One of the many benefits I enjoy from writing this column is that I get to stir stuff up from up here on my, shall we say, “perch.”From here, I get to rant and rave, sprinkle dashes of the uncomfortable into conventional wisdom and comfort zones, take folks dangerously close to the edge, leave them suspended Wile E. Coyote-like midair, then lasso them in before they plunge over the cliff into the “diversity dangers” that may lurk below. From here, I also get to do some vigorous backpedaling, or source attribution when I need to pass the buck if things get a tad too hot or have the potential to backfire on me.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty sponsored a presentation entitled “Lynching Then Lynching Now: the Roots of Racism and the Death Penalty in America”. As the title of the workshop affirms, there is a direct link between those executed on Death Row and racism. Racism still permeates many levels of all our institutions, but there is no more glaring injustice to all people, especially to persons of color, than our criminal justice system. Just as lynching was an integral part of southern culture during slavery and the Jim Crow law, so has the incarceration of persons of color (and at every phase) become our new lynching – the history of the Death Penalty as it manifests today.
A query by a general contractor whose workplace had been infected by racist comments was the topic of a recent article in The Houston Chronicle. At issue was the worker making these statements and, when confronted by another employee, getting very volatile (“almost violent”). The worker’s defended his statements by claiming the right of free speech. Since this is probably a common experience by many in the workplace, it’s fitting to ask how far does free speech go in what people say on the job in a public setting? The employer and boss has the right, in fact, is under the legal precedent of insuring that all workers can work in a safe environment free of racial discrimination and harassment. How does one resist this negative kind of hate speech, and interrupt this behavior from occurring?
The night atmosphere is alive with colour and sound. Vibrant costumes adorn humble people as they dance to ward of evil spirits. Bright fires cast a warm glow; the balmy warmth of incense caresses the air. Our spirits soar. This is a traditional Buddhist festival in Nepal. Contrast this with another scenario I experienced: Before we alight the bus in Beijing we are told not to ask questions. We are told not to mention anything political. We giggle and laugh, every one of us thinks it’s a joke. But our guide tells us again firmly, he is 100% serious. We could get arrested and thrown in prison and that is no laughing matter.
My Dad puts me in the same category as murderers and rapists. Shocking isn’t it? But true. You see he’s a Jehovah’s Witness. To him, because I am not a Jehovah’s Witness, I’m evil like all sinners. When the world is soon destroyed, I will die along with it. I still consider myself to be a good, principled person, I do lots for charity, believe in God (ish) respect others, don’t steal, fornicate or cheat. (much)
We’re all fed up with the reported incidents of bullying that have been dominating the headlines lately. And we have every right to be. I just hope that we’ve reserved a portion of our dismay for the workplace bullies who may lurk in our midst wreaking havoc on folks in the next cubicle, lab or conference room, or yelling, screaming and cussing on the other end of the phone, or from another culture. And well we should because bullying is anathema to who we say we are from the duality of respectful and ethical behavior.
Still not convinced?