Mirror, mirror on the tube
Expanded from the 4-15-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

What do Don Imus, Osama bin Laden, the late Timothy McVeigh, anti-immigrant hysteria and the Nevada anti-gay marriage initiative have in common?

The same solution.

A few years back, a neighbor of mine came to my door to solicit my signature on Karl Rove's hatemongering anti-gay marriage initiative. He was doing so at the behest of his Mormon religion and is now well on his way to an MD.

He was a fine young man, just immature, so I did not exploit his obvious vulnerabilities: Would he treat a gay patient differently than others? What would he do if one of his many children came forth one day and announced to his loving family that he or she is a homosexual?

I instead defused Dr. Future's desire to bash queers with an argument in reasoned deflection.

I told the young man that I view most of society's problems as solvable through economic justice. I noted that the followers of Osama bin Laden would not have been radicalized had they lived in a just society offering hope for a decent future. I noted that if Timothy McVeigh had come home to a good job or educational opportunity, he might not have gotten into the business of blowing up federal buildings after he was mustered out of his beloved army.

The best that anachronism Don Imus could marshal in defense of his recent radioactive racist remarks was that a lot of black rappers sing and say much worse. That's the "so's your old man" excuse – everybody does it so don't blame me, the worst cop-out this side of "I was just following orders."

Noted African-American columnist and author Stanley Crouch has long been critical of rabid rap. His perspective on the hip-hop culture parallels my view that economic opportunity is the solution to so much of what ails us and that lack of it lies at the root of the disease.

Crouch told PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley that in his view, scritchety-scratch-the-vinyl rap evolved out of poverty in neighborhoods where there was little or no music education in the schools and even if available, most families couldn’t afford instruments. So the kids began to create music out of the cheap materials at hand – vinyl records, loudspeakers and a marginal talent for very bad poetry.

A similar thing happened in another impoverished black culture. The beautiful steel drum music of the Caribbean was forged from the castoffs at hand – 50-gallon oil barrels.

Awhile back, I wrote about an upper middle class family in southwest Reno that moved there because they thought the schools were good. They were shocked to find a lack of music and many other aspects of education in our starving school system. Even the comparatively rich folk in this country see the deficiencies in a wealthy land which has squandered its natural and human resources on war for most of the past seven decades.

In northeast Reno, problems are allowed to fester. Rank and file members of the Reno Police Department have let it be known that the city has given up on trying to stop drug dealing in that largely minority area. The McNeely administration's latest cosmetic solution, making a street one-way to slow down itinerant drug buyers, is not only laughable but derided as a ploy to hurt the few small businesses located there so that they will be more likely to sell their property to the city.

Northeast Reno has been so cut up by political gerrymandering that it has no hope of electing its own city councilmember or getting a seat on the board of education. So the cops feel free to ignore the drug dealing.

Smoking Guns

These comments about the local community are based on harsh personal experience. Read how easy it is for racism to ooze out when no one is taking names.

The day Jesse Jackson was black like me
Barbwire 11-7-1999

Also: I was a teenage racist
Barbwire 1-12-1990
will be uploaded here shortly

The City of Sparks has the worst racial problems of any of the three local governments for reasons that few can fathom. Isn't Sparks a nice, friendly, family-oriented town? Yes, but its heritage sprang from the narrowness of hardscrabble railroad workers and immigrant, largely Italian, farmers. Their tribalism is still reflected in the attitudes of the city administration and its residents. If you're white, you don't see it. If you're black, tough luck.

As a nation, we remain so narrow that everyone seems to need someone to step on. That flaw is easy for hatemongers to exploit. As long as the rich and powerful can keep the lower classes fighting each other, their positions at the top of the heap remain safe.

A recent analysis by Jack Rasmus in Z Magazine (March and April, 2007, editions) notes that the transfer of wealth from 90 million working class families to the richest individuals and corporations has gone past $1 trillion a year.

Last week, a black female law student was asked by a network reporter what she thought might be the solution to chronic problems as reflected by Don Imus. Her response: "time."

Lesbian Mary Cheney said much the same thing regarding the bigotry of her parents, Vice-President and Mrs. Richard Cheney, terming it "generational."

Alas and alack, we appear to be many generations away from exorcising old hatreds. Black candidates still have to add an extra five points to the poll numbers of their opponents to allow for racists who won't admit their prejudices. [1]

So much could be cured so much faster if we would devote proper resources from this stupefyingly wealthy land to educating the kids who turn to rap and violence. Give them their musical instruments, allow them to flourish. Then we might have fewer bigoted doctors, shock jocks and terrorists.

Enlightenment is always an endangered species. Sunshine remains the best disinfectant.

CLINGING TO THE LEDGE. The Assembly Ways and Means Committee hears AB 530 tomorrow morning. The bill would establish a state consumer ombudsman for minority affairs. Comments at a previous hearing brought out deficiencies in the state department of consumer affairs, so a broader solution may be workable despite the opposition of Gov. Jim the Dim. Local members of the committee are Democrats Debbie Smith and Sheila Leslie and Republicans Heidi Gansert and John Marvel. You may contact committee members directly by clicking here, or you may call the legislative hotline at (775) 684-3300 from northwestern Nevada, (702) 486-2626 from Gomorrah South, or toll free statewide via 1-800-995-9080. You may "vote" on the bill by clicking here.

Show up or call and rattle some cages. This is important.

Be well. Raise hell.

1. The five percent figure is a longstanding rule of thumb among political managers. The May, 2007, edition of Harper's Magazine notes that a recent ABC News poll found that six percent of Americans termed themselves as unlikely to vote for an African-American. (At pages 13 and 86.) Factoring in the rule of thumb, that number could well be 11 percent.

According to the U.S. Census and Federal Election Commission, 122,295,345 people voted in the 2004 presidential election.

Lush Rambo has a weekly radio audience of about 13.5 million sheep listening to a guy who has become rich burping racist japes and jeers, e.g., terming Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as "Halfrican-Americans."

His radio audience provides a chilling, if inexact parallel: 13,500,000 is 11.04 percent of the 122,295,345 who voted in 2004.

I bet white sheets still outsell all other colors.


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Copyright © 2007 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org, and a member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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