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Jona Olsson originally wrote the essay "Detour-Spotting" almost twenty years ago, but she could have written it yesterday, based on the movement (or lack of movement) against racism we have seen in that nearly two decade span. I know there have been some high profile changes and victories during that time, not the least of which is the current White House resident, but the point is not to look at any individual case. Rather, this is about the entire landscape of race in America and how everyone is doing at this time.

That brings us to today's important and possibly most controversial point on the list:

7) Don’t Blame Me

“I never owned slaves.” or “I didn’t vote for David Duke.” or “None of my family joined the Klan.” or “I taught my children that racism is wrong.”


Reality Check and Consequence

Often white people hear blame whenever the issue of racism is brought up,

whether or not blame has been placed on us. As beneficiaries of racism and white privilege, we sometimes strike a defensive posture even when we are not being individually blamed. We may personalize the remarks, put ourselves in the center, but most references to racism are not directed personally at us. It is the arrogance of our privilege, that drags the focus back to us.

When we are being blamed or personally accused of racist behavior, this defensiveness and denial further alienates us and probably precludes our examining our possible racist behavior.


This is a really tough one for many white people to fully understand, primarily because of their own fears of "reprisal" and/or "revenge." And this is one of the biggest methods of derailing any conversation about race in America, simply because of white fear and ego getting in the way.

This discussion also relies on the point that white people have what's known as "privilege," which is a word, like "racism" that has a meaning that doesn't seem to be understood.

"Privilege" - a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

That should be pretty easy to understand, right? So, when we speak about "White Privilege," we're talking about the rights, advantages and immunity granted to white people that other minority groups do not have.

For example, a white teenager having an interaction with police in an affluent suburb of a large American city will likely have a very different experience from a black teenager having an interaction with police in a ghetto of a large American city. Even if the white teen was a drug dealer and the black teen was an upstanding scholar, we implicitly know that, because of racism, the black teen will suffer a more difficult interaction than the white teen. That's privilege.

The problem occurs when we attempt to discuss the issue of "privilege" and white people immediately deny that they have it, usually by saying things like "I don't have it easy," or "nobody gave me anything in life, I had to work hard to get it."

But that's where we have a problem within the definition of privilege. It's not about what anyone personally did to achieve, it's about the system that prevents minorities from having the opportunity to do the same hard work to permit them the chance to succeed too.

What we're talking about here isn't the fact that white people have an easy time of living. But they have fewer obstacles in their paths when it comes to achieving, they have fewer concerns about negative elements that have proven to be a major problem for minorities and they have a support system that works to help them, where many minority communities either have no system or the system of racism that works against them.

The problem is that white people, immersed in their own world views, cannot see their own privilege because to them, it's just normal life. It's only when something comes in to change their view - like Affirmative Action for example - that suddenly they sit up and take notice. Now, minorities are gaining "advantages" over them. Now, it's time to do something. How dare they come in, unqualified or underqualified, and take a college placement away from a better educated white kid? It's time to protest and sue.

But when you have had all the advantages for all time, and then we try to tilt the scales ever so slightly to make things more fair, it feels like an attack on white people and something must be done. White people don't deserve to be attacked, especially ones that haven't done anything racist!

And here we are. Defensive white people stating as loudly and as clearly as they can that they are not responsible because they are not racist, meanwhile, they are complacent because they are willing and able to overlook their privilege and how that impacts both their success and the failures of minority people in our country.

Arguably, this is one of the most difficult elements of racism to understand, and even the most supportive anti-racists sometimes don't quite get it, either. It's going to take more high-functioning people like Jona Olsson to chisel through the concrete of this concept so that white people won't immediately flinch, deny or shout it down before we properly examine it.


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
"Detour-Spotting" continues to be the basis for this series of thinkposts Re: why we can't seem to make any progress on the issue of race in America. Jona Olsson's essay is lengthy, wide-ranging and deserves to be examined closely, so I'm going point by point through it to expand on the thoughts she is offering and to clarify the view just a bit.

Today's offering:

6) Lighten Up (lighten? whiten?)

“Black people are just are too sensitive and thin-skinned.” or “Indians should get a sense of humor. We’re just kidding around.” or “I didn’t mean anything racist, it’s just a joke.”


Reality Check and Consequence

Here are racism and agent deletion in partnership again. The problem and perpetrators are exonerated, because the rationale declares that humor isn’t hurtful. This form of denial serves most to trivialize the pain and reality of daily racism.


This is kind of in my wheelhouse as it relates to a topic I know pretty well: comedy.

As an attendee of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, I learned a few important maxims regarding humor, but one of the most important ones was:

If you had to say it was a joke, it wasn't funny.

And that applies everywhere, no matter the situation, or the people involved. A joke is supposed to make people laugh. If you need to say that your comment was a joke, it definitely didn't work.

Comedy and racism have a long history in this country, with most of it not very funny. There has been a litany of racist jokes, images, stereotypes, artistic renderings, songs, staged performances, cartoons, comics, films, radio and television programs, and, of course, the general public all making fun of minorities.

It would be one thing if that were it and it was just the fact that these things existed. But it really goes beyond that. Because people behave based on atmospheres. If it's perfectly fine to make fun of the shape of someone's eyes, the color of their skin, and other elements of who they are, then people will continually do that. And if that happens, there is no sensitivity. There is no empathy. There is no understanding. That's really the reason "Political Correctness" came along: to stem the tide of such commentary.

It's interesting that many people, most especially some high profile politicians, are now making comments about tossing away "political correctness." Really, isn't being "politically correct" is just another way of saying you're being polite? Really, jokes made at the expense of those less fortunate are never a positive. The phrase "don't kick someone when they're down" was created for such a situation. And that's why it's so puzzling to see a kind of resurgence in this sort of material.

Again, not to assume any of this is straightforward narrative, but when you don't understand the racist atmosphere we collectively live in, it's difficult to understand the actions of black people and why they are offended that there are no dolls that match varying skin tones for their kids to play with or why there was such an outcry over the forty Academy Awards acting nominations over the past two years being all white. This is more than just a joke.

But, of course, all of this is why we need to have an open discussion about racism in America and why we can no longer continue to ignore these issues. It's time to start talking about how these issues affects and impacts all of us, not just minority people, because that contributes to the both how we see each other and how we see ourselves.


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
If you haven't been following along, I've been taking a good long look at Jona Olsson's "Detour-Spotting" essay, where she lays out every single excuse white people have for not confronting their participation in perpetuating racism, and how that has ostensibly prevented any significant forward progress, despite things like the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act and the election of the First African American President of the United States.

Ms. Olsson wrote this essay for people like her, white folks who have no stomach for racist actions and attitudes, because even within the desire to repair and reassemble our country with the novel thought that all of us are created equal, there is a systematic element within our country that helps prevent even the most staunch and determined anti-racist from making any inroads away from How Things Are.

Today, we're examining another in the list.

5) The White Knight or White Missionary

“We (white people) know just where to build your new community center.” or “Your young people (read youth of color) would be better served by traveling to our suburban training center.” or “We (white people) organized a used clothing drive for you, where do you want us to put the clothes?”


Reality Check and Consequence

It is a racist, paternalistic assumption that well meaning white people know what’s best for people of color. Decisions, by white people, are made on behalf of people of color, as though they were incapable of making their own. This is another version of “blame the victim” and white is right. It places the problems at the feet of people of color, and the only “appropriate” solutions with white people. Once more the power of self-determination is taken away from people of color. Regardless of motive, it is still about white control.


This one is far from the worst offense on our list, but it is clearly problematic for a couple of obvious reasons. First, the white people in question are looking to both control a circumstance and, presumably, be rewarded for their efforts. They are coming in to "save" black people whom they view as not capable of handling their circumstances. The term "patronizing" comes to mind. But it also speaks to a mindset that has, at heart, an overarching sense that black people are like children that must be given things or must be treated in a manner other than full fledged humans. On that point alone, this sort of thinking can do tremendous damage.

Keep in mind, the people who might be involved in a scenario like this are as well-meaning and likely as full of good intentions as anyone could be. But again, unintentional racism doesn't make the action any less racist.

The fact is, most of the issues that pepper this list could be resolved with relative ease if the people who are working as white anti-racists would simply see and understand that they don't see and understand black people as being at all like they are. This is rooted in neighborhood enclaves where only white people live and office scenarios where only white people work. If you aren't around any black people, or even just a tiny handful, you really have no concept of who they are, what they do, how they act or what they want. It's pretty much impossible to prove the kind of person you are when you are never there. That's what we're talking about when it comes to racism.

Again, most of these issues are not A + B = C. It's a bit more challenging and a bit more arcane. That means that people may not be willing or able to follow along, and that continues to help prevent a suitable resolution, even among people who are trying to participate. With so many ways to go wrong, how can any of this work out right?



Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
Jona Olsson really hit the nail on the head when she wrote Detour-Spotting. It really is a comprehensive view of racism and the elements that make it next to impossible to prevent it in the United States. Ultimately, the problems meticulously cited in this essay are basically true, more or less, for not just the USA, but for most all of Europe, Australia, New Zealand...

I hope you're finding some worth and meaning in this series of thinkposts. Here's the one for today:

4) Blame The Victim

“It’s their fault they can’t get a job, or be managers.” or “We have advertised everywhere, there just aren’t any qualified people of color for this job.” or “If he only worked harder, applied himself more, or had a stronger work ethic.” or

“If she just felt better about herself...” or “Internalized racism is the real problem here.” or “She uses racism as an excuse, to divert us from her incompetence.” and “If he didn’t go looking for racism everywhere...” (As if racism is so hidden or difficult to uncover that people of color would have to search for it.)

Reality Check and Consequence

All “blame the victim” behaviors have two things in common. First, they evade the real problem: racism. Second, they delete from the picture the agents of racism, white people and institutions, who either intentionally perpetuate or unintentionally collude with racism. (Similar to agent deletion in discussions of rape. Most statements refer to a woman being raped, focus on her clothing or behavior at the time of the rape and delete the male rapist from the picture.) As long as the focus remains on people of color we can minimize or dismiss their reactions, and never have to look directly at racism and our own responsibility or collusion.


Sexism and racism are closely related and connecting them, the way Ms. Olsson does here, makes that point very easy to see. We invariably hear about how a rape victim is quizzed about what she wore, how that might have differed from what she regularly wears, her drinking, smoking or drug usage during the time in question and anything she might have said or done to create an atmosphere that made her need to be raped.

Think about that.

The "she was asking for it" defense puts the choice to rape her by the perpetrator on the back burner. That person isn't responsible, and none of this would have happened if the hem of her skirt were three inches lower, or her jeans weren't so tight or if she wore a bra.

That's dead wrong.

But it's a way of protecting the attacker, of shielding what he did, of preventing him from being viewed for the decision to physically force his victim into that heinous situation.

And this method of ignoring racism does the very same thing. It's a very common response to simply blame the victim for their inability to achieve, for not being prepared, for being the reason they failed.

If we can see that blaming a rape victim for her attack is nonsense, and we should, no matter what she wore, who she was, what her job was, or what her stature in life was, or any of the elements that were about her at the moment of the assault, then all of these other elements we are discussing when it comes to racism must also be examined as the hollow excuses they are.

Now, to dig a bit deeper here, this is one of those circumstances where proponents of this concept might consider themselves "justified," as qualifications for jobs do require certain skills. Let's be honest, though. A lot of the job requirements are arbitrary and are designed to make sure that applicants who either can't prove or don't have the skills listed won't even send a resume. And that's just another method of assuring that a minority job seeker won't get that position. They won't even apply.

But, for the sake of argument, let's say that all of the skills listed as requisite are actually needed. Acquiring the skills to accomplish the task means you need training. And that training may not be readily available to you if you weren't accepted to the school that could have provided it, if you weren't able to afford to attend that school, if you weren't aware that a particular school could have provided your training, if you didn't know such a school existed.

So, even in a case where you might claim that an applicant wasn't suitable for the job, the root still likely comes back to racism in some form. You see how complex and challenging discussing racism can be? This isn't always an obvious or a straightforward issue, but that doesn't mean it's not the root element that created the problem. This is why and how we require a discussion of race in America. The subtlety of racism can be very easily overlooked in some cases. But the results are anything but subtle.

We have to stop blaming the victims.

Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
As we go through Jona Olsson's essay on spotting the Detours regarding racism in America together, one day at a time, one point at a time, there are clearly some elements that are more frequently a problem than others. This time, we're looking at one that has been getting a lot of play lately.

3) Reverse Racism

(a) “People of color are just as racist as white people.”

(b) “Affirmative Action had a role years ago, but today it’s just reverse racism; now it’s discriminating against white men.”

(c) “The civil rights movement, when it began was appropriate, valuable, needed. But it’s gone to the extreme. The playing field is now level. Now the civil rights movement is no longer working for equality but for revenge.” or

(d) “Black Pride, Black Power is dangerous. They just want power over white people.” (Include here any reference to pride and empowerment of any people of color.)



Reality Check and Consequence

(a) Let’s first define racism:

Racism = Racial Prejudice (white people and people of color have this)

Plus

Systemic, Institutional Power (white people have this)

To say people of color can be racist, denies the power imbalance inherent in institutionalized racism.

Certainly, people of color can be and are prejudiced against white people. That was a part of their societal conditioning. A person of color can act on their prejudices to insult even hurt a white person. But there is a difference between being hurt and being oppressed. People of color, as a social group, do not have the societal, institutional power to oppress white people as a group. An individual person of color abusing a white person - while clearly wrong, (no person should be insulted, hurt, etc.) is acting out a personal racial prejudice, not racism (by this power definition.)

(b) This form of denial is based in the false notion that the playing field is now level. When the people with privilege and historical access and advantage are expected to suddenly (in societal evolution time) share some of that power, it is often perceived as discrimination.

(c + d) c is a statement by Rush Limbaugh. Though, clearly he is no anti-racist, both c + d follow closely on the heels of “reverse racism” and are loaded with white people’s fear of people of color and what would happen if they gained “control.” Embedded here is also the assumption that to be “pro-Black” (or any color) is to be anti-white. (A similar illogical accusation is directed at women who work for an end to violence against women and girls. Women who work to better the lives of women are regularly accused of being “anti-male.”)


Here we have a major stumbling block to any discussion of racism in America. The definition of "racism" is not seen the same way by white people and black people. If we can't even agree on what the word means, how can we even begin to talk about this issue, let alone resolve it? Decades, even centuries have passed with this defining issue being... well... a defining issue.

This definition problem speaks directly to self-image and the myth that white people are, by default, always good and always right. If "reverse racism" existed, then nobody is better or worse because everyone is doing it. We are collectively sharing in the bad behavior. But, that doesn't jibe with the fact that oppression is something black people have no ability to wield over white people in this white supremacist nation, and it's oppression that creates the problems we are discussing when it comes to this topic.

It's important to be very clear: the United States, being a white supremacist nation, is part of the reason why many white people refuse to examine the proper definition of racism. If you can overlook the privilege of the position that white people have in our society, you can continue to believe that the playing field is actually level and that everyone has a fair chance to succeed.

Inherently, we know that the US is a white supremacist nation. And that is also why there is fear of "retribution" on the part of white people, afraid of "revenge" from black people. Better to continue to oppress and avoid any chance of that occurring.

Of course, all of these assumptions of why black people are "causing issues" or "what they might do if they had the chance" are based in white fear fantasies, in "what would I do if that were me" imaginings, in echo chamber discussions with other white people who may not even know or speak with any persons of color who are friends, neighbors or relatives. And that has its roots in our distant history.

The big issue that Jim Crow created, aside from the obvious advantages of property ownership, better schools and all of the elements that white people demonstrably benefited from during that era, is that there was no opportunity for white people to empirically view exactly who black people were, just how they behaved, just what they wanted for their lives and families, just how hard they were willing to work for this country, for their freedom, for themselves. After all, look how hard they worked as slaves. They literally built the cities, roads, and provided vast wealth from their labor. It's both saddening and telling that when they simply wanted to be treated as the humans they are, black people started being treated with hate and ridicule, being called "lazy" and stereotyped as "do nothings" by white people.

To me the issue of defining the word racism is possibly the single biggest element that is preventing our discussion of race in America, and that has to be by design. It's easy to clarify any word, to find its meaning, to know what we collectively are discussing when it comes to any topic. How could it be so challenging to understand the meaning of this one word?

Will we all come to an agreement on what racism even is? Or will we continue to postpone the discussion we must have in order to work through this issue once and for all?

Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
I'm continuing the examination of Jona Olsson's essay titled "Detour-Spotting," designed to examine the various ways our potential discussion of race and racism in America is constantly getting derailed.

The interesting thing about examining racism through this essay is how even the best intentions of people (especially white people, like Ms. Olsson) who truly want to help end racism can be blocked by the various elements on this list. The discussion changes and once that happens, nothing happens. That's why this is called "Detour-Spotting." We are looking at the ways we detour away from the topic of race in America, preventing the discussion and stopping any progress.

Today's detour was too long to fit into my title.

2) The Rugged Individual, the Level Playing Field and the Bootstrap Theory

“America is the land of opportunity, built by rugged individuals, where anyone with grit can succeed if they just pull up hard enough on their bootstraps.”

Reality Check and Consequence

These are three of the crown jewels of U. S. social propaganda. They have allowed generation after generation to say, “If you succeed, you did that, but if you fail, or if you’re poor, that’s your fault.” Belief in this propaganda is founded in a total denial of the impact of either oppression or privilege on any person’s chance for success.

Attacks on programs like affirmative action find rationalization in the belief that the playing field is now level, that is, that every individual, regardless of color (or gender or disability, etc.) has the same access to the rights, benefits and responsibilities of the society. The rationalization continues: since slavery is ended and people of color have civil rights, the playing field has now been leveled. It follows then, that there is no reason for a person of color to “fail” (whether manifested in low SAT scores or small numbers in management positions) EXCEPT individual character flaws or cultural inadequacies. This form of denial asserts that such “failures” could have no roots in racism and internalized racism.

The consequences include “justified” victim blaming, and denial of the daily impact of generations of institutionalized racism and white privilege.


This is a harsh one but a really common attitude from many white Americans, and you could see a lot of this from the Republican side of the aisle.

Yes, laws have changed. We no longer have Jim Crow. That ended in 1964. But we still have racism. And despite the fact that laws help, people's attitudes, assumptions and stances on people who are not like them continue to perpetuate the same kinds of reactions and responses.

Clearly, this is a method of ignoring the problems we need to be talking about, openly and honestly. Real estate agents will still be able to see the people who want to buy that property. Bankers can still note who is asking for a business loan.

What is really difficult to deal with is the fact that in the poorest parts of our country (not necessarily all that poor because many of them are couched within some of our most successful cities) no help has been offered to improve neighborhoods, infrastructure, or to provide people with support. Flint, Michigan is a great example of this. We haven't really heard any news about Flint in recent weeks. Yes, there have been a series of shootings and terrorist acts to divert our attention, but the truth is, nothing has changed there. People are still drinking from and bathing in bottled water. And there simply isn't enough bottled water available to do the job.

The fact that Flint legislators actively chose to send water from the Flint River, a body of water so polluted, even General Motors could find no use for it in the manufacture of its vehicles, into the sinks and bathtubs of people’s homes is beyond criminal. Children were poisoned, brain damaged, and there is no reversing that.

But the truth is, nothing has really changed there. People are still dealing with this continuing problem of not using indoor plumbing for anything but the toilet. How is THAT acceptable for this country?

In the United States, who you are matters a lot as far as what happens to you.

There are assumptions that are made, based on all of the various cues, and a decision to either help or ignore is made. We saw it during Hurricane Katrina. We saw it from the actions of key members of Congress against the President of the United States. But perhaps more tragically, we see it in every ghetto in every city in every state, every day.

The real difference between humans isn’t in the physical elements, the melanin content, the nose shape or the lip shape or the body type. The real difference between humans comes through the experiences we have had. This is what makes racism so horrific and tragic and makes the bad things we constantly talk about occur. Remove the experience of racism from everyone’s lives and suddenly, we have that level playing field. Schools are not prisons with teachers that are simply babysitting. People can get good paying jobs and earn a living. Poverty can start to erode. Crime, especially violent crime, can start to diminish.

But that requires the desire to actually make that happen, which, if we’re being honest, isn’t a very strong want from the people in charge.

I don’t want to get too far afield from the topic of this segment. There will be other times we can double back to some of these issues.

The point being made on this detour is that by doing the hard work, people can succeed, no matter who they are. And that’s the fallacy. Some people can succeed, and, as I pointed out in my essay about racism being an addiction, many black people who do become successful have done so because they received support from the system. They had a powerful white advocate that helped at a good moment or they had a lighter skin tone that wasn’t as offensive, or they had a charming personality or some other attractive element that made them “less threatening” to white folks who might have blocked their path.

I know that sounds like a hollow accusation. I know that sounds like blaming a non-existent entity for an individual's troubles. And I know that those thoughts are why any criticism of this "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" concept are usually rejected out of hand by many white people. They aren't aware of racism, what impact it has and how it upends many people who have every desire to do the work but can't because that option is not available.

Conversely, if you look at the easy path to success of many white folks in the nation, it's simply a matter of inheritance - getting money from their wealthy parents who got it from their parents and so on, all the way back to the slave trade days. A person like Donald Trump would not be on the world stage if he didn't have a father who gave him his start. That's privilege. Very few black people have that kind of experience. So, in the case of any black person's success, it really needs to be examined in a different way.

The problem with looking at any “success story” in the case of black Americans is that those are things that can never be recreated. There is no "system" of success. You can’t follow Oprah’s path to brilliance. You won’t be able to duplicate Will Smith’s career. And really, that’s the biggest issue. Finding a way into success when so many doors are closed or worse, locked, would be challenging for anyone. But what if you live in an unsafe neighborhood? What if you don’t get enough to eat on a daily basis? What if you are constantly dealing with police harassment or being offered drugs or alcohol? It's these extra "challenges" that create an unfair circumstance for many black citizens of this country and create the underclass that the well-to-do are so ready to mock, ridicule or perhaps worst of all, ignore.

Yes, some will still succeed. There are always exceptions to the rule that escape their life circumstances, just as surely as there are people who win huge jackpots at a Las Vegas Casino. But that opportunity is not available to all. And when it comes to racism, it’s about ALL. It’s about making things fair for everyone to have a good life, not just a random handful.

If that concept doesn’t make sense to you, that’s okay. We’re just getting started.

Previous thinkposts in this series:
1. Day One - "I'm Colorblind"
Okay, maybe you saw my little joke about "Making Sense of the Republican Convention thing. Haha.

Really, it wasn't completely a joke. What was sensible about it? What was logical? I presumed that these conventions were designed to make people feel a kind of pride in being American, that the system we were living under was fair, equitable and just.

I may come back to compare and contrast the Dems and the Reps later, but there's something a bit more pressing on my mind and that is related to an essay by Jona Olsson.

Ms. Olsson is one of the first white people since Jane Elliott and Tim Wise who really has a handle on race in a way that allows her to explain it in terms that break it down into pieces that are easily digested.

She had written a lengthy essay titled "Detour-Spotting" subtitled "for white anti-racists" and it breaks down pretty much every single argument for why we haven't been able to have a proper discussion of Race in America and why racism still has a stranglehold on our country and its collective citizens. I can't recommend this piece enough because it really allows a better understanding from the perspective of a white person trying to grapple with the concept of "privilege" and "oppression" in our society, and is very worthwhile. Of course, the essay is not "new," it dates back to 1997, with updates in 2005 and 2011. But, the time has come to re-examine this piece, as I'm sure you will agree.

The link to her original essay is HERE, and it deserves to be read, in its entirety.

But I wanted to go it one better. Because of the massive size of the piece, and because some of the things she discusses really do need to be unpacked in a more complete and/or a more precise way, I thought I would go through and take each of her points, one at a time, and expand on them, giving you a better and more comprehensive view of what she is talking about. I'll post her portion of the essay, then give some commentary about it.

We begin with Ms. Olsson"s opening comments...Collapse )

Coup in Turkey

Breaking News: A Coup is taking place in Turkey. The military leaders have taken over the government and all flights into and out of the country have been suspended... Martial Law has been declared and the military has also taken control of the media...

This as a response to an ISIL threat on the Syrian border...

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/07/15/turkish-military-attempts-coup-of-erdogan-government.html
One of the banes of every actor's existence is to have to audition for roles. Whether it's for a stage role or for screen, big, small or computer, be it a hundred million dollar budget blockbuster or a local PSA, landing the part can feel like a mountain standing in your way.

Enter, Michael Kostroff. He is a well-seasoned and extremely successful actor in his own right, having done roles across all of television, ranging from heavy drama to soap operas, from kid sitcoms to nationally televised commercials, notable parts in films you definitely have seen, and a host of stage plays and musicals.

He has created what I feel is a revelation and, dare I say it, a revolutionary way of viewing the process of landing jobs in show biz for actors.

Michael Kostroff's Audition Psych 101 is a workshop intensive that will give you a different approach to how you handle the process and might just change your view in a way that even makes the experience fun! Click through to the Audition Psych website and check out some more details about it.

His next workshop is scheduled for Friday, August 19th in New York and I'm pleased to say I'm offering two actors comps to attend it!

the fine printCollapse )

Nice, France

Are we headed for a terrorist attack, daily?

I'm trying to imagine attending an Independence Day celebration, watching fireworks turning to leave and having a truck plow through the crowd running over everyone in its path, then the driver pulling out a gun to shoot people in addition. It's unspeakable.

Everything is going haywire, and now we are becoming more aware of just what that's about.

There's a lot more to deal with when it comes to what we need to deal with from here on out.

More coming.

Leslie Odom Jr. @ Barnes & Noble

There are still a few brick and mortar bookshops in existence and one chain is Barnes & Noble. We actually have several of them in various parts of the city and one of the Tony Winning stars of the phenomenon known simply as Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. appeared at the 86th Street and Lexington B&N in support of his new, self-titled album of jazz covers.

Odom won his Tony for his role as the narrator of Hamilton, Aaron Burr. He left the show this past Saturday, and is moving on to a whole lot of other tremendous stuff, including a series of sold out late night performances at the McKittrick Hotel the rest of the month as just the beginning of what promises to be a skyrocketing career.

I swung by to see his appearance, to hear him do a couple of songs from the album and be a part of the meet and greet.

First though, a word about the organization of the event.

The requirements of attending the performance meant that you needed to purchase one of Leslie's CDs at the store, which entitled you to a wristband which would admit you to the area for the performance and CD signing.

Apparently they created several different colors of wristband and, depending on when you purchased your CD, you had priority about where in the line you would be. As I was in the first group when the store opened at 9am, I was in the green group, or the first group. Others that followed were pink, silver and, likely, angry they didn't get in.

However, when the time for the event drew near, there was a completely haphazard line up where anyone with any wristband stood and waited in one massive line. It wasn't until after this line had formed and established itself that anyone explained about the "pecking order" of wristband colors and that the green group would be entering before any of the others, no matter where in this mash up line they were.

It was a logistical mess as people pushed and jockeyed for position, even within their own color groups. A lot of people were left out in the book stacks as the show went on. I have to think that somehow, this could have been handled better.

Pictures BelowCollapse )

Terrorism, and Why It Never Works

We have seen a lot of terrorism these past several years. It has taken a lot of similar forms and usually involves guns or bombs which killed people of a particular nationality of ethnic group or job.

But terrorism never accomplishes the stated goal of what the terrorists were hoping to achieve, which makes you wonder... why are terrorist groups still using a method that they must know isn't going to work?

If the idea is to make people afraid to go out, terrorism has failed. People are more cautious and maybe reserved, but people have not stopped traveling, even in areas where bombings and shootings are commonplace.

If the idea is to kill particular people responsible, terrorism has failed. The random bombing and systematic slaying of citizens never includes the people terrorists cite as the reason for their derision.

If the idea is to disrupt the economy, terrorism has failed. The trading and commodities markets may sink a bit for a short while, but they come back up.

If the idea is to live to see their eventual success, terrorism has failed. It is rare that a terrorist lives even a few years beyond the moment of their attack and, of course, many are suicide missions.

Even knowing all that, we still have terrorism. We know it doesn't work, it's ineffective in every possible way for ends the terrorists hope to achieve. And it guarantees you as the perpetrator will be hunted and hounded for the rest of your miserable life.

We need to get this message out there. We aren't going to reach the most desperate "nothing left to lose" sorts, but we have to cut back on those who might be reached. If we can do that, maybe we can do more...

Back in the day, NYC had three different subway companies: the BMT or Brooklyn Manhattan Transit, The IND or the Independent Transit Line and the IRT or the Interboro Rapid Transit. Eventually, these separate subway systems came together to form what we now know as the New York City Subway System.

In 1983, a group came along that capitalized on the initials IRT, but in this case they stood for Interboro Rhythm Team. They created a song that followed the route of the Broadway Local from South Ferry to Upper Manhattan. The name of the song was a familiar phrase to people who listened to the conductor's announcements as they rode: "Watch The Closing Doors."

I remember hearing this song and loving it, and I probably heard it on WKTU, which was the radio station that played Urban/Dance music when it was released. I never got to play it as a DJ because I never found a copy of it, but certainly I would have fit it into my set list if I had, it's just that much fun and worthwhile.

The great thing about the song is that it's accurate to the Uptown bound 1 Train as far as descriptives and order of station stops, and it reflects the sound, tone and attitude of NYC, mid 1980s.

I'm pleased to present This Lost Classic, and to paraphrase the automated subway announcement circa 2016: Stand clear of the Dancing Floor.

Killing Police Officers

What we're seeing now is a devolving situation. Over and over, police officers shoot and kill black citizens. They don't even face charges, which means they don't even go to court to answer to their actions. Everything continues as it was. Frustration builds with every death and with every systematic choice to ignore the facts, to gloss over the situation, to criminalize the dead. Soon, some want to resort to creating their own justice. And you get Dallas.

We are in a very volatile and dangerous moment in American History. We are at a crossroads.

There is no justifying killing someone under the conditions we are witnessing. This is especially true of police officers who receive hours of training and learning proper protocols for situations they face on the job. When you have the training and the know-how and the understanding of your role, you need to enact it properly.

The tragedy in Dallas, a city I was just visiting a month ago, goes to all of the problems we are seeing with the country as a whole. When the system isn't working for you, make a new system. When you as a human are not valued, you have nothing left to lose.

Of course, killing random police officers only makes everything worse. Those that were patrolling the protests in Dallas were likely the best cops, those that care about what they see and are trying to make a difference. The cowardly cops that shoot and kill citizens that they stop likely would never take that assignment, so this only makes it that much worse.

But it's easy to see how this schoolyard shoving match with bullets is turning our country back into the Wild West.

Killing police officers is literally giving ammunition to the side that wants to characterize black people as animals. This, despite the fact that the situation leaves very few options for recourse. Still, the idea that Martin Luther King put forth does apply here. We all can't act with violence.

It seems as though every day something horrifying is happening. This is all due, in my opinion, because we have still not talked about race as an issue in America.

Police officers, protesters, people at traffic stops, we are all human beings. None of us is better or worse for who we are. But saying that all humans are the same and actually believing it and acting it clearly is not happening.

It feels a bit like a civil war is happening. That's all to do with not having a discussion about these issues. And putting that discussion off again will only continue the Status Quo.

We have to start talking about this issue. But how can we begin?

There has been a running theme in the United States in 2016. It didn't begin this year. It just continues to magnify from previous years. The thought: if you aren't a part of the majority, you are less valued, or not valued at all.

Here's why this is such a big problem, now. People think and do things based, not just on their own thoughts and decisions, but also on the atmosphere, the context and accepted behaviors of others around them.

Based on this, we have a grave situation.

But this goes back to 1964, when Jim Crow laws were finally abolished. We needed to put it in context, have a national discussion to go along with the change in policy, so people, both black and white, could come to terms with what it all meant, and where it was going to lead.

Instead, racism took a different form... or the same form as Martin Luther King was assassinated, riots resulted, and everyone who wanted to buy into the "those people are different from us" argument could say, this is why we don't want THEM in our neighborhoods.

Since we didn't have that discussion on race then, and we still haven't had it yet, we are seeing more actions that suggest "Them v. Us" is an ongoing theme, and rules, justice system, fairness and equality be damned.

We're not talking about illegal immigrants here. These are bona fide citizens of this country.

Between the lack of gun control, the fear and lack of understanding about people that appear different, and those in positions of power, everything is reversed from how it should be.

The atmosphere matters. As long as cops who killed citizens never are charged with crimes, we cannot deal with the next case. The atmosphere matters.

How do you police the police? Even when there is video evidence of their breaches of protocol, they still receive no charges.

But the police actions are the fruit of a tree of hatred. It all comes back to punishing Black people by this generation, because, and this is the core of the issue, because white society previously treated them like property.

We have to have that conversation about Race in America. How can the United States  hope to be fair to citizens in other countries, when we have not yet been fair with our very own?

Choose an adjective: heartbreaking, unnerving, disgusting... typical, expected, unsurprising. Maybe all of the above. What we know for sure is that until we talk about it, together and collectively, there will be another shooting. Another American killed, as if there is a war going on in the streets of our cities and towns, as if we believe there is a difference between people with different melanin content in their skin.

I know this conversation is going to be difficult. And my suggestion that racism is a kind of addiction seems to fit that. But if we can't protect each other within the borders of our own country, there is no hope of ever achieving world peace.

We are the standard bearers for doing what's right. It is time to stand up so that all of the people, more than 500 in 2016 so far, will not have died in vain.

The Vexing Verification

I'm not the most avid follower of comic books and maybe I am not as rabid about science fiction films and television series as some, but I have always enjoyed my weekends at New York ComicCon, the years I have gotten a ticket to attend, and I have loved sharing elements of the con here on LJ and via my other social media: on twitter and instagram.

The Javits Center gets a superhero makeover in October as thousands of people, some in costume, others just gawking to see, come to sample the wares of artists and authors, attend panels that give insights to various media, be they comics, or entertainment for the big, small, computer or video game screen, and get to view sneak peeks at some episodes of a new or favorite program, usually with some of the principals in attendance to talk about it, and to answer questions from adoring fans.

It's still not the ultimate con - that remains the Comic-Con International: San Diego which happens each July. But looking at how San Diego operates their Con is clearly what the New York organizers have been doing, but with a twist.

This year, something new was announced...Collapse )

A Visit with cynnerth and low_delta

Sunday, May 15 2016 and Cyn and Kevin, aka cynnerth and low_delta were in town, had a bit of free time that afternoon and evening and we spent an unseasonably cold afternoon and evening together!

a skosh of the scotch!Collapse )
Just about nine months ago, I wrote a thinkpost called Why "President Trump" Is NOT As Far-Fetched As You Think", which outlined the basics of why a nonsensical candidate who had no political experience of any kind could wind up being the Republican Nominee for President during this election cycle.

At the time I wrote that piece...Collapse )

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