musings, racism

Repost: Is Liam Neeson guilty of a “hate crime”?

Here’s a repost of an article I wrote for my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife. It originally appeared February 6, 2019. I’m sharing it again, because last night, I watched Liam Neeson’s Taken series– three movies worth– because Bill had to work very late. As I watched Liam’s character, Bryan Mills, kicking the crap out of bad guys in a very satisfying way, I was reminded of this post I wrote just before I had to shut down access to my old blog. I think it’s worth another look.

I believe that old song in Avenue Q.  I think everyone’s a little bit racist, even though some people believe that you can only be racist if you’re a member of the “dominant” racial group.  Actor Liam Neeson is a White man who recently confessed that after a friend was violently raped by a Black man, he prowled the streets with a club, looking for a Black man to beat up.  He said he was actually “hoping” to be approached by someone giving him an excuse to beat the shit out of them with a “cosh” (British word for club).

Neeson’s violent revenge fantasy occurred about forty years ago.  He never did beat anyone up. He was simply very angry about the violent crime committed against his friend and he wanted to avenge her.  He says he’s ashamed of how he reacted to the rape and sorry for having those violent impulses to hurt other people.

Liam Neeson talks about that controversy from 40 years ago. I think he should be commended for his honesty and integrity.

Naturally, the papers have been having a field day with the story.  Lots of people seem to think Mr. Neeson needs a good public flogging for something that happened 40 years ago.  I don’t condone Neeson’s violent impulses to hurt just anyone who happened to be Black.  However, I do feel like he should be commended for his honesty.  It’s not an easy thing to do, admitting those feelings publicly, as hateful and hurtful as they are.  It’s awful to hear about them, but it does get people thinking and talking.  Is that a bad thing? By the way, I HIGHLY recommend listening to Neeson speak in the above video. He makes a lot of sense.

Neeson eventually came to the conclusion that violence begets violence.  He found more constructive ways to deal with his rage, to include power walking for two hours a day.  He spoke to his friends and a priest.  He also said that if the man had not been Black, he still would have had those same feelings of primal rage and wanting to get revenge. In this case, it was apparently a Black man who perpetrated the crime against his friend.  It could have been anyone, though.  Also, consider that this happened in Northern Ireland forty years ago, during “The Troubles”.  It was a pretty violent time all around, particularly between English people and Irish people.  I’m sure that contributed to Neeson’s state of mind.

In my opinion, Liam Neeson’s situation isn’t really the same as Governor Ralph Northam’s situation in Virginia.  He’s under fire for having been in a racist photo 35 years ago.  Governor Northam is in a leadership position, though, and is a physician.  The photo was taken when he was in medical school.  And it had nothing to do with being justifiably angry.  That photo was about simple mockery of people not like him.  To my knowledge, it wasn’t prefaced by violent crime or anything that would cause a person to feel “passionate”.  It was just plain stupidity.

I can understand being so angry that one becomes blinded by rage.  I don’t condone acting on that rage. It turns out, Neeson never did. He never hurt or killed anyone in reaction to his friend’s rape.  Soon afterward, he was ashamed of himself and took active steps to mend his ways. Forty years later, people want to cancel him for simply admitting that he had these dark thoughts after a dear friend was raped.

Is it awful that Neeson had those violent and racially biased fantasies?  Yes, I believe it is, although I think having them is pretty “human”.  Is it awful that he publicly admits to having those fantasies?  I don’t think so.  Why punish the man for simply being honest?  At least he’s worked on his issues.  At least he acknowledges them.  Apparently, that incident from Neeson’s past has also been used as a tool in his movies, like Taken and Ransom.  That just goes to show that even the worst impulses can be used for something positive if we’re careful.

Another perspective from the other side of the pond. Quite interesting and refreshing.

I do think people should be able to live down the things they did in the past, particularly if they acknowledge them and show that they’ve tried to make amends. We are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done or said or thought… or, at least I believe we should be. I think Neeson has taken steps to make amends for having those violent, racist impulses over forty years ago.  Northam, to my admittedly limited knowledge, has also apparently tried to change his ways.  He supposedly has a good reputation as a physician and as a governor, aside from this unfortunate relic from his past. 

Of course, now there’s been talk of a sexual assault claim against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who would be poised to take Northam’s place if he resigns.  Personally, I think the hullabaloo in Virginia is more about people upset about Northam’s comments on abortion and desperate folks wanting to get the Democrats out of office in Virginia.  The timing of this is just too funky.

As for Liam Neeson… I think people should stop and think before they pick up their torches and pitchforks.  Should we be more concerned about people who are honest about having racist feelings or those who hide them?  Truly, I think everyone has prejudices.  No one is immune to preconceived notions about other people.  I, for one, think Neeson was brave to share his story, knowing how public backlash can happen and what it can lead to.  It’s good to think and talk about these things.  But then, Liam Neeson is probably in a position where he can talk about these things and not fear losing everything.

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communication, racism

Getting a grip with the “super woke”…

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this morning. My mind was a bit fuzzy after having been awakened at 4:00am by Arran, the barfing beagle. Actually, all he did was retch a bit. He was hungry, so Bill fed him and all was well. I was annoyed, though, because the retching woke me from a pleasant dream. And when I woke up and got out of bed, I wasn’t as “woke” as I could have been. 😉

I started reading The Washington Post, as usual, and sure enough, found myself a topic. It came from an article about Vietnamese tenants in Manhattan who received an official letter from a city worker addressing them as “Chin Chong”. Included with the article was a photo of the correspondence– a window envelope with the words “Chin Chong” visible.

Apparently, this all started when an older White man came to check on the heating and water at Duc Pham’s New York City apartment. Pham said he seemed “polite and professional”, and took down the floor and apartment number but did not ask for names. Last week, Pham’s roommate woke him to show him a follow up letter sent by the city addressed to “CHIN CHONG”. Pham and his roommates are all Vietnamese.

So Pham did what everyone seems to do nowadays when they get offended. He posted the offending correspondence on social media. That action led the city housing authority to issue an apology. Further, an employee was suspended without pay, and the authority has launched an investigation into the matter. Given the recent uptick in racism against Asians in the United States, to include racially based attacks on Asian citizens, scapegoating Asians for the pandemic, and the deadly shootings at three Asian-run spas in the Atlanta area, this case is especially newsworthy and troubling.

Now… when I saw the words “Chin Chong”, I knew they were offensive. But I’m just one person. As I read the comments for this article, I came across one written by a guy named Bruce, who says he’s 67 years old and has never encountered the term “Chin Chong”. He wrote:

I am not trying to start a fight here, but I am 67, I have lived in or near NYC all my life, and I have never heard this phrase, and would not have known what it referred to.

Bruce was immediately taken to task for this comment by a woman named Michele, who wrote:

…you understand that the absence of you never having heard it doesn’t in any way negate it’s existence and the experience of those it’s directed towards? You understand that this statement is an example of minimizing and a microagression, yes? Finally you understand that stating “I am not trying to start a fight” isn’t a blanket excuse to say something so utterly nonsensical in the discussion correct?

A long thread ensued in which they went back and forth with each other. Honestly, I don’t see anything in Bruce’s initial comment that indicates any kind of micro-aggression on his part. Maybe, at most, Bruce’s comment just seems obtuse. Obviously, Pham and his roommates were offended by being called “Chin Chong”. Perhaps Bruce could have Googled the term, rather than asking about it on The Washington Post. I haven’t looked yet, but I’ll bet Urban Dictionary has it defined… Actually, in Urban Dictionary, it’s “Ching Chong”, and it’s described as a pejorative used by English speakers to mock Asian languages, especially Chinese.

Okay… so it was Ting Tong vs. Ching Chong…

I’m 48 years old, at this writing, and I do remember hearing that slur used when I was a kid, both in England and the United States. Most recently, I heard it used on Little Britain, which was a British comedy show that often included skits that were kind of racist. That show aired some time ago– from 2003-07– and I read last year that the creators, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, have said they are “very sorry” for playing characters of other races. However, I don’t remember hearing that term used nearly as often as I have heard other racist epithets that will remain nameless. Moreover, I don’t know Bruce. Maybe he really hasn’t been exposed to that term. His question actually could have been innocent.

Anyway, before I knew it, I had read the whole thread. Below are the screenshots.

I won’t be surprised if someone accuses me of being a racist because I left the last comment. I don’t think what I wrote was racist. I simply don’t think that it’s necessary or helpful to attack people and make negative judgments about their characters simply based on a single comment on a news article. Granted, perhaps Bruce’s original comment was perhaps a bit “tone deaf”, but being tone deaf doesn’t make someone a racist. I gleaned a lot more about Michele from her aggressively “woke” comments than I did about Bruce. I haven’t looked at either of their profiles, but frankly, I would much rather have a conversation with Bruce than Michele, even if what she writes about him is 100 percent true… and I am not convinced that it is.

I know we’re living in challenging times. Racism is a huge problem worldwide, but especially in the United States. I understand that there are people who feel the need to “educate” others about it. A lot of them assume the mantle with gusto and go on full bore flame wars against anyone they perceive to be “insensitive” or unaware. I don’t think there is anything wrong with combatting racism. However, I do think that verbally attacking people– especially people you don’t know– is unhelpful in combatting racism.

Most people don’t like being publicly chastised or condescended to, especially when they truly meant no harm. While Michele obviously interprets Bruce’s comment as minimizing and “micro-aggressive”, to me, she comes off as openly aggressive, hostile, superior, and rude. I wouldn’t want to have a discussion with her, having witnessed that exchange. I think, if Michele’s goal is truly to defend the marginalized, she should change her approach to one that is less threatening.

I’ve mentioned this before in my blog, but I’m going to mention it again. I think there’s great value in the gentler approach. For some reason, Americans haven’t gotten the memo and feel like they have to aggressively denounce anyone who isn’t fully onboard the politically correct bandwagon. So they attack people– often total strangers– who post something that could or could not be construed as “offensive”. It’s one thing if someone posts something that is obviously belittling and nasty. It’s another, when something is only potentially so, and that could only be gauged by non-verbal cues that are simply unavailable in a written sense.

Maybe if Bruce and Michele had been speaking to each other in person, she could have concluded he was being offensive by his mannerisms or tone of voice. Or maybe if they’d had a recurring dialogue online, she could have more correctly gauged whether or not he was minimizing the plight of marginalized people. But I think it’s hard to accurately make those conclusions based entirely on the written words of a perfect stranger one has only encountered once in a lifetime. I didn’t get the sense that Bruce and Michele had ever met prior to that chance encounter on The Washington Post’s Facebook page.

I’ve found that gentle probing is good for finding out someone’s true intentions before you lower the boom on them, so to speak. To further illustrate what I mean, here’s an anecdote from my past. Back in the late 1990s, I attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I went, mainly because at the time, I was living with my parents and having to deal with my alcoholic dad, with whom I often clashed.

One time, a young, attractive woman who was studying massage therapy came to the meeting with some kind of putty. When it was her turn to speak, she told us about how she was learning how to treat the tough knots that plagued her clients. The putty was used as a training tool in that endeavor. She showed us how, if she attacked the putty aggressively, it wouldn’t yield to her touch. It would be resistant and rigid. But if she gently pressed it, the putty would slowly become more malleable and she could manipulate it with much more ease. She passed the putty around so we could experience it for ourselves. Ever since that presentation, I’ve thought of that lady with the putty whenever I witness someone aggressively attacking another person in a well-meaning attempt to do “good”.

I think this was the stuff she used.

If you want a more cliched idea about effecting change, there’s always that old saying, “You get more flies with honey than vinegar.” If you’re kind, understanding, and trying to see the other person in a good light in your approach, others may be more inclined to listen to you. Most people are normal, and don’t want to be hurtful or cruel to others. If they are not normal, you will eventually find that out if you maintain contact with them. At that point, you can change your approach accordingly. For most online interactions, you probably should consider trying to be somewhat reasonable and understanding… at least at first.

On the other hand, this is also true… And who wants to attract flies anyway, except maybe frogs or spiders?

I highly doubt “Bruce” and the others in that thread who were responding to Michele learned anything new in that exchange, other than Michele is not a very nice person. I also doubt her efforts to make them more “woke” had much of a positive effect on them. Instead of focusing on what she was trying to say– which I assume was well-meaning– they were being defensive and had focused on the aggressive nature of her communication to them. She may have felt better in being so direct and condescending, but I doubt that approach led to anything good. I was uncomfortable and offended reading it, and I wasn’t even part of the conversation until the very end. I forced myself to read the whole thing, but I’ll bet a lot of people chose not to read it. We’ve got enough reasons to be hurt, offended, or irritated these days.

I was glad to see some people defending Bruce in that thread. It’s not that I don’t think his comment was a bit obtuse. It kind of was. I just don’t think launching a full blown nuclear attack against him, posting to him like he’s stupid, and assuming bad things about his character is useful, particularly when all he did was ask a question. There really is a dearth of mutual respect in our society and it’s having a serious effect on freedom of speech as well as mutual understanding. Angrily attacking people just leads to more attacks. It isn’t helpful, and doesn’t teach anyone anything. However, I also understand that people get frustrated and feel the need to vent. I just think it’s better to take out those frustrations in another venue, rather than in a public forum with perfect strangers. (which doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes slip up myself)

As for Pham and his roommates, I am truly sorry that they had that experience with the city worker. I don’t know what it’s like to be Asian American, so I can’t personally relate to what they went through. But I’m willing to hear what they have to say and offer respect and kindness the best way I know how. I think everyone is deserving of at least that level of respect until they show the world that they’re not worthy. For example, Donald Trump has pretty much lost all of my respect, but that’s because he shows so little to anyone else. When it comes down to it, Bruce’s initial comment wasn’t, on its face, offensive. A “woke” stranger assigned a motive to him and attacked him, rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt. A more gentle probe, rather than an aggressive reprimand, would have likely been more effective and educational for everyone. Or, at least that’s my take… but again, I’m only one person.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, racism, rants

Why I unfollowed “God”…

I don’t remember when I discovered the God page on Facebook. I remember liking it when we lived in Texas, which was about seven years ago. I probably liked it in North Carolina, too… which was about ten years ago. It used to be a genuinely hilarious source of laughs on a daily basis. But now, it seems to be full of self-righteous virtue signalers who want to live in an echo chamber. And since this past year has been unlike any other in my lifetime, I find that I have less time for people who try my patience. It’s not so much God that tries my patience. It’s his “followers”, many of whom are, frankly, very obnoxious, narrow-minded, and hypocritical.

I may decide to follow God again at some point, but I’ve found that many times, once I get sour on something, I don’t want to return to it. I used to follow George Takei’s page, but I had to quit following him a couple of years ago… again because of the other people who follow him. Same with Janis Ian, although I did recently re-follow her. And Wil Wheaton… had to stop following him, too. I just can’t hack it.

So what brought on the unfollowing? It was a post God had shared about a woman who went maskless into a grocery store in New York. The woman– who is now dubbed “Bagel Betsy” (again with the hijacking of people’s names and turning them into insults)– was asked to put on a face mask. She adamantly refused. Security asked her to leave the store, and she dropped the n-bomb at the cashier. Later, when people gave her hell on social media, the woman posted a picture of a report from 23andme, claiming to be biracial, and wrote that all of her children have a Black father. She also defended her right to call the cashier a “bitchass n-bomb” because she claims that she, herself, has Black ancestry.

Screenshot of the justification for dropping the n-bomb.

As you might have guessed, the post was quite inflammatory and there were over a thousand outraged comments. A few brave and intrepid souls tried to inject some reason into the flood of hatred. One woman bravely posted that words only have the power that we give them. She got a huge ration of shit for that. Another asked why it’s only okay for certain people use certain words. Again… tons of insults lobbed at her for asking a serious and honest question. Below is just one example of the exchanges on that thread.

Here’s a comment from Pam:

She does have a point. I’ve often heard black people say that word. If it’s ok for them to say it, but not white people, isn’t that racist too?

Oh boy… that opened the flood gates of hypocrisy. One guy, name of John, wrote this:

my friends and I call each other all sorts of names but god help anyone else who tries it on with us! You have missed the point by a stratospheric amount.

So Pam asked:

“Again, its an honest question. I’ve never understood why its bad”

And John responded:

“really, please tell me you are being sarcastic. As a Scot I don’t mind being called a “Jock” by other Scots. But don’t you dare call me a Jock if you aren’t Scottish. It is about the use of the language. Using the N word if you aren’t black is normally a way of suggesting that people of colour are inferior to whites.”

At this point, I have to ask… how would we even know where exactly someone is from? How would we even know what their racial makeup is? At what point is someone “Black enough” or “Scottish enough” or whatever, for someone to use a widely accepted insult and not face repercussions? I have mentioned before that when in was in college, I studied African-American literature and Women’s literature. Both classes included slave narratives that we read and discussed. I distinctly remember learning about concepts such as the tragic mulatto and the one-drop rule in both of those courses. The one-drop rule held that anyone who had even just a drop of “Negro” (in historical terms) blood was considered Black.

By that definition, my husband Bill, who looks very much like someone who is European to the core, would be considered Black. He has ancestors from Nigeria and Ghana. Of course, no one would know that to look at him. He would never dream of dropping the n-bomb in an insulting way. But 120 years ago, he technically could have been classified as a Black person, based on the one-drop rule– which, thank Heavens, was never codified into a federal law, but was codified as a state law in some states. Direct from Wikipedia:

The one-drop rule is a social and legal principle of racial classification that was historically prominent in the United States in the 20th century. It asserted that any person with even one ancestor of black ancestry (“one drop” of black blood)[1][2] is considered black (Negro or colored in historical terms). 

This concept became codified into the law of some states in the early 20th century. It was associated with the principle of “invisible blackness” that developed after the long history of racial interaction in the South, which had included the hardening of slavery as a racial caste and later segregation. It is an example of hypodescent, the automatic assignment of children of a mixed union between different socioeconomic or ethnic groups to the group with the lower status, regardless of proportion of ancestry in different groups.[3]

The one-drop rule is defunct in law in the United States and was never codified into federal law.

In no way do I think that the racist outburst by the maskless woman at the grocery store was a good thing. It was absolutely disgusting behavior, and I do not condone it under any circumstances. But I also think the barrage of negativity that comes toward anyone who questions the logic of people losing their shit over racist epithets, but thinking nothing of insulting total strangers with hateful and dehumanizing words like “bitch”, “cunt”, “white trash”, “slut”, and “asshole” simply because they have a different perspective, is mind bogglingly non-sensical and hypocritical.

I’ve just gotten to the point at which reading that stuff makes my head (and heart) hurt, even if I also fully admit to being hypocritical. I like using a couple of those words myself. 😉 I just think that if equality is what we all seek, we have to realize that using degrading language toward any person, regardless of their racial makeup, is offensive and wrong. I’m working on myself, too, and reading that stuff makes it harder to break the habit, even if it does sometimes provide blog topics.

A small sampling of the verbal carnage…

Is it really a good thing to wish for people to be unemployed? Especially when they have children? It seems to me that we’d be better served to wish for “Bagel Betsy” to grow up and be civilized. We should want her to raise her own kids, rather than have them taken by government authorities and put in foster care. We should hope that she becomes a better person tomorrow, rather than trying to destroy her livelihood and break up her family. Many people in that thread were commenting that “Bagel Betsy” should lose her kids over this outburst. Have they even thought what that might mean for the children? Foster care is a crap shoot. It’s a blessing for some children; for others, it means going from one bad situation straight into another.

I don’t approve of what “Bagel Betsy” did, but I don’t wish her dead, injured, ill, unemployed, or for her to lose her family. It’s my experience that people who behave the way she did have reasons for behaving that way. Making things even worse for her, and for her family by association, will not teach her a lesson. It will probably just make her even more hateful, inconsiderate, and mean. Moreover, this is just a tiny sliver of her life. I’ll bet there are people in her life who love her. If there aren’t, perhaps that’s why she’s dropping n-bombs in public.

I find the single-mindedness of people’s negative comments disturbing. I’ve written about this before, but it really is creepy when a horde of people insist that we must all subscribe to a certain viewpoint, or we’re worthless and must be destroyed with insults. And, as much as I can’t stand the Trump mindset, I also dislike the super left-wing politically correct crowd who can’t see their own hypocrisy and hubris. Here’s another comment that indicates that you don’t have the right to use certain insulting words unless you’re in that group yourself…

There are words acceptable among your friends, your in-group, that you are a part of that are NOT acceptable in the general public or if you are not part of the group –this is true of some terms used for women, disabled persons, LGBTQ etc. Again you need to BELONG to the group to have the right to choose what you call yourself and your community.

Who gets to decide what “group” a person is in, that makes it okay to use denigrating language toward that group? Can a person decide for themselves, or does it take another person or more to make that decision? I don’t understand this rationale, and it’s exhausting to try to understand it. If you ask the question among these folks, they resort to insults and shaming. They never answer the question in a mindful, serious way.

Another example of why I unfollowed God was this below post, which appeared this morning as I was unsuccessfully trying to find a lone wise comment in that huge thread about “Bagel Betsy”.

Many people think this is behavior that ought to be encouraged…

The few brave folks who wrote that this is not a good idea were promptly drowned out by the self-righteous. Many people who have declared themselves fully onboard with the anti-covidiot crowd feel perfectly free to harass, judge, and insult those who have a different view. And even if you declare that you agree with wearing face masks, but disagree with the above obnoxious behavior, you will be aggressively called out by God followers who can’t have a civilized discussion.

The last comment is mine.

The lady who posted the above comment got so much hate from the peanut gallery for simply suggesting that people pick their battles. Frankly, I think paying your kids to call people out over a lack of a face mask rather than doing it yourself (if you feel so inclined) is the height of cowardice. Having your kids do your dirty work is potentially dangerous and very stupid. At what point is it no longer going to be okay for them to call people out? When will people stop thinking it’s “cute” that a kid took an adult to task over absent or improper mask wearing?

There’s a good reason why the adults don’t want to call people out themselves. It’s because you never know who’s carrying a weapon and having a bad day. The adults figure people won’t harm a child, so it’s somehow “safer” for them to “innocently” chastise an adult for not following the rules. But children get harmed by the unhinged all the time. And, as easy as it is for you to whip out a camera and put someone’s bad behavior online, it can be just as easy for someone who is angry and unsettled to whip out something and do the same to a child, who is being encouraged by an adult to be obnoxious to strangers. If you’re lucky they’ll whip out a camera, rather than a firearm. Personally, I wouldn’t want to put my hypothetical child in that position, and I hate to see it being encouraged by “God”. Seriously speaking, I think it’s a very bad idea, even if it’s being suggested in jest.

Really, though, the main reason why I’m no longer following God is that the page just isn’t funny anymore. It used to be about jokes. Now, it’s mostly inflammatory articles about people behaving badly in public, and insufferable strangers reacting to the bad behavior in extremely hypocritical and self-righteous ways. Instead of promoting better behavior and civility, these folks are not a lot better themselves. Their comments often indicate that they’re just as immature and offensive as the perpetrators are, only they’re on the “right” or “left” side of public or political opinion. It’s exhausting and annoying to read that shit, and everyone knows I can’t resist the comments. So I have decided to bow out. Maybe, now that a year has passed since we lost Jonny the would be rescue hound to negligence, it’s time to follow the dog rescue pages again. That might help me keep my blood pressure down.

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education, modern problems, sexism

Chivalry and critical thinking skills are dead in Texas…

Last night, I read about Shallowater High School, a school near Lubbock, Texas that was in the news because of a controversial assignment that got complaints. An English teacher, who was teaching “Beowulf” and the works of Chaucer, had a tradition of having her students explore the concept of chivalry. The boys were expected to dress in suits and ties. The girls were to wear dresses and heels. For one day, the men would help ladies to their seats and open doors for them, and they were supposed stand when a lady or person in authority entered a room. The ladies were expected not to speak unless spoken to, not to complain or whine, and they were supposed to walk behind the men.

The first time I read about this assignment about chivalry, it was in an article for a television station that was short on information and long on media bias. My initial impression was that it was kind of a silly assignment that sounded ill-conceived. But then I read more about it in The New York Times and learned that the teacher who had made the assignment had been doing it for a long time. Many students actually looked forward to taking part in it, which made me want to learn more about what it entailed.

In the course of reading more about the assignment, I learned that those who were uncomfortable with it were allowed to write a one page essay on chivalry. I also learned that the intent was of the assignment was to show students that chivalry was actually promoting male chauvinism and marginalizing women. The message was that chivalry, which is often touted to be “good” and is now “dead”, is not so much about promoting good manners and courtliness. It was about keeping women in their so-called place, according to the men who wanted to stay in charge. Apparently, past students who had taken part in the assignment got the message, even if it sounded kind of “sketchy” in practice.

This year, the assignment made the news, because some parents complained about it, claiming it was “sexist”. I will admit, my first thoughts, when I read about it was that it did seem a bit sexist. But then when I read that a lot of students actually enjoyed doing it, I changed my mind. Having been an English major and read “Beowulf” a couple of times myself, I appreciate anything that makes that story more engaging for young people. Moreover, I figured there had to be something more to the assignment than what was being put out to the masses. According to the New York Times:

“I really don’t think it was the teacher’s intention to have it be such a sexist lesson,” said Hannah Carreon, 18, a senior at the high school. “There were girls that were excited to get to do this finally and get to dress up.”

And those who didn’t want to participate didn’t have to. Seems fair enough to me. Nevertheless, thanks to the uproar, the school district superintendent, Dr. Anita Hebert, said the assignment was canceled, adding “this assignment has been reviewed, and despite its historical context, it does not reflect our district and community values.” Very fine, and she’s certainly within her rights to have the assignment changed.

Given how thin skinned many people are these days, I think it would be difficult for teachers and administrators to teach, especially in a creative way, without offending someone somehow. I don’t have a quarrel with the school administrator’s decision to revise the assignment, even though some students may have been disappointed. Schools have to evolve with the times, and nowadays, people are less inclined to be open-minded about alternative methods. Most people won’t even bother to read a news article before exploding with outrage, after all.

From the New York Times article.

But then I went into the comment section and there were many outraged reactions left by people who obviously hadn’t read the article. One person wrote that the teacher must be a “misogynistic man” and went off on a screed about racism and misogyny.

I know I should have kept scrolling, but I was lonely, irritated, and bored last night. So I commented that the teacher who had made the assignment was a woman who had been teaching this particular lesson for years. It was a long-standing tradition in her class that, apparently, had been well-received in years past. The teacher was actually trying to show the students that so-called “chivalry” wasn’t actually chivalry. From The New York Times:

The exercise had been scheduled to take place on Wednesday. Female and male students, who had been reading “Beowulf” and the works of Chaucer, were given assignment sheets that described 11 “rules for chivalry.” They would be awarded 10 points for every rule they followed.

Boys were asked to rise any time a female student or faculty member entered a room, to avoid profanity or “vulgar words” and to “allow ladies to leave the room before they leave.”

Girls had to walk behind men or “walk daintily, as if their feet were bound”; address men with “a lowered head and a curtsy”; “clean up” after their male classmates; and “obey any reasonable request” from a man.

According to Colin Tynes Lain, 18, a senior, the teacher had anticipated backlash and said students who were uncomfortable with the assignment could write a one-page essay instead.

In the past, Mr. Lain said, the teacher had given parents and teachers a written disclaimer explaining that the goal of the project was to show how the chivalric code was used to obscure chauvinistic principles that harmed women.

“That’s what she was trying to pull our attention to,” he said. “That this was not chivalry in any way.”

But to read the comments, the teacher was perceived as some boneheaded cave dwelling man who was trying to suppress women with a backwards assignment meant to push them down. And when I gently pointed out that the teacher was a woman who was trying to teach about how chivalry was actually not so good, I got a lecture about racism and misogyny from several “woke” ladies who felt I needed a “schoolin'”.

I commented again that many of the students had been looking forward to the assignment. And they also had an alternative assignment they could do if they didn’t want to participate in the teacher’s lesson on chivalry. But that comment only served to further inflame the “woke” woman who hadn’t bothered to read the article, along with a few others who felt this assignment was so damaging. So my parting shot, which got lots of likes, was something along the lines of.

“Y’all can spare me the lectures on misogyny. I’m simply reporting what was in the article. I didn’t say I liked it or agreed with it. If more people would read before commenting, the world would be a better place.”

I often complain about conservatives. But you know what? Sometimes liberals are just as bad. Some of them have this agenda they just feel compelled to push, often without any critical thinking or forethought applied whatsoever. They often make judgments without knowing all the facts or context. And, just like conservatives, they often make perfect asses of themselves.

I will admit, I have read about some assignments that appeared to be especially tone deaf and ill considered. For instance, just last year, a high school teacher in Iowa was placed on leave for asking students to pretend they were “black slaves”. The assignment was made for an online learning program. A surprising number of teachers have attempted to teach kids about slavery via role play, which is bound to be a bad idea.

The same issue came up in Wisconsin and Missouri, and not just in terms of teaching students about slavery in the United States, but also in history. For instance, students learning about the Code of Hammurabi and Ancient Mesopotamia were taught about the concept of “an eye for an eye”. Punishments for slaves were also discussed. A teacher in Long Island, New York was also disciplined for having students write something “funny” about pictures of slavery. And a student teacher in Tennessee was in hot water for asking fourth grade students to recite graphic, violent methods of controlling slaves. Those lessons made some students distinctly uncomfortable. From the New York Times:

Role-playing can be an effective pedagogical tool, but teachers have to be very careful that they are not reinforcing negative gender and racial attitudes, said April Peters-Hawkins, a former sixth-grade teacher who is now a professor of school leadership at the University of Houston College of Education.

“What we typically see is marginalized groups continuing to be marginalized,” she said. “Black kids being asked to play the roles of slaves, Jewish kids being asked to play the role of victims of the Holocaust and girls being asked to be subservient.”

I think some people felt this assignment would make some girls feel uncomfortable, so they brought up their concerns. Unfortunately, it then became international news and, I think, it got blown entirely out of proportion. And now, the narrative has become completely distorted from the facts.

It’s easy to react to inflammatory headlines without actually getting the facts. People are often eager to promote a progressive agenda, but are loathe to think first. On the surface, this assignment about chivalry seems like it would be offensive and wrong. It sounds like the teacher’s methods might wind up marginalizing girls. And no, it’s not a good thing to teach females that they are to be subservient to men, especially in the year 2021. But if you actually read about the intent of the assignment, it sounds a lot less offensive. Especially since participation was entirely voluntary.

I will grant that the chivalry assignment probably should be reconsidered, but not necessarily because it will damage or offend students. I think it should be reconsidered because of the court of public opinion, our culture of people who don’t want to read before they react, and people who claim to be open-minded but actually aren’t. Frankly, it’s very irritating to get lectured by people who can’t even be bothered to read before they comment. They’re usually people who feel like their (often uninformed) opinions are so very important to share, but don’t care about anyone else’s opinions. And you can’t have a discussion with them because they refuse to consider all sides of an issue. It’s like the thinking has already been done, and not by them, personally.

The teacher who made this assignment is described as “caring and well-liked”. I wouldn’t want to see a good teacher who is caring and well-liked canceled from her profession because of uninvolved people who are hell-bent on thinking the worst about her intentions. I hope she hasn’t been harassed, and I’m glad her name has been kept out of the media.

I know how much time, money, and training goes into making good teachers. I also know that a lot of them don’t get the respect and consideration they deserve. It’s a shame that some of them are punished for thinking outside of the box, even if the lesson ends up being a flop. I hope this teacher will continue to try to teach students the truth about so-called chivalry, even if this particular role playing method is now off limits.

Kinda reminds me of how people have been offended by this classic Randy Newman song… which isn’t actually about “short people”.

He doesn’t mean he doesn’t like people who are short like me…

Incidentally, I have some people on my friends list who are notoriously bad about reacting to headlines and not actually bothering to read. Yesterday, I shared the video that was in yesterday’s post about Gloriavale Christian Community. Two people left me sad reactions, even after I commented that it wasn’t a sad post. Seriously. Watch the video. It’s not a sad tale– it’s a triumphant tale about a STRONG woman who left a truly oppressive and sexist cult. But people are gonna react… and I say, if you’re going to form an opinion and make a public comment or reaction, isn’t it better to actually know what you are reacting to? I think it is.

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politics, racism, Trump

Trump praises people with “good genes” and the “racehorse theory”…

Yesterday, I wrote about a Facebook convo I had with a male Trump supporting Christian who chastised me and a couple of my friends for painting Trump supporters with a “broad brush”. He claimed that he isn’t a racist and loves the Lord, and that the Lord is “using Trump” to do great things in America. He had a problem with the fact that I compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. From yesterday’s post:

For goodness sakes! Another Hitler reference. ? Now listen, Hitler would have never support Israel. Israel was under attack but it wasn’t by this President. Further more, Hitler was a socialist. He was driven by hatred and discontent. Trump is a competitor and wants to win. That’s getting old and tired.

And he also didn’t like that I accused him of drinking the KKKool-Aid…

Where do the references to Hitler, KKK, etc. come from? Do you have actual proof of those things? Why is it that before he became President all of the liberal media morons worshiped him and we’re giving him awards?

Well, as it so happens, this morning I was handed an example of Trump’s racist proclivities on a metaphorical silver platter. A friend of mine shared this article from The Rolling Stone, which covered Trump’s recent rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, a small city in the northern portion of the state. At the rally, which was mostly attended by lily white people, Trump rambled about a number of alarming issues.

At the beginning of his rally, Trump spoke about refugees, claiming that the subject of resettling them is one of the most pressing issues in the election. Minnesota is where a number of Somalian refugees have been resettled and, in fact, one of Minnesota’s representatives in Congress is resettled Somalian refugee, Ilhan Omar.

How the HELL did Trump win?

Then he went on to speak about the racial unrest in Minneapolis, a direct consequence of the public execution of George Floyd, a Black man who was wearing handcuffs as a White police officer pressed his knee into his neck and suffocated him. Trump then seemed gleeful as he remembered how Ali Veshi, an NBC correspondent of color, got hurt when he was struck by a rubber bullet…

“It was the most ‘beautiful’ thing!” It will be beautiful when this orange shitstain finally gets flushed.

As the crowd roared, Trump said, “Wasn’t it a beautiful sight? It’s called law and order!” Yes… something else Hitler and his cronies liked. Law and order.

Then, with his base fully buttered up with talk about reporters getting hurt while covering protests and not allowing Somali refugees safe harbor in the “land of the free and the home of the brave”, Trump goes full on racist as he compliments Minnesotans for their “good breeding”.

Ah… “good breeding”… “good genes”… Eugenics!

Maybe at face value, these comments don’t seem overtly racist. He talks about Minnesota’s settlers who didn’t have a lot of money, but they had each other and lots of grit… and “good genes”.

“You have good genes, you know that right?” Trump said to to a ripple of applause.

“A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it? Don’t you believe? The racehorse theory,” he added.

What is the racehorse theory?  It’s the idea that “good” genes are the “right” genes. That’s the basis for eugenics, the theory that selective breeding can improve the human race. And you know who else supported that idea? That’s right– you guessed it– Adolf Hitler.

A very interesting German documentary (in English) about children who were kidnapped from around Eastern Europe and forcibly “Germanized”. If you have the time and inclination, I HIGHLY recommend watching this video.

You see, many of the people who champion Donald Trump are good old, salt of the earth, red-blooded American people who have never traveled, don’t read much, pride themselves on being law abiding, and probably don’t know much about history. They don’t like civil unrest or protests. They want people to toe the line and they don’t think too much about what that would mean in the grand scheme of things. They’re the type of people who support the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of it.

These folks aren’t the type of people who are curious about things that happened in Europe back the 1930s and 40s. I’m sure if they listened to the heartbroken man at the beginning of the above video– kidnapped from Poland when he was nine years old and forced to watch as his heavily pregnant mother was stabbed in the stomach with a pitch fork– many of them would have basic empathy. But they aren’t interested in such things. They aren’t curious. They like someone who promises to “restore order”, not encourage them to think beyond the orderly and see the forest for the trees.

Likewise, they don’t know about how kidnapped Polish children were chosen by Germans as if they were pets up for adoption. In the above video, there is the story of Herman, one of the first children abducted from Poland and sent to Germany to be raised by Nazis. An elegant German lady chose Herman from the home where he was living. A nurse told the lady that she could “pick” one of the children, “like at a chicken farm. I want that child; that one wasn’t so good.”

Heinrich Himmler, on the idea that children of “especially good race” from Polish families should be brought up in Germany and help make Germany the “mightiest country on Earth”.

Trump loves to be around people who aren’t curious, yet are easily aroused by charisma and hyperactive talk about making America “great” again and giving them a few more bucks in their paychecks. What do they care about Trump’s comments about people of color from other countries who are fleeing death and destruction in their homelands? Have they even considered why these people would run?

I’ll tell you something else. Although Trump loves talking to people who aren’t thinkers or readers, he doesn’t actually care about them. They’re beneath him because they’re poor. He would never deign to visit the simple home of a person from rural Minnesota and have a meal. He’d rather go to Palm Beach, Florida and play golf… something else a lot of his base can’t relate to, since golf is a very expensive sport for people who can also afford the time it takes to play.

I think if decent people took the time to listen to Trump, they might realize that he’s not a good person at all. There will be a day when people who supported Trump will be on the wrong side of history. They will be akin to people who admired Hitler, especially if he’s not stopped in November. But I know there are people who don’t care about that. They don’t care that they support an unabashed racist, because they are themselves racists.

Remember that back in January 2018, Donald Trump made a very telling comment about “shithole countries”. Here’s an excerpt from an article from The Washington Post from January 12, 2018.

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting. 

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” 

Well… what kind of people are in Norway? Most of them are are White… the same shade and ancestry as people who settled Minnesota. What kind of people come from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa? Mostly Black or Brown.

Incidentally, people who are in the Ku Klux Klan are also interested in white supremacy and fewer people coming to the United States from what they regard as “shithole” countries. They sympathize with Nazis.

Yep. He’s right.

So… the next time some very nice, Christian, male, Trump supporter wants evidence of Trump’s racist proclivities, I will think about Trump’s comments about Minnesotans and their “good genes”. They were thinly veiled references to eugenics, an idea that stirs up people who believe that White folks are superior to everyone else. It’s pretty disgusting that some people still think that way, but unfortunately, that’s how it is. However, I will grant that a lot of people who support Trump truly do think he’s “good” for America. They haven’t thought about eugenics. They know nothing about what happened in Germany (or America, for that matter) in the 1930s and 40s. It’s not on their radar. Frankly, they probably would rather not know. Ignorance is bliss.

It’s time Trump mounted the “racehorse theory” and rode it straight out of the White House. The White House is no place for him or his ilk. If you really care about America and other people, you will make a better choice and be on the right side of history. It’s that simple.

Edited to add: A bonus video for those who can stomach it.

A very good but graphic video about eugenics… and breeding for performance. Something Trump recently alluded to in Minnesota.

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