Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

Can you handle an honest conversation about race?

Posted May 4th, 2014 by Tom

Clippers_SterlingVisiting our son’s family in Maryland, including our new, 1-month-old grandson, I sat down on Sunday morning with the Washington Post. In it I read Jonathan Capehart’s opinion piece, “That honest conversation about race everyone wants? We can’t handle it.” It’s one of the best commentaries I’ve read in a while about the difficulty navigating “race talk.” Here are a couple of teaser quotes to encourage you to read the article:

“God bless Donald Sterling. The octogenarian owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was caught on tape doing the one thing we all need to do. He talked openly and honestly with a trusted friend about race.”

and

“In politics, there is even less room for frank discussions of prejudice or for even talking about race, especially on the GOP side of the aisle.”

I work for the organization Coming to the Table. We provide leadership, resources and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery. My friend Sharon Morgan and I wrote about “living” the Coming to the Table model together over a 3-year period in our book Gather at the Table.

Coming to the Table has members and supporters throughout the United States. It isn’t always easy or pretty, but we are engaged in an honest conversation about race. Our mission is to inspire more people to do the same. Learn more here. Join our Facebook group here.

(photo from U-T San Diego, (c) Associated Press)

The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years on

Posted November 22nd, 2013 by Tom

cronkite_w_bio1Fifty years ago I sat in my 4th grade classroom at San Jose Elementary School when Mr. Monteith, the 5th grade teacher from the room across the grassy space between our buildings was suddenly banging on the window of our room and shouting something unintelligible before turning and rushing back to his own classroom. His antics were amusing, we thought. When he returned a few minutes later and burst through the door into our classroom to announce the President had been shot, we were stunned to silence. We marched single-file to his room because his had a television and ours did not. We watched as Walter Cronkite soon removed his glasses, choked back what seemed to be tears, and announced that the President was dead.

The world as I knew it felt like it was spinning away, changing into something different that made no sense. Read the rest of this entry »

Irony snags Texas A.G. in Voter I.D. snafu

Posted November 6th, 2013 by Tom

TexasAG

 

Wouldn’t it be an ironic twist of fate if racist, right wing efforts at voter suppression end up backfiring by preventing conservative white voters from voting?

From the “things don’t always go as planned” department…

I got a chuckle when I read (here) about Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott having trouble voting due to the very Voter I.D. law he supported!

Abbott, a Republican, “was among the most vocal proponents of the state’s new voter ID law, which requires all voters to present valid identification at the polls.

“But when Abbott showed up to vote, there was a problem: although he is registered to vote as Greg Abbott, his driver’s license identifies him as Gregory Wayne Abbott. Thus, under the law he staunchly defended, he would be unable to vote.

Thankfully for Abbott and others in similar cases, he was still able to cast his ballot thanks to a provision added by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. According to Davis’ amendment, voters whose names are similar on their voter registration and ID card may still vote if they sign an affidavit confirming their true identity.”

Voter I.D. laws are about suppressing the vote, not about preventing fraud. Such laws are a thinly veiled tool being employed to disenfranchise voters who tend to be poor and people of color; people who tend to not vote for Republicans. Read more here and here.

After reading about Abbott’s experience at the voting booth, a distant cousin of mine, Christy DeWolf, wrote on Facebook, “I’m thinking too…. this law is going to prevent his Tea Party supporters from voting. I don’t really see Tea Party types signing government affidavits to exercise their constitutional rights to vote.” Interesting… I wonder how many anti-government, ultra-conservative, tea-party-supporting white people will rebel against providing the types of I.D. being required by the government in order to vote?

Ah, irony, your sense of humor is indeed twisted!

Prof. Howard Zinn vs. Gov. Mitch Daniels = Victory for Zinn (and Truth)

Posted August 21st, 2013 by Tom

Zinn_DanielsI take a healthy dose of satisfaction when privileged people in power are stifled in their wrong-headed attempts to exert control in clearly damaging ways.

Case in point: When Mitch Daniels was still governor of Indiana he attempted to influence the removal of books and courses from high schools and colleges that he considered too liberal. According to the Associated Press:

“Daniels requested that historian and anti-war activist Howard Zinn’s writings be banned from classrooms and asked for a “cleanup” of college courses. In another exchange, the Republican talks about cutting funding for a program run by a local university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.”

Within a series of emails the AP acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, on February 9, 2010 Daniels wrote of Zinn and his work:

“This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away. The obits and commentaries mentioned that his book ‘A People’s History of the United States’ is ‘the textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Read the rest of this entry »

Sending love to Congressman Steve Cohen

Posted February 15th, 2013 by Tom

Steve CohenI’ve been impressed with Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) ever since he caught my attention when he introduced legislation for the United States of America to apologize for its involvement in, and support for, slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed. The bill passed in 2008. Though it does not heal the traumatic wounds and does not repair the damage, it was a start. Both the House and Senate apologized for America’s complicity in slavery and Jim Crow. This movement, limited in its impact as it was, was led by Rep. Cohen.

Today came the news that the 63-year old congressman had tweeted a message to a 24-year old Texas woman, a so-called “bikini model“, during President Obama’s State of the Union Address, including the acronym “ilu” standing for “i love you”. The Tennessee Republican Party‘s executive director quickly issued a news release comparing Cohen to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned n 2011 after tweeting lewd pictures of himself.

Turns out that the woman in question, Victoria Brink, is Cohen’s daughter. He learned of his paternity three years ago. It looks to me like he’s done everything right since he found out, including respect for his daughter, respecting the privacy of her mother and the man who raised her; the man she’s always known as her father.

Well done, Rep. Cohen. Shame on you, Tennessee Republican’s who were so quick to jump to the absolutely wrong conclusion.

“About time we get a first lady… that looks like a first lady”

Posted August 30th, 2012 by Tom

Racism in politics is nothing new. But over the past half century it has been pushed more and more into the closet, so to speak. Now, with a black man in the white house, racism is on full display. Sure, a lot of racist statements are still couched in coded language that allows the speaker to deny being in any way racist. But more and more often we see blatant racism peeking out from behind that closet door.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney flew to Indianapolis to speak at an American Legion convention. NPR interviewed Bobbie Lucier from Manassas, Virginia regarding the upcoming election. Approximately one minute into this recording, you can hear her say,

I don’t like him. Can’t stand to look at him. I don’t like his wife. She’s far from the first lady. It’s about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady and looks like a first lady.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Return of Jimmy Crow

Posted August 19th, 2012 by Tom

I’ve posted several items to my Facebook page regarding the new voter I.D. laws sprouting up all over the nation. I do my best to not be blatantly partisan in what I write; which includes a great deal about racism, discrimination, prejudice, and oppression. Lord knows that people of all political persuasions have been guilty of saying and doing racist, discriminatory, prejudicial, oppressive, and downright stupid things (are you listening, Joe Biden?).

Disclaimer: I have voted for Republicans from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. I have voted for Democrats from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama.

Over the past year or so, I have been amazed and disgusted by the tactics being employed by Republicans to restrict voter turnout that disproportionately impacts people of color, the elderly, the young, and the poor; people more likely to vote for Democrats.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Immeasurable Distance Between Us

Posted July 5th, 2012 by Tom

Gloria Steinem once said, “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” She is certainly correct.

I’ve researched my books, traveled my country and overseas, and pondered the United States as a beacon of hope and freedom in the world. How does this image jive with our history of annihilating indigenous people and enslaving African people? In more recent times, how does this image jive with our last President invading another country under false pretenses and our current President having a “secret kill list”? I am certain that drone attacks, which have killed many civilians in addition to their intended targets, create more enemies than they destroy; that they help foster sympathy for, and increase membership in, terrorist organizations. It seems to me that the most effective way to stop terrorism is to stop causing harm in other countries.

I want to believe that my country always stands for freedom and justice, but it too often hasn’t and doesn’t. So the 4th of July is problematic for me. When I responded to a request from my publisher’s blog to write about what I would be celebrating on the 4th, my answer was not the same as it was 12 years ago.

The truth has pissed me off. It has saddened me. It has strengthened my resolve to write more, speak out more, and try to make a positive difference in a violent world.

You can read what I wrote, as well as what my writing partner in Gather at the Table, Sharon Morgan, wrote in July 4th and “The Immeasurable Distance Between Us”.

I Confess: The Obama “birther” controversy is all my fault…

Posted May 31st, 2012 by Tom

I remember the first time I walked into my literary agent’s office in New York City on March 2, 2007. The lobby was quite small. The walls were lined with book-filled shelves. A small table sat between two chairs in the corner where one particular book caught my eye. Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama, sat right there staring up at me.

I asked my agent about it. She told me that, sure enough, they represented Obama for his first book. And they represented me for my first book. Hmm, I thinks to myself, Obama was a big name in the news right then. He had just announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for President a few weeks earlier. Though the agency did not represent either President Obama or me for our second books, he and I will forever be tied together by that small literary thread (no matter that he won’t return my calls about offering up an endorsement quote for Gather at the Table, I still consider that bit of serendipity a positive sign for my future as an author).

Unless, of course, I got tangled up in this “birther” mess. I paid close attention when I read about the recent kerfuffle “The Donald” has once again “Trumped” up regarding Obama’s birth certificate. Doesn’t he have something better to do with his time? Somebody should fire that guy.

Well… I hate to admit it. I really hate to admit it. But it turns out Trump may be right after all. And when the media machine understands the full scope of this conspiracy, yours truly may finally merit my own secret FBI file. So I’ve decided to do what no one else seems willing to do: I confess.

I’m ready to face the consequences; to Meet the Press, if you will, to appear on all the big news shows from Rachel Maddow to Bill O’Reilly, from Good Morning America to The Daily Show. I’m willing to face the news icon I fear most: Stephen Colbert. I’m even prepared to do a joint press conference with President Obama in which we admit our joint complicity in a conspiracy to dupe America.

Here’s what happened. A promotional booklet produced by Obama’s and my literary agency included the statement that he was “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

Yes, this is absolutely, undeniably, in point of actual fact, true. This is the smoking gun the “birther” conspirators have been looking for. President Obama’s and my former literary agency, and by extension, he and I, must now take full responsibility.

The conservative website Breitbart.com did the responsible thing and published a copy of the booklet. Trump turned up the volume on his “crazy” machine… er, sorry… I mean… Trump also did what any red-blooded American patriot would do and beat this dead horse just a few more times. And the news media, of course, is all over it.

I now humbly await that dreaded knock on the door from the FBI and/or the 60 Minutes news crew.

But wait! What is this? According to ABC News, Miriam Goderich, now a partner with Dystel & Goderich (in 1991 she was the agency assistant for Acton & Dystel – same agency, one changed partner) fact-checked the booklet. Aha! Gotcha! And what does Ms. Goderich have to say about the conspiracy of the century; the crime that will surely bring down the Obama Administration?

She says it was simply an error. “There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. I hope you can communicate to your readers that this was a simple mistake and nothing more.”

A simple mistake? They missed one? Sort of the way that Mitt Romney’s folks missed one when he clinched the GOP nomination for President of “Amercia” yesterday? (I just ordered my “Dog Bless Amercia” bumper sticker… sorry, couldn’t resist). Well, folks, it appears the “birther” conspiracy is once again unraveling.

Oh, dang. You mean I won’t get caught up in this dastardly web after all? No FBI secret file? No Fox or MSNBC knocking down my door? Can I at least have a “Beer Summit” with the President and Trump to sort things out? Colbert? Can I at least get on The Colbert Report? No?

Well then, allow me to hop up and down indignantly on my high horse and bellow!

This whole issue is absurd!  It’s always been absurd! Worse yet, it’s racist! It’s the worst sort of political mud-slinging! The fact that right-wing conspiracy nuts keep harping on this got old a few years ago! The fact that news outlets continue to cover it is further proof of just how low they’ll stoop just to have an attention-getting headline! Shame on them all! Shame!!!

And the fact that an author who hardly anyone has heard of would try to connect himself to the whole conspiracy theory AND the President of the United States by the most tenuous of threads just to try to get more attention in advance of the publication of his next book?

Well, that’s just brilliant…

National Endowment for the Arts cuts PBS funding

Posted April 26th, 2012 by Tom

It was announced today that the federal National Endowment for the Arts has made sweeping funding cuts to established PBS shows. More details are available here.

I can’t measure the the impact of this, or fully wrap my head around it. This will take time (and more information) to assess the impact, but I’m initially struck by two points in particular here. First, I’m sorry to see such a big cut to POV, the program that sponsored Traces of the Trade on PBS.

Second, Alyce Myatt, a friend of mine who is the endowment’s media arts director, said that while public television and radio remain “the leads, we also know we have a generation — not of kids but adults — who are consuming content online and on mobile.” This is definitely true for me and many people I know.

It is fascinating to read that the endowment made “78 grants, up from 64 in 2011, totaling $3.55 million, down from $4 million last year. Eligible applications more than doubled to 329, Ms. Myatt said.”

“There are limited resources, so the resources are parsed out as best as can be. This is not anything against any particular program, any particular network or anything.”

Technological advances continue to change the world in profound ways. The impacts will be felt by all of us, including to programs near and dear to our hearts.

I look forward to hearing, and learning, more.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry