Archive for November, 2015


imageMissouri University Payton Head felt hurt that people hurled racial insults. Additionally, Mizzou black students attempted to crucify a professor for being insensitive when he scheduled a test. One twitter user JJ not Jay-Jay, stated he was offended the teacher asked his students not to give in to bullies.

To all who stayed away from campus out fear, I understand your fear and I feel your pain.

Many will argue I couldn’t possibly feel the presence of racism or the fear of death like a black man. I counter, “Why not?” Technically speaking, I can’t feel anyone’s personal experience from racism’s spear. But neither would that same black man or woman completely understand the racism I’ve received either.

Regardless of race, racism itself isn’t completely unique. At it’s core, racism has a strange common bond for many of us.

My viewpoints aren’t developed from entitled white privilege. I understand everyone is trying hard to make all black lives matter. But having been sexually abused as a child, beaten by a gang of school yard bullies on a regular basis, told my life was worthless and that I would be worthless, I determined my life mattered.

Think I’m over the top, hear me out.

Do you think I don’t fear death when I get on a plan and head to the Middle East, solely for the purpose of helping them with healthcare? I am constantly aware of bombs, kidnappings, mysterious deaths, beheadings, beatings, arrests and so on. Like many others are targeted because of race, I’m targeted simply because of my nationality and race.

Don’t believe for a minute I haven’t felt a sense of fear in poverty stricken areas of Africa, where black racists followed me and a colleague. Why? Because of my race and nationality considers us an easy mark.

Then there’s the homeless of East Los Angeles, with whom I’ve had to set aside delusion, shame, direct cursing, spitting, hitting, and attempted assaults. I’ve navigated “white-out” and “black-out” rooms during healthcare clinics and enrollment; derogatory insults in Asia, Mexico, India, South America and America; was accused of being a spy in Asian; constantly watched my surroundings in the Middle East, Asia, Philippines; experienced resentment in Africa; dodged gangs in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Saint Louis, New York City, Boston, Denver; evaded drug gangs in Mexico and South America; had personal body guards in Venezuela; was abandoned by interpreters deep in southern Chile; was forced at gunpoint, by the Brazilian military to pay a bribe; been stripped searched by authorities in Argentina; was sexually harassed in Saint Louis, Missouri; received multiple death threats in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

But wait,” one might say, “you have clarify! I mean what about those insults?”

Well let’s discuss insults. I have a lengthy list. Over the past thirty years I’ve been called 8 Mile, Abe Lincoln, Charlie, Albino, Salt and Pepper (when I was with a black female friend for dinner), Anglo (by several Mexicans), Bacon Bit, Bai-Tou (Chinese for white head), Sai-Tou (shit head in China), Bak-Guiy (white ghost), Beach-Nigger (when I got too much sun tan), Bean Dipper (when I went for drinks with a Latino woman), Bird Shit, Bleach Boy, Brady (demeaning word for Brady Bunch), Bubba, Casper, Clampett (from Beverly Hillbillys), Cock (short for Caucasian), Cornfed (meaning I was too fat), Crisco (i.e., the white grease), Ditchpig (because I worked cleaning side-street ditches during college one summer), Gabacho, Goober (by Black NYC Racists just a few months ago), Gusak (by Alaskan racists), Hillbilly, Honky, HP (human parasite), Lo-wai (outsider), MacLord (simply because I use a MacBook), Milkhead, Mouse (used by Black racists as I walked in NY City), Nightlite (used by black racists in Africa, meaning I could be seen in the dark), Redneck, Cracker, Ritz Cracker (because they thought I was rich), Saltine, Skinhead (because being bald obviously means I’m a racist skinhead), Tornado Bait (white trash that gets hit by tornado – they seemed to think that since I help restore medical services in disaster areas, I somehow deserve this name), Triscut (a cracker, but worse than white trash), Wasian (because I lived in Japan helping the Japanese, local racists thought I was fascinated with the Japanese culture), White Out (Meaning no whites – used in NYC when I went to a meeting to hear how I could assist with healthcare), YT (sent via a post-it note during an audit, means Whitey).

Oh yeah, I’m white. Still think I’m privileged?

So why do I do it? What motivated me get up and go to school, earn a degree and work? Turns out, my love for people and my passion to help others is far more powerful than the fear from some dipstick hurling insults from the back of a pickup truck. My soul’s inner core is more resilient, has more wisdom and more strength than the stupidity we reduce ourselves.

I never went on a hunger strike, protested in some lobby, interrupted town hall meetings or screamed demands. Change did not come by demanding some other person do something. I became the one I had been waiting for. I was the change I sought. I went to work, served people, built relationships and changed small snippets of the world through one act of kindness after another.

You need to do the same.

Mizzou ProtestIt is our duty to fight for our freedom!” was the chant from hundreds of students on MU’s campus after the announcement of Wolfe’s resignation was made. “It is our duty to win!

For months, black student groups had complained Wolfe was unresponsive to racism. A week ago, graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike. The complaints came to a head several days ago, when at least 30 black football players announced that they would not play until the president was gone and Butler ate.

But few protesters and organizers, if any, ever review the consequences. Both action and inaction have consequences.

  • University of Missouri system’s president, Tim Wolfe, and the chancellor of the flagship campus, R. Bowen Loftin, announced on Monday that they were resigning their posts in the face of growing protests by African-American students, the threat of a walkout by faculty and a strike by football players who said the administrators had done too little to combat racism on campus.
  • Janna Basler, an official with the school’s Greek Life department, pushes a reporter and snaps, “Don’t push me.” At one point, Basler blocks the reporter from taking a picture, and after making contact with him, claims she didn’t touch him in any way. Janna Basler has been placed on leave Wednesday as Mizzou investigates her actions.
  • Melissa Click, professor of assistant communications recruited “muscle” to get rid of a reporter, pushing his camera and yelling at him repeatedly to “get out.” Ironically, it was Click who posted on social media that there should be more press covering the unrest at Missouri earlier in the week. Click later apologized and resigned her courtesy appointment. Currently, Click’s not out of a job. She is still an assistant professor.
  • Jonathan Butler, the student whose hunger strike kicked off a chain of events leading to Wolfe’s resignation, comes not from poverty and oppression, but from great wealth. The Concerned Student 1950 group, which led the recent protests at the University of Missouri, had demanded that University President Timothy Wolfe “acknowledge his white male privilege.” The comparisons between Butler and Wolfe has a sense of irony.
  • Mizzou Student Body President Payton Head tweeted, “Students please take precaution. Stay away from the windows in the residence halls. The KKK has been confirmed to be sighted on campus. I’m working with the MUPD, the state trooper and the National Guard.” There were no KKK, National Guard or state troopers. Mr. Head’s actions raise larger issues. Could some of this drama have been inflated? While several news outlets posted actual evidence of the police report of the feces painted swastika, many questions remain. Who exactly were the pick-up truck offenders? Since we don’t know who they were, it’s possible they weren’t even students.
  • Dale Brigham, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, submitted his resignation as outrage among some students grew in the wake of his email message. “If you give in to bullies, they win,” Brigham wrote. “The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose.” Under intense pressure, Dr. Brigham has cancelled the exam and resigned from the university. There is no definitive indication that Mizzou has accepted the resignation.

The casualty list continues to climb.

At the end, the victorious idealists became the very essence of that which they hated, oblivious to anyone’s point of view but their own. Thus, both Mizzou and student leadership cannot attest to their leadership. Stupidity, maybe. Leadership, No.

From a Buddhist perspective, there are genuine life lessons.

  • What failed both protesters and administrators alike is not being open to negotiate. When we negotiate, we come to a new situation without any preconceived notion of how we’re going to take care of it. All of us must come completely open.
  • When stuff happens, you’ll find better success facing suffering together, when everyone is actively engaged in dialogue.
  • How we lead is significantly important for all we lead.
  • Not everyone is out to get us … that statement is true on both sides of the negotiation table. No one person is accountable for every slight life offers.

It’s a shame that any victory for the common good was trampled by ego and self-promotion. Instead, “viral” social media sensations became more important than substance. What will these protesters will do when a future boss doesn’t compliment them? And zero-tolerance racism may be a great goal … is it possible?

With the lack leadership exhibited by all parties in the Mizzou fight, it’s great knowing the systemic oppression of racism will finally be banished.

Missouri graduate student on hunger strikeMissouri University President Timothy M. Wolfe, stepped down early Monday morning. Later in the day, the Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also bit the dust. The issue was Wolfe’s lack of response to a recent spate of racist incidents on Mizzou’s campus, where graduate student Jonathan Butler’s protest received the support of Mizzou’s football team. Butler’s response to recent wave of bigotry came in the form of a hunger strike.

“I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”

It’s good to die for something worthy.

In truth, Wolfe was probably forced out by a set of unified stakeholders, from internal department heads to state legislators. The backstage strategic puppeteering in such high-press cases is amazing. Today, the unique role is litigating in the court of public opinion where evidence and personal bias gets shoved down a listener’s throat is powerful.

One key group was Concerned Student 1950, formed on Mizzou campus in response to racially-motivated incidents. (1950 referred to the year black students were first admitted to the University of Missouri.) Concerned Student 1950 demanded the removal of Tim Wolfe, whom they felt had not handled these incidents well, if at all. Butler noted:

“Students are not able to achieve their full academic potential because of the inequalities and obstacles they face,” he said. “In each of these scenarios, Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.”

Personal bias aside, “Bullshit!.”

Former Mizzou football player A. J. Ofodile raised a valid point. To Mr. Ofodile, the 1950’s-style oppression wasn’t apparent.

“Through this whole process I haven’t heard one example of any oppressive action or policy that is systemic in nature. I’ve seen tons of examples of individual bigotry and claims that those incidents weren’t handled appropriately but at this point I have to seriously doubt that people fully understand what systemic oppression really is.”

So this is the same Mizzou that’s so racist it elected a black man student body president and homecoming king? Or, are we to believe Mizzou racists systematically elected the black student body president only to hurl racial insults? Is this the same Mizzou that embraced gay defensive lineman Michael Sam in 2014? And nearly 18 months beyond Sam, Mizzou is fraught with racism?

Seriously?

Still, after hearing of Wolfe’s resignation, students danced where activists had set up a tent city. The football team announced that it was ending its strike and hundreds of students chanted in the sun, “I … am … a … revolutionary!” Social media users around the world joined in, tweeting more than 100,000 times the day’s protest.

While I believe incidents of racism must be addressed, what will be interesting is watching how Mizzou students and residents struggle with their response. Even if all the reports of racism prove accurate, Mizzou’s president shouldn’t have been adjudicated via a lynch mob mentality that served no meaningful purpose other than to inflame.

I propose that losing $1,000,000 of football revenue is what really forced Wolfe to resign, more cash than protest. Yes, football gold and the massive amounts of money pouring into the ol’ football coffer.

So I repeat what I wrote after the Ferguson Riots. After the cameras stop rolling, they’ll (Mizzou) be left nearly in nearly the same place they started. After all the sound bites and television interviews, someone will query, “What did we accomplish?“ Probably not a hell of a lot.

Real change requires effort and love. But no worry for Butler. Technically, Butler won. He received his pound of flesh. However, what Butler and others will learn is that whether right or wrong, every university has an adjudication process. And sometimes that very process is goddam slow. You can’t cure cancer via instant soup.

Mizzou will play the remaining three games. That’s approximately $3,000,000 bucks into the coffers. One University President was sacrificed unto the football gods. And football players run the university.

Good Lord! All hail the “Pigskin God.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 2.20.07 PMVisiting San Diego this week, I had the chance to visit Juárez, Mexico.

A PRI The World program noted that once known as “the murder capital of the world,” Juárez is still recovering from cartel violence and some on both sides of the border say they feel safer. Despite current politics surrounding immigration, people constantly flow back and forth on a daily basis. Some who ebb in and out of the yin-yang flow are students.

These students travel, each day, from Mexico to the US, all of to break the cycle of poverty.

Families living in extreme poverty see quality education as an impossible cost. Even public school carries costs, including books, uniforms, and transportation. Because parents have not experienced the increases in earnings, quality of life, and personal dignity that come from education, they don’t know what they are missing by pulling a child out of school to work instead. This is why it’s a cycle: children who grow up without education are less likely to send their own children to school.

By providing a quality education, a vicious cycle gets replaced. Instead of poverty sowing the seeds for still more poverty, education creates an environment that leads to opportunities and education for successive generations as well. Instead of leaving school to work, children have the chance to engage their intellectual curiosity, and live in a more stable society.

Children in poverty are less likely than middle-class children to develop basic educational skills before kindergarten. Too often, poor children have fewer early learning experiences. For example, poor and low-income children tend to live in homes with fewer books and less language stimulation.

If society wants to adopt a quality lifestyle for all children, then breaking the cycle of poverty requires investing in our children and ensuring they have nurturing and enriching experiences, including high-quality early care and educational opportunities.

Yet few politicians offer solid solutions.

Governors in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin and Connecticut’s Democratic governor have proposed higher education cuts for the 2016 fiscal year. Higher education spending traditionally is a juicy target for budget cutters because schools can make up the lost revenue by raising tuition.

A day before jumping into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Scott Walker signed a state budget that, among other things:

  • Slashed $250 million from the University of Wisconsin;
  • Expanded the state’s voucher program that uses public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, including religious schools — even though there is no evidence the program has helped improve student achievement; and
  • A majority of public school districts in Wisconsin will receive less funding this year, and no school district’s state funding will keep up to inflation.

If the Buddhist principle that all things are connected is correct, then our own fate and the destiny of the world may be intimately bound up with the educational fate of the poor. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40 per cent of its adults able to read and write.

Statistics show why education is perhaps the most effective strategy to tackle poverty and is integrally linked to human, community and national development. When people have basic life and literacy skills, economies grow more quickly and poverty rates decline.

I remember a scene from Saving Private Ryan, where Captain John Miller said, “This Ryan better be worth it. He better go home and cure some disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, or something.” From time I wonder if an errant drone strike destroyed the world’s chances to cure cancer? It is just me, or does anyone ever think some terrorist annihilated humanity’s best chance to defeat Alzheimer’s?

Decreasing poverty through education is very Buddhist and very Christian.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.48.32 AMIn my post about Mississippi: Faith Without Works, I noted, “If we are pro-life, then we must be pro-quality of life. If we do one without the other, our works is inconsistent with our faith.” I wrote that in July 2012. And some three years later, that post lived a quiet, subdued life, archived to distant memory, maybe wasted space or rolling of the eyes.

Then came Governor Christie’s recent comments about addiction. I can’t say the following text is 100% accurate. It’s close. I tried transcribing Christie’s comments correctly:

“My mother was a smoker. She smoked her whole life. She was addicted to nicotine. She started when she was sixteen (16), which was 1948. 1964 came, the Surgeon General’s report came out and she was in her mid thirties. She knew smoking was bad for her. And I’ll tell you, watching her as a kid growing up; she tried everything she could to quit. She had the gum, the patches, and hypnosis. She tried everything. She couldn’t quit.

Now, when she turned 71, a little after that, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. No one came to me and said, “Don’t treat her, for she got what she deserved.” We know the lung cancer was caused by the smoking. We know it was. But no one came to me and said, “Your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was sixteen. Then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. So we’re not going to give her chemotherapy. We’re not going to give her radiation treatment. We’re not going to give her any of that stuff. You know what, she’s getting what she deserves.”

No one said that. No one said that about anyone having cancer.

Yet somehow, if it’s heroine or cocaine or alcohol, we say, “We decided they are getting what they deserved.”

I am pro-life. And I think if you’re pro-life, that means you have to be pro-life for the whole life, not just the nine months in the womb. Alright? It’s easy … It’s easy to be pro-life for the nine months in the womb, for they haven’t done anything to disappoint us yet. They’re perfect in there. But when they get out, that’s when it gets tough.

The sixteen year old teenage girl, on the floor of the county lockup, addicted to heroine … I am pro-life for her too. She has just as much a precious gift from God as the one in the womb. And we need to start thinking that way as a party and as a people and the President needs to say those things.”

Like MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, “I’m still kind of blown away by Christie’s comments.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Christie’s overall political views, his comments of being pro-life for life were genuinely real. They were the perfect “in the moment, from the heart” stuff. I wish all politicians spoke accordingly.

Christie’s comments were very Buddhist, very Christian. How beautiful! Imagine living in such a world … Pro-Life for Life?

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See Christie’s complete video by clicking his picture.

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