Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Embarrassing Post-Election Reactions

Thankfully the election of 2012 is finally over. Not only did President Obama win the popular vote, but he also won the Electoral College by a significant margin. To the surprise of the online conspiracy theorists living in fantasyland, the earth did not fall off its axis, and the sun and moon continued to function as regularly scheduled.
The President won despite the scare tactics employed by most conservatives on talk radio and the not so fair and balanced coverage by a particular cable news channel. The fear mongering and billions of dollars in negative campaign ads were not enough to convince the majority of Americans to vote for the other candidate.
History will prove that the election of 2012 was a repudiation of the radical conservative agenda.
Excuses, Excuses
The embarrassing post-election reactions from some people who chose not to vote for the President are not surprising by any stretch of the imagination. We saw a level of ugliness after the 2008 election and those same hate filled people feel even more embolden to do and say the foulest things about the President of the United States. It is okay for people to disagree with the President on policy issues, but it is not okay for people to keep trying to discredit the man as a legitimate American, or categorize him as a socialist, communist, Muslim who hates the country.
The excuses for why the other candidate loss or why the President won have already began to be nauseating. The post-election comedy show commenced shortly after it was obvious that President Obama had enough electoral votes to secure his second term in office. It is laughable to see and hear conservative prognosticators twisting and turning poll numbers, continually trying to figure out how in the world the man they have so much disdain for could be re-elected.
The GOP is blaming the loss on the liberal media, African Americans, Hispanics, young people, single women, homosexuals, voter fraud, and free stuff. It is everybody’s fault but the guy who lost the election.
The GOP can continue to make excuses for their loss and ignore the fact that their idiotic and reckless policies are the reason people did not vote for their candidate. Rational thinking people did not buy into the conservative narrative of doom and gloom politics.
More than Just the Economy
The other candidate and his advisors could not possibly expect to win by just telling people how bad of a job his opponent has done and how bad the economy is without offering any plausible solutions. The one question he was never able to answer during the entire campaign was “how?”

For instance, how was he going to create 12 million jobs, but in the same breath say that government does not create jobs?
The answer certainly is not more tax breaks for the “job creators” because we have seen over the last twelve or so years how that theory has worked for us. The trickle never has and never will make it down from the top.
As it turned out, the economy was not the only issues Americans cared about. When a person takes hard lined, unpopular stances on so many social issues, how could expect the same people he demonized throughout the election to vote for him?
Voters did not know where he stood on so many issues because his position seemed to change with the direction of the blowing wind. Maybe it was those secretly recorded 47% percent remarks to a group of wealthy campaign donors. Maybe it was his willingness to defund PBS and Planned Parenthood, but no mention of cutting off foreign aid to countries we consider to be our “allies.” Maybe it was his open stance against abortion rights for women and wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Maybe it was his desire to preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while middle-class and poor Americans pay a higher tax rate than he does.  Maybe it was his bullish/war-mongering stance in foreign relation matters, but when the opportunity to defend the country presented itself, he avoided the draft while other Americans were thrown in prison for doing the same.
Maybe it was his suggestion that students should just borrow money from their parents to go to college. Maybe it was his immigration reform strategy that encouraged illegal immigrants to self-deport back to their native countries.
To throw gasoline on an already burning campaign, conservative candidates all over the country were offering their uninformed and unpopular opinions on abortion rights, recklessly throwing around allegations of socialism and class warfare, and continuing these wild conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the President’s birth certificate and college transcripts.
Traditional America?
One of talking points in the post election coverage that keeps coming up in among the conservative talkers has something to do with Traditional America. The demographic shift taking place in America in which Caucasian men are losing control and power of the electorate is happening right in front of our eyes. This fact scares the hell out of the establishment. Take a moment and analyze whom these sentiments are coming from.  It is no surprise what kind of America they want to see.
“Take our country back” or “Traditional America,” has nothing to do with smaller government or American values. They are talking about taking us back to a traditional America when Caucasians were perceived to be superior to all other ethnicities.
The traditional America when African Americans had to sit on the back of the bus. The traditional America when African American men were hung from trees and castrated for looking at Caucasian women. The traditional America when Civil Rights activists were killed for trying to help citizens register to vote in the South.
The traditional America when people of different ethnicities were forced to drink from separate water fountains because of the color of their skin. The traditional America when students were forced to attend separate, but “equal” schools.
No thank you!
This so called traditional American may have been good for some, but the same cannot be said for all Americans. Going back to those days is not going to happen and we all need to persist that America keeps marching forward. Whether people want to deal with it or not, those events are in the fiber of American history. The dog whistle and covert terminology being recklessly thrown around by politicians and media personalities should not be overlooked.
What Free Stuff?
One of the most insulting things I have heard in the post-election coverage is the notion that people voted for President Obama because they want free stuff. Really, free stuff? Where is this free stuff and when should those of us who voted for the President expect to receive these items in the mail?
Seniors, veterans, and disabled Americans who receive benefits do not want free stuff regardless of what the talking heads in the conservative media want you to believe. Free stuff is what slave owners and their descendants received as a result of never paying a cent to the slaves who built the very foundation of this nation.
Think about it. Rich people are the beneficiaries of more free stuff than they have room to receive. They collect handouts in the form of tax loopholes and off shore money shelters that middle-class and poor people do not receive. The CEOs of large American companies choose to send jobs overseas, or lay off thousands of workers at a time in spite of making record profits over the last couple of years. These people care about making as much money as they can, while paying their employees as little as possible, period Greed is the only rational explanation for their actions.
The only free stuff people wanted from this election was the right to vote without standing in line for eight hours, or without being harassed, intimidated, and threatened by some watch group challenging the legitimacy of their vote.
Secession Insanity
The secession advocates and revolution promoters are just as disgusting as the people behind the birther movement. The country would be a better place minus the individuals who are acting like young children who throw temper tantrums when they cannot have their way.
Do not tell us in one voice that you love this country more than I do and then in the same voice say you are going to leave when your candidate loses an election. This secession insanity is not just whining; it is illogical, unpatriotic, anti-American, ahistorical, and willfully ignorant.
Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on November 21, 2012 via Blogger.com

Monday, August 27, 2012

It Takes Two

During my recent ten plus hour flight to Okinawa, Japan with my three daughters and our tiny Chihuahua named Chip, I flipped through one of my favorite books, The Isis Papers from time to time. I figured this long flight would be a good time to reflect and evaluate how my wife and I are raising our daughters. The focal point of chapters 20, 21, and 22 discussed parenting skills and the challenges of raising African American children. Dr. Welsing discusses in detail the frantic need for more two-parent households in the African American community.

Little did I know, my first ten or so days in Okinawa alone with the kids would challenge me physically and mentally in ways that I could have never imagined. There are so many tasks to be accomplished every day in order to get the initial set-up process completed. The level of exhaustion I felt at the end of each day made me question how single parents do it day in and day out. I cannot imagine doing all the things my children need alone for a sustained period of time and still give them the amount of love and care they need.

When no one else is around to help take care of those daily responsibilities, one has to find the inner-strength to simply put a check in the box. This doesn’t allow much time for personal reflection, compassion, or sympathy. Accomplishing the mission at hand becomes more of a priority than does the emotional, psychological, and physiological needs of the children. The scale is tilted to one side and the children’s developmental needs are often left unfulfilled.

I realize that there are children reared in single-parent households who go on to be highly educated, productive members of society; however, they are in the minority. Like a strong majority of people I know and respect, I am adamantly opposed to child-parents, i.e. teenagers becoming parents to children when they are still children themselves. 

According to Dr. Francis C. Welsing, author of The Isis Papers, children born to child-parents will experience the following. “They will experience being inadequately housed, clothed and fed. They will experience abandonment to welfare systems and foster homes. They subsequently will experience failure to achieve academically, and then fail to perform adequately on scholastic achievement tests. Because of their frustration from being stressed and inadequately cared for, they will fail to attend school. Eventually they will drop out of school. Many Black children and youth will become involved with drugs-either to medicate often unrecognized major depression, or to sell drugs to solve their own or their family’s financial difficulties.” Pg. 252.

Upon first glance, I took exception to some of what she said, but when I re-read and re-evaluated this paragraph, it was clear to me that she was absolutely correct.  Certainly there are adults who grew up in two-parent homes that fall into the above stated conditions, but without question the slope is steeper for children of child-parents and single-parent homes. The numerous obstacles children born to child-parents must overcome make their plight to breaking the cycle of poverty and dependency nearly impossible.

I have the utmost respect for single parents who are working hard to ensure that their children have everything children of two-parent homes have, but it is obvious that it takes two parents to provide the loving, healthy, stable, and consistent environment children so desperately need.  Immature, unstable, and overwhelmed child-parents cannot provide their children with the tools they need to become independent adults because they themselves have not figured out or found out whom they are at this stage in their lives. 

I found myself as the parent to four young daughters by the youthful age of 23 and quickly realized that the fate of my family’s future was in the hands of a young man who was just beginning to find himself. I was immature, selfish, impatient, harsh, and way too overbearing. I was not a good listener and had a zero defect mentality when it came to disciplining my kids.

Six years into my young Marine Corps career, I had been married for four years, had four young daughters, and was stressed beyond belief. Simply said, I was not even ready for one child let alone four. The responsibilities that fell upon my shoulders were a load that would have been much too heavy to bear without the help of my wife.

We did our best to provide more than just the basic needs for our children, but that came with a lot of bumps and bruises that could have been avoided had we been more mature adults.  As challenging as it has been raising a family, it has been as equally rewarding to see the growth and development, not only in our children, but also in the two of us as parents.

I am convinced now more than ever that it takes two parents to provide all of the things children need in their journey towards adulthood. There has to be a greater emphasis placed on the need for more two-parent homes and an outcry to greatly reduce the number of children being raised by single and child-parents.

Our society as a whole will receive better-equipped young adult to lead the country into the next generation if these points are advocated for. We desperately need more mature adults as parents versus the extreme number of single and child-parents who have proven over a long period of time that they simply do not possess the tools necessary to raising productive, successful, independent, and healthy children.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on August 27, 2012 via Blogger.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Capitalizing off Crime: Part 2

Do you remember the last time you’ve heard conversation or discussion about the budget for the Department of Corrections in the state in which you reside? Neither can I, but on a daily basis educators are being laid off due to budget cuts.  States are claiming to be doing everything they can to save money, but ironically, funding for jails and prisons is rarely a part of these money saving ventures. 
The American solution of building more prisons and incarcerating more people than any other civilized nation in the world is not deterring people from committing crime.  When analyzing capitalizing off crime, it makes perfect sense why certain laws exist. Follow the money trail that leads from a corporation to the politician who is “Tough on Crime”.  This tough talk sounds good on paper, but in reality, public safety is not the motivating factor in keeping criminals off the street.  Follow the money.
Without a doubt, the War on Drugs has been a massive failure and private for-profit prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, and Community Education Centers are making billions of dollars each year due to this failed war and close ties to politicians on both sides of the political spectrum.
The Len Bias Affect:  Len Bias is probably known as the greatest basketball player to never play professional basketball.  Bias played basketball at the University of Maryland and was selected as the 1986 ACC player of the year, an All-American and the 2nd overall pick of the 1986 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. Two days after the draft, on June 19, 1986, Bias died from a drug induced overdose.
In a 2003 study by the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, African American and White people represented similar proportions of all those sent to prison in the state in 1986, but by 1999, 47% of all African American prison admissions in Maryland were for drug offenses, compared with 21% for Whites.  While only making up 28% of the state’s general population, 68% of all people arrested for drug offenses in Maryland were African American.
Bias’ death sparked a round of legislation that completely changed the prison landscape in America.  The amount of non-violent offenders is what has driven the prison population through the roof.  Not only did the introduction of crack in the 1980’s spark an era of getting high as fast as possible for as little as possible, but it also ignited the get rich as fast as you can mentality in the minds of young people and business people alike.  That mentality has worked out miserably for the young people who are on the streets selling a drug that is killing their fellow man and worked out wonderful for the business people who decided to invest in for-profit prisons.
In Maryland from 1986-1999, the African American rate of drug prison admissions per 100,000 citizens grew eight times the rate of the White drug prison admissions and represented 96% of the new youth prison admissions for drug offenses.  This phenomenon was not isolated to one state, and quickly spread across the entire nation.  The movement toward increased incarceration and the racial disparity that exists in sentencing practices has gotten to the point of horrendous proportions for African Americans. The winner in the end is the prison industrial complex.
Does it make sense that African Americans serve nearly as much time in prison for a drug offense (57 months) as Whites do for a violent crime (58.8 months)? Does it make sense that more than 80% of crack cocaine defendants are African American, while about two-thirds of crack cocaine users are White or Hispanic? Or that the average sentence for a crack cocaine offense (119 months) was more than three years greater than for powder cocaine (78 months)?
Does it make sense that African Americans and Hispanics are the largest contributor to the prison population on the local, state and federal level considering the demographic make-up of this country?  How is it possible for African American men to only make up about 6% of the population, yet make up over 40% of the prison population?  Are African Americans committing crime three or four times the rate of White Americans, or is there an underlying systemic problem when it comes to harsh sentencing practices and the ethnicity of the individual convicted of a crime?
It would not be fair to blame Len Bias’ death for the knee jerk reaction by politicians on both sides of the aisle, which resulted in laws that have had a powerful, damaging, and racially disparate effect on the African American community.  Bias’ death is a reminder of what can happen when self-serving media personalities, politicians and business people combine to fix a problem.  Democrats try to out rough Republicans by being “tough on crime” and as a result, helped to create a system that has nearly disenfranchised an entire generation of people.
Meaningful reforms to the Len Bias drug legacy have been few and far between and the problem of the prison industrial complex will most likely continue to get worse if we do not help young people realize that they are being used like pawns in the chess game of wealthy private prison companies and their political flunkies.
Money is obviously the driving force behind the political apparatus that seeks to ensure that Public-Private Partnerships are not losing money due to a lack of criminals to fill their jail cells.  Rather than spending money building, expanding, and upgrading prison facilities, I would prefer that our tax dollars be spent building, expanding, and upgrading schools for our students and teachers.  An investment of our tax dollars into programs that will help keep kids occupied and off the streets will help prevent them from becoming inmate number 426957.
What can you do?  If you have a loved one or know anyone currently serving time in prison, I encourage you to purchase one of the following books and send it to them immediately:
The Isis Papers: Keys to the Colors by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Ask them to accept one or both of these books as a seed offering and remind them that you are praying that the words in these books will inspire them to become better humans and productive members in our society upon their release.  I have no doubt that these books will be a blessing to their collective minds, bodies, & souls. 
Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on June 20, 2012 via Blogger.com 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Capitalizing off Crime: Disgust for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP's)

The prison industrial complex is a 100 giga-billion dollar business.  It is troublesome to know young people are still making decisions to get themselves locked up.  Then they relegate themselves to second class citizenship because the cloud of living as an ex-convict follows them around long after they have been released.

Statistics show that prison is a likely destination for people who drop out of high school, or do not have a college degree or technical certification.  I have been very outspoken in opposition to PPP's in rural areas that rely heavily on an inmate population of young men who look like me.  White-collar criminals continue to get away with running the economy into the ground without fear of prosecution because police spend too much time making the easy arrests.  The easy arrests I am speaking of are the average street corner drug dealers.  These young men do not control the boats or airplanes that bring drugs into this country, but they are certainly considered to be the face of the so called “War on Drugs.”

PPP's need warm bodies to fill those cells to keep the money in the pockets of the executives who running the prison.  It is like they have a neon "VACANCY" sign flashing, encouraging young people to keep dropping out of school, keep selling drugs in their own communities, keep robbing, stealing, and killing each other because there are plenty of beds available.

Although the criminal justice system in undoubtedly flawed, it is not the systems fault when young brothers get arrested while standing on the corner with a pocket full of dope.  It is not the systems fault when young brothers are sporting a new outfit every week, spending thousands of dollars on platinum teeth, and riding around in custom cars with 28” rims; with no job.

For some, trouble is easier to stay out of than for others, but the bottom line is that we have to start taking responsibility for our own actions and stop putting ourselves in situations that police and the prison industry can take advantage.  These people are literally getting rich off a system that is in place for the purpose of correction, hence the name, the Department of Corrections. Not the Department of Rehabilitation or the Department of Get Right once a person is locked up. 

In July 2010, Congress changed a 25-year-old law that has subjected tens of thousands of African Americans to long prison terms for crack cocaine convictions while giving far more lenient sentences to those, mainly Whites, caught with the powder form of the drug. 

During his presidential campaign, then Senator Obama said, "the wide gap in sentencing cannot be justified and should be eliminated.”  The new measure changes a 1986 law, enacted at a time when crack cocaine use was rampant and considered a particularly violent drug (See the death of basketball star Len Bias).  Under the old law, a person convicted of crack cocaine possession got the same mandatory prison sentence as someone with 100 times the same amount of powder cocaine.  

Five grams of crack equaled a five-year mandatory sentence and 50 grams of crack equaled a 10-year mandatory sentence for first time offenders in comparison to five years mandatory for 500 grams of cocaine. 

The new law also eliminates the five-year mandatory minimum sentences for first-time offenders possessing crack, the first time since the Nixon administration that a President has repealed a mandatory minimum sentence requirement.  However; it does not apply retroactively and the people incarcerated under the old law cannot get a re-trial, or a reduced sentence.  

Big Business:
Corrections Corporations of America, the nation’s largest privately owned prisons owns more than 65 facilities with up to 90,000 beds in 19 states.  This company making millions of dollars from humans being incarcerated can be found on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CXW.  Their stock is currently trading at $26.22 a share, bringing in approximately $1 billion in revenue last year.

In the Reason Foundation and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation Policy Brief of Policy Study No. 381, the state of California spends about $47,000 a year for each prisoner, which is over 50 percent higher than the national average.  A table of the top 10 state correctional systems and costs can be found in this same study that makes me wonder what our legislators are doing with our tax dollars.

PPP’s would like us to believe that they are saving states millions of dollars by offering states like California the option to send some of their inmates to lower-cost facilities out of state.  Industry experts have determined that there are not enough beds in other states to absorb the amount of prisoners California needs to transfer.  The state would need to transfer their prisoners in increments that would “allow time for private corrections management firms to finance, design, and build new prison capacity-either through new prisons or expansions of existing facilitates out of state-to accommodate the additional inmates.”

Let that sink in for a moment and think about what that statement means in the grand scheme of things.

While education budgets in most states are being slashed, I wonder if the Department of Corrections budgets are being reduced at the same rate.  How much does your state spend per student (K-12) in comparison with the amount of money they spend per inmate? 

There is a perfectly good explanation why these private prison companies are continuing to expand their facilities all over the country.  MONEY!  Industry lobbyists continue to draft legislation for our elected officials to ensure mandatory sentence bills are passed into law.  Connect the dots and do some critical thinking when the next young man receives a 10-year mandatory sentence for trafficking a small amount of crack, or is sent back to prison for an extended period for a minor parole violation.

We have the power to put these companies out of business by simply staying out of their prisons, which sounds good in theory and can be accomplished if we put our collective minds to criminal prevention.  Communities want and so desperately need citizens who have respect for their fellow man, are self-reliant, and those who will be assets to the community instead of dragging it down.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on May 30, 2012 via Blogger.com 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dream Fulfilled: The Necessity of Higher Education

What is a dream?  Is it the mental activity, usually in the form of an imagined series of events, occurring during certain phases of sleep? Yes, but that is the scientific definition.  The dream I’m talking about is the cherished hope a person carries within their soul, or the ambition a person has to be in a better state of mind or better position in life.  Everyone has aspirations to achieve certain goals, but dreaming and praying alone won’t get us anywhere.  Action and effort are two key ingredients that are required in order to make those desires come to fruition.

My dream of attending college after graduating high school was put on hold for a few reasons. 

1.  My parents simply could not afford it.  The “borrow money from your parents to get an education” suggestion recently made by a politician was not an option for me.  With the small amount of money my parents made, I was happy to have a place to stay, clean clothes, and plenty of food to eat.  A lot of kids do not have the luxuries we so often take for granted and despite the political rhetoric out there, hunger and poverty are real in America.

2.  I was tired of going to school and wanted a break from the classroom, or so I thought.  I knew I wanted to be a Marine since I was about 10 or 11 years old, so joining the Corps was the perfect escape from small town Georgia.  Thank God my mother did not kill my dream by telling me that the military was no place for a black man.  I have actually heard parents tell their children that nonsense and it drives me crazy.  The Marine Corps has provided opportunities for me that I would have never been able to tap into had I not joined.  The leadership traits and principles I have learned since I joined have helped me to become a better man and a good citizen.

I would say that the decision to join the enlisted ranks did not turn out too bad for me.  The awesome senior Marines who raised me and the stellar Marines I’ve worked with, in combination with my drive and determination are the reasons I am a Master Sergeant of Marines today.  No one told me that the Marine Corps sends students to college on ROTC scholarships, pays full tuition, and presents them with the opportunity to earn a commission as a Marine Officer.  I’m talking about a chance to lead the Corps most prized possession, the enlisted Marine. 

After eleven years of service, I had no college classes on my resume because I was always too busy to start taking classes and then I met Master Gunnery Sergeant (ret.) Robert “Bob” Organo. Bob was entering his 29th year of service and working on completing his Master’s degree.  He asked me what I was going to do once my days in the Corps were over.  When I couldn’t answer his question, he encouraged me to enroll in college because we are all going to have to take the uniform off one day and you need to have more than 20 or 30 years of experience to put on your resume.

I knew I needed to set short-term (Associates Degree), mid-term (Bachelor Degree), and long-term goals (Masters & Doctoral Degrees) for myself.  Once I took my first college class and got over the fear factor of being a student again, I remembered that I was smart and had the ability to be an outstanding student.  My short-term goal was achieved in 2010 when I finished my Associates Degree from Park University.  On Saturday, May 5th, my mid-term goal will also be achieved when I receive my Bachelor Degree, with honors from the University of South Florida. 

As a parent to school aged kids, I had the opportunity to practice what I had been preaching to my children.  I expect my kids to make A’s in every class and they know I am not satisfied when they make a B and C’s or D’s is not acceptable in our house.  I had to set the standards high for myself if I expected them to follow my lead.  The goal of making all A’s in college was my way showing them that it can be done. 

I was so disappointed in myself when I made my first B in college.  The first thing I thought about was breaking the news to my kids that I fell short of the goal I set for myself.  I am not satisfied making B’s because if I would have applied myself a little bit more, I could have made an A in that class.  Note I said made an A, not received an A because a teacher can’t give a student a grade; they earn what they get. 

Setting high academic standards for your children is not unrealistic because they will perform if parents hold their feet to the fire.  I am not going to sell myself short and not going to allow my kids to get by thinking that it’s OK not to make good grades.  Colleges and Universities are getting harder and harder to get into, and having a transcript full of C’s & D’s does not look good, whether they are a good athlete or not.

I won’t let my kids’ teacher tell them that it’s OK to make B’s and C’s if that’s the best they can do.  That’s a slick way of telling you that your kid isn’t smart enough to make A’s.  Now I know every child won’t make all A’s, but there is nothing wrong with putting those expectations out there.  As parents, we have to be involved and concerned with our kids’ education.  Even if you don’t know how to do the stuff they are doing, at least sit down with them and try to figure it out together, or go to the teacher and let them know that your child needs additional assistance.

Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to our future.”  Opportunity flows from education and hardship flows from the lack of education.  A lack of education limits the amount of options we have to earn a living in this country.  Globalization has changed the game, and the work force requires that we have a stronger educational background than ever before.  A college degree does not guarantee you a good paying job, but it makes you a more marketable person.     Think about it this way.  If people with college degrees cannot get good jobs, how in the world is a high school diploma or dropping out of school even an option?

I encourage parents not to be dream killers.  Listen to your kids and figure out what it is that they want to be when they grow up.  Tap into their potential and embolden them to reach for the stars.  The next generation of leaders is living in our homes right now and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that our kids are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Being a full time husband and father, a full time Marine, and a full time student at the same time has not been easy, but it is absolutely necessary.  Seeking a higher education does not make me a “snob” or do me any good if I do not share what I have learned with someone else.  I am one of the Talented Tenth W.E.B. Du Bois spoke about in the early 1900s.  I will never forget where I came from and continue working hard to be a leader in my community by educating myself, writing politically conscious material and being directly involved in social change.

Thank You:
The first thank you goes to Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program and the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill for covering all of my tuition costs.  To MGySgt (ret.) Robert “Bob” Organo, thank you for inspiring me to get out of my comfort zone and helping to re-shape my life and career.  To the staff at the NROTC Unit at the University of South Florida, I thank all of you for your patience, tolerance, and understanding while doing my best to set the example for our students to emulate.  To all of my family and friends who have supported me in one way or another, thank you to you as well.  Finally, to my loving wife and our four beautiful daughters.  Thank you so much for the support you provided during this ride of late nights, early mornings, and countless hours of me sitting in the office studying.  You ladies are the reason that failure was not an option for me. 

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on May 2, 2012 via Blogger.com

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Trayvon Martin’s Death Should Matter to You

All of the facts in the tragic case of Trayvon Martin have yet to come to the surface, but there are two important facts we do know. 1. Trayvon Martin is dead and 2. George Zimmerman admitted to killing a defenseless young man.  What upsets me and most rational people the most is how the case has been handled by the Sanford Police Department.  Here is one of many questions presented in this piece for thought:  How do you allow a person to walk away from a killing by simply claiming self-defense after admitting to shooting an unarmed teenager?  Self-defense after he tells the 9-1-1 operator that Trayvon is running?  Seriously?  It’s easy for Zimmerman to claim self-defense when Trayvon cannot repudiate the assertion because he is dead. 
Hypothetically speaking, imagine a scenario in which you have a lion and a hunter.  The hunter does everything he can to agitate the lion, chases him down and forces the lion to defend himself.  Once the lion reacts to the hunter’s aggression, the hunter then pulls out a gun, and kills the lion in “self-defense.”  The lion isn’t around to tell his side of the story and the myth of lion’s violent nature against humans continues to grow.  I’ll let you decide who the lion is and who the hunter is in this hypothetical scenario.
Anyone bold enough to talk about George Zimmerman and his rights to be presumed innocent until proven guilty needs to remember something very important.  Trayvon Martin did not get the opportunity to prove that walking down a sidewalk, wearing a hoodie in a gated community, while being Black, IS LEGAL.  As a matter of fact, he did not need to prove anything to a stranger who followed him through the neighborhood.  Parents normally teach their children not to talk to strangers and what authority did this self-appointed neighborhood watch guy have over Trayvon or anyone else walking around that community?  What would you do if you were walking home and were being followed by an aggressive stranger, who could potentially be a pedophile, kidnapper, or murderer?  Running away from a situation like this is the natural thing for a child to do.
What are the parents of young African Americans supposed to tell their children when unfortunate situations like this happen?  Are they supposed to tell them that in addition to being extra careful when dealing with the police, you now must be extra careful when any random person wants to stop you and ask you questions?  Better yet, maybe parents should tell their children if a stranger starts chasing you for no reason at all, do not run or try to defend yourself; just lay down and allow that person to be the judge, jury, and executioner of your life.  If you try to defend yourself they will kill you, claim self-defense and be allowed to go free.  It’s hard to think race isn't an issue here because if the shoes were on the other foot and Trayvon shot and killed Zimmerman, and was standing there with a gun when the police arrived, the odds of him being arrested or shot immediately are pretty damn good.
I read a great book about a year ago called Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920 written by Paul Ortiz.  As soon as I heard the sad news about the killing of young Trayvon Martin, I immediately pulled this book off the shelf.  Chapter 3 of the book particularly stands out to me because it discusses how African Americans had to fight racial terrorism during this timeframe, yet 100 years later the same type of vigilante injustice that was practiced back then is still happening today.
There were so many cases mentioned in Emancipation Betrayed that are eerily similar to this one.  Here are two excerpts from the book that helps me understand how the justice system in Florida works from a historical standpoint and why Trayvon’s death matters to me.

A hack driver was gunned down by white youths on a Jacksonville sidewalk after he failed to move out of their way quickly enough.  Another Black driver told James White, a newspaperman, that he owed him additional cab fare.  White shot the driver through the head, killing him instantly. Jacksonville police rescued White from a group of African Americans who gathered-allegedly-to lynch him.  An all-white jury excused the crime, noting that the assailant was depressed and had been drinking heavily for several days.”

Ortiz went on to say that “the lynching of black men in segregated Florida was frequently extolled as a civic virtue.”  At times it is hard explaining to non-African Americans why situations like the killing of young Trayvon Martin will cause people to react the way they have reacted. It is hard to explain, but as W.E.B. Du Bois notably spoke of an often fluttered around, unasked question in The Souls of Black Folks, “How does it feel to be born a problem? It is hard to explain to people who do not believe, or will not except the fact that racism is still alive and thriving in America in 2012. 

How can I help someone understand how it feels to be followed, stopped, and frisked by police who profile African American males while driving down the street without committing a traffic violation?  How can I help someone understand why an African American female is stopped by police and told that she looked “suspicious” because she has dreadlocks?  How can I help someone understand how it feels to be stared at in a retail store, stereotyped, marginalized, or scrutinized for no other reason than the “suspicious” color of my skin?  How can I help someone understand how it feels when I walk into an elevator with a woman while wearing my Marine service uniform and instead of her saying “thank you for your service to our country,” she turns her head, moves closer to the door, and clutches her purse as if I was going to rob her?  I must have looked suspicious to her because I am a scary looking, 5’11, 195 pound, bald, dark skinned, African American male. 

The questions presented above are real and happen to African Americans every day.  There is an entire generation of Americans who have been misled into thinking that racism is in the past, but sadly, it is very much so in the present.  This is not a political issue and I do not want to hear the cliché, talking point concerning Black on Black crime, because people from all ethnic backgrounds kill one another every day.  This is about doing the right thing for a young man and his family. 

The killing of Trayvon Martin is very similar to the thousands of African Americans who have been unjustly killed in this country simply because of the color of their skin.  The historical information presented in Emancipation Betrayed and books about America’s violent past are not written to stir the “race pot.”  They are written so that we know and understand the events of the past and hopefully we will recognize current and future events that fit the mold of atrocities that were upheld under the law to protect people of all colors who are denied the common rights of a citizen of this nation.  
Your child or maybe even a person that looks just like me could be the next Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, or Emmett Till.  This is why the killing of Trayvon Martin should matter to you.
Shalom from a concerned African American citizen
Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on March 22, 2012 via Blogger.com

Thursday, February 23, 2012

History Matters in Politics

Almost a year ago I wrote an editorial entitled, “Black History can’t Be Taught in 28 Days” that specifically discussed the absence of African Americans in American History textbooks.  Families cannot afford to sit around and wait for the schools to teach their children about African American History.  Parents must teach them the truth at home and not rely on the one or two factoids the media tries to cram into the shortest month of the year. 

I learned about most of the people in the previously mentioned editorial during my undergraduate studies, which sparked my interest in learning everything I could learn about the contributions of African Americans to this country.  Studying a different version of history has been extremely helpful with my understanding of how politics shaped our past and how they are affecting the future of American society.
I encourage everybody I interact with to turn the television off and pick up a book that will teach them something about African American people.  I am not suggesting that we do not need some form of entertainment, but we do not need to be spending too much of our time watching music videos and investing quality time watching people make a fool of themselves by starring on a reality TV show.  In no way am I knocking those shows, but there are more productive ways of investing our time, specifically reading material that will stimulate your mind. 
It took a while to figure out that reading was not my problem.  It was reading material that did not interest me is what turned me off to books.  Once I started reading books written by African American authors, or books about the struggles and accomplishments of African Americans, reading became a hobby. The more I read, the more informed I feel about issues from the past and how they relate to issues in the present and the future.
Reading a wide variety of subjects has helped me develop into a critical thinker and on a consistent basis I check the facts before forming an opinion.  We have the responsibility to do a better job of verifying the information we read and hear.  That means critically thinking about everything we hear from teachers, preachers, and especially politicians, thus challenging the information being presented to us as facts.
History has a strange way of repeating itself and it seems as though many of our elected officials want to “take the country back” to a time when the words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was exclusively for one group of Americans.  Think back to the days after the Civil War when Black Codes existed.  African Americans had limited mobility and were kept from asserting their political and legal rights. 
Disenfranchisement laws were put in place so that the establishment would not be in violation of the 15th Amendment.  Gerrymandering, poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses were put in place to keep African American men from voting.  Newly proposed voter identification laws are being presented today that look awfully similar to legislation of the past that attempted to silence the voice of minorities in this country.
Newly freed men were forced into contracted jobs because private companies would not hire African Americans, which led to the system of sharecropping.  Public sector unions and the government played a vital role in the employment of thousands of African Americans when private companies would not hire people of color.  To see unions and collective bargaining rights under attack by a political party in today’s society is another step in the wrong direction; a direction that looks all too familiar to African Americans.
The longer we stay in the dark and are not educated about the political system and our elected officials, the legislators will keep beating us over the head with some of these outrageous policies that keep getting shoved down our throats. I.E. mandatory drug tests for recipients of welfare and food stamps but not for everyone on the states payroll to include themselves.  Not paying attention to politics gets the terminator elected as the governor of California and gets a man implicated in the largest Medicare fraud cases in U.S. history elected as the governor of Florida.
Citizens, we must be heavily involved with politics on the local level first because that is where our vote can actually count and can be felt immediately, unlike the presidential race that is decided by an outdated Electoral College system that needs to be abolished.  The election of local and state officials is even more important to us because those elections are decided by us, the people.
Being an educated voter empowers us to hold our elected officials accountable.  I encourage you not to get married to a political party because you will start voting for the (D) or (R) that comes after a person’s name instead of voting for that person.  What has the Democratic Party done for African American people lately? The answer is not that the Republican Party only care about rich White people, and I certainly do not buy into the argument about picking the lesser of two evils. 
I know that may not sit well with some people who have voted for one party their entire lives, but voting down a strict party line dumbs down the voter; it makes it easier to assume that a candidate is certified because they are a Democrat or a Republican.  Voting strict party lines is just as dangerous as not voting.
In the early 1900s Robert Vann, editor of the Pittsburg Courier once famously said, “Turn Lincoln’s Picture on the Wall.”  At the time, he was questioning African Americans blind loyalty to “ole Honest Abe Lincoln” and the Republican Party.  This was the beginning of African Americans shifting their support from the Republican Party, to supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt, The New Deal, and the Democratic Party.  During this time, the Republicans took the African American vote for granted, the same way the Democratic Party is taking the African American vote for granted today.
I am not promoting any candidate or suggesting that one party is superior to the other because the two political parties in control of our government are responsible for the mess America is in.  I personally feel more empowered and comfortable with myself as a No Party Affiliation voter.  I only want to be classified as an informed voter and I will conclude by saying; the left needs the right and the right needs the left.  Try not using your left hand for a month and see how effective your right hand will be.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on February 23, 2012 via Blogger.com