Archive for June, 2015

imageThe U.S. experienced two extreme discussions regarding racism. The week began with Rachel Dolezal and her belief in being black and ending with nine (9) shot dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The entire discussion of race seems so narrow. In reality, people with ancestors from Northern Europe or Japan tend to have lighter skin than people whose ancestors are from sub-Saharan Africa or Australia. The reason for these differences may have to do with the amount of sunlight in each place and how much melanin you have. The versions of the skin color genes tell your body how much melanin to make. All of this means that the difference between dark and light skin is only a few changes in DNA!

Yet with all these changes, the world uses skin color as the basis for discrimination, hatred and genocide.

Dolezal, who admittedly overstated and embellishing her childhood and ethnic identity, has been the dart board of the internet and television. From Buzzfeed reports to NBC’s Matt Lauer querying her upon whether she was a ‘con artist’ and or ‘Blackface.’ Others attacked her credentials, her family, her life and her accomplishments as if everything of one’s life could be claimed null and void.

Then came Dylann Roof, a bigoted man whose use of racial terrorism was violently displayed. Roof’s actions were designed to strike terror and fear. Yet, what ultimately occurred was a lesson of courage and grace. One relative claimed:

Everyone’s plea for your (Dylann Roof) soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win.

So who’s crime was worse? Dolezal or Roof?

What Dolezal critics missed is that by comparison to Roof, Dolezal claimed to have felt a spiritual, visceral, this feeling of central connection with black, embracing its beauty and wanting to celebrate that experience.

Her critics also negated her love and work.

They really don’t know what I’ve actually walked through and how hard it is. This has not been something that just is a casual, you know come-and-go sort of identity you know, or an identity crisis. It’s something that I’ve paid away.”

And through all the media and web mud slinging, has any journalist reported of her accomplishments?

“I don’t think anything that I have done with regard to the movement, my work, my life, my identity, I mean, it’s all been very thoughtful and careful, sometimes decisions have been made for survival reasons or to protect people that I love,” Dolezal said.

Many have struggled with questions of how to forgive those who carry out those horrendous acts. In a time of such deep grief, how do you forgive the unforgivable? Forgiveness is a spiritual practice. As such, forgiveness has been taught by Jesus, the Buddha, and many other spiritual teachers.

Practice forgiveness for our own sake, to be unlocked from anger, fear, and resentment. Doing otherwise gives those who wronged you an even greater victory than their original act. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church family members and vistims embraced forgiveness in a beautiful act of selflessness, something that can attempt to stop the seemingly endless cycle of hatred.

Ethel Lance’s daughter said:

“You (Roof) took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And [may God] have mercy on your soul.”

Myra Thompson’s relative, Anthony Thompson, told Roof:

“I forgive you and my family forgives you,” he said.

Forgiveness is poignantly illustrated in a well-known Tibetan Buddhist story about two monks who encounter each other some years after prison release where they were tortured.

Have you forgiven them?” asked the first.

I will never forgive them! Never!” replied the second.

Well, I guess they still have you in prison, don’t they?

In the spirit of forgiveness, it’s time to forgive Dolezal. Let her continue the mission of rights equality.

imageThe Daily Show skewered Casebolt’s use of force at Texas pool party. Add to that Officer’s Casebolt resignation as well as dual McKinney protests: one seeking a pound of flesh with another offering support. Civil rights leaders in McKinney said they want an investigation by the US justice department. Some McKinney parents burnt an American Flag, with a child hidden behind a Halloween mask (great lesson there).

Just about everyone wants a piece of Casebolt’s arse. All-in-all, McKinney police Cpl. Eric Casebolt had a lousy week. More than likely, he’ll have a lot more.

There are groups who are focused on the specific incident at the pool party, there are groups who want to address broader issues of inequality. Some wanted Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt fired, others want him indicted. This isn’t an easy issue to tackle, and the protesters all brought a unique view and set of goals.

While McKinney, Texas may be listed as the number one place to live, equality issues exist everywhere. Given the fact no one was shot and that no mother or father had to be told a child died, I’m amazed at the lack of grace and dialogue.

Casebolt’s actions should be critiqued, but extracting a pound of flesh won’t transform anyone’s world into a center of peace and tranquility. This is a social justice issue. It’s not just about how a police officer handled a crowd, but it’s about everything we do as adults, how we view others and what we tach our children.

If media reports are accurate, here’s a recap of events:

  • The pool party was organized by 20-year-old Tatyana Rhodes, and her mother LaShana Burks. The event was unapproved and unauthorized, turned into a mob and cost the community thousands.
  • Tatyana Rhodes claims she’s a teenager. In reality, she’s a 20 year-old adult.
  • Ms. Rhodes hired a DJ and promoted the event to include a pool party.
  • There are numerous social media links reflecting that Ms. Rhodes organizes ‘parties’ and charges for attendance, as a profit generating business.
  • According to Rhodes and Burkes they were unable to control the growing crowd;
  • 100+ teens (and many young adults) turned into a mob of partygoers and began jumping the fence to the gated pool.
  • Police arrived after receiving calls regarding teens “actively fighting.” Reports that some teens and adults began fighting after an adult(s) made racist comments, reportedly telling the organizer to “return to Section 8 housing.
  • Police Officer gets filmed by cell phone.

In summary, parents and or adults created this shit. Residents then called police to clean up their shit. But residents claimed police mishandled their shit…that their shit has to be treated better…have the courtesy to handle their shit with care. Residents then had the gall to film and skewer a police officer for dealing with their shit, in essence saying, “Don’t look at me, but let me tell you about that officer. Holy Shit

As a Buddhist, I agree the officer should have been disciplined. But grace was the prudent course of action.

You can’t talk your way out of problems that you behaved yourself into (S. Covey).

In the end, Social Justice cannot be the excuse for personal failure.

That’s what Jon Stewart missed.

YenSidhouseofmouseLike a bad dream, Yen Sid, the powerful sorcerer, called in approximately 250 Disney IT workers and said, “Your job has been eliminated. And oh! We need you to train your replacement – from India.”

The New Times reported this week that Walt Disney World fired 250 employees, hired Indian workers on a temporary visa and then made the outgoing Americans train their replacements.

The Times story reported Disney used a temporary visa known as the H-1B to hire new workers from an Indian based outsourcing firm. The H-1B program was designed to allow American companies to import highly skilled foreigners for jobs they cannot find Americans to perform, but as always, the program is rife with loopholes and abuses.

Companies claim to use H-1B visas so they can attract the “best and brightest people in the world.” However, if you squint really hard, you’ll be able to read “…for less money than they have to pay U.S. workers.

An excellent article by Martin Kaste for NPR’s All Tech Considered, talks about what many believe is possibly really behind all the kumbayah all-hands-across-the-water, increase-the-cap movements:

“For the past decade, he’s [Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology] been studying how consulting firms use temporary work visas to help American companies cut costs. He says they use the visas to supply cheaper workers here, but also to smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas.”

Kaste further noted that H-1B consultancies are especially big in banking, insurance and pretty much any industry that runs on big computer systems maintained by aging, increasingly expensive American tech workers.

Think about this the next time you visit Disney. All hail Yen Sid!

WhiplashI apologize to all my readers for being off the radar for the last 20 days. I thought I could weed through recurring heart palpitations, but I had to drastically change my entire lifestyle, including diet, exercise, stress and a few other items.

While off, I had an opportunity to watch Damien Sayre Chazelle’s second film Whiplash. Whiplash glorifies the grueling and bloody drive to become better, to push harder than body and soul should allow. There’s this inane recurring idea in both film and life that to reach the pinnacle of your career, one must be tortured by said career.

According to Terence Fletcher, the sadistic jazz instructor, “Good Job” are the two most harmful words in the English language. If you’re not driven mad to perfection, then you’re some kind reprobate who’s comforted by a ‘good job’ mentality and never destined for glory.

This was emphasized by one blogger:

That life isn’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward! That the next champion never gets discouraged! That you have to sacrifice in order to achieve success!

I see this movie being used in business schools across America as a symbol for god-awful leadership. Yet many, whether budding artist or venture capitalist, willingly surrender each day to some sadistic teacher in the name of greatness. Just as Fletcher slaps his student (Andrew) in tempo, throws chairs and uses his student’s personal information to humiliate him, boardrooms across America regularly accept such a leadership style.

Echoing this theme, another blogger wrote:

Being successful in following our passion requires delivering more than what we could ever expect. And sometimes we need someone who defies our ability to focus and be resilient. The good news is that when you finally do it, it’s because you found your passion. 

And as Confucius said: “Find a job that you love and you will never have to work for a day in your life.”

I doubt that’s what Confucius had in mind, but Christian preachers use ‘prosperity gospel’ messaging much the same way. In his book Your Best Life Now, Joel Olsteen states:

“If you are believing for your child to find God, go help somebody else’s child to develop a relationship with God. If you’re struggling financially, go out and help somebody who has less than you have … f you want to reap financial blessings, you must sow financial seeds in the lives of others … If you want to see healing and restoration come to your life, go out and help somebody else get well” (pp. 224, 250-51).

Everyone looks at such teachers and drop in awe. But for most of us, achieving one’s pinnacle shouldn’t be filled with exhaustion and desperation. Doing so makes one emotionally vulnerable. That’s what happens in Whiplash and in life.

What of the millions who are searching, hoping and desperate? What of their search? We owe it to them to not tolerate such leaders.

Here are real lessons from Whiplash:

  • Negative attack ads and partisan speeches only create conflict.
  • Being a leader involves stress, conflict, and more work that anyone can imagine. Meditating has been shown to have many health benefits, but more importantly it can help you center yourself after a long day and build up your mental calmness.
  • Make the best use of your words ensuring you do not create false speech, abusive speech, or speech that creates division.  Bring people together, not apart.
  • Although a leader cannot make all these things go away in a modern world, they can help create the conditions to make them less desirable or needed.

The Buddha noted:

Being a ruler requires clear understanding: study the past and present, know when to be active and passive, temper force with mercy, be kind to one’s subordinates, benefit the people, and give equally.

What’s your leadership style?

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