July 30th, 2005


racism is alive and well

It seemed like a no brainer to me. A young, pregnant mother is missing and ought to get some serious coverage and some kind of reward fund, right?

Oh, but she's black.

Well, I guess she doesn't matter to some people then, judging from the lack of interest by the media until a blogger shamed them into giving her some coverage, and judging from my comments box as well as the racist comments on All Spin Zone, the blog who brought her national attention. Do you know her name yet? Why isn't it a household word? Because we only care about people who look, talk, and act just like us? (Classism and looksism play their role too.)

As you watch the news, take note of what stories get covered and what color the faces are in the various news segments, positive and negative. Apparently only good things happen in white suburbs and only bad things happen in inner city neighborhoods.

I had a friend who worked in the newspapers locally who was aware of how much bad news was not reported for fear it would drive away tourists or drive down property values. Once part of our beach boardwalk was cordoned off after some type of chemical cloud drifted over the area and people reacted with respiratory symptoms. Experts were brought in to do testing, etc., but no mention was made on the nightly news and no one outside the area knew it happened other than friends and relatives of residents. This is just one small example. Anyone with a scanner can tell you about the many crimes that don't make it into your local paper.

We are all too willing to just believe what the media feeds us, but we forget that American media, supposedly so free, is held hostage to profit and local or national interests rather than informing the American public of the real news. It is also increasingly tied to profit, and knows that sensationalism and flash sells better than serious, thoughtful, in depth coverage. We share in the blame for that, rewarding media for such coverage by watching.

If, as I do, you would like to see more coverage of minority issues and reports of positive achievements of the minorities in your community, speak up! If you would also like your local media to remember that not all of the people who watch the news are middle class, speak up! Until they know their target audience of white middle class people are unhappy, they are unlikely to act. The price of that privilege is responsibility to look out for others in your community. And yes, growing up in a family of college educated people who can help you go to college is a privilege. As the first person in my family to get a 4 year degree, I can tell you that it would have been so much easier if my family were in a position to help me do so and had done it before me.

While you are writing to your local or national media, ask them why they cover celebrities and other sensationalized stories obsessively at the cost of deeper investigations into the pressing issues of our time? Let them know that while you tune into the news, that is not what you are looking for, lest they assume ratings means that we want OJ/Michael Jackson/Tom and Katie-type news.

We have this notion that only black people or other minorities are affected by racism. I believe that racism robs us all and makes us poorer in spirit. If we marginalize whole segments of our society and discourage them from believing in themselves and following their dreams, we lose the George Washington Carvers and Martin Luther Kings of their generation, we create a breeding ground for drugs and crimes born of despair and desperation or the desire to just get by somehow. We rob ourselves of the positive relationships we could have had with these members of our society and the bonds of friendship that could have transcended the relatively trivial difference in skin color.

I am thankful that my early experience with my uncle Clyde Thomas, who is black, brought me into contact with the black community in my home town and enabled me to see the value and strength, love and humor that existed there. I was able to have several good friendships in my life with members of that community that enriched my perspective and my spirit. My Uncle Clyde took the time to be a father figure to me, in the absence of my own father who lived in the same town but did not participate in my life.

It is the misfortune of America that so many of us are unable to see men like Uncle Clyde as the good and valuable men they are.


(collecting money for a reward fund for LaToyia Figueroa)

a helmet can save your life

Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm supposed to wear a helmet. But it makes me hot and sweaty, messes up my hair, is a hassle to wear or carry around once I park my bike...the list of excuses goes on.

The other day a helmet saved the life of a Livejournal member who was hit by a car and apparently hit the windshield.

Years ago my son chose not to wear a helmet and almost didn't survive. He lives today with a number of disabilities both physical and cognitive. He will never drive a car, for example, walks with a leg brace and pronounced limp, and can't use his left arm.

For the convenience of not wearing a helmet that would mess up his hair and wasn't needed "because I'm a really good rider" and "it's early in the morning with hardly any cars" he ended up having three brain surgeries and living with a helmet on 24/7 for over a year while part of his skull had been removed. He had a soft helmet for laying in bed and a hard-shelled helmet (for hockey players) to wear as he tried to learn to walk again. He was just 13 years old. Head injury has changed the course of his whole life. He is very lucky to be alive, doctors really couldn't tell me he would survive in the early days after his accident. It was a coin toss, and we won, somehow.

It's funny how we think about odds. If the odds are against us for something like the lottery, we think "Well, somebody has to win, it might be me." We'll plunk down our money, be it 1, 5, 20, or 100 dollars and hope we'll beat the odds.

When it comes to something like head injury, we don't even know the odds, we just think, well, it's not very likely it will be me. I'm safe. I'm a good bike rider. I ride defensively. Besides, I don't want to mess up my hair. (They'll shave it off if you're hit...)

The odds vary a bit year to year, but your odds of getting a head injury are better than your odds of winning the lottery, if you ride a bike without a helmet.

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If you are going to make a choice not to wear a helmet, make it an informed choice. Read up on head injury and know exactly what you are risking, what your family would go through, what it costs (got a couple million dollars handy?) and how it will feel. Meet some people who live with the effects every day. Then decide if the convenience of not wearing a helmet is worth the risk.

In the lottery of head injury, somebody has to win. It might be you!