Monthly Archives: September 2014

Lowering standards – The biggest bait and switch in today’s society

The narrative that standards must be lowered or altered somehow for one group to compete with another is one of the biggest bait and switch scams going in today’s society. Before I begin, let me set the parameters of that statement. It is not a statement in absolutes. Standards that are proven to be unfair because they are in place for the express purpose of tipping the scales one way or another are not the standards I am referring to. Instead, the statement is about the standards that in their general framework are considered to be fair, not put in place to tip the scales, and are primarily looked at as being unfair because a group or groups of individuals historically perform poorly or exceedingly well as it relates to said standards. Now with that being said, let’s examine why the narrative is a scam.
The first reason is that it lessens the attention given to more substantial issues, such as the inherent obstacles that impact certain groups’ ability to succeed. High school and college entrance exams are a prime example of this. While the argument rages that the tests are unfair because certain socio-economic groups historically perform poorly on them, no one asks the more relevant question. Why is it that certain socio-economic groups fail to perform well on these tests? Is it that the education they are afforded in their elementary and secondary schools is not up to the same standards as those in the groups that are excelling at the test? Are there economic issues in their community which serve as contributing factor, such as the inability to obtain adequate prenatal health care, Certain groups have vested interests in the avoidance of such questions and by calling for the lowering of standards they can avoid the spotlight being shined upon them.
The second reason is that it provides a crutch to the same groups that the narrative purports to assist. Rather than saying as a group, we are not looking for a handout; we are looking for an opportunity. The narrative becomes the standards must be lowered/altered for us to keep up. This plants the subconscious thought that certain groups can not be expected to achieve at the same level as others unless given help. It also provides an excuse for some with-in the group for why they do not have to reach for greatness. Because someone is going to bring greatness to them, of course, this way of thinking is fundamentally flawed and dangerous because, as Nathaniel Branden stated:
If implicitly we teach people victimhood as their core self-identification, we are not teaching self-responsibility. We are teaching dependency and impotence. The danger is that they will feel “somebody has to do something, and that if the rescuer does not come they are doomed.”
The third and most significant reason to resist this narrative is that, in the end, it maintains the status quo it seeks to erase. While standards may be lowered/altered at one level, they most certainly will not be at the next one or the one after that. The perceived inferiority one has due to the knowledge that they may only be here because standards were lowered for them embeds in their mindset a sense of limitation and fear of failure, which in turn prevents them from even trying to climb higher. Worst yet, it removes the concept of personal exceptionalism. Because how can one expect to be exceptional if they believe they are only there because the system was altered to allow them to be there. In the end, the lowering of standards grants access to the first step on the ladder, but greatness remains reserved for those who work hard to achieve it as they climb to the ladder to the top.

Raising the minimum wage is a step – But it’s just the first one.

The calls for increasing the minimum wage continue to get louder, with four more states voting for measures to raise their minimum wages last Tuesday, bringing the overall number of states that have passed such laws to 29. At the same time, there is little doubt that raising the minimum wage is long overdue and an essential step in assisting individuals and families escape poverty. It is but one step up the socio-economic ladder. Real and sustainable progress toward eliminating poverty necessitates a multipronged approach. Two critical outlets to genuine economic empowerment, education, and workforce development training should be fully embraced and provided adequate funding.
The first and most important step to accomplishing this is ensuring that those individuals who have the power work tirelessly to remove inherent barriers to economic opportunity for all. This will not happen on its own, people affect change, and in this country, one of the most powerful ways to that is at the ballot box: Peter Edelman expressed that exact sentiment in a New York Times opinion article on July 28, 2012, in which he said:
“A surefire politics of change would necessarily involve getting people in the middle — from the 30th to the 70th percentile — to see their economic self-interest. If they vote in their self-interest, they’ll elect people who are likely to be more aligned with people with lower incomes and them. As long as people in the middle identify more with people on the top than those on the bottom, we are doomed. The obscene amount of money flowing into the electoral process makes things harder yet.”
“The change has to come from the bottom up and from synergistic leadership that draws it out. When people decide they have had enough and there are candidates who stand for what they want, they will vote accordingly.”
“These children and their parents know that getting an education is not only their right but a passport to a better future – for the children and the country.” — Harry Belafonte
The website DOSOMETHING.ORG lists 11 facts about education and poverty in America, the one common thread that runs through all 11 is that those living in poverty have a higher likelihood of failing academically and thus remaining in poverty.
Study after study has shown that education is one of if not the critical factor in escaping poverty. A child’s desire to learn must be encouraged at an early age and continually stimulated as they grow. Adults from family members and local educators to business leaders and politicians must shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that there is both a sound home and educational environment where a child’s innate desire to learn and discover is cultivated, and that funding for education is a top priority.
Of course, everything comes with a price, and education is not free. Money is needed to provide the type of quality education that children need today to compete in the increasingly competitive global economy. Yes, indeed, you can’t merely throw money at every problem and hope that fixes it; education is no different. But you can make smart decisions about where the money is thrown, and in the case of education, when money is used smartly, more is never less. Elaine Weiss, the national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), wrote that kids living in poverty need more, not less, of the supports that help upper-class children thrive. These include small classes, challenging, rich curriculum, individualized instruction, and supportive responses to emotional and behavioral challenges. It also means ensuring a meaningful “floor” – in terms of school readiness, physical and mental health, and nutrition – on which they can stand in order to viably learn.
A well-educated, highly skilled workforce may be the essential ingredient to strengthen our economy and ensure a high quality of life.
As more children learn how to download and use an app on their smartphone and tablet before they learn their ABCs, it is becoming increasingly clear that advances in technology create a job market that many Americans are simply not prepared for. Communities must continue to push for and demand that funds are appropriated for workforce development programs that, as Senator Bob Portman, one of the co-authors of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), said, “modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs to be more responsive to the needs of employers, and more effective in connecting the unemployed with good-paying jobs”.
The bipartisan (yes, that word still exists) Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 22, 2014, is a start. As the President stated:
“The bill I’m about to sign…will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run.” He added that the bill would help bring those training programs into the 21st century by “building on what we know works based on evidence, and based on tracking what delivers” for those who enroll in the programs — more partnerships with employers, tools to measure performance, and flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and run their training programs in ways best suited for their particular demographics and particular industries.
There is no question that the road out of poverty is a very long one and will require continued vigilance by all. We must continue to make our voice heard by calling for increases in the minimum wage, but we must not lose sight of the other paths out of poverty that must be paved if we are to see its end truly.

Why Are The Humans Hungry?

Alien #1: Really, looking at the humans again? What’s so interesting this time?

Alien #2: Well, if you must know, there is a very intriguing event going on right now. Thousands of people in the country they call the United States of America are standing on-line for what in their measurement of time would be days for a communication device they refer to as an iPhone.

Alien #1: A communication device? I hardly would call it that. They can’t even make a simple phone call to their International space station, and that thing is only in orbit around their planet.

Alien #2: Yes, yes, we all know how you like to make fun of human technology. However, when scanning that particular country, I see similar lines forming all the time for food.

Alien #1: Interesting; if I were to compare this to how things operate in our world, I would assume that their communication devices and their food sources are in short supply.

Alien #2: You would think that. But in neither case does that appear to be true. The demand for the communication device seems to be driven by humans’ desire to be part of a group. To be the first in that group to own something increases what humans call their social status, which appears to be a big thing.

Alien #1: Intriguing, yet I’m still confused about how this fits in with their food supply?

Alien #2: In the case of their food supply, it appears that it is not a desire to be part of a group or that it is in short supply in the United States. I found this article while scanning their internet.

Alien #1: Their internet, I would…

Alien #2: Stop it. We all know you would hardly call it the internet. Never the less I found this regarding their food supply. As much as 40% of food goes uneaten in the U.S., according to estimates from the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. In other words, Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion in wasted food every year, a separate analysis by the NRDC found. One study estimates, just 15% of all this wasted food would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans every year. And one in six Americans currently lacks a secure supply of food,

Alien #1: Are you sure that information is correct? Because to be perfectly honest with you, that makes no sense; how could they simultaneously waste food yet have people go hungry.

Alien #2: How indeed? Here’s where it gets complicated apparently in the United States as other parts of the Earth, humans have put a monetary value on food.

Alien #1: Really?

Alien #2: Yes, can you believe it? Placing a monetary value on food means that those who do not have the significant economic resources, as measured by humans, cannot afford to eat. In some cases, the situation is so difficult that again according to the information I found on their internet, their own United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates 15.8 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life consistently. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences.

Alien #1: Fascinating, how is it that so many humans line up to purchase a communication device if money is in such short demand? Surely being able to sustain a healthy existence is far greater than owning the newest communication device.

Alien #2: It is not that money is in short supply; it is merely how the wealth is distributed from country to country and within countries. You remember those artificial lines we have talked about that the humans draw to separate themselves and hold so dear.

Alien #1: Indeed, I do. However, what stumps me is that even in our world, we struggle with wealth disparity, yet we never allowed it to stop us from ensuring that all of our species have what is required to live and sustain a healthy existence.

Alien #2: Yes, but as we have remarked before, the humans have not come to the most basic of understanding: they are one.

Alien #1: And that is what remains so sad about their existence

Alien #2: Yes, my friend, it does, that it does.

A bad day for Rodger Goodell but a great day for the NFL

Rodger Goodell held a press conference on Friday and when it was over it seemed like everyone from current and former NFL players and women’s groups to politician and the media had a singular reaction, it’s time for him to go. Yes Friday was a bad day, in a host of bad days lately for Goodell and in all honesty he deserves it. But you know who was just fine with Friday? Thirty two NFL owners and their corporate sponsors. Because on Friday Rodger Goodell did what they pay him an obscene amount of money to do – on Friday Goodell shielded the shield.

There are 32 billionaires in the world who just happen to own NFL franchises, toys for most of them, toys that they were able to purchase thanks to their success or their family’s success in other businesses. They are very powerful and wealthy men and make no mistake they do not stand back idly waiting for Rodger Goodell to tell them what their next steps should be. As Hall of Famer Chris Carter so aptly put it, he never worked for the NFL he worked for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. Steve Bisciotti is the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice was an employee of Steve Bisciotti and any time that he wanted to Steve Bisciotti could have taken Ray Rice off the field. Could have said the Raven organization does not condone any type of abuse toward women and will not be associated with anyone who commits violence toward women, as such we are releasing Ray Rice or he could have said we are suspending Ray Rice while he undergoes mandated counseling. Steve Bisciotti did neither, well not until public pressure and a videotape released by TMZ forced his hand. Jerry Richardson owns the Carolina Panthers he has a player in Greg Hardy who was found guilty by a judge of choking his than girl friend dragging her around by her hair and threatening to kill her. Hardy is appealing the verdict but Jerry Richardson could have taken a stand nevertheless and taken his employee off the field. Instead Hardy, a star defensive end, played week one was deactivated week two, in the wake of the Ray Rice video, and was set to return week three, again that was until the public outcry forced the Panthers hand. To date, as far as I know, no one or no group has called for either of these men to sell their teams. No one or group has suggested boycotting their franchises or worst yet their outside business interests.

On the whole NFL owners have remained tight-lipped about their ugly problem. Not one has called for mandatory domestic violence classes for all rookies coming into league to help them better understand the pattern of abuse and gain coping skills in their interpersonal relationships. No NFL owner has suggested the NFL contribute to domestic violence organizations. In fact to my knowledge no NFL owners has done or said anything on their own to address this problem.

Some NFL corporate sponsors have pulled endorsement deals from Rice and Adrian Peterson and some have expressed “concern” over the problem of domestic violence in the NFL but not one has pulled out of their very lucrative NFL deals. This Sunday and every other Sunday, Monday and Thursday their commercials, which in many cases heavily rely on the objectification of women, will be beamed into your home to sell you any and everything including alcoholic products. By the way when it comes to those alcoholic products some studies have found that while alcohol may not have a direct correlation to domestic violence some abusers use alcohol as an excuse to become violent allowing them to justify their abuse on the alcohol. Yet no groups are calling for the boycott of these corporate sponsors or asking them any hard questions as it relates to the partnership with the NFL.

Yes Friday was a very bad day for the Rodger Goodell but to those that matter and profit from the NFL Friday was a great day – Goodell shielded the shield.

It Takes a Village

“We believe the additional year of maturity would be meaningful. And increasingly, I’ve been told by many NBA coaches that one of the issues with the younger guys coming into the league is they’ve never had an opportunity to lead. By having come directly out of their first year of college, those are the moments in their lives where…they were put in positions as upperclassmen, where they first learned how to lead teammates.”
– NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on raising the NBA minimum age
So what you’re saying, Mr. Silver, is that by staying an extra year on a college campus, these young men will be afforded the opportunity to remain in a nurturing environment which will allow them to grow mentally, build strong characters and facilitate their growth into leaders. Well, I can’t argue with that it sounds great except for this:
Ray Rice – Rutgers University 2005-2007
Greg Hardy – University of Mississippi 2006-2009
Hmmm, I guess their college experience didn’t help with that strong character thing.
You see, what Mr. Silver wanted to say was this.
We believe that an additional year of exposure at the college level would significantly improve the marketability of players eligible for the NBA draft, which will allow us to increase our revenue stream. After all, the NBA is a business just like the NFL and every other sports league, and at the end of the day, our bottom line is why we do what we do.
The concept that the mere act of going to college will ensure young male athletes will mature mentally, build strong characters, take responsibility for their actions, and become the leaders of tomorrow is no more real than believing that being elected to Congress would accomplish those same things. Sadly we have seen in both cases that’s not the case.
Going to college can and has played a critical role in the development of many young men. It provides them with an environment where they can develop their identity and internalize a personal set of beliefs and values absent from their family and childhood community’s external influences. However, in most cases, there will always be those who overcome; when this occurs in a positive fashion, there is more at play than just simply the act of stepping onto a college campus. Instead, it is the existence of a strong and healthy foundation established from early childhood that is in place. One that serves as a roadmap for young adults as they mature, adopt their belief systems, and increasingly begin to accept responsibility for their actions.
It is easy to look at those who do wrong and debate what form of punishment best suits their crime in society. But what is difficult is to look inward and find the root causes for the issues at hand, and until we do that, we will never advance as a society. What is clear is that we must endeavor to lay the proper foundation for our young men to grow and build on as a society. A large part of this is in teaching our young men how to respect women from the moment they can walk through our words and actions. The challenges to doing just that are many in today’s world. The number of young men being raised by single mothers is higher today than it has ever been, and while many of them are doing an excellent job, it does not negate the importance for young men to have positive male role models to look to. Pop culture and sports stars have long since abdicated that responsibility, not that they ever should have had it, which means that the burden falls on the men in the community to model proper behavior and respect toward women in their community at all times, to mentor young men on how to communicate their feelings without violence or threats and to be involved in their children’s lives, and not just through court-ordered child support payments, whether they are still involved with the child’s mother or not. An old African proverb popularized by a Hilary Clinton book in the 90s tells us that it “It takes a village to raise a child,” and never has that been more true than today with so many young men being raised without positive male influences in their lives and the constant sexual objectification of women they are overwhelmed with on television, social media and everyday life. The choice is ours. We can either start to lay the foundation for the next generation of young men or watch them continue down a path we know leads to their ultimate destruction.

Ask and you shall be healed

In life there will be times when your soul will be burdened by a question or questions which you do not dare seek answers to for fear of how it may effect others. It is in those times that you must remember that your spiritual and emotional well-being is equally, if not more important, as that of those whose feelings you seek to protect.

It’s Time!

Rightfully so, there are concerns regarding the number of young men of color who are living their lives behind bars. Yet as we walk through our communities, we cannot escape the reality that many of us choose to voluntarily live our own lives behind bars, barricading our homes and ourselves from both the real and perceived dangers of our communities. It is time for this to change.
It is time that we look inward for solutions to address the issues that plague our communities.
It is time we pull together to uplift our communities spiritually, socially, and emotionally.
It is time we work together to increase our communities’ financial viability and those who reside in them.
It is time we strive to turn our communities around, from a place we look to escape to one we want to return to.
It is time!

Real Men Walk Away

I’m six feet 240 pounds. When I was 29 years old, I dated a beautiful young lady who was all five feet 105 pounds, quite the odd couple we were. Our relationship was like a supernova. We met, fell in love, burned bright for two years, and then exploded never to see each other again. The passion of our relationship would at times lead to animated disagreements, and it was during one of these disagreements that she, all five feet 105 pounds of her, leaped off the floor, her hand clenched and punched me square on the jaw. I was stunned for a second, and then I reacted. I took one step back, looked her right in the face, and… told her I was going for a walk. It was the only reaction I could ever have imagined. It was the reaction my father, Charles W. Cooke, had taught me since I was a child. To be a man, you have to act like a man; he would say, which means you never put your hands on a woman. I share this story not to pat myself on the back, after all, you don’t pat yourself on the back for doing what you’re supposed to do, but to make a point to the embarrassing number of young men who say Ray Rice may have been provoked, that he may have had a good reason for striking his now-wife. That point is a simple one; there is never a good reason for striking a woman. Never. To indeed be a man, you have to accept that some things come with the territory. One of those things is the understanding that by nature, we are the bigger and stronger gender physically and that our strength is to be used to protect the women in our lives, not to abuse them. If one day you are placed in the awkward situation where a woman decides to “test your manhood” by putting her hands on you, your response is simple; you walk away. Walking away confirms your manhood because a real man walks away while a coward strikes back.
This summer, we had two elevator videos to view and dissect, and while we made fun of the now infamous Jay-Z and Solange video, it was in that video that a man who grew up in the projects of Brooklyn showed us how a real man reacts by merely not reacting. So young men, next time you want to keep it real, prove you’re not a punk, be a real man, do what real men do, and walk away.