More For You Than Anyone Else?

Hello Mary, et. al.

“He [Trump] did more to help everyone plus blacks that anyone has done in a long time.“ This is the quote that I’m going to be responding to and attempting to address from the statement you made earlier on in this thread., Mary. I want to make sure that I’m being very specific about the subject so that my response will be put in proper context. This will be a long walk, but we will get there eventually.

When I said that I was going to answer as one of “The Blacks”, I did so with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek. I, and anyone else, can only truly speak for myself. But that term, and the sentiment that is most frequently behind it is so central to the way that so many Black people that I personally know, and the way that I can infer from data, that most black people feel they are viewed by non-black people: a monolith, not as individuals or fully capable for thinking independently and for themselves...therefore, not fully part of the actual human experience or even capable of doing so. Historically throughout this country, that is how large swaths of the majority population have literally viewed us, and even codified those thoughts in laws up to and including the constitution of the country.

This premise is wrong.

If you accept that we are actually human beings with all of the potential for greatness and foibles as any other group of people that you could put together randomly, then you should accept that we are actually individuals and tend to act as one as frequently as any other group of people when something appears that may be either in the best interest of all of us, in the good direction, or because there is something acting in a negative direction that would affect all of us. That’s what human beings tend to do.

It can be very difficult to get an enormous percentage of human beings together on most endeavors and have them agree on something unanimously. Human beings that come from the American Experiment tend to do this much more frequently than people from other countries. It’s part of the culture of this country, and most Black people in this country are very much AmericanIt can be very difficult to gets in that way too. Mary, I have no idea of how many Black Americans you have encountered throughout your life and in what capacity you have done so. Having been born Black and grown up around Black people and people of other backgrounds, I will speak to my experience and say what I have said above with great confidence.

Here are two examples. I assure you that the first example works among any randomly selected group of people, let alone a “racial group” of people. Let’s take six people who work in an office and they are trying to order one pizza. The chances that those six people would say that they wanted exactly the same kind of pizza on the first try is just about zero. somebody’s going to not like one of the ingredients selected at first. Somebody else might be allergic to something else. Somebody else doesn’t eat a certain kind of food for personal or religious preferences. And somebody just wants a Subway sandwich instead of pizza. That’s how it goes. You got a group of people together as small as even six people, and it’s going to be difficult to come up with a gigantic consensus right from the start. There’s a chance that you might be able to get there very easily, but there’s also a chance that somebody just going to settle so that they can all eventually eat. That is normal.

My second example is me. This is the only example I can speak with 100% authority. It is about 9 o’clock at night right now and I have been awake for about 14 hours. I can say with a great deal of confidence that I don’t think that I have a greed with about 25% of what I have done throughout my day. I think I probably could’ve spent much of my time better. And I had total control over what I did. I can’t think of any day that I have ever had where I did better than about 95%, and I am a population of one person. It is beyond difficult to get  100% concurrence on what I do, let alone doing that with somebody else, or multiple other people on something as simple as ordering a pizza. That is normal.

But if you took either the group of six people, or myself individually, and they were somehow stranded without cellphones or cell coverage in a very nice car, in the middle of January, in -25°F weather, in the middle of a field , in the middle of the night, without any heat, and without any food, there’s a pretty good bet that way more than 90% of the people (or myself individually) will make a very quick decision about trying to get the heck out of that situation that they are in. There’s a very real threat to their very existence going on right then, and it makes it quite clear, because humans don’t like existing under those conditions, that even though the interior of the car that broke down is very nice, maybe nicer than a car they’ve ever been in, they still need to get the heck out of where they are right now so that they can survive.

If once the group got to a populated area 20 miles away and away from the very dangerous conditions that they found themselves in, and somebody at the out-of-the-way restaurant that they were able to find asked them, “Why did you leave the inside of that very nice car? That’s a beautiful car! If I had a car like that I would never leave! Why would you do that to yourselves?”, every single person in the group would look at the person asking that question like they were crazy. These people’s lives were at risk, and this person is worried about the interior of a broken down car. How could this person not see that there was an existential threat for each and every one of those individuals? They would be wondering how could that person not see that they all decided to chance at all and hope they could make it somewhere else and not stay there and surely succumb to what awaited them where the car laid at rest? How could that person not see all of the conditions that existed that was the threat to them if they stayed where they were?

This clunky metaphor is clearly meant to be a parallel to what most Black Americans feel toward not only Donald Trump, but the GOP in general. With all things being equal and under normal circumstances, the group of people, and myself as an individual, might make all sorts of choices and vary more frequently. but most frequently since the early 1970s in the United States, all things are not equal. And all things are definitely not equal now with this current president. This current president and the entire suite of things that he offers and attitudes that he projects and enables, is an existential threat to, apparently, 92% of the Black American population. This president only has 8% support among Black Americans. The numbers have not been that much better for the GOP in the last several presidential elections. You can look up the data.

So instead of questioning the motives of the people that are being affected by the policies of one party or President and making it seem like those people are not thinking correctly for reacting in a giant group like they are all the time, doesn’t it seem to make more sense to look at the reason why they would almost totally act as one, something that is uncommon for large groups of human beings? Shouldn’t one question what it is that keeps driving one group of human beings into a very abnormally large unanimous consensus against what it is that you were doing if you honestly want to try to come to your way of thinking or set of actions that you wish to an act? If you actually believed that those are fully functional human beings with the ability to think on their own and are not acting out of some knee-jerk, inhuman instinct, then the answer to that question should be yes! (That is assuming that one honestly answers that question.)

But, Mary, a lot of people on one side of the aisle do not seem to be able to think from that perspective…and that is the fundamental problem. For Black people in this country, even when we present all of the evidence and all of the issues that need to be addressed, they are not addressed in any serious form or fashion. It seems as though people in charge on one side in particular either do not care, cannot figure out a legitimate solution, think that we are making up the issues, and generally don’t believe that there were actual problems. They think we should be happy to stay in the nice, broken down car. They seem to think that and we are unable to speak and think for ourselves…in other words they repeatedly and constantly seem to think that our lives don’t matter. And given that, how on Earth are we to be expected to go with the choice that makes things even worse, in the main, than the bad conditions we already face? We shouldn’t be and we aren’t.

But if somebody actually asked and listened to what was being said by the people in the car all along and not just guessed that everything should be OK where they were and that they should be happy that nice car they have, then maybe something could get solved. But never seems to happen.

I’ve tortured all of these metaphors enough, and it’s the first time I’ve written them down on digital paper. That means it may not of come out as perfectly as I would have liked, but I think I got close enough that I hope that you and anybody else reading this will understand. This is not meant to be anything comprehensive, but I hope some of this opens up your mind along with the link to an essay that I wrote about three weeks ago upon the passing of my uncle, and a panel discussion that I was part of last week. I hope that you and everybody else takes a look at both of the links. The essay that I wrote is much more concise and much shorter than this. And the video is quite long, but it might be a conversation of the type that you have never seen before and might prove more useful than I can even hope. I hope you take this enormous number of words as an extension of my hand to try to help you understand a perspective that you might not have taken to account before.




St. Louis TV News Asleep At The Switch During State Of Emergency Call? (COMMENTARY)

Six pictures of media outlets in St. Louis, Missouri hours after a State of Emergency was called by the St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger. The top 5 are local terrestrial TV stations showing regular programming, and the bottom picture is a screen capture from reposting a tweet from the largest local public radio station commenting on the declaration of the SOE.

Six pictures of media outlets in St. Louis, Missouri on the afternoon of Monday, August 10, 2015, hours after a State of Emergency was called by the St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger. The top 5 are local terrestrial TV stations showing regular programming (Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil, Ellen Degeneres [a re-run], Family Feud, and Hot Bench), and the bottom picture is a screen capture from reposting a tweet from the largest local public radio station commenting on the declaration of the SOE. ©Rod Milam 2015

For a little over three years now I’ve been cable TV free…a cord cutter. After a 12 month weaning period, I paid for tons of programming that I didn’t need for years for the last time and immediately wondered why it took me so long to do so.  I did this while I was in New York City and had long since abandoned looking at local TV news (save NY1) in favor of online outlets and social media contacts for more relevant, up-to-date, and in-depth information.

When I returned to St. Louis after being gone for a bit over 14 years, I continued my relatively new rules regarding TV consumption:

  1. Only turn on TV for severe weather threats
  2. Only turn on TV for acute terrorist/civil unrest threats/transit events
  3. Only turn on TV for Cardinals playoff and World Series games
  4. Don’t bother with TV for almost anything else at all

I was in NYC around eight months after the September 11th attacks, I went through area closing blizzards and hurricanes, and I made it through multiple MTA shutdowns, blackouts, and World Series appearances during my Big Apple tenure, and I was able to pretty much follow these four rules even before I formalized them toward the end of my Astoria adventures.

Back in the St. Louis area after less than two years I’ve been through big ice storms, a record hail storm, a tornado touching down less than a quarter of a mile from home, near Biblical rainfall this past spring, all of the initial Ferguson activity less than eight miles away last year, and another playoff appearance by the Cards.  I still followed the rules.  I found out what I needed from TV news when it was urgent, but still got the bulk of my info elsewhere.

Now one year and one day after the killing of unarmed Mike Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, and a half a day after overnight gun play between police and someone proximate to demonstrations from the day before in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger made a midday announcement that many of the one million plus residents of his county were under a State of Emergency because of the shooting incident from the night before and the protests and arrests of many people in Downtown St. Louis.

How did I find out about this SoE and the arrest and protest activity initially?  Facebook.  Where did I initially follow up to find out more information? Twitter.  What did I feel the need to do next?  Invoke Rule #2…turn on the local TV news.  What did I find on local TV channels hours after the announcement by the County Executive?  Non-sense.  As Public Enemy’s frontman, Chuck D., put it way back in the late 1980s, I found “Channel Zero”.

As of the 3 o’clock PM hour, more than two hours after the announcement and more hours than that after the protest arrests, ALL of the local TV stations with big news rooms must have felt that these events weren’t pressing or important enough to preempt the showing of their regularly scheduled programming. I turned on the 1920×1080 box and was greeted by the likes of old TV hot messes like “Jerry Springer” and “Dr. Phil”, some new-to-me hot mess called “Hot Bench”, and general innocuous fluff in the form of “Family Feud” and “The Ellen Degeneres Show” [a rerun].  I just caught the end of “Days of Our Lives” before the top of the hour and was stunned that it was both on during this time of unrest and on television STILL at all.

I had to take a picture of the screens to prove to myself and others that the big local TV newsrooms along with their parent stations combined their thought processes and wound up concluding that it was best to continue to “sell soap” instead of informing a total of nearly three million citizens that a huge swath of residents that their lives had been fundamentally changed by a government official in response to renewed civil unrest.

This isn’t to say that all local media ignored the story as it was happening. I snapped a screen shot of the largest local public radio station’s, KWMU, Twitter post that I saw, and I also saw a retweeted link from the St. Louis American, the largest weekly newspaper in the state which also focuses on the Black community.

Eventually the TV stations posted items on their websites on social media feeds, but that’s hardly the point. They’re huge local TV stations with the widest local reach.  Locals should be able to find out huge things like this from them on their largest platforms.  There should be no reason why I should see and hear about all of this first on large national cable news outlets and my friends in 5 different states on Facebook before that. These stations are chartered by the federal government to serve the public interest…so I can hardly think of many things more in the public interest than a State of Emergency declaration versus the possible 3,891st episode of the freakin’ Jerry Springer Show.

How seriously is anyone in the area supposed to take TV news channels seriously when they say that they want to convey and do what’s best for their viewers when they are quick to show “visually-attractive” fires during protests but pass off more “cerebral” announcements by officials of state-of-emergencies as something that can wait until the audience finds out which family knew that 54 out of 100 men found boxers the most comfortable form of underwear?  I would say here, but I don’t know if that’s against the rules of the State of Emergency because I’m still waiting to see when they’re going to talk about it on-the-air.