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In 1949 a poor, tall, gangly black sophomore kid in Oakland, California was cut from his junior varsity basketball team by the coach after just one tryout. After the cut, one of the coaches told him he should try for the varsity team when he was a junior. The coach then drove him to the local Boys & Girls Club, told him he wanted him to play basketball every day at the club, and then paid his membership fee. The tall kid played every day, and later he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. His name is William Felton Russell (Bill), who was a first-round draft pick in 1956, playing 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning 11 NBA championships during that period, was selected for the NBA first team three times, eight times for the second team, was a 12-time All-Star selection, was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 1966, and in 1996 was named one of the 50 greatest players to ever play the game. I watched those Celtics with Larry Bird every chance I could because they played the game as it should be played—a team game where you actually passed the ball to someone who could score instead of playing one-on-one. In a recent USA TODAY column, Russell wrote: “If it wasn’t for the kindness, support, and vision of George Fowles, I would not have played basketball. The truth is, in all walks of life, mentors transform lives. He took two dollars out of his pocket and paid for my membership—and told me: ‘I want you to play basketball every day.’ None of us made it on our own.”
In 1901 an illegitimate boy was born to a black prostitute in “The Battlefield,” the poorest section of New Orleans. At seven he was wheeling a barrow around the ghetto, selling coal. He left school when he was in fifth grade to work full-time. A Jewish family hired him to collect junk and deliver coal. Mrs. Karnofskys liked the boy and often invited him in for supper, usually his only good meal of the day. At nine the boy saw a trumpet for $5 in a pawnshop window and asked Mrs. Karnofskys for a loan. $5 was a lot of money in 1910 but she loaned it to him. When he was 11 he took his mother’s live-in’s pistol and shot it into the air. He was sentenced to three years in the Waif’s Home, a juvenile center for black kids. There he received some musical training for the trumpet. At 14 when he was released he sold newspapers, hauled coal, and played the blues in bars and clubs in the red-light district. At 17 he married and adopted a three-year old boy named Clarence. He took care of and supported Clarence all of his life. Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong later became the finest trumpet player in the world, playing jazz and popular music. Among his records are “Star Dust” and his trademark song “What a Wonderful World.” He had a very distinctive “scratchy” voice and always carried a white hanky.
How Do We Get From Dirt Poor To “What A Wonderful World?”
Both Russell and Armstrong represent those who got a break from another person, and with combining hard work, talent, and perseverance, clawed and crawled to the top of their chosen profession. We are presently in the middle of the 2016 election between two political parties that see the world through different lenses. Democrats drink gin and vodka while Republicans drink whiskey and bourbon. They even prefer different beers. A new study by Northwestern University researchers in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology points out further differences. Only people who considered themselves liberal or conservative were involved in the study. Independents were eliminated. According to the study, “liberals tend to value equality, fairness and protecting the vulnerable, while conservatives emphasize patriotism, group loyalty, respect for authority, and moral purity.” In problem solving and learning, “Conservatives tend to be more structured, rigid and prefer clear answers, whereas liberals have a higher tolerance of ambiguity and complexity, and greater openness.” There is some evidence in the study that liberals have qualities which make them more creative than conservatives: “Liberalism, novelty-seeking, and creativity all share the tendency (or the ability) to think in ways that differ from established lines of thought…Indeed, novelty-seeking is seen more often in liberals and may be related to genetic variations in neurotransmitter functions (OK, OK—the buzz between synapses!), which are important for creativity. Conservatism is inversely related to personality traits like openness and novelty-seeking, which may lead conservative-minded people to use more analytical (and less creative) problem-solving strategies.”
New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a defector from Campechuela, Cuba who makes $42,162 every time he goes to the plate, grew up in an area so poor that opposing catchers on their baseball teams shared catcher’s mitts and protective cups when they played. Man, that’s poor. But Cuban defectors seem to know a lot about real life. Cespedes says: “For all of us who have left illegally, our dream is to return and see the friends and relatives we left behind in the land where we were born and raised. You have a lot of things here that you wouldn’t have in Cuba, but it’s not the same when you can go out and spend time with your friends, people you grew up with. That’s what you miss the most.” Another Cuban baseball defector, Yasmany Tomas of the Arizona Diamondbacks, puts the difference bluntly: “In the USA you have everything, but in some ways you don’t have anything.” That’s reality living.
The Nixon Southern Strategy Of Hate Still Works For The Republican Party
The main objective of the Republican Party for the four years following the election of the half-white Barack Obama in 2008 was to concentrate on making him a one-term president in 2012. They worked like slaves under the whip of leader Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to make it so, never cooperating or even compromising with the man who saw no red or blue states, “just the United States.” The effort to defeat the mulatto and his black wife failed by five million votes in 2012, but the seeds for racial hate had been quickly planted, particularly in the heat of the South. After seven years in the Oval Office, Obama and his family still get an average of 30 death threats a day, four times as many as any other president. The Secret Service does not reveal all of the threats, but reports the number of threats is “overwhelming” and “unprecedented.”
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times in an April 2, 2016 column titled “When Whites Don’t Get It” outlines the reasons for the canyon between the white and black races and the inequities that separates them.
• The median income of black households still is only 8% of the median wealth of white households. Even for blacks “who have made it,” whose income is in the upper half of all American incomes, 60% of their children fall to the lower half in the next generation.
• Black men receive sentences about 20% longer than white men for similar crimes.
• Lead poisoning is twice as common
among black children as among white children.
• Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education American schools are still separate and unequal. The white student attends a school in at least the 60th percentile in test performance while the average black student is at a school at the 37th percentile. One reason: unjust school funding formulas and systems which direct the most funds to privileged students.
• Black babies are less likely to be breast-fed than white babies, are more likely to grow up with a single parent, and may be read to or spoken to or read to less by their parents.
• In a study of discrimination by using names, researchers sent thousands of resumes to employers with openings using stereotypical black and white names. White names increased callbacks by 50%. In the U.S. when whites and blacks go in person to rent or buy properties, blacks are always shown fewer options. When researchers offered iPods for sale online, they found that iPods held by a white hand received 21% more offers than phones held by a black hand.
• NBA referees are much more likely to call fouls on players of another race, and white baseball umpires call fewer strikes for black pitchers. Researchers also prove that we have unconscious biases about gender, disability, body size, and age. It’s called racism without racists.
After 2000 Years A Woman Finally Had Her Feet Washed In A Religious Ceremony By A Pope
The tradition of washing the feet started when Jesus washed the feet of his male Apostles at the Last Supper. Mary Magdelene, sometimes called the first female Apostle, never had her feet washed by anyone of religious note, even to remove dirt. The ritual of foot-washing is considered to be one of the most moving rites of the holiest week on the church’s calendar. With very little enthusiasm, the U.S. Conference of Bishops stated in 1987 that women could participate in the feet-washing ritual. It was not practiced in many churches. The rebel Pope Francis decreed in January of 2016 that priests could include women for the ritual. When Francis became pope, on his first Easter in 2013 he washed the feet of women and Muslims at a juvenile detention center in Rome. He has said he has no intention of putting women in the pulpit, but he certainly is making efforts to put women into the stream of church life. He threw Pope Benedict’s investigation of American nuns into the trash cans of religious history when they supposedly spent “too much time servicing the poor” instead of teaching strict doctrine about sex, abortion, and homosexuality. He has also made some nervous suggestions about the church’s stand on homosexuality, hinting that perhaps it is not “intrinsically evil and a mortal sin.” Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church is 2,000 years late on this ritual, too. With over 1,500 species of animals on earth scientifically labeled by Norwegian Lutherans to have homosexual partners, it’s way beyond time for the Vatican to drop the very medieval idea about Satan pushing homosexuality. More than 120 huge American corporations with only one interest--making money—have insisted that North Carolina repeal a law that limits bathroom options for transgender people and blocks all anti-discrimination laws. Pope Francis, the cardinals, bishops, and priests have to recognize that sex is complex and that they no longer have any credibility with a world that has finally overcome witchcraft, sorcery, amateur genetics, and burning at the stake about the subject. Mississippi, Indiana, and Georgia had better pay attention to the extraordinary shift in LBGTQ rights because of the science of genetics--or they will be left to wither on intolerant islands.
The Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists, with their marks of the beast, the “666” on the forehead, the stars falling from the sky, the rantings of the Antichrist, the beast with the seven heads, the constant threat of hell and damnation, and the marked being thrown into the lake of fire, have lost the same-sex marriage battle—and will also lose the bathroom kerfuffle over what is on your birth certificate. The Japanese no longer sacrifice women in rushing rivers to appease the wrath of river spirits who live in the currents. Egyptians no longer bury leaders in pyramids with servants sacrificed to make the afterlife pleasant for the elite. Aztecs no longer tear the hearts out of living, beautiful teenagers to satisfy the gods. Greeks no longer sacrifice their own daughters so Poseidon will blow favorable winds on stormy waters.
It’s time to think liberal.