Tag Archives: racism

Time for a Change

Recently the English Premier League announced they are considering a ban on all social media platforms effective May 1st.   The ban is being considered to protect footballers (soccer players) from racial and homophobic abuse.  Most footballers are teenagers or 20-something’s.  

Racial and homophobic abuse has always been a feature of sports from a segment of “fans”.  It’s on a par with the jerks who post revenge porn against their exes when they realize those women won’t put up with the selfish, spoiled brat behavior that mommy indulged all those years ago.  

When racial or homophobic abuse happens on the field, the footballing authorities can investigate, identify and ban the moronic player spewing hate.  When “fans” scream filth, the home team can investigate, identify and ban the jerks for life from attending games.

Social media abusers can hide behind avatars and fake identities. In some cases, abusers are based outside the country of their victims.  In other situations, the abusers deliberately, with malice aforethought, route their internet connections through countries that can’t or won’t prosecute the abusers.  

It’s time to stop social media abusers from using their cyberspace anonymity to avoid the consequences of their hateful, malicious actions.   The first step is to require all social media companies to authenticate the identity of each account holder just as banks are required to “know your customer” by authenticating the identity of new bank account holders.  Social media companies should also continue shutting down the fake accounts they find littering their platforms.

The second step is to enact laws that require social media companies to provide the identity of the abuser to the victim.  This process should be quick and easy and low cost. There are limited (at best) privacy concerns for the abuser because no one has a First Amendment right to spew hate and the threat of violence.  Foot-dragging on ID’ing the abuser is tantamount to enabling and condoning the abuse.

The victim can then decide whether to file a criminal complaint or to sue for civil rights violations or defamation.  That brings us to the third step. The civil and criminal penalties for engaging in hate speech and revenge porn on social media should be much more severe.  At a minimum, abusers should be banned from social media platforms until they can demonstrate they deserve the privilege of having an account.

Abusers who spew hate on social media are usually feeling insecure and afraid of social and cultural changes that they view as a loss of power and control.  Their fears make them lash out to try to regain control.  They’re counting on us being so scared of drawing their abuse or violating their free speech rights, or of secretly sympathizing with their racist, sexist, xenophobic comments, or so uncaring that we do nothing.  It’s time for that to change. 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Will We Ever Be Normal Again?

As we say goodbye to the Trump years and begin the Biden presidency, some people are talking about a return to normality.  This talk is premised on the notion that the Trump years, particularly the past few months, are an anomaly.  But what exactly is normal for our country?

True, we’ve never had an armed mob storm the U.S. Capitol in a desperate attempt to block the results of an election.  But our country has always had demagogues, con artists, opportunists, and sleazy provocateurs looking for their fifteen minutes of fame.  Without wishing to diminish the magnitude of the threat the current bunch pose, it is instructive to look at what was normal in the past.  

Long before Trump’s tweets supporting white supremacists, Woodrow Wilson openly supported Jim Crow laws because he believed whites were superior to blacks.   In 1924, a purported one million Klansmen descended on the Washington, DC mall in their white robes and hoods to spout their hatred of blacks, Catholics, Jews and immigrants.  President Calvin Coolidge didn’t condemn them or their rhetoric. 

Before social media platforms amplified the white power movement, a Catholic priest named Father Coughlin hid behind the label of “Christian” while spewing anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi garbage. He was the country’s most popular talk radio host in the 1930’s until some of his supporters were arrested on suspicion of trying to overthrow the U.S. government.   

Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz aren’t the first politicians to endanger the country in the cynical pursuit of their personal ambitions.   John C. Calhoun announced his national ambitions by whipping up an anti-British mob that pushed the country into the War of 1812.  That’s the war we don’t talk about because the British burned down the White House.  Calhoun became a prominent pro-slavery southerner who developed the legally dubious “nullification” theory which Tennessee’s less-gifted politicians periodically drag out of the trashcan of history. 

Hawley and Cruz are also not the first politicians whose cynical ploy backfired on them.  In 1804, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were fading into the political sunset when they decided that fighting a duel would draw attention to resurrect their careers.  Instead, Hamilton was gut-shot and died in agony days later while Burr had to go on the lam to escape a murder charge.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln traveled to his first inauguration by train.  His travel schedule was supposed to be kept secret and security was increased due to the number of death threats he received. Several last-minute route changes ensured he arrived at the U.S. Capitol on time to be sworn in as president. 

This year, Joe Biden had planned to travel to his inauguration by train.  But last week a brief announcement said that Biden’s travel plans had changed due to the level of violent threats made against him (and V.P.-elect Kamala Harris).   Unfortunately, and depressingly, our new normal looks a lot like the old normal. 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Choose Love

man-wearing-a-black-face-mask-3952245
Last month I unloaded my grief and frustration at our current pandemic on this page. Today, I have grief and frustration of a different kind. I am grief stricken and heartbroken over the continuing racism in this country which has led to more murder at the hands of those we trust to protect all citizens. I am frustrated by the responses of some people I know, and some I do not know. They are the folks who claim not to see color, who declare their discomfort at wearing a mask to protect those around them from an insidious, mysterious virus that is also killing people of color at a disproportionate rate.

I will not pretend to know all there is to know about racism. I don’t know even a fraction of what it is to be afraid to walk or jog or eat an ice cream cone or drive my car in traffic or any other normal, everyday task of life. But I do know that being afraid of doing those simple things is just wrong. I also know that it is wrong for large groups of people to be at a higher risk of infection with COVID-19 simply because of the color of their skin. And it is wrong to say you don’t see color and believe that makes you, “not a racist.” In fact, it is just the opposite.

This country has a long, complicated and ugly history when it comes to the treatment of people of color. That history must be acknowledged and recognized for what it is. And that begins first with, “seeing color.” We must see that which is in front of us. We must see that, while we should all be entitled to equal protection under the law, that simply is not the case for anyone who is not white. Surely this current pandemic has proven that to be true. And yet, there are those who will deny that truth and who will continue to move about their lives without wearing a mask, without concern for those around them, all in the name of freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to do whatever makes them comfortable.

But real freedom comes with responsibility. We are not free to yell, “fire,” in a crowded theater. We are not free to fly on an airplane without passing through security. We are not free to drive in our cars without wearing a seat belt. And we should not be free to treat some people as less than and deny them basic protections because of the color of their skin.

Yesterday morning on The Today Show, I watched an interview with Reverend Michael Curry, presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and I found some comfort there. He stressed the importance of recognizing that all people are, “children of God.” Regardless of individual spiritual tradition, or no tradition, I believe his meaning is that each of us is linked together as members of the human family. He invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. The choice is chaos or community.” Bishop Curry said the way forward is through love and through working together for the good of each of us. And, he finished by showing his idea of a symbol for love. The symbol: a mask. He said, “I wear it to protect you, and you wear it to protect me. And when we do that, we all win.” I choose love. I choose community. I choose to wear a mask.

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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The Other Side of the Couch – Charleston

CharlestonI was on the way to Charleston on Friday, June 26, 2015, as President Obama gave the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine African-American members of the AME Emanuel Church who were gunned down by a white 21-one-year-old who had been indoctrinated by a white supremacist organization.  I was on the way to a city that embodies in so many ways the contradictions, struggles, pain that 150 years – no, 300 years – have not erased from this country.  The bloody war, known in the North as the Civil War, in some parts of the South still called the War Between the States, or less benignly, the War of Northern Aggression, still incites pain.  Black or white, Northern or Southern, the history of war, occupation, slavery, Jim Crow, voter suppression is unfortunately alive today.

President Obama said,

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote.  By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.

 

I am moved by this eloquent response to unspeakable tragedy.  I am moved by the families of those massacred, who offered forgiveness to the murderer.  I am moved by the people of Charleston, who, rather than withdrawing into factions and anger, came together with tears in the face of this tragedy.  I hope that political divisions can be put aside as we come together to work for a better tomorrow.

It’s not about the Confederate Flag.  It’s about us.  All of us.  May we all be Charleston, and create a better future for our country, united.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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