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Threaded Discussion

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: November 15, 1999
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

Help Me? My Violent World
Initiated by Jaime Shepherd, CSUDH, Criminology
The Power of William Oliver's Assessment
Thread continued by Armond McDaniels, Sr., CSUDH, Law
"When Is Society Going To Let That Be?
Thread continued by Sarah Nelson, UWP, Criminology
Will People Come If They Are Invited?
Thread continued by Michael A. Hindman, UWP
I Sense the Desperation, but Believe There is Hope
Thread continued by Eunice Thomas, CSUDH

October 23, 1999. Race, Black Men, and the Law



Response to jeanne's Lecture on Race, Black Men , and the Law

Thread initiated by Jaime Shepherd., CSUDH, Fall 1999
Copyright: November 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.
Curran and Takata, Part of Teaching Series
Copyright: September 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

On Tuesday, November 2, 1999, Jaime wrote:

Dear Jeanne, †††††††

†I have just read the lecture summary on the "Violent Social World of Black Men." My question is to what do we attribute the perpetuation of violence? In the last week I have lost two of my close friends. Not to cancer or even aids. The two killers that get a lot of attention and money. I lost two friends to homicide. Neither of them had reached the age of thirty yet! I am 28 years old and already have 50 obituaries of individuals that I grew up with, not to mention the score of friends that are incarcerated. The depressing thing is that there seems to be no end. Just when you think things are getting better they turn for the worst.

Why do Afrikan-American males maintain a preoccupation with death? Why is death so familiar? What contributes to the violent atmosphere that is so prevalent across the country in minority communities? Why is innocence stolen at such early ages? Why is it that if another Afrikan-American walks up the street he is immediately identified as an enemy, instead of just someone that I donít know?

Then the question becomes what are we as a society doing to change the dark reality of the day. Build more prisons? Is that really a solution? In Los Angeles we were upset that the NFL refused to accept our offer of $500 million for a football franchise, while our children around the corner from the stadium donít have textbooks. This society doesn't give a damn about the disinherited.

The life that our young men live is so consumed with desolation and tragedy. The majority of us reside in anticipation of and/or a sort of preoccupation with negativity. Very seldom is there expectancy for the positive. We are mostly disconnected from the ownership of fine material possessions, which society presents as happiness. The hope of our existence is tangled by misunderstanding and misguided ambitions to obtain material possessions. (Things that give the appearance of happiness.) We desire the benefits, the perks but not the legitimate sacrifices that go along with them. Dreams distorted by a dreamless environment!

Our voices yell out cries for assistance, yet they are not louder than the despair of daily life. Then the cries go through a metamorphosis that transforms the cry into an expression of the pain that encompasses their frustration with life. Often that expression is violence! That seems to be the guaranteed way to capture the attention of the world. The world is forced to stop at the moment an "Act" acquires its suffix "ion". Think about it, the dogs stop barking, conversations end, laughter leaves, smiles transform to tears and at that moment the world is suspended in time.

Imagine the power that we surrender by acknowledging the end, in place of the means. For example, These men are hopeless. What condition contributed to this present state? Let us look for the means, which will empower individuals to find solutions. These minority youth are not bad people but the contrary, good people making bad decisions. Mostly these decisions can be attributed to limited options. If we provide these individuals with better choices it is almost a guarantee that they will make better choices. How many more will have to die? How many more dreamless dreamers will we produce? How many more potential problem solvers will fall victim to their situation before they reach their purpose?

The role sheet for young minority men dying and living dead lives continue to expand daily. The destructful recruitments and dangerous affiliations increase daily. The question, Jeanne, is what are the solutions? Everyone has identified the problems that plague our communities but no one offers applicable solutions, so the problems perpetuate themselves. Help me Jeanne! I am tired of mourning my peers' homicides. I would prefer celebrating their purpose-filled lives.

On November 6, jeanne wrote:

Jaime, I am profoundly touched by the questions you pose. I am profoundly touched by your mourning. I know you, and indirectly, your family. In the shelter of my middle class identity I found comfort in believing that your family was relatively untouched by the violence of this social world of black men. Diaphanous privilege! I am not touched by the events you describe, and so it is as though for me they do not exist. Thank you for speaking out to remind us of yet more unstated assumptions.

You ask for solutions. And you trust that in my role as teacher I will have at least a grip on where, how to start. I thank you for that trust. My first response is that I am as nothing before such issues as you pose. Then the teacher wakens, and I realize there is hope, Habermasian hope.

The questions you ask are the major ones this millennium has left unanswered for the next. How do we reconstitute public discourse in an age when good faith hearing skills have been nearly lost to us? For the issues you raise, Jaime, are the issues of public discourse. The issues that affect the rules and system by which we shall govern ourselves, and the distribution of resources that will permit our living in peace. These are the issues that Habermas sees as falling within the system of law.

  • Habermas admonishes us that for our system of law to be legitimate we must provide for good faith hearing of the validity claims of all who are governed by our system. (Habermas claims this for all citizens, but as we approach the next millennium, the concept of "citizen" is changing.)

  • We of Dear Habermas have added the requirement that good faith hearing requires of those who have expertise that they listen actively to the claims of others to add their own expertise to articulating those claims in ways that others can understand.

  • Cornel West reminds us that the role of the critical theorist in this age of late capitalism and conservatism is to keep the history of what we have accomplished in the past alive for our younger people, so that when the time permits, they will be able to build on the past, and not have to reinvent wheels.

  • And Martha Minow reminds us that one plausible way to deal with the unstated assumptions of privilege is to state them, in the philosophy of critical race theory, up front and personal. When we are aware, it is harder to build our fantasies of reality. And the stories of critical race theory bring us to awareness.

    Now that's not a solution, Jaime. But it is an approach to bringing the issues to the discourse table. The narrative you tell as you bring this issue here, is in the tradition of critical race theory. And it is through such narratives we take the first steps to awareness and good faith hearing of validity claims.

jeanne



The Power of William Oliver's Assessment

Thread continued by Armond McDaniels, Sr. CSUDH, Law, Fall 1999
Copyright: November 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.
Curran and Takata, Part of Teaching Series
Copyright: September 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

On Thursday, November 11, 1999, Armond wrote:

†I was reading the lecture on William Oliver and I was touched right in the heart when William Oliver said that, one of the great tragedies of prejudice and discrimination against black people is that it has a negative effect on how blacks view themselves as human beings.† I agree with this 100%.† Why? Because that is exactly how I FELT growing up as a black child.

On Friday, November 12, 1999, jeanne wrote:

I hope that sharing that in this virtual academic community will help us all become more aware of how much pain we have internalized. One of the principles of critical race theory is to heighten this awareness by telling our stories up front and personal. By refusing to let them just go away, unheard, buried in individual pain.

jeanne



When Is Society Going to Let That Be?

Thread continued by Sarah Nelson, UWP, Fall 1999
Copyright: November 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.
Curran and Takata, Part of Teaching Series
Copyright: September 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

On Monday, November 15, 1999, Sarah wrote:

Susan,

I read the threaded discussion up on Dear Habermas and feel that I can relate to how black people are looked at as outsiders.† Society does not give black men a chance to succeed compared to white people.† Black men are unfortunately almost always assumed to be outsiders and minorities.† Society learns that one black man committed a crime by hearing about it on the news, and we never hear the good things that they do.† I know some prejudiced people. I believe the only reason they are that way is because of the way their fathers were and what they heard when they were children.† None of them have an open mind to the black race. They see them only as criminals.† Because blacks were once held in slavery society never adjusted to the fact that they are now equal as you and me.† It's a terrible thing that for decades society seems to have had this prejudice. Why?† They are equal as we are and have the same range of values and behaviors "white people" do.† It was said a long time ago that all men are created equal.† When is society going to let that be?

On Monday, November 15, 1999, Susan and jeanne wrote::

Sarah, we are touched by the sheer poetry of your last sentence:

When is society going to let that be?



Will People Come If They Are Invited?

Thread continued by Michael A. Hindman, UWP, Fall 1999
Copyright: November 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.
Curran and Takata, Part of Teaching Series
Copyright: September 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

On Monday, November 15, 1999, Michael wrote:

Susan,

There are such wonderful responses to the letter from Jaime.† It seems to pose a question no one can answer.† How do you instill self worth and respect?† It is lacking in so much of society these days.† My concern is that rebellion will be the ultimate answer, and who can blame people for resorting to overthrow when every avenue seems blocked for them.† Instead of coming together as human beings in pain, we seem to split further apart into smaller and smaller subgroups with no humor or respect.† Will discussion bring us all together?† Will people come if they are invited?† Maybe then we can let it be that we are all humans with the same pain, joy, and needs. Let's hope for the chance to overcome.

On Monday, November 15, 1999, Susan and jeanne wrote:

Yes, Michael, we believe there is hope. The hope of which Habermas speaks in legitimizing our system of law through good faith hearings of all validity claims. That seems to emphasize interdependence more than "overcoming," but for many of us this is a battle we thought we had already won in the 1970s. Perhaps we need to think on the interdependence. That would seem to speak of our listening in good faith to the concept of "social junk," and agreeing not to let any group reach the point of despair.

Susan and jeanne



I Sense the Desperation, but Believe There is Hope

Thread continued by Eunice Thomas. CSUDH, Fall 1999
Copyright: November 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.
Curran and Takata, Part of Teaching Series
Copyright: September 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

On Thursday, November 11, 1999, Eunice wrote:

My reaction to: "Help me?† My Violent World" †††††††††††††† †

I, too, have been touched by the questions posed by Jaime.† I have been aware of the attributions made to minorities, and the prejudices which result.† I sense the desperation, but believe there is hope.

I wish to react to two of the questions:

  1. "Why is it that if another Afrikan-American walks up the street he is immediately identified as an enemy, instead if just someone I don't know?"

  2. "The question, Jeanne, is what are the solutions?"

    People make attributions which are consistent with their beliefs or prejudices - a situation referred to as the ultimate attribution error.†(Could we cite a source for this? jeanne) They hold particular stereotypes of minorities.† For example, African-Americans may be thought of as being lazy,inferior, or trouble-makers.† These negative attributions intensify the prejudices.† That is why a Caucasian walking up the street might be identified as a stranger getting acquainted with the area, whereas an African-American or a Latino might be identified as an enemy.

    Are theresolutions to the problem?† I believe that one key factor is mutual interdependence where people find themselves in situations where they would have to cooperate with each other to accomplish their goals.† Several researchers have demonstrated the benefits of cooperation.†(Could we cite a source for this? jeanne) I believe that the solution also lies in learning to like and respect one another, and benefit from our diversity by learning from each other. ††††††††