Marc Brenman served as Exec. Director of the Washington State Human Rights Commission and as Senior Policy Advisor for Civil Rights at the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. He held several positions with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Dept. of Education, served on the Diversity Standards Task Force of the Society for Human Resources Management and ASTM. He's on the Board of Advisors of The City Project/Los Angeles which focuses on health disparities. He also served on the President's Commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.
I’m trying to make a positive difference in American political life by investigating whether and how it’s possible to draw some Trump voters toward the political center. In November 2020, about 48% of American voters voted for Trump. Voting for Trump is a proxy measure for rightwing feelings and beliefs. Many of these beliefs are extreme. None contribute to the American Dream of fairness, equity, opportunity, equality, and compassion, or the Good Society. Do we want to live in a permanently ideologically divided country, with the risk of civil war? Continue reading How I’m Trying to Make a Positive Difference – by Marc Brenman→
We don’t know yet what the future will bring. We never know what the future will bring. Analysts often say it’s a mistake to predict the future by extrapolating the trends of the past. The world is too complicated a place. With the current pandemic, it’s been “up jump the Devil.” But never in our lifetimes has a Devil occupied the White House. Will we forget an important lesson we should have learned—that Evil exists, and walks among us? I’ve said for years that many people believe in good, but deny that evil exists also. Yet there can be no good without evil.
A couple of mornings before Thanksgiving (or Indigenous Heritage Day, depending on how politically correct or “woke” you are) I got a call from a Native American friend who has run into a patch of bad luck. He initiated a conversation on the political situation in the United States, and how he was glad that he could go to sleep and not be afraid of waking up to more craziness by President Trump. My first thought was “It’s a new morning in America.” Only later did I remember that this was a slogan used by Ronald Reagan in his 1984 Presidential campaign.
In the aftermath of tragic police violence and subsequent street protests, many US corporations and other organizations have issued ritualistic and formulaic statements declaring their support for Black Lives Matter and decrying racism. What does this mean, and what will they do to follow through? Many of these companies already have diversity programs and are already required to comply with state and federal nondiscrimination laws and regulations. A number of states, cities, and counties have broader non-discrimination prohibitions than the federal government, for example, to include LGBTQ status.
The larger companies employ Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) or someone with a different title but similar responsibilities. The vast majority of people in these positions are African-American females. Some are male, and some are Hispanic. A few are white females. Almost none of the CDOs are members of the executive teams of these companies. Diversity does not occupy a place similar to core missions, such as production, operations, marketing/sales/ advertising/branding, finance, legal, logistics, supply chain, health and safety, etc. Only a relatively small percent of companies report their diversity demographics publicly, and almost none disaggregate the figures by level of employment, pay grade, responsibility, etc.
As I write, the current demonstrations against police violence have produced one good slogan: Defund the Police. Is this something we really want to do? About 64% of Americans own houses. When we need police help and call them, do we want them to not come because of a lack of personnel, equipment, or communications? Slogans don’t make good public policy, and are rarely efficacious. They can rile people up in call and response.
The alternative to policing is anarchy and chaos. As a people, we are not good at self-regulation. Do we want to surrender to vigilantes, private security forces, bodyguards, high walls, high noon, “stand your ground,” and Second Amendment advocates who claim to be standing between us and tyranny but who are advocates for their liberty and freedom only? I can imagine classic strategic planning for police, with substantial community input, to decide what to prioritize, what to stop doing, and what to do more of. And classic organizational development, to deal with the organizational culture problem obviously present in too many police departments of the supervisory chain of command losing control of the blue suits, or never establishing control over them in the first place. And classic human resources efforts, to hire the right people—ones without authoritarian traits, high control needs, or racism, and with cultural competency and thoughtful, Constitutionally based responses.
It’s a very hard thing to figure out what to do about reducing police violence in the US, especially reducing and eliminating racist violence. These issues keep coming to our attention largely because of undue and inappropriate police violence against unarmed African-American men. Recording of videos on cellphones and subsequent distribution on social media have made these tragedies much more public and apparent. These tragedies have been occurring for a very long time. Progress has been spotty and inadequate.
In classic strategic planning, we talk about what to stop doing, what to do more of, and what to do less of. There appear to be issues of organizational culture, where a substantial number of police departments are disconnected from morals, ethics, humanity, cultural competence, and the surrounding communities. Clearly, if an organization is being overtly discriminatory, they should stop doing that. But most of us aren’t overtly discriminatory, so our connection to the larger society must be producing discriminatory effects. The issues are complicated by the fact of about 19,000 largely independent police departments in the US.Continue reading Reducing Police Violence – by Marc Brenman→
After many mass shooting murders in the US, many elected officials and members of the public condemn the shooters as mentally ill, and want to forcefully control their access to guns. The issue has many dimensions. For example, most mass shootings in the US are by white men, but when they are caused by Muslims, the politicians and members of the public condemn them as terrorists. When African-Americans do the shooting, they are condemned as being racially motivated. What is mental illness, and how severe must it be before action is taken to restrain the freedom of those who have it? A third dimension is that by ascribing the cause of mass murder to mental illness, we provide an excuse, a relief from responsibility for the crime.
When I started teaching civil rights in graduate school, I developed a timeline of Black History in the United States. I included positive ones as well as tragedies, and tried to include more than African-American connected events, to represent a fuller picture of American history than is usually represented. I also included some world events to provide context and some removal from a “calculus of suffering” so often indulged in by one group comparing its history with another. The timeline makes no promises of completeness, and is a work in progress. It is generally referenced, and is fairly reliable. This timeline proved to be popular with students, who mostly had been raised and educated on the myth of progress, American Dream, and City on a Hill themes. They were surprised by the uneven progression of social equity in American history, with its frequent “one step forward, two steps back” meme. I’ve chosen some examples from just one year in this timeline for Black History Month.
I have doubted the Zombie Apocalypse meme for some time, lumping it in the same category as vampires, werewolves, and romance novels. But lately, I’ve started to doubt myself. I developed the idea of the Rule of Stupids and the Epidemic of Stupidity long before Trump was elected President. I could not, however, explain why the American people were becoming so stupid. For several years I have suffered being called all sorts of vile names on social media because I obsessively believe in logic, reason, evidence, and facts. Most recently those names include “sealioning,” I kid you not. Look it up.
As I write this, the United States has very recently elected a President who has been accused of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, ablism and anti-Semitism. These qualities have been likened to fascism. A number of the groups and individuals who supported the candidate were openly white Suprematist and/or neo-Nazi. Since the election, there has been an outbreak of hate crimes, hate incidents, hate speech, and harassment against those in traditionally discriminated against groups. These range from violent crimes to simple gloating and misapprehension of what supporters voted for. The Southern Poverty Law Center has recorded over 700 hate incidents as of November 18, 2016.