All posts by Ken Baron

Margins, Muslims, and Mentors

It’s Christmas and our thoughts are of families and children. However, at the margins life may be tough.
Let’s start with an excerpt from the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Excupery.

“There were terrible seeds on the little prince’s planet… they were baobab seeds. The planet’s soil was infested with them. Now, a baobab, if you set about it too late, you can never get rid of it. It takes up the whole planet. It pierces it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and if there are too many baobabs, they will make it burst”.

So maybe our boababs are, in part, class and religious differences?

Back to our kids, according to a new Pew Research Study* “In poor families, however, children tend to spend their time at home or with extended family, the survey found. They are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods that their parents say aren’t great for raising children, and their parents worry about them getting shot, beaten up or in trouble with the law” They also go on to find “While bullying is parents’ greatest concern over all, nearly half of low-income parents worry their child will get shot, compared with one-fifth of high-income parents. They are more worried about their children being depressed or anxious”

And I dont need to tell readers of this blog how African American kids are told by their parents to be carefull about enconters with the police.

Also today in the New York Times an article reviewed the answers by Muslim Americans on their kids safety.*** They noted that “A wave of recent attacks by extremists acting in the name of Islam — including in San Bernardino, Calif., this month — has contributed to a rise in anti-Muslim speech in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. We askd our readers who are Muslim how they talk to their children about these difficult times”.
The article illustrates the same problems and other kids at the margin have. The following are some of the strategies that Muslim parents have devised.

  • “work 100 times harder” and “be 100 times kinder.”
  • “be wary of anyone reaching out to them over the Internet andzes claiming to be Muslim. “ISIL is trying to recruit you,”
  • “our Muslim kids personally identify with how the Christian pilgrims came here, cut off from everyone and everything they knew, simply to be able to adore God how they thought fit.
  • “I nevertheless encourage them not to discuss faith with anyone.”

I will finish with a hope that racial and religious intolerance no longer penelizes our children at the margins and our nation.

Happy Holidays.
_______________________________________________
Sources:
*pewsocialtrends.org
**http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/16/world/americas/muslim-parents-on-how-they-talk-to-their-children-about-hatred-and-extremism.html?ref=todayspaper

Pens, Punched Cards and Patience

It’s approaching Christmas and I am reminiscing on my earlier days. I know it sounds sentimental and a bit depressing to some but I was kinda excited to discover in the back of my drawer a bunch of tactile devises – fountain pens.

Say what? For those unfamiliar with these devices, they are fine writing objects which deliver ink on paper by a collection of delicate wells and cavities to a a “nib” the best of which are 14 carat gold to allow for flexibility and resist corrosion. The fountain pens I have are 30 years old and and after charging with fresh ink fires up flawlessly,

But why am I rambling on about this? You may know that have a series of blogs and podcasts* for the NABWMT about balancing or tactile (real) and online lives. This is relevant to our interactions with people especially when we promote our fight against racism and homophobia.

I just read the New York Times and an article struck me as germane to this blog. It seems that 75% of hospitals have electronic records. However, the health practitioners reported “digital fatigue” and have been covertly resorting to paper to as a back up for passwords and notes. These are folks that are supposed to be people sensitive and are detracted from their roles as such. Does this sound familiar? Are you bombarded with the need to remember the scores of passwords?

In my blog: “Blogs, Being There”** I stated that the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society, practice being a friend face to face. To that I add at this Holiday time we should renew the vehicles of phoning and writing (with or without a fountain pen)!

The added bonus to this is that you may have an antidote to the 120 character communications a la Twitter, we often live in. You see, writing should slow down the movement of you thoughts to a physical record. Here is another old world analogy with computers. 20 years ago I started using a mainframe computer with “punched cards”. These cards enabled a computer to read each line of code, Today there are millions of lines of code embedded in a computer you can hold in your hand! I had to look at these cards to make sure I could find a mistake that could screw up my program. The point is thatI slowed down my thought processes to learn. I needed patience.

I am not a therapist nor a Luddite but proponent of balance. I try to balance my offline and online day. Often it is difficult. But then I recall that our hero Bayard Rustin organized the March on Washington without a digital command center. Dr. Jon Bush,*** long time NA member wrote his academic papers on race relations. An Dr Jerry Mallon,**** another NA hero wrote is seminal monograph “Resisting Racism” probably with pen and paper (maybe a fountain pen?).
_____________________________________________________
Sources:

*http://www.nabwmt.org/media-and-life-eye-contact/
**http://www.nabwmt.org/blogs-brains-and-being-there/

***https://books.google.com/books?id=j2xrgrixYDIC&pg=PA192&lpg=PA192&dq=dr+john+bush+nabwmt&source=bl&ots=J_8989OfBy&sig=mBG-l__Htv4UJpgYwk-024N8a6A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwir67_C197JAhVV9mMKHcIwCi8Q6AEIQTAH#v=onepage&q=dr%20john%20bush%20nabwmt&f=false

****https://books.google.com/books?id=sIqGAAAAIAAJ&q=dr+jerry+mallon+Resisting+Racism&dq=dr+jerry+mallon+Resisting+Racism&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiytKfs2N7JAhUP2GMKHVwwAWoQ6AEIHzAA

Podcast AIDS, Black Women and Black Prisoners

Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Women of color are especially affected by HIV infection and AIDS according to the CDC*. HIV infection was the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34.

Given that condoms are not given out in prison, injectable drugs and tattoos are also present, and after release prisoners are likely to have goo health care and are in “communities of denial” it is very likely that the higher incarceration of people of color will lead to a disproportionate rate of HIV infection in women of color. This is also a function of the fact that men seeking men for sex have no counterpart in women.

AIDS, Black Women and Black Prisoners

Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Women of color are especially affected by HIV infection and AIDS according to the CDC*. HIV infection was the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34.

African-Americans aret 12 percent of the United States’ population, but are about half of all new infections and deaths from H.I.V./AIDS. In a recent speech deemed to be true by On the Issues* Hillary Clinton said, “If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.”

The New York Times reported*** “Given that men who have sex with men account for a majority of H.I.V. cases among both black and white men, the spike in H.I.V. infections among black women has perplexed public health officials” . Is it because of drugs? The article goes on to suggest that “higher rates of H.I.V. among men who have been in prison may raise the risk of infection in their community”. The NAACP**** reports that together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population.

Given that condoms are not given out in prison, injectable drugs and tattoos are also present, and after release prisoners are likely to have goo health care and are in “communities of denial” it is very likely that the higher incarceration of people of color will lead to a disproportionate rate of HIV infection in women of color. This is also a function of the fact that men seeking men for sex have no counterpart in women.

So, the homophobic and racist “blame the victim” attitudes, which have no roots in facts, since blacks are no more prevalent than others to have bisexual encounters or riskier health actions, dorve are wrong and steroprofiles.

So whats to be done? Some legislation has adressed the rapes and assaults in prison but are not enforced.

The “New Jim Crow” criminal justice outrages should be adressed sooner than later for this and other attacks on people of color.

The mission of the NA is to “resist racism” and the problems described here is part of our raison d’entre!

____________________________________________________________
Sources:
*http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/pdf/women.pdf
**http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/More_Hillary_Clinton_Health_Care.htm
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/12/opinion/why-are-so-many-black-women-dying-of-aids.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
****http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet

Podcast Friendships-a theme for the new Denver chapter and the NA?

The new Denver chapter founder Robert brought to my attention a good blog (the Mustard Seed) which talked about a great concept that “..friends cultivate creativity, compassion and a sense of belonging. Studies indicate that if you have a best friend at work, you are seven times more likely to thrive in your job. Conversely, a lack of deep lasting friendships has shown negative effects on your health and well-being”.

 

Affirmative Action

This is another blog on the upcoming decision at SCOTUS the Supreme Court of the United States. This time on an attack on affirmative action as represented by the appeal on the University of Texas’s admission policies.

Based on reports by the New York Times*, “the affirmative action plan at the University of Texas seemed to be in trouble at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. By the end of an unusually long and tense argument, a majority of the justices appeared unpersuaded that the plan was constitutional”.

First some background. In 2003, the court said that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment but could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity. And there is rub so to speak, vague can be interpreted as almost anything!

Justice Scalia his usual conservative take and said:  “minority students with inferior academic credentials may be better off at “a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”

In addition he said: “Most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas,” he said. “They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

And the usually liberal Justice Kennedy, spent almost all of his time exploring whether the university should be allowed to submit more evidence to justify its use of race in accepting students.

However, at UC Berkley, in a state that banned affirmative action in college admissions, fewer black and Hispanic freshmen were enrolled**. Thus, between 1990 and 2011 Hispanic enrollment went down from 23% to11%. This is despite the increase of California’s college aged residents from 35% to 49%. There is a similar trend in Black enrollment.

The case, Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 14-981, was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white student who says the University of Texas denied her admission in 2008 because of her race. She has since graduated from Louisiana State University. At that University during the same Hispanic and Blacks suffered the same enrollment stalling**.

Adding to the fuel on this fire is the so called “Top Ten” policy of Texas colleges that the State of Texas has such that “If you attend a public high school in Texas you must submit a transcript that indicates that you will graduate under the state’s Recommended or Distinguished/Advanced high school programs as defined in the state’s Uniform Admissions Policy or a transcript that shows you will graduate under the state’s Foundation high school program. Students graduating under the Foundation program must show proof of the distinguished level of achievement to be eligible for top 10 percent automatic admission”.***

This Texas admissions plan, which accounts for 75 percent of the student body, does not directly consider race but increases racial diversity largely because many high schools in the state are not diverse.

For the remaining students, the plan takes account of race as one factor among many, the approach used by many selective colleges and universities nationwide. Ms. Fisher sought admission under the second part of the plan.

And the champion of liberal jurisprudence Justice Ginsburg said  “It’s totally dependent upon having racially segregated neighborhoods, racially segregated schools, and it operates as a disincentive for a minority student to step out of that segregated community and attempt to get an integrated education.”

However on a breath of fresh air, Justice Breyer said, that the Supreme Court will “kill affirmative action through a death by a thousand cuts.”

I remain very concerned that this decision may railroad affirmative action after a 12-year-old compromise was granted.

More and more SCOTUS is acting on some laws where people at the margins in the US are losing ground in an era where income and race inequality are becoming more evident. This blog and a previous blog on SCOTUS and the vote**** are more reasons to vote in ALL elections that lead to consideration of candidates that favor diversity and human rights.

_________________________________________________________________

Sources:

*http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/10/us/politics/supreme-court-to-revisit-case-that-may-alter-affirmative-action.html?_r=0
**http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/06/24/us/affirmative-action-bans.html
***http://www.uh.edu/admissions/apply/apply-freshman/admissions-criteria/
****http://www.nabwmt.org/all-people-or-eligible-people/

All People or Eligible People?

Today I want to update you on a matter of importance in terms of equal justice, and crucial for representation of us all and people at the margin.

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) hears arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott regarding according to SCOTUS blog “Whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population, when apportioning state legislative districts”.

So what has this to do with NABWMT? Directly nothing, but indirectly a whole lot to our mission to fight racism.

First, some background. The US Constitution requires “counting the whole number of persons in each state” for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives among the states. In the US, according to the Atlantic blog*** “”The (population) difference is no longer about where people live, it’s about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy — or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants”. Cities tend to vote Democrat which, arguable leads to more tolerant voters.

The US Census is the main vehicle to determine the Congress make up, and any other method may be hard to assemble and likely to discriminate against people of color. Hence it would be antithetical to the work the NA has done over the last 30 years or more.

These areas of tolerance have produced sex sex marriage initiatives, better opposition to discrimination of minorities in the justice system and much more. The Census showed a higher percentage of blacks than whites voted in a presidential election for the first time in history during the matchup between President Obama and Mitt Romney. If the black vote is diminished by legislation of SCOTUS it would not bode well for equal participation of people at the margins.

The opposite view is given by the Wall Street Journal**** citing concern on the effect of “illegal immigrants” on the votes. As a note you may want to read my blogs on the racism against undocumented workers (http://www.nabwmt.org/anti-immigrants-rhetoric/). But I digress, the Wall Street Journal suggests that this block of voters “dilutes” other peoples right to vote. They state “If Ms. Evenwel prevails, legislative districts will have to be reworked in Texas, and presumably in much of the U.S. too. The next legal challenge would be to Congressional districts, which could mean a re-allocation of seats in the House of Representatives. States like Florida, California, New York, Arizona and Texas, with large illegal populations, could lose House seats. We cannot agree more, this loss of seats would be detrimental to civil rights.

Remember when Black people were counted as one-fifth vote, under this plan Blacks and Native Americans under 18 would perhaps be on-third votes, Asian Americans would be 45% and Hispanics 55%.

Let’s not let this fly under the radar. Talk to your chapters, communities and legislators and campaign against this latest round of attacks on minorities and voters.
____________________________________________________
Sources:
* http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/evenwel-v-abbott/
** http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/us/politics/supreme-court-to-hear-arguments-on-one-person-one-vote.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
*** http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/red-state-blue-city-how-the-urban-rural-divide-is-splitting-america/265686/
**** http://www.wsj.com/articles/one-person-but-only-2-3of-a-vote-1449534404

Bullying

As we all know there are youths that are being bullied in school and society, and for sure in the LGBT community. How to deal with it effectively requires the skills to understand and manage their feelings, and overcome.

As an educator I hear the expression “computers will soon be able to do many of the cognitive tasks in many jobs”. Life skills are mostly relational and being part of a team. Also empathy becomes a more important workplace skill, the ability to sense what another human being is feeling or thinkings.

In addition, the ability to function in a group also becomes more important — to know how to tell stories that convey the important points, how to mix people together. Amazingly, there is an app for that to

use technology to better articulate, understand and control ones emotions. So far so good. Research shows that people communicate more often with family and friends because of technology, but the quality of that communication may be weaker.

However, kids who spend more time engaging with a screen than with other kids or adults can struggle to understand emotion, create strong relationships or become more dependent on others. If all you’re doing is using Facebook, you’re not getting the interpersonal connection that you need.

For adults, reliance on the quick text or Facebook message is mostly about saving time. But for children, the overuse of technology to communicate affects the brain as we show below. Technology can be a big hindrance on interpersonal relationships, and can rewrite a child’s brain pathways in a very different way than how they would normally develop.

The problem is that the more people and children interact with a person or the real world through a screen rather than in real life, the less emotion is attached to the exchange. The way we talk, our body language and tone are all fundamental to establishing human relationships. And they’re all missing with most forms of modern technology.

Back to LGBT bullyingIn a study, 85% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40% reported being physically harassed, and 19% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual identity. To counteract this we need to

– Debunk misperceptions about digital behavior;

– Build empathy and understanding;

– Teach online safety skills;

– Equip young people (and some adults) with strategies to reject digital abuse in their lives.

October was the national bullying prevention month. There is no federal cyberbullying law in the U.S.

and efforts at creating the culture of empathy, on the other hand, receive far less public attention. One bright light is The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s partnership with with Facebook aimed at helping the company to foster empathy among its users.

While public attention seems to be overwhelmingly focused on punishment, education on cultural values to  foster a different pattern of social relations and concern for others is just as important. Framing online behavior as symptomatic of larger cultural narratives is a much neglected view in the public debate around cyberbullying.

So why do i perseverate on this when the average age of the NABWMT is 52 (or so)? The answer is we need to realize that the current traits of young adults in empathy can become (at least in part) ours. We need to balance our online and offline persona.

After all the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society. So, after you have friended one of our thousands on our Facebook, practice being their and friend someone face to face.

Thankyou San Francisco

podcastThis city was once called the “Paris of the West” for its corruption and wildness but I am proud of the recent past and current history that San Francisco brings to the HIV/AIDS community and doing much in these issues to write the rules. And let’s not forget San Francisco is the birthplace of our NABWMT.

Today an HIV infected person can go to a San Francisco clinic, get tested quickly, see a doctor, get 5 pills and a prescription and, if needed, file for public health insurance. This program is called Rapid and is a great success.