Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I Would Rather See Hateful Hearts Toppled Instead of Statues. Toppling a Statue and not Changing Hearts is Meaningless

This is one post that I as the author will probably be considered an outlier in terms of being African American. Depending on your views, one might think that I have lost my mind, however, rest assured I have not.

This whole fracas, debacle, tragedy, foolishness or whatever you would like to call the sad display in Charlottesville, Virginia allegedly began over the proposed removal or taking down of a statue of  Robert  E. Lee, the Confederacy’s top general. I say allegedly because in my mind that was just an excuse for the hatemongers to launch their campaign. They were looking for a reason and found one.

Man wearing Arkansas Engineering Shirt
Now, this is where many will consider my view on this statue issue going south (no pun intended).  As one who is well versed in the history of African Americans and slavery in the U.S. and the Civil Rights movement, this view could be considered odd. I truly understand the symbolism of the statues and Confederate flags and other objects related to that period of time; I get it. I really do. But, what good is ripping down statues and removing flags when hearts are not changing? Whether the statue or flag is displayed or not, the hatred is still there. For me, the issue is not the statue or the flag, but the hatred.  Yes, by all means, the statues and flags are outward symbols of the hatred but they are nowhere near as destructive as the internal hatred that is still in the hearts of too many. In Charlottesville, the Supremacists/Nationalists/KKK or whatever they call themselves did not even bother to cover their faces as in days of yore. They were bold enough to show themselves full frontal to the cameras. Jobs and reputations be damned as they did not care who in the world saw their unabashed exhibition of hate. Some touting organizational logos/slogans such as the man wearing the Arkansas Engineering shirt. As with every atrocious act, i.e. lynching, slavery, etc. in the name of supremacy, Charlottesville was just one more example in our long history of pure unadulterated hatred and no removing of a statue or flag will remedy that. Once we eradicate the hatred, then we will stop building monuments and flying flags that represent hate.

Yes, visually it will satisfy many to not have to see the statues and flags as reminders of a so called day gone by (I say so called because it is not a day gone by, it is still today), but what good is having the visual reminder gone when the hate that caused the events and people who are being memorialized still exists internally within so many? So, ripping down statues and prohibiting flags are nice, but in my view purely symptomatic, symbolic and topical. The root of the issue [hate] is still not addressed.

As always I refer to one of my favorite people who walked the face of the earth, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said:
It may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can legislate desegregation. It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also. So while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men. And when you change the habits of men, pretty soon the attitudes and the hearts will be changed. And so there is a need for strong legislation constantly to grapple with the problems we face.
We must all work to change the habits of men in order for attitudes and hearts to change. It cannot take two or more days for the President of the United States to give a half hearted, forced or "check the box," denouncing of acts that the group's leaders and organizers proudly stated were being done in his name and to fulfill his agenda of making America white, I mean, great again. The various groups had clearly heard, received and understood the dog-whistle(s) during the campaign and since.

So, this view may seem counter to many, but I will continue to care less about a statue or flag and remain more concerned with changing the habits of men in order for attitudes and hearts to change. I will continue to believe that hate will never win and that darkness cannot drive out darkness. I will continue to join others who are looking to be a light in a dark world. I don't give a damn about the labels of "Right" or "Left" or "Liberal" or "Conservative," as they are just labels that were created by man to divide.

I close with words of wisdom from our 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy:
Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.
Our problems are man-made -- therefore, they can be solved by man.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


A few years ago Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright included in one his sermons the notion of God "Damning"  America and folks such as Sean Hannity and others were apoplectic over Rev. Wright's commentary. I listened as Hannity and others maligned Barack Obama for the "crowd he associated himself with"  over and over again. They marveled that the Obamas could sit under this man and listen to such rhetoric. As with most cases, the message was lost as what Rev. Wright said in the message was taken out of context.

One dictionary definition of the word Damn is to be condemned by God to suffer eternal punishment in hell. Well, truth be told, there are times when it seems like America has been condemned by God based on her treatment of too many of her citizens who do not look a certain way or have a certain complexion or ethnic background.  The good news is God gives a way out of the "damning" in 2 Chronicles 7:14 where He says "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."  We haven't humbled ourselves or turned from our wicked ways, therefore, our land has not been healed.

Interestingly enough,  Many Americans have partnered in this damning. I'm sure many of you are asking, "What do you mean by that?" Let's take a look at this last election, what the results said and how it all connects to what we are witnessing in Charlottesville as I write this post. Upon learning on November 9, 2016, that Donald J. Trump had actually won the presidency, I was literally waiting for Rod Serling to come out and let me know that I had indeed entered the Twilight Zone. If one is honest and forget about "left" and "right," one would have to admit that we have had many Twilight Zone experiences since January 20, 2017.

Donald Trump's election to the presidency immediately reminded me of  1 Samuel, Chapter 8 in the Bible where Israel asks for a King against the advice and wishes of Samuel. In fact, God tells Samuel
"Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them."  I encourage you to look up and read the entire chapter [1 Samuel 8] for yourself as we also see the consequences that God details that will happen as a result of their having this king that they wanted so badly.  Consequences (I'm somewhat paraphrasing), such as the taking of sons and appointing them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen.  The making of instruments of war, while taking daughters [grabbing them by their pussies] to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. The best fields and vineyards will be taken through eminent domain and given to his children along with a tenth of your income to give to his cabinet/administration. He will take the best immigrants who can pass the latest immigration process and put them to his [menial] work which will ultimately exacerbate the economic "Haves" and the "Have Nots."  Go ahead, pick up a Bible (notice I did not say "your Bible," as I do not want to assume) and find 1 Samuel Chapter 8 and read it in its entirety and see if I am making this up. Parallel what is going on then to what is going on now.  In essence, the people of that time damned themselves just as we have damned ourselves.

The cartoon above accurately depicts the seeds that were sown during the election campaign and yet we as a country with our votes said this is what we wanted; sexism, bigotry, fear, vulgarity, hate, division, racism, and violence. Heck, we get that on a daily basis in the White House, so why would we expect anything less outside of it. The one credit I do give and will continue to give Donald J. Trump is the fact that he did not put on an act when he was running for president. The same Donald Trump we witnessed when he was campaigning was the same Donald Trump that he has always been. To get a flavor of what I am saying, I encourage you to read The Truth About Trump by Michael D'Antonio. Trump's playbook has not changed since his childhood. All of what we are seeing has been his Modus operandi (M.O.) since his childhood and yet we elected that. In short, we damned ourselves and thus my premise.

I cannot in this post list all of the foolishness that has gone on since Trump's taking of office as it is too long, however, Charlottesville is the latest in this never ending saga of which this post is about. Sadly, in America, what we are seeing in Charlottesville is not new, it is only rearing its head publicly and boldly because the participants feel empowered by who is at the helm. In fact, according to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke:
“This represents a turning point for the people of this country,” said Duke in video uploaded to Twitter by Indianapolis Star photojournalist Mykal McEldowney. “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said he’s going to take our country back. That’s what we gotta do.”
I don't believe Duke is far off base with his thoughts. It would likely be safe to say that this bunch rallying in Charlottesville is a part of the 39 to 40 percent of those making up Trump's current approval rating.

What we are witnessing in Charlottesville is reminiscent of a short sixty-five or so years ago. In my mind, the difference is that the latter Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Zers are not going to subscribe to Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s methodology of nonviolence. Personally, I do not believe that this group is going to just sit and take a beat down. This group does not have the discipline or the patience for that. In other words, folks will have a fight on their hands. Sadly, this is exactly what too many are hoping for. The White Nationalists were looking for a reason and the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in their mind was a perfect launch site.

We have not learned yet that hatred cannot and will not win. Evil may have its time, but in the end, good will triumph over evil. Light will always trump (no pun intended) darkness.  Hatred only begets more hatred. The whole notion of supremacy is and has always been rooted in hatred and will not stand. There is only one race and that is the Human Race. We all bleed the same color blood and feel the same emotions. We all want to be loved, recognized and appreciated. We ought to be celebrating what our differences bring to the table instead of using the differences as something to separate us or see them [differences] as something negative or bad. Historically, each group has contributed intellectually and physically to the making of America and to the rest of the world for that matter. But too many would not know that because the contributions of those who do not look a certain way or have a certain complexion have been intentionally left out of the history books.

I could go on and on, but I won't. When do we as human beings wake up? When do we learn that we must indeed work together as brothers or perish together as fools? Charlottesville is taking us back into the foolishness which ultimately will lead to us all perishing.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Tale of Two Customer Service Experiences

The impetus for this post occurred nearly two weeks ago, right before I was leaving the country and I did not have an opportunity to write it. Nonetheless, I did not forget the experiences and knew that I would be sharing the stark contrast in customer service with you upon my return. In fact, my thought to write this post was confirmed/affirmed for me today as I was reading The Go-Giver Leader: A Little Story About What Matters Most In Business. by Bob Burg and John David Mann. The excerpt that confirmed for me the need for this post is as follows:

"Do you really take up six floors just for Customer Service?" "Just Service," Augustine corrected. "We don't make a distinction. Customers, employees, employees' families, the community...It's all just Service."
My title is a play on words from Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities. I'm sure Ms. DiMartino, my high school language arts teacher will appreciate the fact that I used Dickens' title as an inspiration for this blog post title. 

450 Rochelle Avenue, Rochell Park, NJ
Among other things, I am a cyclist and ride my road bike as a part of my exercise regimen. In fact, when I leave home, my goal is to ride no less than twenty miles before returning. In many instances, I stop to pick up a bottle of water and an energy bar from one of the stores along my selected route. On this particular day, I spotted a 7-Eleven [450 Rochelle Ave, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662] and decided to follow my usual routine, however, as I was about to enter the store, I noticed someone walking along who looked somewhat suspect. Just something in my spirit guided me (you know how you get a feeling when something doesn't feel right?) to take my bicycle inside the store with me opposed to leaving it outside while I made my purchases.  As I was bringing my bicycle inside of the door, the cashier began repeatedly yelling at me. I kept trying to explain to him that I understood his position and policy, however, I did not want my bicycle stolen (it's a relatively expensive road bike). He just kept yelling until ultimately, I said to him "I do not have to buy anything from this store nor do I have to beg anyone in order for me to spend my money" and I left the store. In all likelihood, I probably will not patronize that particular 7-Eleven ever again because of that one experience.

438 Haledon Avenue, Haledon, NJ
Now juxtapose that experience that I had a day later at a Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen [438 Haledon Avenue, Haledon, NJ 07508] fast food restaurant.  If any of you are familiar with Popeye's, you know the signs advertising the specials of the day are huge posters displayed in their windows. I quickly viewed the signs in the window as I went in and ordered the twenty piece leg/thigh promo I saw on the sign. It was a Sunday afternoon. As I waited for my order, the cashier shared with me that the promo that I had just ordered was only good on Mondays through Wednesdays. I looked perplexed and went back and reread the sign and sure enough, it said Mondays-Wednesdays only. I had failed to carefully read the sign. I explained this to her and she said that she placed the order anyway because she wanted to be a "Good Samaritan." I smiled and thanked her and she wished me a good day as I was leaving.

Needless to say, my experience with the 7-Eleven cashier immediately popped into my mind and I thought to myself, "Wow! What a difference!" One experience turned me off to the establishment [7-Eleven in Rochelle Park, NJ] and the other endeared me to it [Popeye's in Haledon, NJ]. I'm sharing the locations for readers and hopefully management of each organization to know. 

Customers on the ground level do not know or could care less about the Chief Executive Officers (CEO's) or presidents of companies when they are transacting business. The representative at the ground level, i.e. cashiers, customer service representatives, salespeople, etc. etc. are the face of their respective companies. They can make or break a company. I realize in many instances, we deal with independently owned/operated and franchised establishments; however, the owners/employees still represent the brand. I don't know who the CEO of 7-Eleven is, but I do remember that nasty cashier. I don't know who the CEO of Popeye's is, but I do remember that compassionate cashier. In each instance, he/she became 7-Eleven and Popeye's respectively.

Interestingly enough before I close, I had another very positive experience last night with a Barnes and Nobles [1156 US-46, Woodland Park, NJ 07424] cashier. I carry the Barnes and Nobles Educator card; however, I do not physically carry the card with me. Depending on which cashier I come across, he/she may or may not be willing to look my information up in their system. I've come across some B&N cashiers who are downright rude when it comes to using the Educator Discount Card. That was not the case last night. The young lady asked if I were a B&N member and I said no but I was eligible for the Educator discount and that my information was in the system. She patiently looked up my information and proceeded to apply the discount. Based on prior experience at this same B&N, I was pleasantly surprised and shared that with her. She went on to share with me that she believed educators deserved that discount and more and that we [educators] did not receive the credit that we deserved based on the job that we do and our role in society. As you can imagine, I walked out of there feeling great and will be shopping there again. 

Moral of the Story: Never ever underestimate the power of a kind word or deed. This is true in life and definitely can be the difference maker when you are representing a brand/company. Folks do not know who the CEO may be, but they do know how they were treated by a cashier, salesperson, customer service representative, operator, secretary, security guard, custodian, etc. etc. 

I close with another quote/excerpt from The Go-Giver Leader: A Little Story About What Matters Most In Business. It is actually by the authors, Bob Burg and John David Mann:

You may not be a CEO, prime minister, or president. You may not be the head of your organization or boss of your company. But even if you don't happen to occupy a traditional "leadership position," that doesn't mean you're not in a position to influence others, to inspire and empower others, to be the catalyst for others' greatness. To champion their success; to hold them up. In other words, to give leadership, and in so doing, to nudge the world in a positive direction. 
Something to critically think about. Join me live each Saturday as I host my book talk radio show The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. It can be heard live around the world on gobrave.org and locally in northern NJ communities on FM Radio WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Nonviolent Resistance And Civil Disobedience Are Still The Most Powerful Methods

Refusal to obey a law considered unjust; civil disobedience. That is the short definition of nonviolent resistance a methodology that was used effectively by both Mahatma Gandhi in an effort to win independence for India from Britain in the early twentieth century and by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he led The Civil Rights Movement to achieve the most important breakthrough in equal-rights legislation for African Americans since the Reconstruction period.

I had the honor to interview Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., the esteemed nephew of  Dr. King, on my radio show The Reading Circle with Marc Medley and during our discussion, the subject of the use of nonviolent resistance/civil disobedience for our current challenges came up (listen to the interview in it's entirety below).  Both Isaac and I agreed that the strategies, tactics, and techniques used by Gandhi and King became the methodology for so many other major movements such as the continued fight for women's and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) rights.  Protest marches are quite common as disgruntled and dissatisfied citizens exercise their right to have their voices heard. We've seen the creation of Black Lives Matter and other groups who attempt to use nonviolent resistance only to end up actually inciting violence, the very thing the protest was seeking to avoid. Violence only begets violence even in a "non-violent" protest.

During my conversation with Mr. Farris we both agreed that Nonviolent Resistance and the proper execution of it is still the way to go in 2017. I say proper execution because it is in the improper or unorganized implementation of the methodology where we actually do more harm than good. We discussed how all of Dr. King's demonstrations were planned, well thought out, and organized. Nothing was left to chance. The marches and protests were just not a group of angry people getting together to retaliate against the injustice. We also reiterated how nonviolent resistance takes much more strength and discipline than striking back. It's easy to strike back when you have been struck, but it takes a lot more courage to react in a peaceful manner. We must be very clear that reacting in a peaceful manner does not equate to being "soft." As I just mentioned, it is anything but being soft.

Lastly, and this is the reason for this post, we said that we were going to do all that we can to help people understand that nonviolent resistance is still relevant and needed today and how important it is for the methodology to be executed with fidelity. We cannot be running wild, rioting, looting and fighting under the guise of nonviolent resistance. I shared with Mr. Farris that I would be writing this post today and we are going to keep in touch to see how we can keep the "Kingnisian" philosophy on nonviolent resistance alive. Consider this post my first step.

Something to critically think about. Hear me live around the world each Saturday from 6-9 a.m. ET on gobrave.org and locally in northern New Jersey communities on FM Radio WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01 and visit my website at www.thereadingcircle01.com

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why African Americans Ought Not Ever Purchase or Wear Ripped and Torn Cl...

Why African Americans Ought Not Ever Purchase or Wear Ripped and Torn Clothing of Any Kind : An Opinion

Now I know many of you before you even get started reading are already turned off by the title. Many of you are already defensive and are asking yourself the question, "Who is he to say what I should or should not buy; wear or not wear?  So, before we get started, I need everyone to understand that this is an opinion piece, an "Op-Ed," if you will and by the time I finish, I hope you'll have a better appreciation and understanding for why my opinion is what it is especially concerning African Americans. 

As African Americans, we ought to intentionally not purchase any clothing that is ripped, torn and tattered based on our history and struggle. Therein lies the issue, as too many of us don't know or don't care about our history because if we did, there is no way in the world we would be rewarding designers and retailers, making them wealthy by purchasing merchandise that is already damaged upon receipt. Yet we do because we have been programmed and brainwashed that we must be in "style." If some artists wear it or some designer designs it and deem it the "style," then we feel that we MUST partake. We want to be "Down."  I hear it all the time from both young and old alike; child and adult alike; professional and non-professional alike, "It's the style" as if that makes it so. We need to understand that all styles that are created are not necessarily in our best interest. Most of the "style" creations are about the "almighty dollar," and we need to be wise as to how, when and where we spend our dollars. 

Most of the ripped clothing that I observe usually falls into the dungaree or denim category. Usually, they are jeans [pants] that have shreds or worn out holes in them. The frayed strings are usually hanging from the holes, looking authentically worn and ragged. The clothing, however,  is not just limited to jeans or denim wear. I've seen shirts, jackets, vests, and even gloves that did not "wear out" from use but were a point of purchase sale with the consumer walking out of the store with clothing merchandise that is literally damaged goods. 

Historically, denim was and still is the traditional fabric for workwear.This is significant especially for African Americans as it was the clothing if any clothing were given or could be afforded that was worn by us as we were tenant farmers who gave a part (in too many instances it was not a part, but the whole) of each crop as rent. It was the clothing worn by us as we built this country virtually wage free. It was clothing worn by many who just as we have those slits in the jeans today were receiving very similar looking slits in their backs from whips cutting into their skin. The breaks in the skin are eerily similar to the breaks in the fabric.

For many of us, when our clothing came to the point of looking torn, tattered and raggedy, it was because we had worn the item so much that it just did not have anything else to give and therefore burst from exhaustion and distress. The material had been worn so much that it did not owe the owner anything else other than to be placed in the garbage, burned or to be used going forward as a rag. The clothing became ripped from being passed down and handed down over and over again. Passed from one child to the next, from one family to the next from one body to the next wherein each case the recipient had nothing else to wear but that item.  It was worn daily and in many instances scrubbed and hand washed each night. The owner in many cases, ashamed and embarrassed to be seen in torn and raggedy clothes. Just thinking about it as I write this piece, makes me want to cry.  The tears are welling up and I am fighting to hold them back at the thought of how we cavalierly parade around with clothing that looks like the clothing described in my brief history lesson above. It's almost like a double rape. We were raped when we had to wear that clothing and now are being voluntarily raped as we purchase these items making some designer wealthy, all in the name of "style." We consciously choose to look raggedy. I don't apologize for my view because that conscious decision to look dirty, torn and tattered when you do not have to, just does not make sense to me. There was a time when our clothes were indeed distressed due to overuse but for most of the folks that I observe flaunting this "style" today, that is not the case. 

As African Americans, when do we say "To hell with style and rise up to a standard of excellence? When do we realize that dressing well, speaking well, and carrying ourselves with pride are all connected and are all in our history as we come from kings and queens?  In my eyes, the conscious choice to wear ripped clothing does not depict pride. In fact, for me, it displays just the opposite. It sends the same sorry message as the sagging of pants; the refusal to become educated; the calling of each other "nigga"; the wearing of the baseball cap to the side or backward; the covering of an entire body with ink; the happiness with being slack or mediocre; the acceptance of living in squalor; the senseless killing of each other, and the list could go on. None of the aforementioned exhibits pride or excellence.  We have an entire movement now known as "Black Lives Matter," and while the hashtag and title are cute and indeed significant, we must begin to act within the African American community like our lives matter. We must stop subscribing to everything that comes down the pike. We must recognize foolishness for what it is. We cannot be shouting and walking around with signs and then acting counter to what we are shouting about and fighting for. 

One of my most favorite people who walked the face of the earth said it thusly, "There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love." I have a deep love for life. I have a deep love for human beings and I have a deep love for African Americans as I am one; it is for this reason that I am able to write this piece with such passion and conviction. As I observe so many of our [African American] behaviors and activities, I become deeply disappointed. The wearing of ripped clothing is just one example of things that we do that deeply disappoint me as a member of the human race and as a member of the African American race. Ironically enough, the person I referenced above came out of his suit and tie and put on blue jeans, but for an entirely different purpose and to send an entirely different message. The following is excerpted from a historical profile written by Oscar Schwartz about him:

The atmosphere was strained. They debated loudly, shouting over one another. “This is not where we belong,” a middle-aged minister shouted. “We belong back with our families, in our churches.” The exception was a young man with gentle almond eyes called Martin, who slouched in an armchair in silent contemplation. While the debate circled endlessly, Martin quietly stood up and walked into his room, closing the door behind him. Moments later, no longer wearing his black suit, Martin walked back into the room and everyone became silent. He was wearing blue jeans and a sweat shirt. These were not clothes to go to Church in. These were clothes to march in; clothes to go to jail in.
For the record, I would like to add that the jeans Martin walked back into the room wearing were not torn or tattered. I hope by now you will have said to yourself that this is indeed something to critically think about as this blog is THE CRITICAL THINKER. I do not care if you agree or disagree with me, but I do ask that you at least give the information provided in the post some thought. I also ask that you share the post and pass it along as a discussion starter. If you choose to spend your money on damaged goods at the point of purchase, then so be it. As for me, I will never purchase a piece of clothing that is already ripped, torn, dirty or tattered and I don't care what the style dictates. 

Hear me live on Saturdays as I interview authors from around the world as I host The Reading Circle with Marc Medley, a book talk radio program. The show kicks off at 6 a.m. Eastern Time on gobrave.org and on FM Radio 88.7 FM in northern NJ communities. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.