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W.E.B DuBois used an expression when discussing what he referred to as “The Talented Tenth”, a term which he used when discussing the premise that one out of ten black men should become leaders of their race in the world, as that would be the way for the black man to rise out of slavery and oppression. He discussed these concepts in the 1890s.
In one speech he explained this much better:
“Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools — intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it — this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation, we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life.”
The operative phrase here, as far as this writer is concerned, is “broad sympathy”. It struck me when I first read it since, being such a simple phrase, it surprised me that I had never heard it or read ever before in my lifetime, especially given my extensive reading and research for my education and writing.
Upon reflection, I believe that the understanding of this phrase is critical to open-mindedness and the ability to understand someone whose opinions might vary greatly from yours. It does not describe sympathy in its most common usage, including feelings of sorrow for someone who has suffered a loss or pity for those less fortunate than one’s self.
I think that his use of the term speaks to what is required for intelligent thought and communication. An example of the use of broad sympathy is when communicating, with verbally or in writing, and understanding that what you’re thinking is not necessarily what the other person is thinking. This can manifest itself when someone speaks in pronouns rather than common or proper nouns. The excessive use of he, him, her, she, it etc., as if the listener knows who these people are without being reminded, can be very frustrating. The speaker assumes that you can see the people s/he is picturing in their head while speaking to you. They are not displaying broad sympathy since they are concentrating on their own thoughts and ignoring yours.
It can also mean knowing where a person with an opposing viewpoint is getting his logic from, and respecting it, even when disagreeing. This is the essence of any negotiation. Understanding the other person’s point of view is critical if you want to change their mind. And I don’t mean this in the platitudinous sense as we hear in so many Facebook memes about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and the like. It means understanding your opponent’s motivation and the rationale for his position even though you are trying to dissuade him of it.
Broad sympathy is what makes a good attorney a great attorney. Understanding the assumptions of the opposing attorney and the jury and dissuading them of their position, not by force or ridicule, but by using the logic of their own positions to sway them to yours.
An example of this is let’s say, two people arguing about the use of animals for medical testing. Your opponent says that the particular animal in question cannot feel pain from the testing done to him, and so this testing is justified since it causes no harm. If one has broad sympathy, one has determined that this is the basis for the opposing argument-lack of pain. This is what is apparently important to your opponent. So now, rather than argue a different point, if you can show a study that claims that this particular animal might feel pain, you are addressing the specific argument made by your opponent. Since he has already tacitly suggested that a lack of pain is justification for these animal experiments, it follows, by extension, and the presence of pain is the opposite and is cause to cease these tests. You have used your opponent’s argument against him, due to your ability to recognize what part of his argument is the most critical. At this point, he may move on to a different argument justifying the testing, but he has exposed himself to you since most people will lead off with their best argument and be forced to use less convincing one’s subsequently. My favorite way of expressing this is what I call the “your mother’s a whore”, tactic. When someone is not well prepared to make an argument or all of their arguments have been dispelled by logic, they revert to an ad hominem argument and say, “Well, I don’t care what you say anyway. And your mother’s a whore”. This tends to be the tactic used by Donald Trump quite often. When he runs out of defense of his position, he attacks his opponent personally, and smugly. It reveals more about him than his opponent. Donald Trump displays an utter lack of broad sympathy toward anyone who would oppose him.
This is true in other aspects of life as well. Although there are times when we simply can’t imagine where another person got their ideas, it is often a lack of broad sympathy on our part, not necessarily their ignorance of the subject. It helps to distinguish between those who have opinions with little or no substance, and those who have thoughtful, reasoned, defensible attitudes and are comfortable expressing them without personal attacks.
When I see how modern cops use symbolism like their uniforms, medals, weaponry and comments about “brotherhood” and standing up for one another…
When I see how they defend one another at all cost, right or wrong…
When I see the vehemence directed at anyone who would say anything negative about cops, as well as the defensiveness directed at anyone who would point out one of their many shortcomings…
When I see the above traits it reminds me of the biker gangs of the 1960s and 1970s. Tough, arrogant, often racist and tribalist, self-assured and convinced of their infallibility and entitlement to their power they wield. Thoroughly convinced of their superiority to others, as well as the smirking confidence that they will likely get away with anything they do.
Just something I’ve been thinking about.
Yes, folks, its 2015 and I’m still seeing this question being asked by ignorant white racists who, for some reason, feel a burning desire to be given permission to say, nigger.
The ironic thing is the fact that they want permission for it. I’m having difficulty believing that they think that there is any penalty for doing so, beyond being called a racist imbecile, which, if they thought about it for more than a second, is exactly what they are revealing themselves to be by simple virtue of the fact that they want to say the word.
What is the point of asking why you can’t say it when it is quite obvious that you already refer to black people in your mind as niggers? What’s the difference between saying it and thinking it?
But, I’ll try another tack. I’ll use an example from my own life:
My family is of Greek origin. I had a woman working for me some years ago who had been born in Greece. When I came to work in the morning, I’d often greet her by saying “Hiya Greek”, to which she would respond in kind. It was a playful way of reminding ourselves that we had a specific connection, in this case, one of heritage. It suggested a similarity in our past, our cultures and our way of looking at the world, nothing more. It was more playful than meaningful.
If someone else in the office would have referred to either of us by saying “hiya Greek”, it would have been quite inappropriate, since that person, being of a different ancestry, would sound out of place, almost as if they were making a derogatory comment. Neither of us would have appreciated it. Keep in mind, the word “Greek” in and of itself has no negative connotations, but if a non-Greek used the term to refer to us, it would make us wonder why he chose to refer only to that aspect of our existence. We would assume that it was meant derogatorily.
The word nigger, as if anyone needs to have this explained, has severely negative connotations to it, going back to the fact that it was the word of choice used when referring to black slaves. No one who breathes oxygen should be unaware of that fact.
For that reason, when a black person calls another black person nigger, they are doing the same thing that I did with my employee, which is to playfully recall a secret, shared history. It’s a verbal “wink and nod” between two people who have a deep-seated similarity. Others, of a different heritage, simply have no business trying to insert themselves into that shared history, nor to question why they can’t.
Other than that, if you really want to call people nigger, you are already as much of a racist as you can possibly be. Actually saying it won’t make you more so. You’ve already revealed the depths of your ignorance and insensitivity.
How proud you must be…
I heard that Rosie ODonnell’s daughter, who had been missing for a few days, was found alive and well and is in police custody. Then I thought about what “police custody” is supposed to mean.
It is supposed to mean that she’s safe. Not safe only if the cop didn’t “feel threatened”; not safe only because she’s a white female; safe because she’s with the cops.
Where did that go?
Webster’s defines Truism as a certain kind of truth—a cliché, a platitude, something so self-evident that it is hardly worth mentioning. One can use it to accuse another writer or speaker of saying something so obvious or evident and trite that pointing it out is pointless.
When someone says, “black lives matter”, s/he is not trying to suggest that black lives matter more than white lives. But that doesn’t stop many of the less educated, or less socially aware among us from feeling the need to respond with “all lives matter”, as if to come off as intelligent, inclusive and fair-minded. They, instead, come off as idiots.
That “black lives matter” has become a catch-phrase is indicative that many black people feel the need to remind the rest of us of the fact that they do. The nuance which flies at supersonic speed over the heads of the idiots to whom I referred above is the ironic sadness over the fact that they should have to. This is similar to when, in the 1960s civil rights demonstrations, black men would carry banners which read “I am a man”. They were not suggesting that white men weren’t, only that for some reason they felt it necessary to remind white people of this most fundamental of truisms. They weren’t saying that they were men to the exclusion of all others. They were saying that they were, also, men.
And that is what is meant by “black lives matter”. It is an attempt by black people to remind whites of something that is so basic, so accurate, that only an imbecile would need to be reminded of it-a Truism. They are not saying that black lives matter to the exclusion of all others. They are saying that black lives, also, matter. And that we apparently need to be reminded of it. It is a tacit, yet justified insult to the ability of whites to understand those who do not look like us.
When whites, in an attempt to pander to other whites, say things like “all lives matter” as a counterpoint, they shine a big, bright spotlight upon the fact that they miss the point entirely. Of course all lives matter. When one group feels the need to remind us that they, too, should be included in the “all”, it should suggest to thinking people that maybe, just maybe, they are not.
My various writings in defense of those of other cultures, races and points of view which sometimes vary greatly from that which my pale-faced, conservative brethren tend to hold, can at times cause some of those who have recently discovered Dictionary.com to fire missives my way with a recurring theme of “self loathing”, as if to help explain the defects in my own apparently miss-spent life.
This piece is directed toward those who have done so.
Since you asked, I decided that it was time to respond that it is not me whom I loathe, my slogan-of-the-week repeating friends, it is you.
You see, I am quite satisfied with my lot in life, which allows me the moral heft to challenge those of you who hide behind that with which you were born, simultaneously wearing it on your shirtsleeve as if it were a coat-of-arms, proving some high rank or accomplishment when you, often, have none which would give you license to hold yourselves to such lofty societal hights. You brag about what you were handed at birth because you’ve done little since and, therefore, have little else to be proud of, other than some “heritage” or serendipitously occurring skin color. It is reminiscent of Al Bundy’s recurring braggadocio about winning one football game at Polk High, by simple virtue of the fact that he can’t think of another thing about which to brag.
To start with, I have raised two now-grown children into fine adults, with their own stable, nuclear families and good careers, with no issues of divorce, drugs or infidelities. No one in my family has ever been arrested. I also have a teenager with straight A’s in a gifted school who is on a path to an ivy-league college.
I started out a working man, washing cars at a car dealership and learning to repair and sell cars. Recently, I sold a company I started from scratch in 2008 for an amount approaching seven figures. I have owned a waterfront home on the Gulf-of-Mexico and my own private airplane and sailboat. I single-handedly piloted a 45 ft yacht around the Caribbean for 9 days with my family and flew a single-engined airplane from Minnesota to Florida, solo. I later flew that same airplane, solo, from Florida to New Jersey as hurricane Francis approached from my tail.
I have started, bought, sold and managed internet companies, aircraft leasing companies, construction companies, automobile companies, landscaping companies and real-estate investment companies. I have sometimes failed in my endeavors but more often than not, succeeded quite nicely, thank-you.
I have acted in community theater to acclaim, having had no formal training or acting lessons. I was given the lead role in two out of the three plays I’ve been in and had my share of standing ovations.
I have written two well-received books about management and am working on a third about racism in my lifetime. I write prolifically on all manner of subjects.
I started college at 50 years old and am now an MBA with less than two years remaining in my post-graduate education before completing my dissertation and receiving a Ph.D.in Managment.
Sorry folks, I have nothing to loathe about myself. I am quite confident that I have not squandered my time here on earth. And it is that confidence which allows me to look back at myself and see the privileges which have been afforded me in sharp contrast to the lack of privilege that others with far greater talent, courage and skill have suffered.
I spend no time whatsoever patting myself on the back or holding myself above others due to the simple expedient of certain molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid which happened to align in a particular way to make me a white male. To put it another way…I didn’t build that. It was built for me. And whatever privileges with which you were born were also handed to you.
I don’t defend others due to anything remotely approaching self-loathing. I do it out of self-love.
In doing research for my book about racism, I’ve recently been reading some scholarly texts regarding law enforcement in inner cities. I’ve read numerous books, written by a combination of black prosecutors, black public defenders, white prosecutors and pubic defenders, and one which interviewed retired judges. They all have a common theme, which I’ll get back to in a minute.
The takeaway from all this research has been the confirmation of something which I, and many of you have likely believed for a some time but haven’t had the need nor the impetus to acknowledge. It appears to have become commonplace for white people who are in charge to either ignore or simply delay their reaction to the needs of black people. I’m speaking from a law enforcement perspective here. I’ve read many accounts about cops or other taxpayer-paid first responders either neglecting or simply refusing to go into black neighborhoods when they’re needed, as a way of tacitly determining the futures of these individuals.
One account was a poor family of 8 or so who lived in a small house with a newborn baby sleeping in one bed with his father. One morning they noticed the baby was not breathing and called 9-1-1. No one showed up after 20 minutes. Over the course of the next hour, they called three more times and no one showed up. When they finally called the fourth time, they overheard the 9-1-1 operator ask her supervisor why no one was responding. The supervisor was overheard telling the operator “There’s a shitload of people in that house. Somebody probably just rolled over on the baby and killed it. Tell them to call a funeral home”.
Here is a recent article explaining that Repubs don’t consider racism to be a very big problem I know that it’s from HuffPo, which is not considered to be a paragon of impartial reporting, but it’s a legitimate poll, based on the details of the study.
Other examples are of white judges imposing enormous bail on black kids who have been accused of possessing small amounts of pot. Since they can’t pay the bail, they languish in jail for what is sometimes months waiting for their trial to begin. Once their trial date comes up, many times the prosecutor isn’t ready or the public defender hasn’t had a chance to see the case, and it’s delayed. So the kid goes back to jail. By the time the case finally comes up, even if the kid is acquitted or takes a plea, he likely owes fines or court costs, which he can’t pay because he hasn’t worked in months. He is unlikely to be able to find a job since he’s been out of the job market for a while and has no way to support himself as a result. If the fines and court costs aren’t paid, a bench warrant is issued for him, which lands him back in jail, where he accumulates more fees. This is not an isolated incident. There are thousands upon thousand of black kids who are in jail because they could not pay fines and court costs associated with minor offenses.
The fact is that the same percentage of white kids smoke pot as black kids do. Since there are about 7 1/2 times as many white kids as black kids in the US, why would there be so many more black kids in jail over pot arrests than white kids? Could it be that black kids, what with stop and frisk laws that target them, are simply arrested more often for minor pot offenses than white kids? Could it be that predominantly white judges don’t rule as harshly or impose as large bail amounts on white kids? There has to be a reason that a smaller population of pot users accounts for a larger population of pot users who are in jail.
Dare I use the…”R” word? How many more instances do we need of, not “isolated examples” but of thousands upon thousands of occasions when whites assert their authority by ensuring that blacks stay in the subservient position in which we’ve always preferred them, then blame them for being there.
Folks, look inside yourselves here. If you were a cop or a judge, and you were presented with a good-looking fair-haired white college boy who was caught with a small amount of pot, and contrast that with seeing a black kid of the same age wearing a hoodie committing the same offense, would you treat them the same? Would you assume that the white kid was just making harmless juvenile mistakes, but the black kid has probably committed other crimes and deserves punishment?
If you were a cop and received a call about a fight in a predominantly black section of your city, and your sergeant told you not to bother because “those people are always fighting”, would you protest? Would you agree?
I’ve been hearing white people lamenting recently that they’re tired of hearing about racism. Well, to those of you who are, imagine how tiring it must be to the victims of it. Your boredom is more evidence of your acceptance of it than of any overuse of the word. It exists. And it exists in us all.