Following the North Star

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

An American Family Picture

When I look at this picture, a flood of emotions come over me. Truth be told, I find it to be both beautiful and heartbreaking. First and foremost in my mind is the unquestionable recognition of "family" as the primal institution of the human race. I see four people who feel calm, happiness, strength and inpenertrable confidence with each other. The true universal essence of Family. In this picture I also see a natural comfort between people of what (at the time of this photograph) would have been considered different "races".

During the American society of the 19th Century, people who were "black" or "red" skinned, as defined by "white"males, were, under the Constitution, neither citizens nor fully considered human beings.

It is truly sad (to me) knowing that this photo's era marked the end of the Native way of life. Their language, religion, society and their relationship with the "Great Mother" Earth, all substituted for the "civilization" of the "Great White Fathers"evidenced by the clothing and the classic "pose of the day"

Similarly, the African slave, it was a life sentenced to purgatory in America with an irreversable loss of any future connection to their African homeland.

"As sure as the grass grows and the wind blows" to quote Dustin Hoffman in 'Little Big Man'. That was as long as the People would be allowed to Live Peacefully upon their lands.

The Grass and Wind are still blowing and yet, there is nothing even close to the peaceful living between these two early American Cultures today.

Conrad Sage

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Blackface Doesn't Make Me Red

Despite the history of animus associated with the Minstrel Blackface, I am NOT offended by the recent use of it at a private party by NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind. Since the early days of Minstrelsy in the beginning of 19th Century America, hundreds, if not thousands of immigrant Irish, Germans, Italians and Jews had been relegated to the "lowest rung" on the social ladder. There they found no comfort in the underclass except in the "renegade" revelry epitomized by the enslaved Negroes (or Darkies). Slaves sang, danced and seemed to be unburdened by the "demands of white society" Though few white people of that era would have wished to trade places with the Negroe slave, secretly, they desired the "freedom" slaves had. To the white citizen, slaves were "taken care of" They had their food and clothing given to them. They had shelter and, on average, worked far less hours than the white male. It was this "easy living" slave life that was the foundation of the Minstrel mimic.

Minstrel shows were the most popular form of entertainment in America from the 1830's until the 1920's. It's hard to beleive that all of those performers and performances intended solely to mock the condition of the slave or Free Black, rather than show a reverance and (secret) desire for a way of life denied by whites in everyday society. It's evidence is still with us today. Witness the "wigga" or white nigger. Look at the influence of the rap and hip hop culture on white America. Look in the audience of a Jay-Z concert. White faces outnumber the black and brown. Get on the NYC subway and see white kids "saggin" and using the N-word in casual conversations amongst themselves the SAME way they see black youth interacting with each other. Listen to the language. Hear white people "shout out" to their "peeps" on TV and the radio.

I get Dov's oblivious reaction to his critics the moment he appeared in blackface. He, like the minstrels of yesterday, see no harm in their "fantasizing" about a life they themselves can't live. It's all good fun to "play act" right? What Dov and the minstrels could never understand is, what it is like to have to stay in the mask of the minstrel. To live with the impact and ramifications of white people's "fantasy" as a black person's reality. I have "cool" friends Dov says in explanation of his afro wig and blackface Purim costume. Of course he does. As an Assemblyman and Orthodox Jew, Dov, like the white minstrels of the 19th & 20th centuries, has no time to be "cool". He, like they did, see black life as "easy livin'" or as often stated, "shiftless and lazy". The ultimate black stereotype.

Nothing Dov did is new. Nor am I mad at him for doing so. Don't get me wrong, I personally won't vote for him and he most likely just destroyed his chance at running for Mayor of NYC, but, more importantly, what he did was refocus attention on the race realities of America today, and for that, I am glad. 

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Conrad Sage,
February, 2013

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

America's New Majority Population; A Plurality of Minorities or Why the Republicans Took a Beating in 2012

Stop shaking your heads in disbelief G.O.P.ers and pay attention. Your campaign was dead on arrival before it even started. Beginning with Barack Obama's election and continuing through the 2012 Republican Primaries, the Grand Old Party effectively and efficiently alienated or disregarded almost everyone in America who was not a white male. You say the 2012 Election wasn't about race? Okay, how about this? It was about everyone who the G.O.P. pissed off during the last four years while trying to unseat the President. It was about people standing up and shouting out loudly, "Hell No We Won't!!" (to paraphrase House Speaker John Boehner) to the relentless anti everyone else assault by the Republican Party. Oh, Great White Fathers, it is time to change your feathers or you will never fly again. Still don't get it? Check this out, take a look at the Voters Nationwide and the Key Groups that voted for Barack Hussein Obama.

93% of Black Americans. No surprise here, there was absolutely NO effort from Republicans to woo blacks at all. After all, pundits (and loudmouths) like Rush Limbaugh have been telling Republicans that blacks voted for Obama because of racial pride alone. As if the fact that Black Americans have a higher infant mortality rate, a shorter life span, less health insurance, less wealth, higher unemployment and extraordinary incarceration rates was enough to go running to the polls to vote Romney Ryan, whose policies oppose any remedy for all of the above mentioned, into office. Plus, the G.O.P mouth pieces and their audiences, are convinced and believe that Blacks are on welfare, use drugs and committ crimes when wearing hoodies. This is a no brainer folks. As (ugh) Kanye West said of G.W. and the Republicans after Katrina, they "don't care about black people" Got that right.

71% of Hispanic Americans and, by association, (according to the G.O.P political pundits and mouthpieces), illegal immigrants voted for Obama. Hmm, I wonder why? Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich said, "Spanish is the language of the ghetto". That's an esteem builder and vote grabber for sure, but I'm sure that Arizona's so called 'Papers Please' law had a little something to do with it too. Question. How do you tell an illegal immigrant from Scandinavia? Or Canada? (although they are quite happy with their "socialist" Government healthcare) Answer, you don't! Arizona's law was targeted to identify illegal brown skinned people. The Republican immigrant policy proposals seem to have no problem with any other illegals say from Israel, Russia, Norway or anywhere in Europe. Not a problem, but those damn low wage restaurant, construction, domestic and agricultural workers of latino heritage, now that's a different story! And by the way, who are those low wage latino workers paid by? Oh yea, (mostly white) business owners. Like that great 'Westside Story' (immigrant) song composed by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim says, "Life is alright in America, if you're all white in America" 

70% of Asian Americans voted for Obama. Didn't see that coming? You probably missed Rush Limbaugh speaking "Chinese" on his radio show. What a freakin' disgrace Perhaps the G.O.P. didn't seem to notice the 'Linsanity' in New York and the thousands of proud Americans who were more than happy to see our society become more aware of it's rich diversity. Too bad Mitt chose to use one of the most ridiculous and racially biased commercials ever to completely alienate Asian Americans one month before the election. You know the one where an ominously evil Chinese Leader teaches his student comrades all about the fall of Capitalism. In the end they are all laughing as it is revealed that China owns America. TV Ad Not a good look if you expect those same Chinese Americans watching the commercial to vote for you. Just saying. Reminds me of that line in 'Do the Right Thing' when the Korean store owner admonishes rioters not to destroy his store by shouting, "I'm Black too!"as it becomes obvious that they (Republicans) don't care about "yellow" people either. 

67% of Unmarried Women (aka "sluts" as described by a certain G.O.P. mouthpiece), voted for Obama. Why else would they need Birth Control or Planned Parenthood if they were not? Rush Limbaugh's "slut" commentary As the Great White Republican Fathers recently told America; an aspirin between the legs is just as effective (in preventing rape), and that a woman's body has the ability to "shut that whole (pregnancy) thing down" in cases of legitimate rape and, If in such rape cases, a woman does get pregnant, it's inevitably "God's will". And, just to be certain that a woman did indeed (miraculously) conceive after being raped, a vaginal probe will be inserted if she lives in the state of Virginia. Virginia, Vagina!? Coincidence? As if that wasn't enough, how many Republicans voted in favor of the Equal Pay for Women (Lily Ledbetter Act)? All of the Congressional Republicans, with the exception of seven G.O.P. lawmakers, did not believe that such a Bill was even needed. Huh? So much for Equal Rights in America. Anyway, any Republican worth their weight in the gold standard knows that it's the American Family that matters most! Not single working mothers raising their kids with the assistance of welfare and food stamps. Humph! (As if such a child could ever rise to become something as lofty as the President of the United States). Hey, those single parent "poor" kids could be working as janitors cleaning schools, saving the state money. Good idea Newt!

60% of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted for Obama. (This one's easy). According to former Republican Senator Ric Santorum, "they're just a bunch of snobs" for wanting to go to college. There are good trade jobs available as anyone who watches 'Swamp People' and 'Moonshiners' knows. But no, they just want to spend all day and night sleeping outside in tents to "Occupy Wall Street" No self respecting Republican child would ever be associated with the "Liberal scum" protesting in Ducati Park. Besides they're really just a bunch of lazy unemployed kids who want to stay at home, play video games and live off of their parents thanks to Obamacare!

Well Republicans, it's pretty obvious to see what went wrong with your Political Party; you didn't invite anyone to it! "Too White, Too Old, Too Wrong" makes a terrible tee shirt and is not something to be proud of in an America that believes in this sentiment:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Death of a Legend & the Murder of Morality

I was 5 years old when Joe Paterno started coaching at Penn State University in 1966. He remained Head Coach until November of 2011, 45 years later. His "retirement" came on the heals of one of the worst scandals to rock college athletics; The grand jury indictment of former Penn State Defensive Coordinator and long time Paterno associate, Jerry Sandusky on child molestation charges.

The grand jury testimony revealed that Sandusky had been accused of molestation over a period of 15 years, and that Joe Paterno was aware of the alegations for at least 9 of those years. To make matters worse, in 2002, Penn State Graduate Assistant Coach Mike McQuery, reported seeing Sandusky in the Penn State Athletic Building showers with a young boy to Joe Paterno. McQueary told him he'd seen Sandusky who was "fondling a young boy" in the showers of the Lasch Building. "It was of sexual nature. I'm not sure exactly what it was. I didn't push Mike ... because he was obviously very upset," according to his testimony."I was in a little bit of a dilemma ... because Sandusky didn't work for me anymore," it continues. Paterno testified that he told McQueary he would contact the appropriate people at Penn State.

Paterno passed the information up his "chain of command" to the Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and school President, Graham Spanier. According to Pennsylvania State Law, there was nothing more that Paterno was obligated to do. The question remains as to why "Jo Pa" did not do more to follow up upon the heinous accusations brought before him against one of his long time Penn State Football associates. Unfortunaely we'll never know.

Penn State University fired long-time coach Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier on Nov. 9, 2011, four days after Sandusky was initially arrested. Athletic Director Tim Curley and a Vice President, Gary Schultz, are accused of perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse. Both have stepped down from their posts.

In a statement before he was fired, Paterno said, "This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

It should be noted that Coach Paterno was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees shortly after he had announced he would be retiring at the end of the season. It was 3 days before the final game of the season, Senior Day, and a chance to gain a BCS Bowl Game berth with a Saturday victory against Nebraska when the "Fall of a Legend" occured. It was a heartbreaking experience to watch the game that Saturday afternoon with so many young people in tears. From the cheerleaders, to the players, to the legends who were in the stands. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Who was saved?

It was obvious that the Penn State Board of Tru$tee$ had to "punish" someone for the horrible allegations against Jerry Sandusky under the noses of the Football Program. As "Joe Pa" was seen as the inimitable plillar of decency in college sports, he was the one ultimately responsible for any lack thereof. Joe Paterno was promptly shamed and publicly blamed, thereby seperating the Tru$tee$ from any accountability in the scandal. The "Legend had Fallen" and Paterno was promptly silenced.

What a sad tragedy of false "morality" displayed by the cowardly Board of Tru$tee$ to think that the crime of child abuse can be "washed away" with the sacrificial execution of 'Joe Pa', the most admired and winningest Coach in College Football. It was the Board$ responsibility to keep Paterno's legacy intact and deal with the allegations against Sandusky. Not to use him as a scapegoat. An opportunity to address an important issue on the national stage was missed. It was not necessary to punish the entire student body 3 days before the biggest day of their young lives in order to "save" Penn Sate's image. Penn State's impeccible image of integrity was due in large part to Coach Joe Paterno.

We all needed to hear an in depth explanation from Joe Pa. Everyman who looked up to him, everyone who played for him, everyone whose life was impacted by him needed to understand why. Why, we, as men of value and integrity, can't talk about sex abuse, let alone admit it is rampant, and why we have not done anything to stop it. You can rest assured that if a woman had walked into the shower with Sandusky and a young boy together as alleged, this story would not be an issue today.

This is the silent secret that men cannot seem to be able to talk about. Jo Pa might have been able to start the dialogue for us had he not been so thoroughly disgraced by the Board of Tru$tee$.

10 days after Joe's firing, he was admited to the hospital for lung cancer. A little more than 2 months after his firing and the breaking of the Sandusky scandal, on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012, Joe Paterno died.

There is little doubt in the minds of those who knew Joe Pa, (Lou Holtz, Matt Millen, Reece Davis) that his firing, as a result of the Sandusky scandal, was what ultimately killed him. There is no doubt in my mind that Joe Paterno's firing by a cowardly Board of Tru$tee$ and the reverberating impact their decision has had on thousands of individuals was the ultimate murder of morality.

Conrad Sage

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Race Relations in America

"We are now about to assume the management of the editorial department of a newspaper, devoted to the cause of Liberty, Humanity and Progress. The position is one which, with the purest motives, we have long desired to occupy. It has long been our anxious wish to see, in this slave-holding, slave-trading, and Negro-hating land, a printing-press and paper, permanently established, under the complete control and direction of the immediate victims of slavery and oppression."

Fredrick Douglass, Editor in Chief, The North Star, December 3rd, 1847.

"Right is of no Sex - Truth is of no Color - God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren."

With that motto, born out of the devastation wrought by slavery, The North Star's printing presses ignited and helped to instigate the first steps in the long march towards freedom from oppression for all Americans. Though Frederick Douglass had himself been born a slave and had been subjected to, and seen the horrors inflicted by that system, he did not preach revolution, or violent overthrow as well he might have, but instead chose to seek reconciliation through the commonality of humanity.

115 years after the life of Fredrick Douglas, America has come a long long way. Slavery was abolished, thanks in no small part to The North Star's social influence, women gained the right to vote, the Civil Rights Movement triumphed and an African American, born of biracial parents no less, was elected President of the United States.

Can one even begin to imagine what Fredrick Douglass would think of America today?

There is no doubt in my mind that his heart would burst with immeasurable joy at the opportunities of life descendants of slaves, and all Americans, are blessed with today. It is with great sadness, however, that upon reflection, I believe Fredrick Douglass would acknowledge there remains a great deal of work to be conducted today, on behalf of true equality for all Americans, despite the multitude of accomplishments over the last century.

As of of January 2010, for example, unemployment for African Americans in the United States is at an atrociously unacceptable high of 16.5%, almost double that of the 9.7% unemployment that Caucasian Americans are faced with. Discriminatory housing and bank lending policies continue to keep minorities, particularly African Americans, at a far greater disadvantage than white Americans. Educational inequalities persist at every level of academia for African and Hispanic Americans, and the incarceration rate for both minority groups are disproportionately high. Statistics show that 60% of all violent crimes committed in America are perpetrated by Caucasian Americans but they only comprise 23% of the inmate population. African and Hispanic Americans, on the other hand, when combined, nearly represent a quarter of the U.S. population, yet as a group, they comprise approximately 66% of the country's total inmate population. The implications of such statistics are insidious and according to white anti-racist activist and writer Tim Wise, reveal the emergence of a "new mechanism of social control" in America.

Another statistic shows that 74% of illicit drug use in America is by Caucasians. 10% of that population is incarcerated. African Americans, in contrast, account for 14% of illicit drug use yet are 74% of the national inmate population arrested for contraband. Hispanics comprise 10% of the illicit drug user population in America and they constitute 15% of the inmate population. Combined, African Americans and Hispanics are 90% of all inmates incarcerated in America for illegal drug use.

Bob Herbert, columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote an op-ed article on the New York City Police Department's stop and frisk policy entitled "Jim Crow Policing" In it he outlines the absurdity of the number of times that blacks and Hispanics get stopped in New York City without any violation of law.

It is increasingly apparent that, though the old laws of segregation and Jim Crow are no longer on the books, racism has morphed into something new. Tim Wise calls it, "Racism 2.0". A modern day "upgrade" of 20th Century racism.

Witness the increase in hate group membership in the U.S. since the Obama presidency. According to the FBI there have been more domestic death threats to President Obama than any other President in American history. Why is he so much more of a target? The obvious answer is troublesome. American racism is so deeply embedded into our psyche that we say "of course" without hesitation, to the fact that an African American President would be a target of such unbridled hatred from so many people.
Some friends and acquaintances have argued that the increase in anti Obama sentiment is being perpetrated by small groups of anti-black racists and extreme lunatics who are on the fringe of "main street" America. Others, that the real root of anti Obama sentiment is not with his skin color, but with his socialist economic policies. Obama, they say, is seeking to redistribute the wealth of America by taking it from hard working people and giving it to non deserving, unemployed people. People who just want to live off of the government, "get high and make babies" as one person said. Really?

I hear these and other anti-Obama arguments aired repeatedly on television news programs and there is something all too familiar about the rhetoric. When former Rep.Tom Tancredo talks about Civil Literacy Tests as voting eligibility requirements, the underlying historic implications open sore wounds within the African American community. Likewise when I hear talk of making drug tests a part of welfare eligibility, or unemployment insurance, I can't help but sense an underlying motivation for such programs; denial of government services to targeted groups of Americans.

Over a century ago, Republican President Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing African slaves. It stated that...

"... the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."

I note this occasion to reference that within 15 years of this historic proclamation, the Executive Government of the United States conspired to rescind these "god-given, inalienable rights" to the newly freed slaves. President Rutherford B. Hayes' Compromise of 1877, ushered in Jim Crow Laws, lynching, the KKK and a century of post reformation segregation which still has reverberations in our society today.

The imagery shown at recent Tea Party and GOP Rallies shows a growing animosity towards our nation's first African American President by a homogeneous group of white American protesters. In President Obama's first year in office, the GOP, another homogeneous group of white men, effectively united with unprecedented unity against every piece of legislation the Obama administration attempted to pass regardless of whether or not it was beneficial to GOP constituents. There seems to be something insidious about the resolve against President Obama. As radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly stated, "I want this president to fail" Is it too simplistic to ask if there is a racial backlash of white anger against President Barack Hussein Obama?

Just as there was hope for real change in America after the Civil War ended and the Reformation began, there was hope for social change in America a year ago when Barack Obama was elected the first African America President. It seemed that our country had turned the corner on racism. It wasn't soon before television personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly started stoking the fires of racial divisiveness in America under the guise of "patriotism". Ditto former Vice President Dick Cheney whose blatant antipathy towards President Obama is broadcast nationally. Many of Cheney's comments about President Obama have bordered on treason and would have been called such in an earlier era. Imagine a former Vice President inciting American citizens by claiming that the President is making our country "less safe" against our enemies? What could possibly be the motivation behind such harsh and violent reactions to President Obama?

I truly believe that such a noted and respected person as Frederick Douglass would be spurred into action today. Though the physical shackles of slavery have been lifted, there are many who remain enslaved in our country. Enslaved to old notions, customs and out dated ways of social thinking. Crippled by fear and motivated by anxieties about race, religion, politics and sexuality, Americans are being driven to new heights of polarization, which, I believe, is leading us towards a modern form of segregation. As legendary singer Bob Marley once sang "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind."

In an attempt to shine a light on the myriad social issues facing Americans and the world at large, The Polaris Pages are dedicated "to the cause of Liberty, Humanity and Progress" set forth by Frederick Douglass' paper over a century and a half ago. It is with great humility that The Polaris Pages seek to remain as constant as The North Star, illuminating a path towards growth, progress and abundance for all humanity in the 21st Century.

Conrad Sage
February 20th, 2010