Google+ Badge

Friday, February 17, 2017

Journalism -- Trump's "Enemy of the People"


 

President Trump recently accused a wide range of media – The New York Times, ABC News, CBS News, CNN – of being the enemies of the American people. This is a part of his long-running battle against journalists and media he calls “fake news” who dare question his decisions and who seek accurate information about his platforms and his often ambiguous actions.

Those who follow Trump understand he often feels maligned by the media, quick to lash out against investigative reports. In fact, February 2016 on Fox News Channel, he threatened if elected to weaken First Amendment protections for reporters and make it easier for him to sue them.

Then, Trump said …

“I love free press. I think it’s great,” quickly adding, “We ought to open up the libel laws, and I’m going to do that.”

Furthermore, Trump later told a rally in Fort Worth that year that changes he envisioned would mean that “when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”

Trump has threatened to sue the Washington Post after the newspaper wrote an article about the bankruptcy of his Atlantic City casino. On Twitter, Trump has routinely criticized reporters who cover him and their news organizations, including The Associated Press.

“The press has to be fair,” he said in the broadcast interview.

(Associated Press. “Trump wants to weaken libel laws amid feuds with reporters.” Fox News. February 27, 2016.)

Libel law in the United States makes it difficult for public figures to sue reporters or other people who criticize them. To win such a case, the plaintiff must demonstrate that factually incorrect statements were made with actual malice or a reckless disregard for the truth.

Yet the seemingly always retaliatory President Trump said he would like to lower that standard. “We’re going to have people sue you like you never got sued before,” he said.

Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said because the Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed the existing legal standard, Trump could not change libel laws as they affect public figures by executive order or even with an act of Congress.

However …

Cristian Farias of The Huffington Post reminds us ...

“That’s not to say you can never sue the press. It’s just that the First Amendment, thanks to the Supreme Court’s reading of it in the landmark 1964 case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, has made it extremely difficult for public officials to do so. That’s been the law of the land for over 50 years.

“As a unanimous Supreme Court put it in the 1964 case, it should be hard for American public figures to sue the press, because that reflects 'a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.'”

(Cristian Farias. “Donald Trump Wants To Sue The First Amendment. He’ll Lose.” The Huffington Post. February 26, 2016.)

To a leader who undoubtedly prefers state-run media, President Trump threatens the free press. He believes his Twitter posts can maintain an effective assault on the so-called “fake news” and turn public opinion away from factual reporting. His advisers like Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon, serve to ratchet up the pressure, describing the media as “the opposition party” and offering up “alternative facts” when necessary.

Make no mistake, President Trump attempts to silence his critics no matter the validity of their claims. His lack of respect for the First Amendment is appalling. He owes his allegiance to himself and has professed his own uncanny ability to know what is best for America – no matter advice to the contrary. Who knows how much the institutions of government could restrain him if he seeks to exceed his constitutional obligations?

Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, said Trump’s comments betrayed a troubling disregard for free expression.

“There are very few serious constitutional thinkers who believe public figures should be able to use libel as indiscriminately as Trump seems to think they should,” Professor Somin said. “He poses a serious threat to the press and the First Amendment.”

(Adam Liptak. “Donald Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say.” The New York Times. June 03, 2016.)

It is time for all Americans to recognize the present danger posed by President Trump. The role of the free press is vital to our democracy. The access to all news is crucial for citizens. Unless we have dogged, tenacious journalists who are free to challenge authority without fear of reprisal, we stand to lose access to the truth. President Trump has no right to deny total coverage of his actions. Despite his obvious views to the contrary, he is a servant of all of the people, not just a baron of his Electoral College majority.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is the Populist Movement a Party Surge or a New Kid on the Block?


 

In the brief time since President Donald Trump's inauguration, an unrelenting wave of protests against the new administration has motivated grassroots activists. The populist movement is steadily growing all over the United States. Contingents from all degrees of the left are joining together. All of them have one thing in common – they are anti-Trump.

The latest high-profile protests have been organic, not organized by any party. The women’s march on inauguration weekend and the protests that brought thousands to airports following Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries have brought great promise to this new American movement.

So, Democrats have good reason to feel energized these days. As the minority party, they point to these grassroots protests, marches, and demonstrations as a sign that President Trump has already sparked involvement by their base at historic levels. They know they have a great opportunity to plug into both the outrage over the election of President Trump and the new electoral movement to solidify a brighter future.

The problem with any one party justifying the recent unrest as support for them alone is the reality that the anti-Trump movement is comprised of many factions. As a political party attempts to channel the enthusiasm, they may easily misread the desires of this agitated contingent.

If the movement becomes a part of a re-energized, established party, then that group – most likely the Democrats – must assume accountability for the will of the people. Not only must a party keep the movement engaged, but also it must actively represent their interests.

Representative Kathy Castor (Dem. Florida) said ...

“It’s how we turn the protest into a movement. The grassroots, the citizens across the country, I feel, are way ahead of politicians. Citizens across the country are worried and they’re energized and they are in the lead for a change. They want to hear from their elected representatives at all levels. They’re more engaged than ever. We’re focused on how do we focus that energy into elections and really making a difference in policy from the Hill."

(James Arkin. “Dems Hope to Ride Grassroots' Anti-Trump Wave Till 2018.” realclearpolitics.com. February 13, 2017.)

But wait.

Others are not content with the Democrats “riding” a grassroots movement that has, quite frankly, produced much of the “same old, same old.”

After a decade of Democratic control in Washington, rank-and-file liberals had mostly retreated from the activist community. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said, "Some organizations would have it be the highlight of their year if people showed up at events across the country in response to months of planning. And here it happens within a couple hours, organically."

(Gregory Kreig. “The anti-Trump protest movement digs in -- but can it win?” CNN. February 12, 2017.)

You see, for the party to pick up the mantle of protest, they likely fear inserting themselves too much, and they worry about problems if they professionalize the effort. Also, they must consider the possibility of backlash. An enraged grassroots group might turn some of its fire on Democrats if they’re seen as working with Trump or if the movement judges them too traditional.

What concerns a political party most is converting the movement into an electoral outcome. Politicians want to be elected, and many use such surges for personal gain. Plug in, take advantage, get paid.

Certainly many of the anti-Trump contingent cares less about party affiliation than about policy agendas. They are seeking new solutions to pressing problems. Some fear one party might attempt to weaken their messages and control the content of a wide scope of grievances.

The populist group understands that the party certainly did not ignite their activism. In addition, they realize the organic nature of the movement is part of its strength. “Change” is the mantra for the protesters. To them, the status quo is partisan and ineffective.

Green explained, "These are people who are getting engaged in protests for the first time. It's really the white blood cells of democracy attacking unconstitutional actions and a fairly illegitimate president."

Granted, political movements understand that party affiliations provide proven means of successful maneuvering. I'm sure this grassroots group would revel in a solid, powerful alliance. However, it remains to be seen if any old political entity is able to inspire a collective awakening of people across all spectrums of the country.

Right now the message of the movement is if you are unwilling or unable to create actions to end hatred and inject values of respect, inclusion, love, and equality back into our national politics, then stand aside. President Trump is a grave threat to democracy, freedom, human rights, equality, and the welfare of our country.

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Moving Those Uneducated, Uncivil Protesters To Silence: Answering the Daily Times Editorial

 
On February 08, 2017, Frank Lewis of the Portsmouth Daily Times wrote an article about the 2016 Presidential Election titled “The Election – Get Over It.” To open the editorial, Lewis posited this thesis:
I don’t know any other way to say it than – I have never seen so much hate in this universe in my entire life. It is obvious we live in a world so polarized it may not be possible to turn it around – ever... It is really simple – America voted. It’s time to move on.”

After making his conjecture, Lewis pointed out how many hateful Americans cannot accept the fact that Donald Trump was elected. His editorial ironically employed example after example of unfounded and bitter rhetorical accusation to malign those he found disgusting. The catty Lewis evidently has been blinded by the politics of President Trump and his supporters – white identity masked as new nationalism.

I feel it may be wise for Mr. Lewis to be more perceptive and less accusatory. Please, allow me to explain my feelings.

Lewis contends we live in a world of lawlessness and disorder completely absent of authority. Committing the fallacy of faulty generalization, he rails ...

But in this day and age no one pays any attention to the U.S. Constitution or any law for that matter. We now live in a world of anarchy.”

Then, he endears himself to the youth of America by degrading their intelligence. Lewis says ...

I also realize many of today’s generation will have to look that term up because probably no one has ever told them what a Gold Star mother is.”

And, Lewis damns higher education by accusing American college students of lacking diversity and of being spoiled, unruly hooligans. Without support, he claims they are the “worst.” Also, he assures the reader he has never even “protested” a winner of an election. I find it amusing that someone who evidently supported the King of Bigoted Policy and Offensive Remarks would lambast youth on campus. I believe colleges and universities are important centers of diversity.

College campuses are the worst right now. They have no room for diversity of thought. These are spoiled brats who, when they don’t get their way, set fires. Does that make any sense? Of course not, but it still goes on. In my lifetime, I have voted for the losing candidate multiple times. Never once did I try to overturn the election or protest the winner. These people are uneducated (14th in the world in education) and out of touch with reality.”

Lewis claims a bratty segment of the population protests the outcome of the election because they “don't know when the election is over” and they “don't want your votes to count.” Of course, this is completely unfounded as the majority vote went to Hillary Clinton. Lewis somehow believes those who oppose Trump deny “prosperity.” He then attempts to mollify the tone of piece by using the inclusive, first-person plural “we.” Mr. Lewis, I ask you, who's doing what exactly – we, you, them?

It amazes me that people don’t understand that when an election is over, it’s over. These people don’t want your vote to count. They only seek their own agenda. We are giving away our Constitutional Republic because we have proven what history already taught us – we can’t handle prosperity.”

Finally, Lewis falsely judges that millions of protesters are paid to cause mayhem. He unfairly stereotypes all of the participants as rioters who “burn and loot” – lazy bums who should be “looking for employment.” Someone might like to remind Mr. Lewis that the Women's March on Washington (January 21, 2017) featured 616 marches on seven continents. The massive march in Washington alone was roughly three times the size of the audience at President Trump's inauguration. The marches were conducted with civility and featured a keen focus on equality and justice – much-needed liberties of the women's rights movement.

But when we see on the national news media that paid protestors, burning and looting because they didn’t get their way on election day and because they are trying to put off the job of looking for employment, it makes us realize there are people out there who don’t have respect or civility anymore.”

Source: Frank Lewis. “The Election – Get Over It.” The Daily Times. February 08, 2017.

So, as two factions continue their love fest, maybe … just maybe … it would be advisable to clear the air about the subject of the debate. America is split over the election of Donald Trump and his political regime. Just because a sizable group of people now dedicate themselves to opposing platforms the president supports, that does not make them anarchists, idiots, or criminals.

Those who choose a different stand on immigration, women's rights, civil rights, sexual orientation, poverty, healthcare, or any other important issue are not patently misguided or wrong because they do so. If the opposition cannot respect their rights to speech and to protest, then they should at least refrain from using offensive, illogical tactics to denigrate them. It is far too easy to place people in boxes of discontent. Don't you agree, Mr. Lewis?


Momma Welfare Roll 

Her arms semaphore fat triangles,
"Where bones idle under years of fatback
And lima beans.
Her jowls shiver in accusation
Of crimes clichéd by
Repetition. Her children, strangers
To childhood's toys, play
Best the games of darkened doorways,
Rooftop tag, and know the slick feel of
Other people's property.


Too fat to whore,
Too mad to work,
Searches her dreams for the
Lucky sign and walks bare-handed
Into a den of bureaucrats for
Her portion.
'They don't give me welfare.
I take it.' 


--Maya Angelou



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Movements Against the Orange Crush: Creating an Anti-Trump Opposition


 

After the disputed election and the following dismay with President Trump's choices for his cabinet posts, many people are actively seeking a new political foundation. The white identity politics that helped elect President Trump cut the left to the quick, and now, shaking their heads in disbelief, they find themselves in the middle of a much-needed reality check.

A recent CNN/ORC poll found that just 42 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of Trump, while nearly 50 percent have an unfavorable view. As the country faces this uncommon political division, new movements that oppose President Trump and his beliefs are sprouting up all over the United States.

Other than opposing a president they consider unfit for office, what do these people hope to accomplish? The left-wing politics of social equality and egalitarianism find solidarity in reform and in their support for social systems. Yet, just as considerable similarities exist, so do differences – in order for the protests to sustain, grow, and yield meaningful outcomes, leaders must build specific platforms with common goals.

What exactly is a progressive or a liberal? Is “progressive” just another name for “liberal”?

Crissie Brown, reporter for politicususa, maintains there is no one true definition for either the word progressive or the word liberal. She contends both words exist in the political frame (sharing concepts and structures) and both imply opposition to “conservative.” Most certainly, conservatives use “liberal” as an epithet, and many of those right wingers believe “progressive” is simply a euphemism for “liberal.” A study of actual semantics can be very involved and mightily confusing.

In truth, American history shows the words are different.

The history of progressive movement reveals its inception was a response to the vast changes brought by industrialization in the United States. The reform movement reached its height early in the 20th century and is generally considered to be middle class and reformist in nature. It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernization, such as the growth of large corporations and railroads, and fears of corruption in American politics. In the 21st century, progressives continue to embrace concepts such as environmentalism and social justice.

Historian Alonzo Hamby defined progressivism as the "political movement that addresses ideas, impulses, and issues stemming from modernization of American society.”

(Alonzo L. Hamby, "Progressivism: A Century of Change and Rebirth," in Progressivism and the New Democracy, ed. 1999)

The origins of American liberalism lie in the political ideals of the Enlightenment. The U.S. Constitution set up the first modern republic with sovereignty in the people (not in a monarch) and no hereditary ruling aristocracy. However, the Constitution limited liberty, in particular by accepting slavery. The Founding Fathers recognized the contradiction but chose to ignore reform.

Modern liberalism took shape during the twentieth century, with roots in Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism, Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom, Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, Harry S. Truman's Fair Dear, John F. Kennedy's New Frontier, and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society.

(Matt Bai. “Naming Names.” The New Republic September 10, 2007.)
  
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines liberalism as “the political doctrine that takes protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics.” Liberals typically believe that government is necessary to protect individuals from being harmed by others; but they also recognize that government itself can pose a threat to liberty.

Both progressives and liberals advocate change or reform. To be fair, most progressives are also liberals. Yet, not all progressives are liberals and vice versa. And, the manner in which each group goes about effecting change may exhibit true distinction.

Brown says liberalism is an ideology that employs a set of ideals grounded in the social contract (rule by consent of the governed for mutual benefit). In contrast, she postulates that progressivism
is a “problem-solving method.” She says …

“... It’s not enough to practice the progressive method. That method must be applied toward goals grounded in liberal ideals, and it we must recognize when it’s time to “fish or cut bait” and be willing to advocate the best solutions we can find with confidence, even as we recognize that we will need to adapt to new information and changing conditions.”

(Crissie Brown. “What are ‘Liberals,’ What are ‘Progressives,’ and Why the Difference Matters.” politicususa. June 15, 2013.)



I told you the study of meaning in language can be frustrating. Let's defer our understanding of the progressive and the liberal to an authority.

To David Sirota – nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, talk show radio host, author of best selling books, and past press secretary for Bernie Sanders – there is a fundamental difference between progressives and liberals. He contends traditional “liberals” are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society; whereas, “progressives” are those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules.

(David Sirota. “What’s the Difference Between a Liberal and a Progressive?” The Huffington Post. October 19, 2005.)

Sirota offers two possible actions by each group to illustrate his theory of delineation.

Energy
  • A liberal solution to some of our current problems with high energy costs would be to increase funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
  • A more “progressive” solution would be to increase LIHEAP but also crack down on price gouging and pass laws better-regulating the oil industry’s profiteering and market manipulation tactics.
Prescription Drugs
  • A liberal policy towards prescription drugs is one that would throw a lot of taxpayer cash at the pharmaceutical industry to get them to provide medicine to the poor;
  • A progressive prescription drug policy would be one that centered around price regulations and bulk purchasing in order to force down the actual cost of medicine in America (much of which was originally developed with taxpayer R&D money).
In America, many liberals are not fully comfortable with progressivism as defined in these terms. They see the stance as confrontational towards large economic institutions. And, of course, many of these institutions fund campaigns. Political wheels turn round and round but mainly march in step with the almighty dollar.

Is the new stir in political direction – the sizable reaction to the Trump presidency – more grounded in liberal or progressive ideology? Or, is it actually an opposition that believes in an allegiance to both ideals. As time goes on, we might certainly discover that the new backlash is comprised of hybrids who are genuinely Liberal Progressives, holding hope that their tax money can be used for purposes to better society while also demanding their democratic political institutions fall in line. One might see how a transformation from a so-called “snowflake” conception to a strong “blizzard” of opposition could realize solid reform.

This kind of power seems to require more than support from a Democratic Party. Liberal columnist Clarence Page said "The greatest triumph that conservatives ever achieved is to make liberals embarrassed to call themselves 'liberal.'"

Linda Hirshman of The New Republic explains Page's comment …

“Why was this such a coup? Because the L word--unlike 'progressive' or 'populist' or other substitutes--is a place holder not just for a political movement but for a political philosophy. For more than three centuries liberalism has meant the belief in increased sharing of social goods. Over time, the goods have changed, but the underlying dynamic has remained the same. By disassociating themselves from the name, the Democrats are also abandoning the big organizing principle for which it stands.

“The scary thing about the rejection of the evolved liberalism is that it is exactly that movement, complete with its morality of collective action, the Democrats need.”

(Linda Hirshman. “Naming Names.” The New Republic. September 10, 2007.)

For the anti-Trump movement to succeed, open minds must prevail, and those involved must recognize that implementing their ideals requires weighing all possible solutions for needed change. Most importantly, involvement requires putting these changes in action.

How can progressives and liberals meld a strong solidarity that guarantees this animation? Protest is effective in drawing attention to problems; however, movements based solely upon resistance – defiance void of solution – are normally short-lived. Have we reached a time of unparalleled energy strong enough to cause a truly positive transformation? I think it depends on identity – an integrity that has its roots in the past and its strong, new branches reaching into a better future.

 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"Taking the Public Out of Re-public-an" -- Betsy DeVos Confirmed


 

The Senate narrowly confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education with Vice President Pence casting a historic tiebreaking vote after senators deadlocked over her fitness for the job. Devos is a controversial choice for the position – an appointment that makes her responsible for advancing public schools in America.

Ms. DeVos is a billionaire with no education degree. She graduate from Calvin College, a private Christian colleg in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a bachelor's degree in business administration and political science. In fact, she has practically no experience with a public school environment. She has never attended public school or state university. Even before college, DeVos attended private K-12 schools and a private high school (Holland Christian High School) in Holland, Michigan. And, none of Betsy and Rick DeVos' four children attended public schools.

In her new position, DeVos will make decisions affecting nearly 100,000 public schools and over 50 million children. 90 percent of U.S. school children attend public schools.

DeVos has long been an advocate for "school choice," meaning she believes all families should have access to more educational options than just public schools. This position does involve, to some extent, funneling money away from public schools and toward private educational options, including for-profit and Christian-based schools – her critics argue that redirecting public monies to private schools via vouchers or other schemes is tantamount to defunding the public school system. She also favors the proliferation of charter schools, some of which are organized as for-profit businesses.

DeVos and her family have long supported causes associated with the Christian religious right, and she has publicly called education reform a way to "advance God's kingdom.” Anya Kamenetz of National Public Radio reports: “Voucher programs have faced constitutional challenges in Florida and elsewhere, among other reasons, because they direct public money to religiously based organizations.”

Kamenetz says, “The tax-credit structure is especially significant when considering what could happen under DeVos in the Trump administration.” In a scholarship tax credit program money bypasses state coffers altogether. In this tax-credit, corporations or individuals can offset state tax liability by donating to a private, nonprofit scholarship organization. The money from this fund is, in turn, awarded to families to pay for tuition at private schools.

(Anya Kamenetz. “Under DeVos, Here's How School Choice Might Work.” NPR. January 31, 2017.)

During her hearing, DeVos struggled to answer questions on relevant federal law pertaining to education, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees federal right of public education to children with disabilities. DeVos said the enforcement of federal law should be deferred to state and local districts.

Also during the hearing, DeVos was unable to distinguish between “proficiency” and “growth,” concepts that are crucial to a major education debate about the fairest way to measure student learning.

(Joy Resmovits. “Betsy DeVos squeaks through as Education secretary after Pence casts first-ever tie-breaking vote.” The Los Angeles Times. February 07, 2017.) 
 
Across the country on blogs, PTA listservs, social media, and emailed petitions, protesters feverishly denounced DeVos' nomination. In fact, hundreds turned out in her hometown of Holland, Michigan, recently to vehemently oppose DeVos taking the reins of the nation's schools. And it was reported that the automated Capitol Hill switchboard was so flooded with calls last week that it caused delays in the Senate's voicemail system.

(Safia Samee Ali. “Why Betsy DeVos is Riling up Education Advocates.” NBC News. February 07, 2017.)

But now, Betsy DeVos has been confirmed. And, in this Trumped-up political climate accenting the affirmation of wealth and appointment without experience, why should this surprise any of us? It is yet another sign that Washington these days is out of touch with reality.

Public school staffs are a major force with which to contend. I strongly believe the fights to privatize and to charter will cause a grass roots movement of parents and educators. American public schools are much more than strictly educational facilities. They are institutions that communities proudly identify as their own – places where students complete the socialization process, acquire a central heritage, and develop the spirit of competition. In short, public schools are indispensable.

If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools, they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.”

-- Susan B. Anthony

Saturday, February 4, 2017

"Wade In the Water" -- The Story of Dreamland Integration

 

I want to thank Jeff Lisath, Eugene Collins Sr., and the Facebook site “Northend Reunion” for this chronicle of Dreamland pool as it relates to Portsmouth history. I relied strictly upon their accounts to write this summary. It represents their amazing story. I respectfully submit the writing as part of Black History Month. I pray it enlightens the readers.

I trust all is accurate according to the accounts I have read. If there are inconsistencies or things that need correction, please comment here or email them to me at frank.thompson51@yahoo.com. And, if anyone can add important details to the chronicle, please share them.

Dreamland (also known as the Terrace Club for part of its existence) was originally incorporated in 1929 as a private, for-profit swimming club. The grounds were more than three acres in size, and the pool itself was double the standard Olympic size. The facility was, quite frankly, like no other.
After completion, Dreamland soon became an unparalleled summer recreation spot for most area residents and a jewel of Portsmouth's storied past. With one of the largest pools in Ohio, it was a mecca for swimming, dancing, and a host of other social and recreational activities.

Dreamland was a vital symbol of developing youth – a place where teenage girls went to show off their new bathing suits and work on their tans as well as a spot where teenage boys displayed their virile agility to attract the queen of their reveries. For most who entered, it was a magic place where hundreds gathered to celebrate carefree summers and engage in joyous rites of passage.
However …

Many do not realize that African Americans were not privileged to share this treasure for over 35 years. Dreamland was a private, segregated club, not a public entity. The city did not own the facility, so general tax money was not used for operation and maintenance.

Today it seems almost inconceivable that minorities once were denied entry to one of the most beloved facilities of bygone days. Yet, the discrimination at Dreamland is a regrettable piece of history that must never be forgotten. The truth must be preserved for the benefit of future generations.

Although segregation was not the law in the northern states like Ohio, de facto (in practice but not necessarily ordained by law) segregation was a reality. De facto segregation remained a common issue in the North, even many years after de jure (based on law) segregation was outlawed in the South. Since there were no laws involved, de facto segregation was harder to combat, and in some ways more insidious, than de jure segregation. In this manner, even in the North, discrimination and segregation remained acceptable at the time. Thus was the case at Dreamland.

Dreamland remained a white-only institution until 1965. Until then, blacks weren't afforded the opportunity to join the club. Neither could they enter as guests. They simply were not welcome there... period. Confessing the obvious prejudice involved, John Lorentz, co-manager of Dreamland pool in the 60's, stated, “The truth of the matter was, if you were white, and (you) could cloud a mirror, you could become a member by filling out a form. If you were black and filled out the form, somehow that never got acted upon." This was the reality of social consciousness.

By the way, it was common to see discrimination and segregation practiced all over Scioto County during those years. Few black families lived outside the city, and even in Portsmouth where almost all African-Americans attended school, grade school was segregated until the late 1950s from the 1st through the 8th grade. The black children went to Booker T. Washington School while the white kids, even those who lived directly in front of Washington school went to Lincoln Elementary School.

In addition, even though Portsmouth High School was integrated, blacks were not allowed to attend the Junior/Senior Prom until 1954. But, in yet another ugly irony, they were permitted to showcase their talents on Trojan sports teams.

In those days, black high school students were forced to have their own prom at the Washington Elementary School – this is how the school offered them so-called “equal opportunity.” Then, in 1954, Portsmouth had an undefeated football season and the black players on the team were particularly outraged about the segregated prom – they were serving their community with great distinction on sports teams, but they were not accepted at their own prom. Their just protests that year finally ended the practice of having a segregated prom.

This kind of intolerance was a reality common in the yesteryear of the area. To younger generations today, the past may seem like a bigoted age, and compared to today, it surely was. Granted, Scioto County then was not as segregated and racially intolerant as the Deep South – places like Mississippi and Alabama – yet equality and opportunity at the time were largely dependent upon the color of your skin.

Understanding the setting and the social climate of our forefathers is imperative in acknowledging the importance of our struggles with equality. Dreamland, an oasis for whites, was both a remnant of deep social division and an ignition point of racial change. It is gone forever, but memories – both good and bad – are forever burned in the local consciousness. This story will illustrate the importance of something as basic as a swimming pool and its availability for all.

A Tragic Day

If you were black in those days, your refuge for swimming in Portsmouth was the dangerous Scioto River. Concerned parents frequently warned young people not to go swimming in the river. Yet, impetuous youth are tempted by both risk and adventure. Some things do not change.

It was there, at the river, on June 9, 1961, that tragedy struck. 14-year-old Eugene McKinley, a black youth from Portsmouth, drowned as a group of boys swam in a sand and gravel pit west of the the flood levee at 12th and Chillicothe Streets. In a horrible twist of fate, McKinley and some of his male friends had decided to go swimming there to celebrate their last day of school. For Eugene, it was his final day on earth.

The community mourned their unthinkable loss. Family and friends were overcome with grief. The tragic event directly led to a movement by a group of North End citizens including Eugene Collins Sr. (then age 26), Charles Stanley Smith, Jr. (PHS '50), Curt Gentry (PHS '55), and others. No one accepted that other blacks should risk life and limb when Dreamland was right there in the back yard. It was time for action.

At the time, Collins had just gotten out of the service and was serving the Portsmouth Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on its legal redress committee.

Smith was an Air Force veteran who was then working for Empire Detroit Steel. As president of the local NAACP chapter, he was very active in community affairs.

Having excelled in all three major sports, Gentry was widely celebrated as Portsmouth’s most accomplished athlete of all time. After starring for the Portsmouth Trojans, he played football with the Chicago Bears, baseball with a minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters.

At the time, Gentry was home for the summer from Maryland State College. Needless to say, the local community considered him a much-respected icon. Mr. Gentry later served as head football coach at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University and at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.

The Demonstration

Spurred on by the recent drowning and by the injustice of segregation, the group decided to test the public accommodations section of the newly enacted Civil Rights law by attempting to enter Dreamland (aka the Terrace Club). They fully understood the establishment was operated as a “private” club to bar African-Americans. It was no secret to anyone in town. Eugene McKinley's had become the ultimate indignity.

Their goal was to use a demonstration to draw enough attention to integrate the pool. With the aid of an attorney from the Cincinnati NAACP, they carefully considered just how to carry out their protest.

The group devised a plan and decided to put it into effect when Police Chief Tedd Wilburn, a much-respected black official, was out of town on vacation that summer. They were cautious of the perception of Mr. Wilburn being able to do his job as chief of police, negating a conflict of interest. And, of course, the group did not want their bold protest to jeopardize the position of the chief in any way.

The Northend Community group of Collins, Smith, Gentry, Gentry's mom, and several underage youth finalized their plan to enter Dreamland. To help assure success, they gained the backing of some Northend establishments and a few others in the community. This support included Dr. James Forrest Scott, who served as the first black county coroner in the United States, and Verne Hairston, a prominent black businessman. Many people were too fearful of retribution to join the plan, and for good reason. They understood being arrested might cost them their jobs or put them in jeopardy of who knows what other reprisal.

As the important day drew near, local advisers briefed the demonstrators on proper procedures, and they also made plans to be at the courthouse with bond money in case of arrests.

Then, finally, the time came to set the plan into effect. To be safe, Mr. Collins and Ms. Gentry stayed outside of Dreamland to make sure the group was not injured and to inform any police that might arrive of their simple intentions. The rest of the group – Charles Smith, Curt Gentry, and the juveniles – went to the window and offered their money to enter. As expected, the attendant refused to accept their fee, so, as planned, the group simply laid the correct admission down on the spot and jumped over the turnstile to get inside.

According to Eugene Collins Sr ...

"They got inside the pool area... It's very funny because Curt Gentry couldn't swim, so Curt was running around the pool trying to find three feet of water so that he didn't jump into the pool and drown. He got in. (And) the others jumped into the pool. As they went into the pool, whites began to get out of the pool. Then, lifeguards blew the whistle two or three times.

“Clear the pool!” the lifeguards shouted.

“They cleared the pool. (Then) they (the management) came over the loud speaker telling the patrons and the demonstrators, "We have five illegal people in the pool. If you do not leave this pool, you will be arrested! You will be arrested!"

Collins explained that probably 50 to 75 percent of the people at the pool were younger folks who identified with the protesters – some had even gone to school with them or recognized them as local sports stars, so they saw their actions as a joke or a funny prank, and it really didn't bother them. However, many of the adults there at Dreamland saw the demonstration as a violation of the law and an attempt to take over something that “belonged” to them. They were concerned about “just how much further this (protest) was going to go.”

Collins estimated police cruisers pulled up to the pool in five minutes. He remembered, “Two police cruisers. They (the police) came inside. The demonstrators did not resist nor did the whites at the pool attempt to retaliate. The authorities arrested the adults, and immediately took them and the youth downtown to jail.

The rest of the core group drove behind the cruisers following them to the station where Dr. Scott and Verne Hairston awaited their arrival. There, an attorney for Dreamland filed charges against the adults and according to Collins “wanted to file charges on the youth."

 The Aftermath


Charles Smith was quoted in the July 18, 1964, edition of the Portsmouth Times as saying, “Our ‘wade-in’ marked the first time since the opening of the Kendall Avenue pool in 1929 that a Negro knowingly has swum in the pool.”

He also was quoted as asking, “We all go to school together, live together, why not swim together?”
Dr Scott talked to the sheriff and the police. The Sheriff Department had the responsibility of filing the charges against the youth because of the fact that they had to go to juvenile court. It appeared as if the authorities would arrest the demonstrators.

But then, entered Dr. Scott.

Reportedly, Scott pulled the chief aside, and told him he wanted to speak to the sheriff. Then, Scott talked to the deputy sheriff. After this, the authorities eventually decided to release the kids to their parents and set up a court date for later.

The core group of demonstrators met with Dr. Scott. He said, “An arrest is not going to happen because I have informed the sheriff that if he arrests those kids, that I, as the county coroner, have the authority to arrest him. And I will arrest him. He will be arrested.”


It is said that the authorities consulted their attorney in Cincinnati and discovered that the county coroner was the only person that had the authority to arrest the sheriff. It is believed the attorney also began uncovering some incriminating records and damaging files.

Upon further investigation, the people discovered some pertinent information about the pool. One of the discoveries was that the city was allowing Dreamland to use water at a much cheaper rate than any other commercial business. Questions of local government support raised suspicions.

So, as things began to unravel, more information started coming out, and the city began to realize that it was going to be a major problem dealing with this new-found attention. The result? The children were not arrested, and the charges on the adults were eventually thrown out.

The police delayed the hearing three different times. Eventually the charges were thrown out. Some four years later Dreamland was integrated, yet as an indication of lingering discrimination, the attendance at the pool declined.

I am 66 years-old and a lifetime resident of Scioto County. I often speak about my fond memories of Dreamland – the joyous times spent there with my mother and father, with my brother, with my friends, with my wife, and with my own children. I think of the place as a beautiful symbol of our happy existence.

However, it is my charge to remember that so many others were denied this bliss and prosperity – they were people who were banned simply because their skin was dark. Once they were not even afforded the safe haven of social union and recreation there at Dreamland. Thanks to a brave group of individuals who bravely fought injustice and realized their own dream, we live in a more accepting community. In his tragic end, Eugene McKinley unknowingly ignited a vital movement. He must never be forgotten.

Today, in 2017, the struggle for equality continues. Much of the old de facto discrimination has faded away, but beneath the improved veneer, a more subtle bias still lingers. The task we face every day is to accept and love our fellow human beings for the goodness they possess, not to judge them as different. As we share and celebrate our diversity, we come closer to the precious truth that demands we be our brother's keeper.

 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Radical Terrorist Ban or Selective Entry? Trump's "Good" and "Bad" List

 

According to statistics by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute, not a single American was killed on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015 by citizens from any of the countries on President Trump's recent Muslim ban.


President Trump has signed an executive order that effectively bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days. The executive order, signed at the Pentagon, suspends the issuing of U.S. visas or travel permits to people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

When President Trump was running for election, he called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States, barring followers of the world’s fastest-growing religion because he considers the faith rooted in hatred and violence.

Now, Trump signed the order and pledged to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America." He continued to say the order will help “insure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”

This order has caused confusion as people are being detained at airports in the country. The administration evidently did not issue guidance to airports and airlines on how to implement the executive order. "Nobody has any idea what is going on," a senior Homeland Security official told NBC News.

(Eoghan Macguire, Ali Gostanian and Erik Ortiz. “Trump Travel Restrictions Leave Refugees Stranded: Reports.” NBC News. January 28, 2017.)

In his brief remarks while signing the executive order on January 28, Trump maintained the order isn't a "Muslim ban." He said, “It’s working out very nicely. We’re going to have a strict ban, and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.”
Trump claimed before signing the order that the “new vetting measures” will make it much harder for terrorists to enter the country.

“We don’t want them here,” he said. “We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.” 

(Doug Stanglin and Alan Gomez. “Trump says immigration ban working 'nicely’ as protests, detainments hit airports.” USA TODAY. January 28, 2017.)

However …

Some Muslim countries were spared from the order's blacklist, even though they have deep-seated ties to terrorism. And, guess what? President Trump doesn't hold any business interests in any of the countries on the list, but holds major stakes in several of those excluded from it, records show.

(Chris Sommerfeldt. “President Trump's Muslim ban excludes countries linked to his sprawling business empire.” New York Daily News. January 28, 2017.)


Cato reported that nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by citizens from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey in the same time period — with the bulk of those killed being victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Trump’s huge business empire – an empire of which he still holds ownership – holds multi-million dollar licensing and development deals in all of those countries. Of course, this ownership has raised potential conflict of interest concerns and questions over what actually went into the decision process behind the executive order.

(Doug Stanglin and Alan Gomez. “Trump says immigration ban working 'nicely’ as protests, detainments hit airports.” USA TODAY. January 28, 2017.)

Please read the entire detailed report of the holdings and terrorist acts here: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-muslim-ban-excludes-countries-linked-businesses-article-1.2957956

Looking Through Alternate Truths

The legality of Trump's order will not be clear until it's argued in federal court – probably very soon. It appears he wants to prioritize the immigration of persecuted Christians over Muslims. This is an additional problem because nothing in our law justifies banning or elevating an entire religion. And, of course nothing justifies banning an entire nationality. One problem is evident – Trump will have to answer how he can say that all of Syria is detrimental. Here comes a wave of litigation.

Who can deny that President Trump's delineation of friends and foes is suspect? Is America now a country that protects his contributors at the expense of others that he, not the government, judges unworthy? After all, he supports his comments and judgments with alternate facts, and he appears devoted to himself, above all. Perhaps the president wants only those here who support him and his followers.