tragic, terrifying COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of Tar Heels were cast, anew, into poverty. No Kid Hungry estimates that, this year, one in four Tar Heel children won’t be able to get enough to eat. State food pantries report a 38% increase in demand over recent months. Since March, over half of Black families, and 43% of Latinx households, lost significant employment income sources. Over a third of Latinx renters have been forced to miss monthly payments, jeopardizing their housing. Eighteen percent of all North Carolina adults aged 18-65 are now without any health care coverage whatsoever. Nearly 40 percent of N.C. Latinos now have no medical insurance. As Fed Chair Powell put it, Covid ‘will leave behind an even greater’ landscape of inequality.”

Rather than add my own two cents, I encourage you to re-read the testimony above from Chairman Powell, along with Nichol’s commentary. What is happening in North Carolina is an example of what is going on in other places. People with low income jobs do not have the luxury of working from home, so they must go in or get fired. So, the COVID risks are much greater to a group already at financial risk.

What COVID-19 has done to racial inequality in NC | Charlotte Observer

Irrational and unproven claims by Congressmen Gohmert and Brooks

The following is a letter to the editor I forwarded to my newspaper. Please feel free to edit and use.

As an independent and former GOP voter, I am puzzled and frustrated by the insistence of followers of the outgoing president, such as Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Mo Brooks, that the election was stolen. The fact the outgoing president has claimed fraud is not a surprise as it was predictable and staged for months. What he did not plan on was losing 59 out of 60 court cases, many ruled on by Republican judges, nor the push back from election officials, secretaries of state and governors (many of whom are Republican).

To me, the oath to the constitution takes precedence over a loyalty to a president. I believe these irrational and vastly unproven claims are detrimental to our democracy and betray the will of the voters. If these folks caught this bus, like the chasing canine, what are they going to do with it? Our democracy, in essence, would be over.

Even Rupert Murdoch has turned sour on the outgoing president

In an article by Keith Griffith of the Dailymail.com called “New York Post turns on Trump in scathing front-page editorial,” even Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper has soured on the outgoing president. Here are the first four paragraphs from the article:

“The New York Post’s editorial board, which has long supported President Donald Trump, has blasted his longshot attempts to overturn the election in a scathing editorial.

The Post, which endorsed Trump in 2016 and 2020, issued the blistering rebuke in a front-page editorial for Monday’s edition, calling his continued election fraud claims a ‘dark charade’.

The blaring front-page ‘wood,’ as it is known in tabloid parlance, pleaded for Trump to ‘stop the insanity’ and told him bluntly: ‘You lost the election.’ 

The editorial said Trump was ‘cheering for an undemocratic coup’ with his call for Republicans in Congress to prevent the certification of the Electoral College vote on January 6.

It should be noted this is the outgoing president’s favorite newspaper, of course, until now. A link to the article in the Daily Mail is below. It should be noted that huge Trump fan Fox celebrity Geraldo Rivera said yesterday that Trump was acting like “an entitled frat boy.”

The outgoing president has lost 59 out of 60 court cases, many presided over by Republican judges. And, now his campaign is facing a defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting systems, along with his attorneys and several media personalities who have been doing an on air backstroke to avoid litigation.

Maybe the funds Trump is collecting will be needed not to sue, but to defend Trump and his campaign in lawsuits. As he has learned, the other side can sue as well.

New York Post turns on Trump in scathing front-page editorial (msn.com)

A unifying person – walking the talk with Carlos Santana

The following post was written a few years ago, but I felt the words and actions of Carlos Santana are more needed than ever. Santana is one of the greatest guitarists and is known for his collaborations. And, let me add that collaborations must be nurtured and cultivated.

I was watching an excellent documentary film on HBO about Carlos Santana, which included the lead up to and concert in his birth country of Mexico at the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The music is terrific, but the stories from Santana and his fellow performers, friends and family are enlightening and confirming. Santana received a Kennedy Center Honor from President Obama in December, 2013 for his life’s work and devotion to making great music and sharing it with us and his fellow performers.

As one of the best guitarists around, Santana has a gift of working well with other performers and using their talents to make beautiful music. In the documentary, he was described as a “unifying person” which may be one of the nicest compliments you could pay to someone. The story-teller said Santana had a gift for unifying diverse music and musical talents to make a unique and wonderful sound. Three quick stories, two from Santana and one from his wife Cindy Blackman, will provide great glimpses into Santana’s make-up.

Someone asked Santana how he was able to collaborate so well with other musicians in recordings and in performances. He said, “I just show up with a smile on my face and a willingness to work together with others.” If we could bottle that and give it to everyone to drink, what a difference that would make. A simple example of this was when Santana was talking to his fellow musicians about “not playing too loudly, so as not to drown out the voice of the singers.” I had heard him earlier describe that you have to provide some space for people to listen to the various subtleties of the music. To me, this is giving of himself to make the whole sound better.

The last example comes from his relatively new bride, Cindy Blackman, whom he married in 2010. She was describing how at the Kennedy Center Honors banquet, Santana went back to the kitchen to thank all of the chefs and wait staff for their help that night. He noted later in the documentary, many of us immigrants came to America and took jobs to have a chance to live in a great country. They work hard and we should acknowledge them.

I purposefully did not make this about his wonderful repertoire of songs. His music will live on. I was so moved by this quote of him being a “unifying person” I felt the need to share his example for us all. Muchas gracias, amigo.

May 2021 rid of us of the party guest who won’t leave

I would imagine many of us have had parties where a guest or guests do not pick up on the signs that it is time for them to go home. I feel this way about a certain guest in the this white building in Washington DC. It is time for him to go back home, whichever one he chooses to frequent.

He is not reading the signs very well. The guest and his friends have been told 59 times by judges that his claim to stay is inappropriate. In fact, the one judge that agreed with him, only gave him a partial victory changing the votes of a couple of hundred people.

The guest has asked several of the counters to count again and again. For some reason the counters keep coming up with the same story that it is time for the guest to leave.

The day after Christmas, the guest claimed everyone from the Supreme Court to the FBI to the Justice Department to Republican Senators are incompetent. I find this word choice amusing as conservative pundit David Brooks defined the guest’s administration as “equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Plus, losing 59 out of 60 court cases in not a measure of competence, or truthtelling..

I also find it it telling that the most corrupt and deceitful guest in said white building has been pardoning very corrupt people at a rampant rate. Apparently, corrupt behavior is an admiral quality. Republican Senator Ben Sasse referred to the guest’s pardoning process as “rotten to the core.”

It is time for this guest to leave. Like three day old fish, over welcome guests need to be thrown.out. This guest has grown quite smelly. He is not supposed to leave until next month, but I think he needs to start packing to acknowledge that he will. And, as Fox News supporter Geraldo Riviera said yesterday, the outgoing president is acting like an “entitled frat boy.”

Christmas rewind

We had a very pleasant day yesterday. My adult children, my sister and my daughter’s beau joined us. No hugs, just elbow bumps given the risk of an uninvited guest.

We tend to be practical givers asking for lists months ahead. After exchanges of clothes, socks, books, CDs and various and sundry gifts, everyone seemed content. Of course, my wife gave me a gag gift of a chia pet which resembles Bob Ross, the PBS artist teacher, which I would bemoan during the TV commercial. Too funny.

Two of my kids gave each other donations, which is very cool. One benefitted indigenous people, the other wildlife.

My daughter gave gifts from local crafts people and stores near where she lives. And, my sons came through with some appreciated gifts. It was a blissful day. I hope each of you had an enjoyable and safe holiday. Feliz Navidad and Happy Hannukah.

A Christmas wish – do our part to break down barriers

The following is an edited version of an earlier post that remains relevant today. In the spirit of the Christmas season, it is worth a revisit.

Last night, my wife and I attended one of a series of “talks” around improving racial relations. It is a weekly chat sponsored by a multi-faith group based in our city. In essence, it is facilitated small group and large group discussions on breaking down barriers and listening to others who do not look like you do. It was well done and very meaningful.

To hear stories about small and large examples of racism is very important. To hear about how assumptions can be made and, if not corrected, can be become more concrete in the eyes of the beholder. Children learn lessons whether you want them to or not, even when you try to do the right thing. So, it is imperative to have open conversations about treating people like you want to be treated and listening to comments, so that they can be reinforced or amended.

Yet, it is we adults that need to do better. A few themes we discussed include:

– do not indict a group for the actions of a few;

– recognize that small sleights can be hurtful, as well;

– try to walk in another person’s shoes; understand that a white person has more liberty to go anywhere, while a black man, even when dressed-up, faces more restrictions and risk;

– shine a light on hateful speech or behavior; tolerance must be viewed toward a greater good, so it is OK to be less tolerant of those who use words to demean and diminish;

– speak up and speak out to people who share your skin color, ethnicity, religion or politics who are indicting others who are different just because they don’t look, think or worship as you do;

– be the change you want to see and see people for whom they are; and

– recognize that racial injustice is also the result of a larger poverty issue, which affects people of all colors.

There are many more lessons that were conveyed during the session, but one of my takeaways is this is religion at its finest. Welcoming, including and helping. Let me end with one more tidbit on how religion can help provide solutions and create a welcoming dialogue. Walk the talk. Words are easy. The person who gets up out of his or her chair to help people is admirable.

Jesus said it so well in his Golden Rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. If we do this, we are way ahead in the game. So, welcome, include and help.

More on that kindness thing

Following up on my previous post about “fierce kindness,” I think many of us could look to our mothers, fathers, teachers, mentors, etc. as exemplars. A blogging friend lost her mother this month and she said her mother’s final words to her were be kind to others. That is profound and telling advice.

Even with the ravages of Alzheimer’s, my mother and mother-in-law remained kind. Yes, Alzheimer’s can cause a brief temper snap, but it is more due to confusion or as a defense mechanism. Both mothers were heavily involved in outreach for the churches to which they belonged. They helped others through tough times.

At the memory unit of the long tern care facility, the teacher in my mother always showed through. She would help the facilitator by first paying attention, but also in participating and helping others do so. To her, it would be rude to ignore the facilitator who went to great lengths to be there.

One of my late memories of my mother-in-law is we took her to my daughter’s school function in a large hall. I remember her telling one of the mothers, who must have come from work, as she was well dressed, how lovely she looked. This woman just beamed. That was not an unusual occurrence.

Although my father had a drinking problem, he was the kindest of men. He went out of his way to bring food to work for pot luck lunches, usually smoking a turkey or ham. Before his drinking got the best of him, he was heavily involved in our sports programs, coaching, practicing, leading and attending. He had a hearty laugh and was helpful to people in need or friends with homework or other problems.

Let me close with a nickname I got on occasion when I followed my parents’ example and fought for people – Don Quixote. I knew I would fail to save someone from being let go in our matrix managed organization, but on certain occasions, I had to try and fight that windmill. I did help save one (who is still there twelve years later), helped lengthen another’s time, but far more often it was for naught. Yet, invariably I would do my best to help these folks get placed elsewhere. When my boss said I was ruffling some feathers (and actually had a comment placed in my HR file), I noted I would do the same for him. I was kind, but firm. And, foolish on more than one occasion.

Kindness is not a weakness. Helping people is a good idea, even if you are not successful. Just trying means something to people. One thing companies fail to realize is how you treat someone when he or she is forced to exit is important. Fellow employees see it. Clients see it. So, even when tough decisions are made or push back is needed, be kind. Treat people like you want to be treated.

Fierce Kindness

A mantra of mine is “do not mistake kindness for weakness.” Watching CBS Sunday Morning, I learned a new term “fierce kindness.”

Kindness exists in people of all colors, shapes and sizes. From the CBS Sunday Morning show, the focus was on an Indianapolis man who works with children to repair donated run down bicycles for donation to others. Another segment looked at a Boston doctor who serves the homeless community, a journey that started over thirty years ago.

The doctor noted he was told to set aside his stethoscope and soak a few feet. What he learned, by helping someone with their feet, they are above him telling him how they feel. When asked what is the most important thing to do when seeing a homeless person – look him or her in the eye and say hello.

The bicycle fixer shows kids the path of kindness. He said it is ok to be fierce with kindness.

I found this helpful, as many people see kindness as a form of acquiescence. It is not. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

That is what civil discourse is all about. Civil is an important part of the discourse equation. Name calling, shouting down others or smugly denigrating someone who disagrees with you, is not civil.

Treating others like you want to be treated is what these two men are teaching others. Be kind. And, it is ok to be fiercely kind.

When I see folks who are doing the right thing against the pushback of others, fierce kindness comes to mind.

Voting system firm gets retraction from Fox as litigation is threatened

In an article by Mary Papenfuss of Huffington Post called “Lou Dobbs’ Vote Fraud Lies Debunked On His Program After Legal Threat By Vote Tech Firm,” the following paragraphs tell a story that needs a wider audience.

“Fox Business host Lou Dobbs aired a segment on his program Friday debunking his own screeds about election fraud following a legal threat from a company he’s been baselessly attacking.

Dobbs featured a nonpartisan election expert who shot down his attacks after Fox News, which owns Fox Business, received a letter from a lawyer representing the election tech company Smartmatic.

‘There are lots of opinions about the integrity of the election,’ Dobbs said at the start of the segment, before turning to a pretaped interview with Edward Perez of the nonprofit Open Source Election Technology Institute contradicting his claims about Smartmatic.

The detailed 20-page letter from Smartmatic demanded a “full and complete retraction of all false and defamatory statements and reports” aired by the network in its coverage of the presidential election. Similar letters were sent to media outlets Newsmax and One America News, which regularly back Donald Trump.

‘Fox News has engaged in a concerted disinformation campaign against Smartmatic,’ the letter stated. ‘Fox News told its millions of viewers and readers that Smartmatic was founded by [the late Venezuelan President] Hugo Chávez, that its software was designed to fix elections, and that Smartmatic conspired with others to defraud the American people and fix the 2020 U.S. election by changing, inflating, and deleting votes.’

The claims are categorically false, stated the letter, which included quotes from Dobbs that it slammed as ‘false and defamatory statements/implications.’”

In article by Jeremy Diamond of CNN called “Sidney Powell back at the White House Sunday night,” the following paragraphs reveal that even the outgoing president’s legal team will is at risk of litigation..

Shortly after that meeting Friday, Trump’s campaign staff received a memo from the campaign legal team on Saturday instructing them to preserve all documents related to Dominion Voting Systems and Powell in anticipation of potential litigation by the company against the pro-Trump attorney.

The memo, viewed by CNN, references a letter Dominion sent to Powell last week demanding she publicly retract her accusations and instructs campaign staff not to alter, destroy or discard records that could be relevant.

The threat of lawsuit is not a complete surprise, but it is an important. One of the items that jumps out of the article is the comment how easily it could have been to check the veracity of the statements being made. This is a clear indication that many of the folks who are considered news sources are not journalists that do homework.

One thing that has been discussed by legal experts is judges could bring action against Trump’s attorneys for making frivolous claims and basically wasting the time of the court. That would be telling. As for these two voting system companies possibly bringing litigation, I think legislators who are on the Trump bandwagon supporting his wide-scale voter fraud claims need to answer questions on camera about these retracted stories.

Lou Dobbs’ Vote Fraud Lies Debunked On His Program After Legal Threat By Vote Tech Firm | HuffPost

Sidney Powell back at the White House Sunday night – CNNPolitics