A Country Divided By Money And Colors

Ed Raymond

As an old wood butcher I have discovered splinters sometimes run in the wrong direction. There’s an old Irish greeting that can bring reality to life itself: “As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction.”  Sometimes it’s too late to stop sliding. In the richest country in the world one would think all banisters might be smooth, slippery, and splinter-proof. Minimum-wage cafeteria worker Stacy Koltiska of the Canon McMillan School District outside of Pittsburgh encountered splinters because of a new policy on school hot lunch payments. To cut down on outstanding lunch debts the district decided that if a student owed more than $25 for lunches they would not receive a hot lunch. K-6 students would get a cheese sandwich instead while 7-12 students would get nothing. As a teacher and elementary and high school principal, I have 30 years experience in supervising school lunchrooms, so I qualify as an expert in parental and student reactions to school lunches and policies. The big question is: What happens to the psyche of a first-grader who gets the cold cheese sandwich while his friends in the chow line get hot chicken, potatoes and gravy, veggies, milk, and an apple?
Stacey Koltiska noticed how humiliating this policy could be when she gave one piece of cheese on two slices of untoasted bread to a first-grader and said: “I will never forget the look on his face and then his eyes welled up with tears.” She later wrote the same thing in a Facebook post that has had 4,000 hits. She also pointed out that the school ends up throwing out lots of excess food every day. Unable to take the emotional splinters of watching young students receive cheese sandwiches instead of hot lunches, she resigned. She would be just the right kind of person to have in an elementary school cafeteria. Other countries have figured out how to feed all students, the rich and the poor, without discrimination and forcing kids to slide down a splintered banister. My relatives the French serve five-course meals to all students at noon, teaching them at the same time to like all kinds of vegetables as much as dessert. Great for the diet. Very few French kids are obese. Why can’t we do that? Don’t we have the money?

The Killing Continues

In the month following San Francisco 49’er quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, 15 black people have been killed in encounters with police. Police have killed more than 780 people so far in 2016. At least 193 have been black. Polls of the general population indicate that Kaepernick is now the most hated player in the NFL. He has received dozens of death threats. Some say he is insulting the country and the flag by kneeling during the song. Retired Army General Martin Dempsey thinks we should all keep standing during the anthem—and then go back to arguing about making black lives matter. Sorry, general, that’s not how protests work. You have to hit stupid mules, bigots, and politicians between the eyes to get their attention. Kaepernick’s method of protest is spreading across the country in professional, college, and high school sports. Entire high school football teams are now lying down during the anthem protesting “blue on black” killing. High schools in Louisiana, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are leading the way.
Even black members of the military are protesting the treatment of blacks even if they are violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice by not saluting the flag as it passes. Janaye Evrin, a Navy veteran of eight years and an intelligence specialist on active duty, refuses to stand during the anthem. Her reasons: “While in uniform I made the conscious decision to not stand for the Star Spangled Banner because I feel like a hypocrite singing about ‘land of the free’ when I know that only applies to some Americans. I will gladly stand again when ALL AMERICANS are afforded the same freedom. I have pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to spread freedom and democracy around the world. I will never waiver from the pledge.”  It will be interesting to see what the military does to her. I hope attitudes in court martials have changed. As a Marine Corps officer in the 1950’s I was a member of court martial boards on occasion. Then the attitude was: “Bring the guilty bastard in, give him a fair trial, then hang him.” I hope in her case things have changed.

Of Jim Crow Days And
“White” And “Colored” Signs

Some people thought that the election of a mulatto president named Barack Hussein Obama in 2008 might help to end bigotry and racism in this country. After living in Virginia and North Carolina during Jim Crow days and while stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, I knew it wouldn’t. It would just be exposed more. Actually a dozen black American Marines fought in the Revolutionary War in 1776-77, but from 1798 to 1942 the Marine Corps followed the racially discriminatory policy of the government because slavery started in earnest. In 1942 because of World War II the Marine Corps recruited blacks for segregated all-black units, but unified training did not occur until 1949 and full integration did not happen until 1960.
When I went on active duty in 1954 after four years in the Marine Reserve and OCS, I commanded a heavy machinegun platoon that was about one-third black. All of my four non-commissioned officers were black sergeants who had won combat awards fighting for Americans in the Korean War. Jacksonville was the closest town to Camp Lejeune. It was fully segregated with “White” and “Colored” signs all over the place. When my multi-medaled Marines went into town they had to walk in the streets because whites walked the sidewalks. Walking on a sidewalk for blacks could have been a “lynching” sentence. Welcome to the real world of Jim Crowism, racism, and Southern hospitality.
Corky and I lived on New Topsail Island, a small restricted barrier island off the NC coast. I told my platoon I would throw a beach party if they won the division shooting contest. They won it. After the party started the phone started to ring. Were those blacks in the water and on the beach working for us? What were they doing there? Some of the Marines had invited girl friends to the party and some brought wives. Soon the landlord was at the door wondering what was going on. I explained the situation to him. His response: “They may work for us but we don’t socialize with them!” It would have gotten interesting if he had tried to evict us. This is why I think it will take generations and scientific breakthroughs about genetics and race to eliminate racism from the minds of racists and bigots.

We Used To Have A Reign
Of Terror By Lynching-Now
We Have A Reign Of Terror
By Shooting

I see Hall of Fame footballer “Iron Mike” Ditka agrees with The Donald that Kaepernick “should find another country that works better for him.” Kaepernick had already told Trump: “It’s a very ignorant statement that if you want justice and liberty and freedom for all, then you should leave the country.” Ditka of Chicago Bears fame, a great tight end and coach, agreed with the ignorant one: “If they don’t like the country, if they don’t like our flag, get the hell out….My choice is that I like this country. I respect our flag, and I don’t see the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on.”
Did Mike play too many games without a good helmet? Is his vision poor? Doesn’t he read, listen, or see the hot news of the night?  He didn’t see the unarmed black Walter Scott shot in the back and then watch a cop plant a gun near his body? He didn’t read about black teenager Trayvon Martin murdered by a white vigilante looking for blacks in a Florida gated community? He didn’t see in his own Chicago the murder of unarmed black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white Chicago cop who fired 16 rounds into his body in the middle of a street? Iron Mike didn’t see black elementary school lunchroom supervisor Philandro Castile of Minneapolis shot to death in the front seat of his car as his girl friend and her six-year-old daughter watched the blood fly? How about all the other unarmed blacks shot by both black and white cops in dozens of cities like Ferguson across the country? Where the hell were you, Mike? At Trump rallies?
We had terror by lynching for more than a half century when almost 4,000 black men—and women—were lynched, some in Minnesota and North Dakota, often before thousands of whites in a cheering crowd. Iron Mike, reports are you were a good student in school. Did you ever take a history course about the United States? You didn’t know about any of these atrocities? Now we have terror by shooting and it must be stopped. Like Kaepernick says: “America has never been great for people of color. And that’s something that needs to be addressed. Let’s make America great—for the first time.”

Even The United Nations
Says We Have Racial

A UN working group (The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent), after spending months in the US, reported: “Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they may create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching in the 19th and 20th Centuries.” The group called for financial reparations. A black person is twice as likely to be killed by police than a white or Hispanic. We know from watching videos, cellphone cameras, and police cameras that blacks shot by police are often left unattended for many minutes after being wounded. They are often left to die. Think of blacks Terence Crutcher, Keith Scott, and Tyre King –and a dozen others. The results of the UN study by the working group: “Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crises and must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another, continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today.”
Chris Lebron is a black professor of African American Studies at Yale University who has managed to avoid most of the tribulations of a person raised in American ghettos, but because of his skin color believes he is at special risk in this country. He expresses this feeling in a very thought-provoking article in the New York Times. He outlines the fact that a person’s ability to plan his life is “a fundamental element of membership in a free society.” He says a person needs three basic features to succeed in a society: “First, to plan for a life one must be able to see an open path to basic resources necessary to make good on a plan, such as education, housing and health care. Second, one must be able to rely on some degree of balance between the effort expended on realizing that life plan and the rewards received for that work. Finally, one must be able to depend on the absence of arbitrary interference or oppression, by either fellow citizens or the state.” Lebron then describes the lives of many who have been killed by the police while often going about the business of living. He claims that blacks are not permitted by the state and the society to pursue the three basic features to the fullest he has outlined in the three basic features listed above. He is right. Ebron’s banister of life is still filled with splinters running in the wrong direction.