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    Monday
    Jun132016

    It's Time to Recognize Extreme Bias is a Mental Illness

    Last night's massacre is about to be examined for the next news cycle from all sides: gun lobbyists, the LGBT community, and those who want a ban on Muslims entering the US.  Its shameful however that the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association issued no position statements on this horrific act by a person who is almost certainly mentally ill.  While acknowledging support for the victims is standard course for any professional organization, the events of the last few years that highlight the degree to which bigotry can motivate an individual to horrific actions---killing African Americans in bible study in Charleston, killing fellow employees at a staff holiday party in San Bernardino, and killing gays in Orlando.
    The condolences and the statements of support are not enough.  A clear statement that points to the fundamental danger of extreme racism would clarify for policy makers that extreme racism is as dangerous to the health of an individual as is depression, psychosis, or addiction.
    The two largest organizations representing mental health professions may want to listen to one of their most noted member.  In 1999 Harvard professor and psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint wrote in the New York Times "Like all others who experience delusions, extreme racists do not think rationally. Instead, they create fantastical theories about who is responsible for their problems."  More recently he wrote about the Charleston shooting,   "Racist attitudes that interfere with an individual’s ability to work with people from a particular group should not in itself be considered mental illness. However, if that person believes he has to kill black people, such ideation must be examined as an expression of a mental disorder. Acting out extermination fantasies is readily classifiable as a delusional and a psychotic disorder. To continue perceiving extreme racism as normative and not pathologic is to lend it legitimacy."

    While its not enough to label a problem, it does create a different set of reactions.  Poussaint raises a vital part of the debate on extreme prejudice and bias.  Both Associations have a responsibility to engage the full extent of their resources in addressing one of the nation's greatest challenges with conviction.  Extreme bias is extreme delusion. 

     

    Sunday
    Nov292015

    Taking Down a Known Gunman vs Men of Color

    This weeks "shooting of the hour" (doesn't it seem like that now?) at the Planned Parenthood offices in Colorado will be portrayed as a reminder of conditions that elevate the chances anyone of us will be killed because of a cause we may or may not care to understand or at the hands of a lunatic with a gun. Given the assailant's remarks at the time of his arrest--its clear Robert  Lewis Dear believed the rhetoric about Planned Parenthood that gets spewed by politicians determined not to speak the facts.  The fact is just 3% of their services are abortion related. Ninety-seven percent of Planned Parenthood's services are basic health care services for families. 
    But this story a bigger opportunity and major network news outlets need to do more than cover the shootings. 
    I have yet to hear mainstream media ask this question:  How did this assailant get captured without a scratch?  How did this killer escape without being hit by a single bullet? What kind of coordinated law enforcement was used here versus in the streets of Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Minneapolis or Baltimore?  What do the best police officers do to handle such a terrifying situation and bring it to an end without adding to the carnage?
    The #BlackLivesMatter movement has made the case in the past that white assailants or suspects in similar situations are not killed. So let's find a few brave police officers who can cross the "blue wall of silence"---(which by the way can someone tell us how this is different than the assailed "no snitching" practice among gangs)-- to speak openly on what makes it possible to take a suspect down-alive? How should the cases of the past six months been handled? Is a traffic violations, shoplifting, jay-walking or being stoned or defiant a new justification for the use of force?  And, is that just for Blacks or Latinos? 
    ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN---we need to have a town hall and include police officers, police chiefs, district attorneys and community members to address the facts:
    Let's use an hour (or two) to hold the conversation on the new standards in policing--our communities are long over due for answers on what's placing our young men at risk. 

     

     

    Sunday
    Jun282015

    An Open Letter to Commercial Sponsors of Ann Coulter, Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh 

    The privilege of living in the US is that each of us has the freedom to speak our minds.  Some use this freedom of speech to promote unity, equity, and other ideals that are the hallmark of the nation’s ideals.  The recent publication of Adios America by Ann Coulter and the opinions expressed on Mexico and Mexicans by Donald Trump illustrate how freedom of speech can be used to undermine our most cherished beliefs in a pluralistic society.  For the past 30 years, Rush Limbaugh has used his media businesses to further the cause of bigots, homophobes, and to reinforce stereotypes and bias.  One consequence of all three of these individuals’ activities is that they have amassed enormous money endorsing products, speaking at events, creating businesses and much more.

    The words of Coulter, Trump, and Limbaugh have other consequences.   

    Their words impact the quality of life for millions of hard working people of color, immigrants, LGBT families, and women.  Their ideas about the immigrants who continue to build this nation day by day make it harder for them to find work, for their children to walk with pride, and for some to be denied basic human rights.   Their ability to use the media to fuel bigotry can even inspire terrorists to take the lives of innocent people.

    The commercial sponsorships of Coulter, Trump and Limbaugh should be seen by any corporation as a liability for which every Board member and senior executive must address as a matter of governance and risk management.  It is only a matter of time that someone somehow will find a way to form a class action suit that links the activities of these individuals to very clear financial and emotional harm amassed among a class of people who continue to be maligned by Coulter, Trump and Lumbaugh.  We live in the era of big data and it would be interesting to link their actions to hate crimes across the country.  

    The nation’s most watched media outlet—Univision-- has demonstrated the leadership necessary for corporate social responsibility of the highest order:  furthering the ideal of pluralism.  Univision has pulled out of Trump’s commercial ventures.   This should serve as an example to all corporations to review sponsorships with any individual who promotes bias, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry. 

    None of these individuals would be in the position to promote their ideas were it not for the money to do so.  And yet, if your company continues to pay for commercials on their websites or sponsors their media appearance, you are furthering the opportunity of people who profit from hate and injustice.  This ability to fund spokespeople for divisiveness will not continue without some consequence.  

    The list of supporters for Coulter, Limbaugh, and Trump are all available in different postings across the internet. You know you are.  People will learn what you support.  The time is now to take note of how companies have had to step up on their moral compass and do the right thing.  The diversity of your customers, investors and other stakeholders requires that you act—if you cannot be motivated by a moral compass, you should be clear about your bottom line.  

    Saturday
    Dec062014

    Social Media Activism vs The Real World

    The irony of this post does not escape me.  This is a rant on all the writing that is taking place in all the usual places--Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit--in addition to all the traditional media outlets.  Approximately 22% of the US population accesses social media several times during the day. A tweet here, an update there--what does that amount to?  An hour a day or two? In addition to all that, let's not forget the time spent among all the researchers and scholars publishing articles and white papers at universities, think tanks, and institutes.   It's part of the job of academics to dedicate a great deal of time to "publish or perish".  What's that amount to? Another 3 - 5 hours a day? 

    Here's my question: Are we writing about anything new or are we participating in what Professor Cornell West recently called Media Instruments of Mass Distraction?
    I thought about his statement quite a bit when I recently discussed planning a professional event and heard colleagues talk about how tough it is to get people to attend events or volunteer.  It's a shame. All the time being spent on our lap tops tweeting and blogging or chronicling what 's wrong with the world instead of connecting with others to meet the needs of our community.  It doesn't take much to find out that many cities are in need of more big brothers or big sisters for at-risk youth, volunteers to check on elderly shut-ins, or tutors for kids struggling in school.
     
    For all this activism from the comfort of our laptops sitting on the sofa or at Starbucks, I'm not sure we'll see as much change as we want unless time gets put to do the hard work that requires showing up at your local nonprofit, school, church or synagogue.  Our cyber life is not a substitute for the real thing. Transformational change that is at the heart of all social movements goes beyond the blog post, the white paper, or the tweet.  Okay, I'm stepping away from the key board now. No really! 

     

    Wednesday
    Nov052014

    The Pendulum Swings!

    Anyone who identifies with being liberal, progressive, or democrat is looking at last nights elections with a deep sense of doom.  The Republicans own the House and Senate. The last two years of President Obama's term will not just be lame--they will be downright paralizing.  Even if he uses his executive orders to keep moving forward on immigration and protecting healthcare reform, I'm not expecting a lot of progress forward on the issues that continue to undermine the potential of our nation. 

    My take is that the lack of unity among Republicans themselves will become all the more apparent and their lack of relevance with the growing Latino and Asian communities across the country will undermine what ever momentum they want to create for the 2016 elections. Even though they elected the first African American female senator in Utah and even if they have a few outspoken Latinos--the communities of color have a healthy dose of skepticism about the degree to which inclusion runs deep in the heart of the GOP.  

    What this means is that by the time 2016 rolls on, another set of disappointments will set off another swing of the pendulum and people will find themselves reacting to a different set of circumstances that call for change.  I can only imagine that Hilary sees this as a great opportunity!