Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Honoring MLK (Foolishly)

I wrote before about the dual parade charade that is Martin Luther King Day in Houston. Well, nothing much has changed.

The flip of a coin will settle which rival organization stages a parade on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday next month in downtown Houston. A federal judge has upheld the city of Houston's one-parade-a-day rule for downtown, leaving a flick of chance to determine who gets the coveted permit.

Two parade organizers have applied to proceed at the same time and place on the holiday, which falls on Jan. 21. Ovide Duncantell, executive director of the Black Heritage Society, wants to produce his 30th annual procession on the day the nation honors the slain civil rights leader while Charles Stamps of the MLK Parade Foundation is planning the competing MLK Grande Parade.

Here's a thought; how about combining the parades into a big one worthy of the MLK legacy, split the costs and the profits? Oh yeah, I almost forgot; that would require cooperation and the subverting of egos, huh? And for two grown men to put aside their differences and do what's best for the community of which dual parades definitely are not.

Good Ol' Joe

I know it's fashionable to bash Texas in general, especially those of you who've never been here. Now with Good Ol' Joe Horn all over the news for blasting a couple of alleged thieves burglarizing his neighbors home, the bashing is in overdrive. Which puts those of us who were born here in a bit of a bind. Granted, the Texas legal system definitely has its flaws, particularly in regard to gun ownership and the usage of said weapons.

But please don't miss the point here.

The issue, as usual, is equal justice before the law, and the fact that minorities are far more likely to feel the full brunt of said laws than our Caucasian counterparts are. Not to mention being on the receiving end of "frontier" justice. That's hardly unique to Texas, or to the southern states, as a glance around the America will quickly tell you. But it does seem there's a special breed down here, the same bunch that are currently running the country and by extension the world. But there are strong Black folks here too, as we deal with them everyday and yet "still we rise."

Now, I was withholding posting on this issue because it's kinda hard to evoke too much sympathy for people who were breaking into someone's house, and originally Joe Horn, as unlikely as it sounds, claimed these fellas lunged at him after he told them to stop, therefore making the issue one of self-defense. However it's now become clear that Joe's mind was set before he went outside. He was going to kill those burglars no matter what, told a 911 operator as much, and gave a play-by-play as it was going on.
From that point all hell has broken loose, with protests and counter-protests, skin color basically determining which side you're on. Not a word from the neighbors Horn was "protecting" who are immigrants from Vietnam. Joe's actions have made him a hero in the minds of certain sectors of the community, and a cold-blooded murderer to others.

That's just the sideshow however as it looks like the typical White man shoots a Black man cover-up is on. Because as it turns out, the burglars were both shot in the back! There goes the self-defense argument. An undercover cop also supposedly witnessed the whole thing, except when he was ducking the shotgun blasts. Despite these facts, we're still waiting to hear from the Harris County DA regarding charges against Mr. Horn. Suffice it to say, no one's holding their breath.

The amazing thing has been the transformation of the burglars themselves from a couple of two-bit thieves to members of a huge international crime ring involved in everything you can imagine, from drugs, to people smuggling, to, well you get the idea, everything. And..., wait for it..., they're ILLEGAL ALIENS to boot, from Colombia. Which makes me wonder how the Hispanic community is reacting to all of this. Anyone?

Well Joe Horn didn't know all that when he went outside. He just saw two Black dudes. And in the eyes of many of my fellow Texans, despite the fact that burglary has NEVER been deemed a capital offense, and that a man is supposedly innocent until proven guilty; that is justification enough to get away with murder.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Who's Got the Power?

Just how "powerful" is "The Voice" you sent to "The Hill"? Know the truth. Check out the power rankings for your elected representatives on this web site.

Hint: The two on the left rank pretty high.

Coming Soon - Thought Crimes

As a follow-up to the article I posted last week concerning the new "homegrown" anti-terrorist legislation, this is an example of the results that can be expected here.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, is violent poetry tantamount to terrorism? That was the judgment of British prosecutors after they read some of Samina Malik's poems titled "How to Behead" and "The Living Martyrs."

The 23-year-old store cashier, who called herself a "lyrical terrorist," became the first woman convicted under Britain's tough terrorism legislation last month after writing the poems and downloading material off the Internet. Her arrest and the time she spent in jail caused an uproar and is prompting a debate about the value of free speech versus national security, with some of her defenders saying that Malik was charged with a "thought crime," a scenario straight out of George Orwell's "1984."

In its potential threat to freedom of speech, some supporters have even compared the case to the detention of Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher jailed in Sudan for naming a classroom teddy bear Muhammad.

...Among her crimes was visiting terrorism sites on the Internet.

Although he said that Malik's crime was on the "margins" of the offense, ...the judge vigorously defended the legislation:"The Terrorism Act and the restrictions it imposes on the personal freedom exist to protect this country, its interests here and abroad, its citizens, and those who visit here. Its protection embraces us all."

OK. Any Questions?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chitlin Testing

I had a conversation a while back with That Girl Boo about the cultural bias of aptitude tests like the SAT, and how folks use the results of such tests to disparage our people as a whole. If the situation were reversed and the questions asked of students were based on the Black experience, history, and events, I'm sure that we would be writing a whole lot of articles about why White (and other) kids aren't as smart as their black counterparts. Then I saw this today:

As soon as she heard her classmates giggle and utter the word "Negro," 17-year-old Kayla Thomas started thumbing ahead in the test that had been handed out to her psychology class.

Thomas, a student at Klein Collins High School in the Klein district, says she was stunned to find that her Advanced Placement class had been given a copy of the so-called "Chitling Intelligence Test."

The multiple-choice exam, which includes references to "handkerchief heads," welfare mothers and how long chitlings should be cooked, was written almost 40 years ago to illustrate how intelligence tests could be culturally biased.

I've got to be truthful here y'all, I didn't know this test even existed, but apparently it's been around for 40 years. And apparently it has proven over the years that aptitude tests ARE biased. But my question is what other tests are still used in the exact same form they were originally written, without updates, for 40 years? I mean, I don't think most of us could answer these questions nowadays, although I'm not sure if that link is to a real example of the so-called Chitlin Test, particularly due to the title (Black Intelligence Test for Cultural Homogeneity), but you get the point. Ms. Taylor was understandably upset:

...Thomas says the materials, developed after the 1960s race riots in Los Angeles, aren't appropriate for a modern-day high school class. In addition to an apology from the teacher, she wants the Klein district to remove the material from its curriculum.

"It's not right," the senior said. "It's not acceptable. This is the 21st century."

The district says it's all a big mistake and everything would be fine if the regular teacher would have been there to prepare students for the materials they were about to see. What do y'all think? Are these tests still relevant?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Are African Americans Still Mis-Educated?

HISTORY shows, then, that as a result of these unusual forces in the education of the Negro he easily learns to follow the line of least resistance rather than battle against odds for what real history has shown to be the right course. A mind that remains in the present atmosphere never undergoes sufficient development to experience what is commonly known as thinking. No Negro thus submerged in the ghetto, then, will have a clear conception of the present status of the race or sufficient foresight to plan for the future; and he drifts so far toward compromise that he loses moral courage. The education of the Negro, then, becomes a perfect device for control from without. Those who purposely promote it have every reason to rejoice, and Negroes themselves exultingly champion the cause of the oppressor.
...[T]he lack of confidence of the Negro in himself and in his possibilities is what has kept him down. His mis-education has been a perfect success in this respect.
The Mis-Education of the Negro
Chapter 10: The Loss of Vision
Carter G. Woodson

Since my introductory post I have been anguishing over what topic I should delve into first. Although DP has given me the privilege to talk about anything, I am fixated on techno-social issues. So over the past few weeks I was trying to sort through a deluge of topics that seemed important but I was feeling like Michael Jackson trying to follow up “Thriller”… good material but not good enough to be a follow up.

So over the past month I have just been basically functioning in this daze – which if you ask some people is somewhat my normal state – because DP is telling me all the stuff I need to put in writing. During this time I happened upon three events that were not the least bit unusual. In fact, I would even consider them to be rather commonplace occurrences. Then late the other night I thought about these three events collectively for the first time and all I could hear was Denzel (Malcolm X) “we’ve been bamboozled… hoodwinked… led astray!”

The first event was the guy selling CDs and DVDs at the corner store. I live in the hood so there is always someone at the corner store selling their wares, especially on Friday and the first of the month. What made this event unique was not his entrepreneurial talents – which were rather good if I do say so myself – but the praise for his product. My neighbor came over looking for my wife to tell her that “The DVD Man” (this is the moniker he goes by) was at the store. “The DVD Man” is purported to have the best quality movies to ever grace “the hood”!

**NOTE**: Let me go on record here and say that we do not own any bootleg movies in my house.

The second event occurred at a technology forum that I attended last week. The topic was broadband access and the concern that the current network infrastructure is going to soon be overtaxed because of the emergence of new multimedia delivery options, the bundling of television, voice and data packages, High Definition television, and an ever growing user community. One of the keynote speakers, Larry Irving, talked about the “EXAFLOOD”. During his presentation he introduced the audience to several products that had the potential of revolutionizing our lives. Among these were the Slingbox – this device allows you to view and control your cable/satellite, TiVO, and DVD Player from your laptop and/or mobile phone via an internet connection; the Amazon Kindle and iTunes. Mr. Irving spoke briefly about an innovative feature of iTunes called iTunes-U, more about this later.

As I spanned the crowd of attendees I couldn’t help but count the number of African Americans in attendance. Although I already knew that the number would be small, I always like to pick a number and then see how close my prediction was… for the record the number was 9. My number was 15... boy was I wrong!!

The third and final event was when I viewed my credit card account. I have a pre-paid credit card that my children and I use for online purchases. I encourage them to put some of their allowance in the account, although they rarely do. I monitor the account on a regular basis but for the first time I decided to view the account with a little more detail. To my surprise my kids and I had purchased over $150 worth of music and videos from iTunes over the past month. When I asked them why were they downloading so much music they told me that some of the music was being used for ringtones on their cell phones and other music was being mixed and burned to CD for trading with (and selling to) their friends.

As I thought about these events the other night I thought about the above text from Carter G. Woodson’s book, The Mis-Education of the Negro.

Is it just me or are we taking the path of least resistance to become a part of the information technology community? It appears that the message is one of African Americans being relegated to a role of spectator, and to make matters worse it appears that African-Americans only want to be entertained!

Are we telling our children that we have taken them as far as we can while refusing to acknowledge that we have neglected to equip them with the intangible tools to sufficiently develop their ability to think beyond the here and now?

The cost for attending a college or university is rising to the point that getting a degree is luxury afforded to the wealthy or the gifted and talented. Added to the fact that many African American parents have failed to save or to establish a college fund for their children causes me to really wonder how our children will survive in this new global workforce.

While a degree may be expensive, an education is available for those seeking to learn. As I mentioned earlier iTunes has a program called ITunes-U. According to Apple’s website:

“[iTunes U] is designed to be completely intuitive, iTunes U is based on the iTunes Store, where millions of people already get their music, movies, and TV shows. Now there’s an area of the iTunes Store devoted entirely to education, where it’s easy to search thousands of audio and video files from schools across the country.”

The site goes on to say:

“Just like the iTunes Store, the popularity of iTunes U has exploded. Already, more than half of the nation’s top 500 schools use it to distribute their digital content to students — or to the world. Any school can open all or part of its site to the public, from alumni to parents to anyone with a love of learning. iTunes U is transforming the way people learn on campus, off campus, and where there’s no campus at all.”

With society in general and the internet in particular offering people so many things to dull their senses it’s imperative that we provide our children with tools that have meaningful, positive and lasting results in their lives.

Now it might sound like I'm shilling for iTunes but trust me I'm not. But if your middle or high school student is having trouble with algebra, isn't it good to know that in addition to the latest Pimp C tribute jam, he/she can also download a course from a leading mathematics professor, or learn physics/chemistry from a professor at MIT?

Can you get with me? `Cuz I'm There... Already!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Musical Interlude - Living Colour: Pride

Black rockers Living Colour performing Pride, from the 1990 Times Up album. Just as relevant today as it was then. Listen and watch or sing along if you like, the lyrics are below.

When I speak out loud
You say I'm crazy
When I'm feeling proud
You say I'm lazy
I look around and see the true reality

You like our hair
You love our music
Our culture's large, so you abuse it
Take time to understand, I'm an equal man

History's a lie that they teach you in school
A fraudulent view called the golden rule
A peaceful land that was born civilized
Was robbed of its riches, its freedom, its pride

When I'm at work you say I'm great
You watch and ponder, but can you relate?
Inviting eyes hands drop, when the music stops

Don't ask me why I play this music
It's my culture, so naturally I use it
I state my claim to say, it's here for all to play


It's time for a change
Concepts rearrange
Can't you feel my rage...

It's up to you to seek the truth
To know your history, the difference between me and you
Relate to me as me, not what you see on TV


Homegrown Terrorism?

Ahh, Freedom of Speech! As long as you don't say what we don't want you to say. The Homegrown Terrorism Bill is making the rounds through the House and Senate:

Both the House and Senate have introduced legislation entitled the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007". Positions on the bill range from calling it a "thought crimes" bill, to labeling it a redundant government program, to seeing it as an important tactic for preventing terrorism at home. The bill defines "homegrown terrorism" as

* the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Hmmm. Lots of room for interpretation there. What do you think? Will this bill help increase our security, or is it an infringement on free speech and freedom of thought? You can probably guess how I feel about it, but you can enter your opinion of this proposed legislation direct to your congressional representatives by using the links below.

Helps keep us safe
Violation of free speech

And It's So Nice In The Summer Too!

From the "Ok, I Guess We'll Take It" category, the Houston Chronicle is pushing this Brookings Institute survey that ranks Houston 21st among 30 major metropolitan areas according to the number of "walkable urban places" relative to the area's population.

The only question I have for the pollsters is "Have you ever been to Houston?"

Other than the lack of sidewalks almost everywhere, 12" wide "bike paths," and maniacal drivers actively aiming for pedestrians and cyclists on every street, it's a great city for walking around in.

And did I mention the heat.

Because there are a couple of master planned suburban Town Centers designed for pedestrians does not make the other 635 square miles of this city "walkable" by any stretch of the imagination.

I understand accentuating the positive, but damn.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Intelligent (Or Not) Design

It's going to take a lot more than faith to get our education system on track, especially with partisan nonsense like this occuring:

After 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer said she did not think she had to remain “neutral” about teaching the theory of evolution.

“It’s not just a good idea; it’s the law,” said Ms. Comer, citing the state’s science curriculum.

But now Ms. Comer, 56, of Austin, is out of a job, after forwarding an e-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism — “a subject on which the agency must remain neutral,” according to a dismissal letter last month that accused her of various instances of “misconduct and insubordination” and of siding against creationism and the doctrine that life is the product of “intelligent design.”

Her departure, which has stirred dismay among science professionals since it became public last week, is a prelude to an expected battle early next year over rewriting the state’s science education standards, which include the teaching of evolution.

Look, I don't have an issue if some folks want to hang their hat on intelligent design as our reason for being here, but to teach it as science is ridiculous. It is theology.


For one it hasn't been subjected to the Scientific Method. Remember that? Basically it states that if you have a theory regarding why something is, like intelligent design, you're forced to test it against various hypothesis until it is proven or disproved. For a step by step guide, refer to the diagram above or go here.

How exactly can you do that with intelligent design? It's either you believe or you don't.

Which means it's not science.

Which means it shouldn't be taught as science.

Which means science teachers with 27 years of classroom and 9 years of administrative
experience, shouldn't be getting fired for forwarding... a local online community an e-mail message from the National Center for Science Education, a pro-evolution group, about a talk in Austin on Nov. 2 by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a co-author of “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse” and an expert witness in the landmark 2005 case that ruled against the teaching of intelligent design in the Dover, Pa., schools.

With faith-based foolishness like this going on, we have the nerve to wonder why our students aren't competing with everyone else in science and technology.

Do You Know Her?

Her name was Sara Baartman.