Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

Social Justice, Intersections in Forms of Social Oppression, Bullying Prevention

“It’s Obama’s Fault,” In Rhyme

without comments

If one believes nay-saying conservatives:


It’s Obama’s fault for Palin’s son’s PTSD,

For hair loss, acne, and the sting of a bee.


It’s Obama’s fault for poverty, hunger, and disease,

When we are hot, and when we freeze.


It’s Obama’s fault for ISIS to rise,

And for all his oh too many lies.


It’s Obama’s fault for Syria’s homeless,

Because of him, that country’s a mess.


It’s Obama’s fault for Taliban terror,

Yes, it’s his fault and his fatal error.


It’s Obama’s fault for Middle East wars,

And for all our students’ failing scores.


It’s Obama’s fault Iran split the atom,

And for America’s slide to rock bottom.


It’s Obama’s fault for North Korean bombs,

And for all the terrorist alarms.


It’s Obama’s fault for Russia in Ukraine,

And for the rain on the plain in Spain.


It’s Obama’s fault for invaders on our shores,

These raping, conniving, trespassing hoards.


It’s Obama’s fault for increasing interest rates,

And for shifting economic tectonic plates.


It’s Obama’s fault for the burst housing bubble,

In fact he’s responsible for all our troubles.


It’s Obama’s fault when oil prices soar,

And his fault when crude hits the floor.


It’s Obama’s fault for deficits in world trade,

And because things are no longer American made.


It’s Obama’s fault for the war on Christmas,

And it’s his fault for all of the fracas.


It’s Obama’s fault for unsafe streets,

And for too few cops on the beat.


It’s Obama’s fault for cities going under,

And when thieves pillage and when they plunder.


It’s Obama’s fault when planes fall and cars crash,

When the Earth shakes and lightning bolts smash.


It’s Obama’s fault for heat waves and drought,

And when fires, cyclones, and floods do mount.


It’s Obama’s fault for bridges and roads failing,

And whenever we encounter any bad sailing.


It’s Obama’s fault for Flint’s water pollution,

While he’s been swimming in his delusion.


It’s Obama’s fault for contaminated air,

With his head in the clouds and his elitist flair.


It’s Obama’s fault when our sports teams rank last,

Now because our best days have long since past.


It’s Obama’s fault when there’s no solution,

The fault lies in his evil collusion.


It’s Obama’s fault for the state of the states,

And whenever anyone in America gains weight.


It’s Obama’s fault for terrorist plots,

And when any and all good food rots.


It’s Obama’s fault when lovers leave,

And anytime that we must grieve.


It’s Obama’s fault for melting Milk Duds,

And rocket launches that go thud.


It’s Obama’s fault for Hilary’s laugh and Joe’s gaffs,

For Bernie’s hair and Martin’s stare,

For Harry’s moods and Nancy’s attitudes,

For Debbie’s action and Chuck’s passion,

For Keith’s religion and John’s activism.


It’s Obama’s fault that Congress won’t work.

The reason being that Obama is a jerk.


It’s Obama’s fault for Obama care,

For anything and everything that’s not fair.


It’s Obama’s fault when stocks do fall,

In fact, it’s Obama’s fault that we have faults at all.


But I don’t believe what conservative cynics say,

Because Obama has made us safer, more productive, and better during his stay.


Thank you President Barack Obama!


Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 22nd, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

I Embrace Democratic Socialism

without comments

Even before the Cold War and the so-called “McCarthy Era” (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic Right have flung the term “Socialist” as an expletive from their metaphoric sling shots into the faces of their political opponents to discredit their characters and dismiss their political ideas and policies, and to sway the electorate toward a Conservative agenda. This continues to this very day as evidenced by opponents of Senator Bernie Sanders who has described himself as a “Democratic Socialist.”

As destructive and as freedom-killing as the Right would have us believe, according to the World English Dictionary, Socialism involves “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.

No country in the world today stands as a fully Socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of Capitalism with Socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.

I, therefore, would say to those who thrust the term “Socialist” as a curse word, if a Socialist is one who advocates for a governmental single-payer quality universal health care system, which includes safe and reasonably-priced prescription and over-the-counter drug therapies, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who demands that our country protects and enhances our Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid safety nets, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who advocates for the further nationalization of our parks, forests, mountains, rivers, streams, shores, and off-shore waters, rather than allocating increased corporate mining, drilling, and timber rights, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who advocates for free and quality education, not only through grade 12, but throughout higher education and after for everyone who desires and works to achieve their fullest potential, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who advocates for a government-sponsored program that guarantees our seniors a retirement system that ensures a high quality of life free from economic burdens, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who advocates for the rights of workers to organize and to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who battles to eliminate workplace and larger societal inequalities based on race, nationality, citizenship status, age, sex, sexual identity, gender expression, disability, socioeconomic standing, religion, and other social identities, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who works to ensure that everyone is guaranteed a comfortable and secure place to live, and one who fights against a banking system that forecloses people’s homes through scurrilous business practices, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who supports effective governmental regulations on food producers to safeguard our food supply and protect against the maltreatment of animals, and on corporations, companies, and individuals to defend our environment, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who supports severe restrictions on the political process to prevent mammoth contributions by individuals and corporations to buy and own politicians to influence public policy, while locking out individuals and groups unable to amass large political funds, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who challenges a military industrial complex that marches to the beat of industry, and a prison industrial complex that perpetuates the racial and socioeconomic class inequities pervasive throughout the society, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who contests and advocates for effective restrictions on the so-called “free market” economic system that enables the creation and enhancement of mega monopolies, outsourcing of jobs, manufacture of defective products, and inhibition in the development of clean renewable energy technologies, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a Socialist is one who demands a true progressive tax structure where everyone pays their fair share, one that inhibits massive inequities in the overwhelming accumulation of wealth by the top one percent of the nation as is currently the case, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

This year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development conducted its “Better Life Index” to determine the “happiest countries in the world,” according to its residents. Based on an 11-measure survey assessing quality of life, including housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction, most of the Scandinavian countries, plus Netherlands, Iceland, and Switzerland, and only one North American country, plus Australia, New Zealand, and Israel reached the top 10 ranked countries.

Included in descending order are number one, Denmark, followed by Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada (which provides a single-payer health care system unlike its North American neighbor, the United States), and Australia (which places severe restrictions on firearms ownership). I am saddened, but definitely not surprised, that the United States did not make the cut in the top 10. Therefore, we might do well to look to these countries for some of their Socialist policies that sustain high levels of quality of life issues for their residents.

I welcome and embrace the term, philosophy, and practice of Democratic Socialist as a declaration of empowerment, pride, and hope for a better social structure in a better tomorrow.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 21st, 2016 at 10:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Donald Thump Speaking at Liberty University

without comments

What follows is the transcript of a (fictitious) speech delivered by Donald Thump at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, January 19, 2016.

Hello. My name is Donald Thump.

Dear students, faculty, staff, and administrators of Liberty University, which was founded by one of my ultimate and most beloved mentors and heroes, the honorable moral Christian crusader, Jerry Falwell Sr.

Imagine a young child watching the communist-inspired children’s television program “Teletubbies.” You are introduced to the newest cast character, the subversive purpled-bodied, triangle-headed, Tinky Winkie. We as a country indeed owe a great debt of gratitude to your founding father, Jerry Falwell Sr. He was the first to unearth the plot by militant homosexuals to recruit our impressionable youth into their deviant gay lifestyle by using this purple pervert, who carried a bright red handbag, as a homosexual role model.

If Jerry Falwell Sr. had never been born, we might never have known what he reminded us about: that “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuality.”

Also, we never would have known the true words behind the acronym “NOW.” He was correct by alerting us that NOW, rather than standing for “National Organization for Women” as feminists purport, actually stands for “National Order of Witches.” He also exposed reality when he announced: “I listen to feminists and all these radical gals – most of them are failures. They’ve blown it….Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men – that’s their problem.”

And just imagine a world without Jerry Falwell Sr. It was Jerry who courageously uncovered the real criminals behind the historic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 inside our true-God-fearing country when he exposed the perpetrators as “…pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine such a world without Jerry Falwell Sr., this remarkable televangelist alerting us to THE truth.

Thank you Jerry for your wise words of wisdom, but enough about him. This convocation is about me.

I want to tell you all here and now in front of this packed audience — you who are all graciously mandated to be here in lieu of a $10.00 fine — I want to tell you that when I am elected President of the United States, you’re going to see “Merry Christmas” in department stores, and no more of this pansy politically correct “Happy Holidays” stuff. When I’m elected, I will declare victory against the war on Christmas that liberals and other creepy multiculturalists have been waging in our Christian nation.

I’m telling you here and now, Christianity is under siege, and we have to band together around Christianity in the United States. I am running for President because I want you to imagine a United States of America under my great and inspiring leadership. I am smart. I am rich. I am powerful, and I know how to get things done.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when the upper 10% of our population controls even more than the approximately 80-90% of the accumulated wealth and 85% of the stocks and bonds that they already control. And imagine when corporate executives, who currently pay lower tax rates than their secretaries, incur even lower taxes. And also imagine when I together with the Congress outlaw labor unions and eliminate a government-imposed hourly minimum wage.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I take back from the estimated 17 million people who now have health insurance for the first time in their lives under the Affordable Care Act, which I dub the “Euro-Socialist-inspired” Obama Care. When elected President, I will return us to the good-old days when 50 million people in our country went uninsured and their only form of health care was the hospital emergency room that the remainder of the population had to pay, a time during those bygone days when young adults could not remain on their parents’ health plans until age 26, when insurance companies could deny people coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and could drop people when they became sick, when women had to pay higher insurance premiums than men, when companies could make unjustified rate hikes whenever they wanted and limit peoples’ rights to appeal company decisions regarding their benefits. Now that’s real liberty. (enormous applause from audience)

As President, I also promise to rescind Comrade Obama’s stated policy of providing free junior college tuition to students. I guarantee never to increase governmental student assistance programs, which I hope will further restrict deserving students from middle and working class backgrounds. Also Imagine when I cut and eventually eliminate governmental entitlement programs, thereby drying up the support systems from the “takers,” including many of our elders, people with disabilities, and other residents struggling to provide life’s basics.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I enact an executive order and encourage our Congress to pass legislation to construct a fence well into the celestial heavens on our southern border payed for by Mexico, increase deportations and dump people in the middle of the oceans, and further restrict immigration and social and educational services to youth, and most importantly prevent Muslims from entering our Christian country. (loud audience from audience) Also imagine when I together with the Congress declare English as the “official” language of our entire nation, thereby eliminating bilingual education and providing all government documents be written in only good old American English. It’l be a uuuge victry!

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I re-criminalize women who attempt to control their bodies, and when doctors and others assist them in carrying out the choices they make.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I overturn those laws that spit in the face of God by allowing homosexuals to marry each other, and other laws granting them the benefits of living where they wish, eating in restaurants and purchasing things in stores they wish to patronize, visiting their so-called “partners” in hospitals and attending their funerals, inheriting their partners’ stuff after they die, and all the other benefits that should only be granted within the sacred bonds between one man and one woman. If you want to hear about how sacred I take the marriage vows, you can ask all three of my beautiful wives!

And imagine when we return to the days when men were men and women were ladies, because after my election, I will outlaw transgender transition procedures and mandate that everyone wear the clothing and behave as our God had intended.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I terminate all so-called “affirmative action programs” that get in the way of hard working righteous white people, for as we well know, as it currently stands, white people, especially white Christians, and heterosexuals are the real victims of our current Nanny State big government society.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I assist Congress in privatizing our national parks, and loosening environmental and consumer protections of all kinds. I will grant even more mining, oil, and lumber companies an enhanced right to exploit the land, and grant them more enormous tax breaks and subsidies. I promise to expose the lie that the liberals perpetuate daily in their claims of some sort of human-caused climate change and the warming of the Earth. As we all here know, God can only change our climate.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I downsize government by eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as many other agencies during my term of office.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when we divert money currently going into public education into school vouchers so parents can send their students to good Christian schools at tax payer expense. And imagine when we reintroduce prayer into the public schools, and when the current pretext of a supposed separation of religion (“Church”) and state is finally exposed as the lie it is.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I am given free rein to conduct invasions into sovereign nations to bring about American-style democratic reforms and restore civility. Look out Iran!

So, I ask you all here today, don’t merely imagine an America with more liberty and freedom through a peewee size government with severely reduced public services, an unlimited defense budget, enhanced state rights and the ability for states to secede anytime they wish, and a return to the true God. If you vote for me, that is exactly what you will get.

God bless you, God bless Jerry Falwell Sr. and Jr., and God bless the Christian Theocracy of America.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).


Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 19th, 2016 at 10:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Immigration as Official “Racial” Policy: A Tutorial for Nikki Haley

without comments

South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley criticized Donald Trump’s contentious immigration policies of restricting Mexicans and Muslims from entering the United States. In front of a group of reporters, however, Haley showed her extreme ignorance of U.S. history:

“When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally, we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion. Let’s not start that now.”

As the governor of a large Southern state, and a possible Vice Presidential pick by a number of current Republican candidates for the presidency, I have very serious doubts regarding her academic background to lead. Unfortunately, Trump’s perverse proposals fit “right” in with the racist immigration history of the United States. So in the service of education, I offer Nikki Haley the following tutorial focusing on issues of “race” in our immigration and naturalization policies.

“Race”Looking back on the historical emergence of the concept of “race,” critical race theorists remind us that this concept arose concurrently with the advent of European exploration as a justification for conquest and domination of the globe beginning in the 15th century of the Common Era (CE) and reaching its apex in the early 20th century CE.

Geneticists tell us that there is often more variability within a given so-called “race” than between “races,” and that there are no essential genetic markers linked specifically to “race.” They assert, therefore, that “race” is an historical, “scientific,” biological myth, an idea, and that any socially-conceived physical “racial” markers are fictional and are not concordant with what is beyond or below the surface of the body.

Though biologists and social scientists have proven unequivocally that the concept of “race” is socially constructed (produced, manufactured), however, this does not negate the very real consequences people face living in societies that maintain racist policies and practices on the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels.

Official Immigration and Naturalization Policies

The “American” colonies followed European perceptions of “race.” A 1705 Virginia statute, the “Act Concerning Servants and Slaves,” read:

“[N]o negroes, mulattos or Indians, Jew, Moor, Mahometan [Muslims], or other infidel, or such as are declared slaves by this act, shall, notwithstanding, purchase any christian (sic) white servant….”

In 1790, the newly constituted United States Congress passed the Naturalization Act, which excluded all nonwhites from citizenship, including Asians, enslaved Africans, and Native Americans, the later whom they defined in oxymoronic terms as “domestic foreigners,” even though they had inhabited this land for an estimated 35,000 years. The Congress did not grant Native Americans rights of citizenship until 1924 with the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act, though Asians continued to be denied naturalized citizenship status.

Congress passed the first law specifically restricting or excluding immigrants on the basis of “race” and nationality in 1882. In their attempts to eliminate entry of Chinese (and other Asian) workers who often competed for jobs with U.S. citizens, especially in the western United States, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to restrict their entry into the U.S. for a 10 year period, while denying citizenship to Chinese people already on these shores. The Act also made it illegal for Chinese people to marry white or black U.S.-Americans. The Immigration Act of 1917 further prohibited immigration from Asian countries, in the terms of the law, the “barred zone,” including parts of China, India, Siam, Burma, Asiatic Russia, the Polynesian Islands, and parts of Afghanistan.

The so-called “Gentleman’s Agreement” between the U.S. and the Emperor of Japan of 1907, in an attempt to reduce tensions between the two countries, passed expressly to decrease immigration of Japanese workers into the U.S.

Between 1880 and 1920, in the range of 30-40 million immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe migrated to the United States, more than doubling the population. Fearing a continued influx of immigrants, legislators in the United States Congress in 1924 enacted the Johnson-Reed [anti-] Immigration Act (“Origins Quota Act,” or “National Origins Act”) setting restrictive quotas of immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe, including those of the so-called “Hebrew race.” Jews continued to be, even in the United States during the 1920s, constructed as nonwhite. The law, on the other hand, permitted large allotments of immigrants from Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

This law, in addition to previous statutes (1882 against the Chinese, 1907 against the Japanese) halted further immigration from Asia, and excluded blacks of African descent from entering the United States. It is interesting to note that during this time, Jewish ethno-racial assignment was constructed as “Asian.” According to Sander Gilman: “Jews were called Asiatic and Mongoloid, as well as primitive, tribal, Oriental.” Immigration laws were changed in 1924 in response to the influx of these undesirable “Asiatic elements.”

In the Supreme Court case, Takao Ozawa vs. United States, a Japanese man, Takao Ozawa filed for citizenship under the Naturalization Act of 1906, which allowed white persons and persons of African descent or African nativity to achieve naturalization status. Asians, however, were classified as an “unassimilateable race” and, therefore, not entitled to U.S. citizenship. Ozawa attempted to have Japanese people classified as “white” since he claimed he had the requisite white skin. The Supreme Court, in 1922, however, denied his claim and, therefore, his U.S. citizenship.

In 1939, the United States Congress refused to pass the Wagner-Rogers Bill, which if enacted would have permitted entry to the United States of 20,000 children from Eastern Europe, many of whom were Jewish, over existing quotas. Laura Delano Houghteling, cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and wife of the U.S. Commissioner of Immigration sternly warned: “20,000 charming children would all too soon, grow into 20,000 ugly adults.”

Following U.S. entry into World War II at the end of 1942, reflecting the tenuous status of Japanese Americans, some born in the United States, military officials uprooted and transported approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans to Internment (Concentration) Camps within a number of interior states far from the shores. Not until Ronald Reagan’s administration did the U.S. officially apologize to Japanese Americans and to pay reparations amounting to $20,000 to each survivor as part of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act.

Finally, in 1952, the McCarran-Walters Act overturned the “racially” discriminatory quotas of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act. Framed as an amendment to the McCarran-Walters Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 removed “natural origins” as the basis of U.S. immigration legislation. The 1965 law increased immigration from Asian and Latin American countries and religious backgrounds, permitted 170,000 immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere (20,000 per each country), 120,000 from the Western Hemisphere, and accepted a total of 300,000 visas for entry into the country.

The 1965 Immigration Law, however, was certainly not the last we saw “race” used as a qualifying factor. The Arizona legislature passed and Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, which mandates that police officers stop and question people about their immigration status if they even suspect that they may be in this country illegally, and criminalizes undocumented workers who do not possess an “alien registration document.” Other provisions allow citizens to file suits against government agencies that do not enforce the law, and it criminalizes employers who knowingly transport or hire undocumented workers. The law is currently on hold as it travels through the judicial process challenging its constitutionality.

“Ruthless Americanization”

Immigrants who enter the United States I believe to this day are pressured to assimilate into a monocultural Anglo-centric culture (thinly disguised as “the melting pot”), and to give up their native cultural identities. Referring to the newcomers at the beginning of the 20th century CE, one New York City teacher remarked: “[They] must be made to realize that in forsaking the land of their birth, they were also forsaking the customs and traditions of that land….”

An “Americanist” (assimilationist) movement was in full force with the concept of the so-called “melting pot” in which everyone was expected to conform to an Anglo-centric cultural standard with an obliteration of other cultural identities. President Theodore Roosevelt (1907) was an outspoken proponent of this concept:

“If the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself (sic) to us he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else….But this [equality] is predicated on the man’s (sic) becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American….There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American but something else also, isn’t an American at all….We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we want to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.”

Many members of immigrant groups oppose assimilation and embrace the concept of pluralism: the philosophy whereby one adheres to a prevailing monocultural norm in public while recognizing, retaining, and celebrating one’s distinctive and unique cultural traditions and practices in the private realm. The term “Cultural Pluralism” was coined by Horace Kallen (1882-1974), a Jewish American of Polish and Latvian heritage who believed that ethnic groups have a “democratic right” to retain their cultures and to resist the “ruthless Americanization” being forced upon them by segments of the native white Anglo-Protestant population.

Social theorist Gunnar Myrdal traveled throughout the United States during the late 1940s examining U.S. society following World War II, and he discovered a grave contradiction or inconsistency, which he termed “an American dilemma.” He found a country founded on an overriding commitment to democracy, liberty, freedom, human dignity, and egalitarian values, coexisting alongside deep-seated patterns of racial discrimination, privileging white people, while subordinating peoples of color.

If we learn anything from our immigration legislative history, we can view the current debates as providing a great opportunity to pass comprehensive federal reform based not on “race,” nationality, ethnicity, religion, or other social identity categories, but rather, on humane principles of fairness, compassion, and equity.

Today, the United States stands as the most culturally and religiously diverse country in the world. This diversity poses great challenges and great opportunities. The way we meet these challenges will determine whether we remain on the abyss of our history or whether we can truly achieve our promise of becoming a shining beacon to the world.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).


Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 17th, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Virginia Legislator Proposes Hate-Inspired Toilet Monitoring Legislation

without comments

“[The American Psychiatric Association opposes] all public and private discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity and expression and urges the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies…. Therefore be it further resolved that APA calls upon psychologists in their professional roles to provide appropriate, nondiscriminatory treatment to transgender and gender variant individuals and encourages psychologists to take a leadership role in working against discrimination towards transgender and gender variant individuals…”

APA, resolution, “Transgender, Gender Identity, & Gender Expression Non-Discrimination,” 2008

Well, if some Virginia law makers have their way, the legislature will snub its collective nose at the American Psychiatric Association and most reputable professional human services and educational organizations. Recently, Republican Delegate Mark Cole of the Virginia House of Delegates proposed House Bill 663 that would require all people in public buildings, including schools, to use restrooms corresponding to their “correct anatomical sex.”

This bill, if passed, would have the effect of prohibiting transgender and intersex people from going into the restroom facility matching their gender identities. The bill defines “anatomical sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.” Referring to schools, the measure states:

“Local school boards shall develop and implement policies that require every school restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by a specific gender to solely be used by individuals whose anatomical sex matches such gender designation.” Violation carries a $50 penalty.

How would such a law be enforced? Civil rights advocate Tim Peacock argues:

“[A]dults would be required to inspect children’s genitals before they use the bathroom. This is what the conservative movement has devolved into: forcing children to allow adults to examine their genitals out of misplaced fear that transgender kids and adults might commit a hypothetical never-before-seen act of violence or sexual aggression (that would still be against the law with or without transgender protections).”

The current bifurcated restroom designation throughout our country contradicts the realities of peoples’ sexed bodies, gender identities, and gender expressions. Many intersex people define neither as “male” nor as “female.” Which restroom must they choose, or which are they allowed to choose?

The “sex” designation typed onto many trans* peoples’ official records assigned to them at birth simply do not accurately and integrally reflect their actual gender identities. They had no power or control at the time of their birth to list the category that most matched their actual gender identities, and many laws today make it extremely difficult and expensive to permit any changes.

Gender must be seen as a continuum rather than as constituting binary oppositions. Doctors assigned me “male” at birth, but I define myself more as gender-fluid. While I do not specifically identity as “trans*,” I never related to the “he, him, his” personal pronouns. I feel uneasy when anyone refers to me as “a guy” or as “a bachelor,” when men want to talk “man to man,” or tell people to “man up”! These terms are simply social artifice and hold no meaning for me.

Other states in addition to Florida have considered similar laws. In Texas, for example, a proposed bill, HR 2801, includes a provision that would offer students $2,000 for reporting and claiming “mental anguish” for having to share restroom facilities with students of another assigned sex.

These proposed laws will further marginalize and intimidate trans* and intersex people. But trans* and intersex people have exposed the truth regarding this fabrication we call “gender roles” as a social construction, one which our society ascribes to each of us as it assigns us a sex at birth. With the label “female” assigned at birth, society forces us to follow its “feminine script,” and with “male” assigned at birth, we are handed our “masculine” script to act out. As scripts are given to actors in a play, gender role scripts also were written long before any of us entered the stage of life. In fact, they have little connection with our natures, beliefs, interests, and values.

If we challenge the director by refusing to follow our lines, and when we tell the truth about this human lie about gender roles, the director (society) doles out harsh, often fatal punishments. Members of the trans* community often suffer the consequences of other truth tellers of the past. Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans* women of color.

Murderers of trans* people react in extreme and fanatical ways at the direction of the larger coercive societal battalions bent on destroying all signs of gender transgression in young and old alike in the maintenance of gender scripts. Most of us function as conscious or unconscious co-directors in this drama each time we enforce gender-role conformity onto others, and each time we relinquish our critical consciousness by failing to rewrite or destroy the scripts in ways that operate integrally for us. Those who bully in society and filtered into the schools often fulfill the social “function” of establishing and reinforcing the socially constructed scripts handed to them when they entered the performance.

With this in mind, each time we rewrite the scripts so as to give an honest and true performance of life, each time we work toward lifting the ban against our transcending the gender status quo by continually questioning and challenging standard conceptualization of gender roles, then will we begin as individuals and as a society to experience life to the fullest with our humanity and our integrity intact.

I am proud of and thankful to trans* and intersex people for courageously calling into question this social myth of gender roles, the boxes society places us into as it imposes upon us all our gender scripts. Trans* and intersex people have opened the boxes for all of us to ultimately obliterate the gender status quo of binary oppositions by demonstrating the visible ways, the options upon an enormous gender continuum, one that does not depend upon a sex assigned to us, a sex that is imposed and forced upon us by others. Trans* and intersex people have shown us the essential fluidity of gender.

Trans* and intersex visionaries, who are persecuted in their own time, will one day be perceived as the prophetic truth tellers they definitely are. Until that day, the harassment, the marginalization, the fear, the violence, the murders, and yes, the hate- and fear-inspired legislation must end. It is up to us all to work toward this on a daily basis.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 14th, 2016 at 10:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Village Seal & Sports’ Mascots Representing Racist History

without comments

Residents of the upstate New York village of Whitesboro voted whether to keep or to change its official seal depicting what appears to be a white man strangling an Indian man in manual combat, though town officials claim the seal represents Hugh White – the person after whom the village was named — in a friendly wrestling match.

“There’s been this nationwide controversy [over the logo],” said Whitesboro Village Clerk Dana Nimey-Olney, “[and] it was time to put it to the residents.”

Whitesboro comprises a village within Whitestown, New York, named after the European Hugh White who claimed the land in 1784. According to 2013 census data, 94.3% of the village’s 3,735 residents were “white alone,” with just five Native American residents, or 0.1%.

While I find the seal repugnant and offensive at best, I also see it as more historically honest and representative of European colonialism and treatment of First Nations people than the seals and mascots of amateur and professional sports teams promoted as “honoring” or “respecting” Native Americans.

Controversy is swirling around a long-overdue public debate whether to change the name of the Washington Redskins football franchise. At the center of this maelstrom, team owner Daniel Snyder continues to hold firm by announcing he has no intention of changing the name, referring to it as a “tradition” and as a “badge of honor.” In fact, on the wall of the organization’s Ashburn, Virginia, offices hangs a commemorative plaque given to the team’s former coach, George Allen announcing:

“Washington Redskins is more than a name we have called our football team for over eight decades. It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.”

I believe this so-called “honoring,” taking “pride” in, and “respecting” Native Americans by the cultural descendants of those who engaged in land theft, forced evacuations, scapegoating, and slaughter strikes me as hypocrisy at best, and more like justification for further colonization and misappropriation of cultural symbols, in addition to racist stereotyping.

Joel Spring refers to this “cultural genocide” defined as “the attempt to destroy other cultures” through forced acquiescence and assimilation to majority rule and standards. This cultural genocide works through the process of “deculturalization,” which Spring describes as “the educational process of destroying a people’s culture and replacing it with a new culture.”

An example of “cultural genocide” and “deculturalization” can be seen in the case of Christian European American domination over Native American Indians, whom European Americans viewed as “uncivilized,” “godless heathens,” “barbarians,” and “devil worshipers.” White Christian European Americans deculturalized indigenous peoples through many means: confiscation of land, forced relocation, undermining of their languages, cultures, and identities, forced conversion to Christianity, and the establishment of Christian day schools and off-reservation boarding schools far away from their people.

The first off-reservation Indian boarding school was established in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1879 and run primarily by white Christian teachers, administered by Richard Pratt, a former cavalry commander in the Indian Territories. At the school, Indian children were stripped of their culture: the males’ hair was cut short, they were forced to wear Western-style clothing, they were prohibited from conversing in their native languages and English was compulsory, all their cultural and spiritual symbols were destroyed, and Christianity was imposed.

As Pratt related to a Baptist audience: “[We must immerse] Indians in our civilization, and when we get them under, [hold] them there until they are thoroughly soaked.”

Between 1879 and 1905, 25 Indian boarding schools operated throughout the United States. “Civilizing” Indians became a euphemism for Christian conversion. Christian missionaries throughout the United States worked vigorously to convert Indians.

A mid-19th century missionary wrote: “As tribes and nationals the Indians must perish and live only as men, [and should] fall in with Christian civilization that is destined to cover the earth.”

Throughout the Alaska territory, Christian missionaries, including Presbyterians, Catholics, Moravians, vied to win converts. Simultaneously, the United States government issued laws barring Alaskan Indian ceremonies regarded as “pagan” and contrary to the spread of Christianity.

The expansion of the republic and movement west was, in part, justified by an overriding philosophical underpinnings since the American Revolution. Called “Manifest Destiny,” it was based on the belief that God intended the United States to extend its holdings and its power across the wide continent of North America over the native Indian tribes from the east coast to the west. The doctrine of “manifest destiny” embraced a belief in American Anglo-Saxon superiority.

“This continent,” a congressman declared, “was intended by Providence as a vast theatre on which to work out the grand experiment of Republican government, under the auspices of the Anglo-Saxon race.”

During the early years of the new republic, with its increasing population and desire for land, political leaders, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, advocated that Indian lands should be obtained through treaties and purchase. President Jefferson in 1803 wrote a letter to then Tennessee political leader, Andrew Jackson, advising him to convince Indians to sell their “useless” forests to the U.S. government and become farmers. Jefferson and other government leaders overlooked the fact that this style of individualized farming was contrary to Indian communitarian spiritual/cultural traditions.

Later, however, when he inhabited the White House, Jackson argued that white settlers [a pleasant term for “land thieves”] had a “right” to confiscate Indian land. Though he proposed a combination of treaties and an exchange or trade of land, he maintained that white people had a right to claim any Indian lands that were not under cultivation. Essentially, Jackson recognized as the only legitimate claims for Indian lands those on which they grew crops or made other “improvements.”

The Indian Removal Act of May 28, 1830 authorized President Jackson to confiscate Indian land east of the Mississippi River, “relocate” its former inhabitants, and exchange their former land with territory west of the River. The infamous “Trail of Tears” during Jackson’s presidency attests to the forced evacuation and redeployment of entire Indian nations in which many died of cholera, exposure to the elements, contaminated food, and other environmental hazards.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 excluded Native American Indians from citizenship, considering them, paradoxically, as “domestic foreigners.” They were not accorded rights of citizenship until 1924 when Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, though Asians continued to be denied naturalized citizenship status.

In addition, though Jackson founded the Democratic Party and brought greater popular control to government, as a farmer, his wealth increased enormously through his enslavement of Africans, and he gave the lash to any who attempted escape.

And the beat goes on, since the majority of residents in the village seal controversy in Whitesboro, New York voted January 11, 2016 to remain as intransigent as Washington Red Skins team owner Daniel Snyder by retaining their racist symbols.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 11th, 2016 at 11:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Iran, Assassinations, and Hypocrisy

without comments

Iran joined with many other nations around the world, including the United States, in officially protesting Saudi Arabia’s decision to execute cleric Nimr Al-Nimr for working to ensure equal civil and human rights for Saudi Arabia’s Shiite Muslim minority. Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” warned Saudi Arabia that it would suffer “divine retribution” for killing Al-Nimr. Along with Al-Nimr, Saudi Arabia executed 46 others, including three other dissident Shiite clerics.

The executions have heightened centuries-old tensions between Iran, a majority Shiite Muslim nation, and its arch rival, the Sunni Muslim majority nation of Saudi Arabia.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei argued on his website that al-Nimr “neither invited people to take up arms nor hatched covert plots. The only thing he did was public criticism.” Iran’s influential Revolutionary Guard condemned Saudi Arabia’s “medieval act of savagery,” and prophesied that this would result in the “downfall” of that country’s monarchy.

While the Iranians rightly condemned Saudi Arabia, I find it quite ironic when they represent the murders as a “medieval act of savagery.” It’s as if the Saudi’s, in executing Shiite clerics, held up a mirror to the Iranians in which they saw reflected back their own long-standing and brutal civil and human rights atrocities.

Let us not forget that since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, which replaced the Shah with an orthodox Shiite theocracy, many segments of the population have experienced repression under Iranian Sharia law — of the many segments, in particular, include Iran’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* (LGBT) inhabitants.

Since 1979, some human rights activists estimated between 4000 – 6000 LGBT people have been executed in Iran. Same-sex sexuality between consenting partners in private is defined as a crime. Iranian law condemns men involved in sexual penetrative acts (sodomy or lavat) with the possibility of death, and so-called non-penetrative acts with flogging. After the fourth non-penetrative “offense,” the penalty is death.

Women convicted of engaging in same-sex sexuality (mosahegheh) may be made to undergo flogging with 50 lashes. And also, following the fourth conviction, they too are eligible for the death penalty (Articles 127, 129, 130).

Examples are many. Two gay Iranian teenagers, 18 and 17-years-old, were hung in the streets of Iran on July 19, 2005, in Edalat (ironically called “Justice Square”) in Mashbad, Iran. Reports of the widespread repression of homosexuals in Iran have been verified by Human Rights Watch and the Iranian Student News Agency.

Following the Islamic Revolution, trans* identity and expression were also classified as crimes. However, the government reclassified these in 1986 as “heterosexual” if the person undergoes gender confirmation (formerly known as “sex reassignment”) surgery. Today, Iran stands as the country performing the most gender confirmation surgeries in the world, second only to Thailand. Iranian trans* people, however, still suffer frequent harassment and persecution.

Repressive regimes around the world currently and throughout history have scapegoated, oppressed, and murdered LGBT people. The time has long since passed that we speak out against repression in all of its forms. I am not naïve enough, however, to believe that we will soon witness general human and civil rights legislated and enacted in the authoritarian theocracy of Iran anytime soon.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 6th, 2016 at 9:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama Doing What He Can, Congress Must Run with Baton

without comments

I want to thank President Obama for his commitment and his passion in his long-standing attempts to reduce firearms violence and death in the United States. After lobbying Congress throughout his presidency to pass common sense gun regulations, and finding consistent confrontation, inaction, and intransigence on the part of legislators, Mr. Obama announced that he will issue Executive Orders to expand background checks for certain buyers of firearms.

The Orders mandate individuals “in the business of selling firearms” to register as licensed gun dealers. This will close the so-called “gun show loophole” that has previously exempted gun hobbyists and collectors from maintaining official sales records. In addition, the Orders will increase funding for enforcement by hiring 200 new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents and investigators, and $4 million to track illegal online firearms trafficking.

The President is, however, realistic that the initiatives will not by themselves solve the epidemic plaguing our nation. Speaking at a press conference on January 5, 2016, he conceded:

“We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”

For this reason, he continued to challenge national legislators: “But we also can’t wait,” Obama added. “Until we have the Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives.”

The reaction from Republican leaders was swift and predictable. House Speaker Paul Ryan expected that the president’s Executive Order “will no doubt be challenged in the courts” and “can be overturned by a Republican President.”

Most current Republican presidential candidates came out shooting through their mouths. For example, Chris Christie called Obama a “petulant child,” and continued: “This president wants to act as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator. [If the courts don’t overturn his actions], I’m sure that ultimately the next president will make sure that he abdicates those extra constitutional actions.”

According to Donald Trump: “I will veto, I will unsign that so fast. So fast.”

Ted Cruz called Obama’s initiatives an “abuse” of executive power, and he vowed to repeal them when he is president. Rubio also said he would repeal the orders if elected to the presidency.

Carly Fiorina seemed to enter the stratosphere in her reply: “It is delusional, dangerous, not to mention unconstitutional for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to continue to talk about climate change and gun control in the wake of a Paris terrorist attack, a San Bernardino terrorist attack, instead of talking about a plan to defeat [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria].”

Jeb exclamation mark Bush said: “I will fight as hard as I can against any effort by this president, or by any liberal that wants to take away people’s rights that are embedded in the Bill of Rights, embedded in our Constitution.”

Well, to those who talk about the Constitution and firearms rights, I would remind them of a number of issues, the first being that Mr. Obama, being a Constitutional scholar, understands full well the legal implications of his actions.

It never fails to amaze me, though, how some people spout the second clause of the Second Amendment, which reads: “…the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” while forgetting or discounting a key term in the first clause, “well regulated.”

No right granted in our founding documents — neither in the Declaration of Independence nor in our Constitution — and no matter how groundbreaking and progressive are these documents, they do not grant unfettered or limitless rights. Take for example one of the rights addressed in the First Amendment: the “freedom of speech.”

Since its inclusion into the Constitution, legislators and the courts have defined the parameters of this right.

The Supreme Court, for example, has ruled certain speech unconstitutional when it is “directed to inciting or producing…imminent lawless action” and is “likely to incite or produce such action.” The Court also ruled on the limits of perpetrating false statements when it defames an individual or individuals. We also have limits on what the courts define as obscenity, specifically that which lacks “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value”: the so-called Three Pronged Miller (Miller v. California) Test. The Courts have also placed severe restrictions (New York v. Ferber) on the production, distribution, and purchase of material deemed as “child pornography,” even though some people have argued that this material should be protected under the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause.

The Supreme Court ruled in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire as unconstitutional the use of “fighting words,” which it defined as speech that “tend[s] to incite an immediate breach of the peace” by provoking a fight, so long as it is a “personally abusive [word] which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, is, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction.”

The Courts have also made it illegal to use other people words and present them as one’s own. In Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises the Supreme Court has further validated copyright and trademark laws protecting individuals and companies of their “intellectual property.” In addition, the Courts have ruled against companies for “false advertising” of their products.

Executive Orders

To date, Mr. Obama has issued 227 Executive Orders, or an average of 33 per each of his years in office. By comparison, George W. Bush issued 291 Orders (36 per year), Ronald Reagan issued 381 (48 per year), and Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an enormous 484 (81 per year). Though they received some push back, where were the large-scale cries criticizing King George, King Ronnie, and King Ike? Where were the loud and bombastic calls for judicial actions to reverse these orders? Where were the accusations of unconstitutionality and abuse of executive powers in the release of their Executive Orders?

President Obama, in releasing his Executive Orders on firearms, provides a meager and restrained response to the explosive perennial problem of gun-related violence consuming our communities. The President, however, is acting within the tight constraints of our Constitution to do what he can before he leaves office next year to deal with what he has decreed as the most vexing problem of his presidency. Congress must now take the next step in passing common sense legislation.

As we all know, however, in the current political climate, the chances for comprehensive common sense gun safety in the United States is only a pipe dream as long as the National Rifle Association controls Congress and state legislatures in the service of firearms manufacturers, for if they did not, we would have seen effective laws passed years ago resulting in countless lives saved.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 5th, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“English Only” Laws Divide and Demean

without comments

I had the pleasure of visiting my cousin in Antwerp, Belgium. One sunny day as we walked the promenade in that beautiful city, Charles, a fluent speaker of seven languages, posed a riddle to me: He asked, “What is it called when someone can speak three languages?” “Trilingual?” I guessed. “Okay,” he said. “Now what is it called when someone can speak two languages?” I quipped, “Bilingual!” He said, “Yes. Now what is it called when someone can speak one language? “Monolingual?,” I replied tentatively. “No,” he laughed. “It’s called American!”

His riddle, though intended partly in jest, shot to the very heart concerning our national linguistic perceptions and policies. While people from virtually all nations reside in this country and contribute to our collective identity and economy, a seemingly linguistic isolationist code has taken hold of our national consciousness. Though French kisses our northern and Spanish our southern territorial perimeters, a long-standing egocentric and arrogant English-as-the-only-“official”-language crusade has infused our landscape.

President Theodore Roosevelt clearly and firmly articulated this ethos in 1907:

“We have room for but one language in this country, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.”

More recently, in March 2012, Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum asserted that as a condition for U.S. statehood, Puerto Rico, a Spanish-speaking territory, must require English as its primary language.

Though some advocates prefer the term “Official English,” the English-only campaign surfaced as a movement around 1981 to push for a constitutional amendment banning all languages other than English in government proceedings and printed materials emanating from federal, state, and local governments. Realizing how difficult and tiresome is the process of ratifying a constitutional amendment, proponents changed tactics by lobbying Congress for a “Language of Government” law mandating official English in the federal government, though such legislation has never passed both houses by a simple majority. Since that time, movement activists have succeeded in passing laws mandating English as the “official” language in approximately 31 states, including my former home state of Iowa in 2002.

The Iowa law decrees English only in the printing of all government documents and forms, except for driver’s education materials, trade and tourism documents, and documents discussing the rights of victims of crimes, criminal defendants, and constitutional issues. Backers of the law argue that it not only saves tax payers the expense of printing materials in multiple languages, but that sharing a single and common language aids overall communications and brings people together into a unified patriotic community.

I argue that making English the official language in the United States or any state is about as necessary as establishing popcorn as the official snack at movie theaters. People will eat popcorn whether or not we codify it as “official,” just as native-born residents and immigrants to our shores understand the necessity of establishing an individual functional command of English as a prime requisite for success and advancement.

The “English Only” movement has the effect, however, of marginalizing and demeaning non-native English speakers, decreases the likelihood of creating and maintaining multilingual programs, and gives us all the false and discriminatory impression that languages beside English are unimportant to learn, even though most other countries on the planet promote multilingualism.

My friend, a man of Mexican descent who grew up in San Antonio, Texas, told me how the English-only mandate in his elementary school negatively and unalterably impacted his self-esteem. Though fluent in English, one afternoon during recess period while playing basketball on the school yard, he alerted his friend and teammate in Spanish to get ready to catch the ball. Upon hearing this, a playground monitor ran up to him, grabbed him tightly by his left ear, and dragged him to the principal’s office where he was forced to attend “Spanish detention.” The overt and covert messages of this incident became crystal clear: your language and your culture are not welcome here!

A few years ago, I created an online petition directed to the Iowa House of Representative, State Senate, and Governor Branstad to abolish our state’s “English-only” law because I believed it falls under the definition of “Linguicism”: prejudice and discrimination based on language. The petition struck a chord with a significant list of co-signers. According to one:

“As a bilingual person, this law sickens me and demonstrates the ignorance of some Americans. Bilingualism and the use of languages other than English only promote our richness as a nation, our heritage, and ultimately help to protect our national security. No true patriot could support or tolerate this hateful law.”

Rather than resisting the concept of multilingualism and multiculturalism viewing it as a challenge to our country’s unity and very existence, we need to embrace our rich diversity. According to the National Association for Multicultural Education:

“Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity as acknowledged in various documents, such as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, constitutions of South Africa and the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. It affirms our need to prepare students for their responsibilities in an interdependent world.”

Without a strong emphasis on multilingualism and multiculturalism in our schools and larger society, we will continue down the shameful historical path laid by those who have gone before us in the United States, which Joel Spring refer to as “cultural genocide” defined as “the attempt to destroy other cultures” through forced acquiescence and assimilation to majority rule and standards. This cultural genocide works through the process of “deculturalization,” which Spring describes as “the educational process of destroying a people’s culture and replacing it with a new culture.”

The Jewish immigrant and sociologist of Polish and Latvian heritage, Horace Kallen (1915), coined the term “cultural pluralism” to challenge the image of the so-called “melting pot,” which he considered inherently undemocratic. Kallen envisioned a United States in the image of a great symphony orchestra, not sounding in unison (the “melting pot” with its monolingualism), but rather, one in which all the disparate languages and cultures play in harmony and retain their unique and distinctive tones and timbres.

Today, the United States stands as one of the most culturally, ethnically, racially, linguistically, and religiously diverse countries in the world. This diversity poses great challenges and great opportunities. The way we meet these challenges will determine whether we remain on the abyss of our history or whether we can truly achieve our promise of becoming a shining beacon to the world.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 28th, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“Meritocracy” as Propaganda Lie and False Assumption

without comments

This is America. We don’t redistribute wealth. You earn it!

I witnessed this bumper sticker, decked out in bright red, white, and blue lettering, attached to the post holding my neighbors’ mailbox this week as I walked my dogs during unseasonably high temperatures. For my neighbors to display this placard proudly in their front yard, they would have to hold a number of assumptions not merely related to this country’s economic and social systems, but possibly even more essentially, about its very character.

Assumption: Unregulated “Free Market” Economics

During this highly-charged electoral political season, all the major presidential candidates, for example, raise issues and provide their solutions to the economic problems that plague us. On the Republican side, back in 2012, Mitt Romney ignited the discourse of “redistribution” of wealth when he argued:

“I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this: if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy – more free stuff.”

This year, Jeb (exclamation mark) Bush and Marco Rubio resurrected and amplified Romney’s warning of a Democratic Party’s liberal “give away” of “free stuff.” The Republican Party includes the phrase “personal responsibility” four times in its national platform to justify its philosophy of small government and laissez faire “free market” non-governmentally regulated economics, which relies on the notion of “survival of the fittest.” They consider as “free stuff” and justify their opposition to, for example, the Affordable Care Law and any manner of a governmentally-sponsored health care system, tuition-rate reduction and free tuition for deserving students to public colleges and universities, retirement benefits, and most of the social “safety nets” to assist people.

Assumption: U.S. as “Exceptional” and as “Meritocracy”

Recently, former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani questioned President Obama’s love of country. Guiliani believes that the United States is “the most exceptional country in the world,” but he “never felt that [coming] from [Obama]” even though the President announced the country’s exceptionality in front of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2013.

From the time of our birth and throughout our lives, society feeds and continually refeeds us the Pablum of meritocracy until it becomes an essential element of our nervous systems. The story goes something like this: For those of us living in the United States, it matters not from which station of life we came. It matters not about our backgrounds and social or personal identities. We each have been born into a system that guarantees equal and equitable access to opportunities. Success is ours through hard work, study, ambition, and by deferring gratification to later in our lives. We will succeed if we “keep our nose stuck to the grindstone” (ouch!) and “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” (without falling over on our heads).

This concept of “meritocracy” is founded on “personal responsibility,” and those who do not achieve success must accept personal responsibility for their failures. Maybe they did not try hard enough. Maybe they failed to scale any barriers that could have been placed in their way because they did not have sufficient will and self-control, fortitude, intelligence, character, or because they simply made bad choices. While of course, we are all accountable and liable for our actions, what impact do the systemic conditions of our nation have to do with personal success?

Realities Not Assumed by My Neighbor

While economic disparities plague all nations across the planet, nowhere are these disparities more extreme than in the United States. No other problem affects the security and the very survival of our nation and other nations across our ever-shrinking planet more than the income and resource gap between the super-rich and everyone else.

Though the “meritocracy with personal responsibility” narrative stands as the foundation on which this country was constructed, many of us see it for the fabrication of loose sand that it is. This ruling class tool, this form of hegemony serves the purpose of mitigating challenges to the inherent and inevitable inequities in “free market” Capitalism, and, therefore, not only perpetuates, but expands the ever-increasing gulf within the socioeconomic class structure.

In the United States, the top one percent of the population has accumulated an estimated 34.6 percent of the wealth, the next 9 percent an estimated 38.5 percent, and the remaining 90 percent of the nation a combined accumulation of only 26.9 percent.

In 2012, 46.5 million people (15.0 percent) in the United States lived below the poverty line, with 16.1 million (21.8 percent) children under the age of 18. Approximately 49.0 million lived in food insecure households (available food depleted before the end of the month), including 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children.

The compensation of corporate CEOs has risen an astounding 725% between 1978 and 2011 while the average workers’ salaries have increased a mere 5.7% over the same period. Today’s official national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour equals $3.00 less accounting for inflation compared to the minimum wage in 1968.

The top financial rewards went to only 400 people increasing their income between 1992 and 2007 by 392% while their average tax rate fell by 37%. These same 400 people accumulated more wealth than the lower 50% of the U.S. population combined.

A few individual families own 20, or 30, or 40, or more fast food franchises while paying their workers less than a living wage, as 26% of fast food employees are parents raising children, and 68% are the major wage earners for their families, and many of our people go hungry as Congress fights to eliminate the food stamp and school lunch safety nets. In reality, a McDonald’s employee must work the equivalent of 930 years to match the salary that the CEO makes in a single year.

Some families have the privilege of purchasing two, or three, or four, or five, or even six homes that they occasionally visit depending on their current mood like the rest of us choose which pair of underwear to don for the day, and many of our people, including youth, go homeless.

Yes, we do see a redistribution of wealth in the United States, but certainly not in the ways my neighbors assume. Workers create goods and services through labor detached and alienated from their personal lives and personal interests, thereby amassing inordinate wealth for the owners and the landlords.

Few actually “succeed” when millions of people have been shut out of the economy. Few actually “succeed” when people do not have the money to spend on the goods and services in the stores owned and managed by the rich. Few actually “succeed” when the upper 10 percent own approximately 73 percent of the nation’s wealth, and only 85 of the wealthiest individuals own the equivalent of the lowest 3.5 billion (with a “B”) people in the world. If this continues unabated, nationwide and worldwide economic disaster and political upheaval will inevitably ensue.

I find that the Republicans are brilliant in convincing primarily white working class people to vote for the very Republican candidates who, when elected to office, will work collectively against their economic and political interests. Brilliant indeed, but that’s what happens when demagogues use fear and intimidation through the politics of “race” to divide and conquer people who reside in an anti-intellectualist country.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 26th, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized