Monthly Archives: June 2015

THE FUROR OVER RACIAL IDENTITY

The strange drama of Rachel Dolezal is interesting and confusing on several different levels.

  1. Not sure if she lied in applying for the job at the NAACP Spokane Chapter about her race.  If she lied, the hue and cry over her duplicity is probably warranted.  On the other hand, you can’t ask that question in an application or in an interview.
  2. What exactly is the hue and cry about? Was she unqualified for the job?  Did she take the job away from a more qualified person; white or black?
  3. Why did she resign? Was she asked to—or forced to?  There seems general agreement that she revitalized the chapter and did an exemplary job.

Writing in the L.A. Times, Columnist Sandy Banks said:

“For years, her charade worked.  That’s what makes this more than a sideshow spectacle.  Dolezal’s success in sliding from white to black raises questions about the nature of racial identity:  what accounts for it, how much it matters and who gets to decide.

“The ‘colorblind’ crowd says this scenario shows how insignificant race should be.

“Particularly actual black people, who see Dolezal as an imposter turning cultural touchstones into trite commodities.  Someone who wants the benefits, but none of the burdens, of being black.

“I’m not offended by Dolezal’s desire to stake a claim to black identity.  That sort of cultural appropriation is irritating, but commonplace:  Look at Kylie Jenner’s newly full lips.  Listen to Iggy Azalea rap.

“But I’m insulted that so many people find it so hard to believe that a white person would want to be black.  More often than not, it’s actually quite nice on this side of the color line.

“Dolezal’s background suggests she came of age in a racially-observant household too.

“She grew up in Montana, with parents who adopted four black children when she was in her teens.  She went to a Christian college in Mississippi and volunteered with its ‘racial reconciliation’ ministry.  She earned a master’s degree at historically black Howard University.  She married a black man, and they had a son before they divorced.

“She considers herself an activist.  She led the Human Rights Education Institute in Idaho, taught in the Africana studies program at Eastern Washington University and guided the Spokane NAACP through a profitable and productive resurgence.

“None of that required Dolezal to be black.”

According to USC Law School Professor Camille Rich, “She’s making these claims without any biological basis.  Some people find that offensive.”

Suppose Rachel had been born black and decided she wanted to pass as white.  Would the reactions to uncovering this fact have been as visceral and as loud?  I’m not all that sure—because I believe there are some people who have and are doing exactly that right now.

The bottom line, I believe, is that racial identity like religious identity is not terribly important.  It’s a small fly on the elephant’s rear end of racial problems compared to the evil of Charleston, Baltimore and Ferguson.

ArtSchwartzSig

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AN EARLY LOOK AT THE PRIMARIES

The presidential primary races are on, with much fanfare and little substance.  Here are some comments on the primaries from four pundits.  We have Tom Friedman, Ross Douthat and David Brooks from the N.Y. Times, as well as your humble blogger.

First Tom Friedman, Liberal

“For a presidential campaign that has started so early, it’s striking how little most of the candidates want to engage with major issues of the day, let along the future.  Hillary Clinton won’t take a clear stand on two big issues she helped to negotiate as secretary of state:  the free-trade deal with Pacific nations and the nuclear deal with Iran.  Jeb Bush’s campaign seems stuck on whether he is or is not his brother’s keeper.  Marco Rubio was for comprehensive immigration reform before he was against it.  While Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders are motivated by clear ideologies, the others, so far, evince much more compelling ambitions to be president than compelling reasons why they should be.”

Next we have Ross Douthat, Conservative

“The economy is sluggish but improving.  President Obama’s approval rating is mediocre but not disastrous.  Memories of Mitt Romeny’s unsuccessful presidential campaign are relatively fresh—not least because Romney popped up briefly to remind everyone of them.  And the Republicans pondering a run for president in 2016 all seem to sense that they need to do things a little, well, differently if they expect to ultimately win.

“Maybe that means talking more about inequality—even putting it right in the heart of your economic pitch, as Jeb Bush seems intent on doing.  Maybe it means trying to reach constituencies (young, black, Hispanic) that the Romney campaign mostly wrote off, which is what Rand Paul thinks his libertarian message can accomplish.

“When it comes to the Republican Party’s basic presidential-level problem, the fact is that many persuadable voters don’t trust a Republican to look out for their economic issues.  It should be easy to tell whether the way a candidate differentiates himself will actually make a difference.  Just look at what he proposes on two issues:  taxes and health care.

“These are obviously not the only domestic policies worthy of debate.  But they’re two places where the immediate link between policy and take-home pay is very clear and two places where abstract promises about “opportunity,” “mobility” and “the American dream” either cash out or don’t.

“One reason issues like immigration and education are appealing to Republican politicians looking to change their party’s image is that policy change in these areas seems relatively cheap—more green cards here, new curricular standards there, and nothing that requires donors and interest groups to part with their favorite subsidies and tax breaks.

“But you can’t reform the tax code or health care that easily, which is why those issues offer better, tougher tests of whether a would-be reformer should be taken seriously.

“Not coincidentally, they’re policy tests that Obama-era Republicans have often conspicuously failed.  On taxes, the party has been enamored of reforms—some plausible, some fanciful—that would cut taxes at the top while delivering little, or even higher taxes, to most taxpayers.  On health care, the GOP has profited from the unpopularity of Obamacare, but we are now at year six and counting without anything more than the pretense of a conservative alternative.

“These failures have not been for want of policy options; they’ve been for want in ingenuity and will.”

Now we have David Brooks, Moderate Conservative

“Every serious presidential candidate has to answer a fundamental, strategic question:  Do I think I can win by expanding my party’s reach, or do I think I can win by mobilizing my party’s base?

“Two of the leading Republicans have staked out opposing sides on this issue. Scott Walker is trying to mobilize existing conservative voters.  Jeb Bush is trying to expand his party’s reach.

“The Democratic Party haas no debate on this issue.  Hillary Clinton has apparently decided to run as the Democratic Scott Walker.  Clinton strategists have decided that, even in the general election, firing up Democratic supporters is easier than persuading moderates.  Clinton will adopt left-leaning policy positions carefully designed to energize the Obama coalition—African-Americans, Latinos, single women and highly educated progressives.

“It’s worth noting, that no recent successful first-term presidential campaign has used this approach.  In 1992, Bill Clinton firmly grabbed the center.  In 2000, George Bush ran as a uniter, not a divider.  In 2008, Barack Obama ran as a one nation candidate who vowed to transcend partisan divides.

“The Clinton strategy is based on the idea that she can generate Obama-level excitement among African-American and young voters.  If Clinton comes across as a stereotypical big-spending, big-government Democrat, she will pay a huge cost in the upper Midwest and in the Sun Belt.

“Furthermore, this strategy vastly exaggerates the supposed death of the swing voter.  It’s true there are fewer persuadables, but according to the Pew Research Center, 24 percent of voters have roughly equal number of conservative and liberal positions, and according to a range of academic studies, about 23 percent of the electorate can be swayed by a compelling campaign.”

Last and least – Me, Centrist

Mrs. Clinton has already set the tone to avoid as much contact with the press as humanly possible to duck the issues Tom Friedman has brought up, as well as her lack of explanations for the State Department emails, Benghazi and the questionable donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Any Republican candidate stonewalling the press like Clinton would be blasted unmercifully.

Ross Douthat’s suggestion on the two topics that would differentiate a Republican contender is right on the money, but I’ll be amazed if any of the Republican gaggle will address them.

The Republican Party did a smart, welcome thing by cutting the number of debates in half; however, the almost doubling of the number of candidates will produce a bloody brawl that will antagonize the voters.

I’m tired just thinking about it!

ArtSchwartzSig

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WORLDS APART AT 84

I got to be 84 recently (not sure how that happened) and started thinking about my father when he was 84.  I’m physically active.  He was not.  He was slim.  I’m not.  He was a good looking, handsome man; never looked his age.

He had back problems for many years.  They said it was arthritis.  Since I’ve had back problems too, I’m sure his problems were more complicated; but in those years, they had neither the technology to diagnose nor the treatments to alleviate the discomfort.

A year or so ago before the problems started, there was a family gathering in Arizona.  When he arrived, he seemed to have a lot of trouble walking so we got him a wheelchair.  It was a blessing for him, but he never wanted to walk much after that.

He had always liked to have a little “Schnaps” (a thimble of whiskey) before dinner.  He said it prevented him from getting a cold (a likely story).  At 84, he was now having a second or third shot and it sometimes made him woozy.  He would fall and my mother couldn’t pick him up, so she had to find one of the building people to come and lift him up.

One episode was worse.  I don’t remember exactly why.  They took him to the hospital and the doctors said he was suffering from malnutrition and when he drank he didn’t eat much.  He was teetering on being drunk now which caused the falls.

He was also showing signs of dementia.

It was decided that he should go to a nursing home to rehabilitate.  He went to the Villa Maria, a Catholic facility in North Miami, where he stayed and prospered somewhat for seven years.  It was certainly one of the best nursing facilities in the area, but he didn’t much like it, mainly because he no longer could have his Schnaps.

My mother visited every day, I think mostly to keep peace between him and the nurses.  He wasn’t terribly nice to them.  To get to Villa Maria, my mother took two buses, rain or shine.  As some of you know, when it rains in Florida, it rains.  The only time she wouldn’t go was when my sister or I were visiting.

To help my mother avoid the two buses and the 45-minute commute, I set up a charge account with a taxi company.  After much cajoling, she took a cab, but only twice.  When I asked why she didn’t keep using the cabs, she said she didn’t like the way they went.

My father’s dementia came and went in no order or fashion.  Sometimes he would seem lucid and other times the cloud descended on him.  He spent most of his time at Villa Maria complaining and sitting in his wheelchair outside staring at the traffic.

He developed a clever way of greeting people—including me.  My mother would say, “Henry, so and so is coming to visit today.”  He would say, “Okay” or “Isn’t that nice.”  When so and so arrived, he would say, “Look who’s here.”  That covered all the bases very nicely.

In his early working years, my father was a printing broker.  That was how he met my mother.  She was working at a savings and loan he was calling on to solicit their business.  He always went to bed very early (I thought) but was in bed so he could read, I later learned.  He loved classical music and, of course, I didn’t (then).

At the start of World War II, the printing business faded dramatically.  He worked in a defense plant or two; and then after the war, he went to work for his older brother, Fred, who ran a small tile jobber called Ocean Tile.  It was a two-man business that sold old-fashioned small hexagonal tiles for bathrooms and kitchens, too small contractors.

When my father’s back got bad, they hired a young, strong kid to do the lifting.  The business lasted about 22 years or so.  I went to my Uncle Fred somewhere in the later years and asked if I should come into the business and take it over.  He kind of chuckled and said the business was almost dead.  Glad he turned me down.  My father retired and moved with my mother to Florida.  My uncle went to work for an import/export firm.

Villa Maria was designed to be a temporary rehab to get him back on his feet, but it lasted over seven years.  I’m not sure he found his life happy or fulfilling.  He passed away at age 91.  I think finally at peace.

Somehow, he left me a legacy that allowed my life to be interesting, adventurous, happy and very fulfilling.  I thank him for that.

ArtSchwartzSig

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FOUR MORE LESSONS IN MANAGEMENT

Important Lessons for Everyone in the Workplace

LESSON 1:  A junior manager, a senior manager and their boss are on their way to lunch.  On their way through a park, they come across a wonderlamp.

They rub the lamp and a genie appears.  The genie says, “Normally, one is granted three wishes but as you are three, I will allow one wish for each of you.”

So the eager senior manager shouts, “I want the first wish.  I want to be in the Bahamas, on a fast boat and have no worries.”  Pfuffff, and he was gone.

Now the junior manager could not keep quiet and he shouts, “I want to be in Florida with beautiful girls, plenty of food and cocktails.”  Pfuffff, and he was also gone.

The boss calmly said, “I want these two idiots back in the office after lunch by 1:00pm.”

MORAL OF THE STORY:  ALWAYS ALLOW THE BOSS TO SPEAK FIRST

 

LESSON 2:  Standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand, the CEO said, “Listen, this is a very sensitive and important document, and my secretary has left.  Can you make this thing work?”

“Certainly,” said the young executive.  He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button.

“Excellent, excellent!” said the CEO as his paper disappeared inside the shredder machine.  “I just need one copy.”

MORAL OF THE STORY:  NEVER, NEVER ASSUME THAT YOUR BOSS KNOWS ANYTHING

 

LESSON 3:  An American and a Japanese were sitting on a plane on the way to L.A.  The American turned to the Japanese and asked, “What kind of -ese are you?”

The Japanese confused, replied, “Sorry but I don’t understand what you mean.”

The American repeated, “What kind of -ese are you?”  Again, the Japanese was confused over his question.

The American, now irritated, almost yelling said, “What kind of -ese are you…Are you a Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese…???

The Japanese then replied, “Oh, I am Japanese.”  A little while later the Japanese turned to the American and asked what kind of -kee was he.

The American raised his voice in frustration, “What do you mean what kind of -kee am I?”

The Japanese said, “Are you a Yankee, donkee, or monkee?”

MORAL OF THE STORY:  NEVER INSULT ANYONE

 

LESSON 4:  There were these four guys—a Russian, a German, an American and a Frenchman—who found this small genie lamp.  When they rubbed the lamp, a genie appeared.  Thankful that the four guys had released him out of the bottle, he said, “Next to you all are four swimming pools.  I will give each of you a wish.  When you run towards the pool and jump, you shout what you want the pool of water to become, and then your wish will come true.”

The Frenchman wanted to start.  He ran towards the pool, jumped and shouted “WINE.”  The pool immediately changed into a pool of wine.  The Frenchman was so happy swimming and drinking from the pool.

Next was the Russian’s turn.  He did the same and shouted “VODKA,” and immersed himself into a pool of vodka.

The German was next and he jumped and shouted “BEER.”  He was so contented with his beer pool.

The last is the American.  He was running towards the pool when suddenly he steps on a banana peel.  He slipped towards the pool and shouted “S _ _ T!”

MORAL OF THE STORY:  THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU SAY SOMETHING BECAUSE SOMETIMES ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN

ArtSchwartzSig

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