Six Degrees of Speculation: April 2008: Archives

April 28, 2008

Cross-Race Recognition Deficit: Why Linking Obama To Wright Is Wrong genre: Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I've got a different take on the focus that is being placed on the statement's of Jeremiah Wright and their relationship to the candidacy of Barack Obama. I agree that he isn't doing Senator Obama any favors by appearing at numerous events...especially since many Americans seemed willing to accept his explanations and observations on the issue of race following the first release of excerpts from Pastor Wright's sermons.

However, realizing the detrimental effect of Pastor Wright's continued presence in the spotlight ignores an essential and salient question...one that asks why Wright's ongoing remarks and the associated media attention continues to result in a strong and persistent linkage to Senator Obama...despite the Senator's lucid observations on the complexities of race in America.

As I've watched this situation unfold, I've had a nagging suspicion that something else was at play. Fortunately, as I saw today's endless coverage of the topic, I was able to connect these troubling events with a theory I previously discovered as a result of my endless curiosity with human psychology. The theory hasn't received all that much attention though I suspect it soon will.

The theory, and my related hypothesis, suggests that the incessant linkage of Obama with Jeremiah Wright is indicative of a phenomenon that has typified race relations in this country for many years. The psychological concept has it's origin in the study of "cross-race recognition deficit"...or what would be commonly known as a predisposition to conclude that "they all look the same" when attempting to distinguish individuals of a race that differs from our own. Hence we are prone to conclude that 'they' all look alike...and more importantly...that 'they' are in fact alike in ways that exceed or transcend their physical descriptions or characteristics.

The following provides a basic explanation of, and a primer on, the research that underlies the theory of "cross-race recognition deficit".

From The American Psychological Association:

WASHINGTON - Why do people of one racial group fail to recognize faces from another racial group? This so-called cross-race recognition deficit, a topic of debate within the social science community, is sometimes explained by suggesting that people have less experience seeing faces from other races. But, a new research finding by Kent State University psychologist Daniel T. Levin, Ph.D., suggests that the information people "see" when looking at the face of a person of another race is information that allows them to classify the person as White or Black but is not information which allows them to individualize the person, such as the color of their eyes or shape of their nose.

Dr. Levin's conclusions, as published in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published by the American Psychological Association, is based on experiments designed to determine the kind of information people retain when looking at cross-race faces.

In his first experiment, Levin compared how well people recognize faces of other races with how readily they locate these faces in a visual search task. He made two average faces, one derived from 16 Black faces morphed together and a second created when 16 White faces were morphed together. These Black and White faces were at either ends of a cross-race spectrum of faces.

Using these faces, Levin tested 25 participants (the participants were nearly all White, with a few Asians also included) on their ability to locate a Black face amid a series of White faces or visa versa. Next, the same participants were shown yearbook photos of 16 White and 16 Black male students. They were then shown another set of photos and asked to indicate whether any of the second set also appeared in the yearbook photos.

As expected, on the face memory test using yearbook photos, participants were better at recognizing White faces than they were at recognizing Black ones. But, paradoxically, participants who performed most poorly in recognizing Black faces in the yearbook photo test were most likely in the first part of the experiment - the visual search task -- to locate Black faces among the White faces more quickly than the White faces among Black faces.

This occurs, according to Levin, because the information people focus on when looking at a face of another racial group is information that is optimal for group classification (that's a Black man") rather than individual recognition ("that's a man with a mustache and a down-turned mouth").

"Participants who were poor at recognizing black faces appear to code blackness as a visual feature while they may not code whiteness at all," says Dr. Levin. "The problem is not that we can't code the details of cross-race faces; it's that we don't. Instead, we substitute group information, or information about the race, for information about the features that help us tell individual people apart."

I contend that Dr. Levin's work on the subject is on the leading edge of better understanding what we're witnessing with regards to the campaign of Senator Obama and thus pushing us towards our next foray into understanding the impact of race in America.

Specifically, the notion of substituting group information or information about a particular race for the discriminations needed to distinguish one individual from another are at play with regards to the remarks of Pastor Wright and the linkage being applied as a result of Senator Obama's membership in his church.

Let's look more closely at the details of Dr. Levin's research. In his follow up work, Dr. Levin provides evidence that suggests that the recognition deficit does exist but he takes it a step further when he exposes the possibility that the deficit doesn't result from an inability to identify subtle differences; rather it may well be that we simply don't or won't.

The fact that he quickly demonstrates that it can be done with a minimal amount of instruction suggests that we're prone to what I would characterize as 'lumping'. Essentially lumping means that once we distinguish race, we frequently go no further in order to identify or delineate for the characteristics of each individual. I would argue that this process of generalization is apt to transcend physical attributes. If so, it may well explain why the words of Pastor Wright are being indelibly attached to Senator Obama.

From Monitor On Psychology:

People are notoriously awful at recognizing faces from other races. It's a human foible often explained by the notion that we have more experience looking at members of our own race and thus acquire "perceptual expertise" for characteristics of our own kind.

One influential version of that hypothesis argues that the so-called cross-race recognition deficit can be modeled by assuming that faces of other races are more psychologically similar than are faces of one's own race. But Daniel Levin, PhD, a cognitive psychologist at Kent State University, has been unsatisfied with that argument.

"The perceptual expertise position is pretty intuitive, and it makes sense," he says. "But I'm arguing that it's not really the case. The problem is not that we can't code the details of cross-race faces--it's that we don't."

Instead, he says, people place inordinate emphasis on race categories--whether someone is white, black or Asian--ignoring information that would help them recognize people as individuals. In recent research, Levin has shown that people can, in fact, perceive fine differences among faces of people from other races--as long as they're using those differences to make race classifications.

Levin hypothesized that when people see cross-race faces, they code race-specifying information at the expense of individuating information--something they don't do when they see same-race faces.

To test the notion that people are able to perceive subtle differences among faces of people from other races, Levin next explored how readily people distinguish among cross-race faces versus own-race faces in making race classifications. Using the two average black and white faces from the earlier experiments, he created a continuum of faces that ran from black at one end to white at the other. Thirteen participants viewed pairs of faces that differed by 20 percent along the black-white continuum. For half the trials, participants judged which of the two faces was most similar to the face at the black end point face. For the other half, they judged which was most similar to the face at the white end.

He found that participants were more often accurate when discriminating between two faces at the black end of the continuum than they were for faces at the white end of the continuum. That finding demonstrates, Levin explains, that people possess the perceptual expertise to detect minute differences among cross-race faces.

A final experiment corroborated those results. As before, for faces on a black-white continuum, participants were better at discriminating between subtly different black faces than they were for subtly different white faces. But on a different continuum that had black faces at both end points, making it impossible for faces to be distinguished based on race, participants did not show such skill at discriminating between faces. That suggests that the extent to which the subtle variations convey race information, as opposed to individuating information, is an important part of the discrimination task, Levin argues.

The excerpt that follows includes remarks from other researchers on the validity of Levin's observations and conclusions. While a discussion of the data would clearly need to be more complex than the text provided below, the gist of the alternate argument contends that Levin fails to provide evidence of reversal...meaning Whites and Blacks should exhibit similar abilities to 'classify' the faces of other races.

A prior political event may help us understand why the reversal sought by others isn't necessary to confirm Levin's hypothesis. In fact, the example may actually direct us towards the additional research needed to conclusively support Dr. Levin's contention that one must look at the differences in majority and minority status to fully understand the causations and ramifications of this theory. That further body of work could also substantiate the extrapolations I'm making with regards to Reverend Wright and Senator Obama.

Back in 1960, John Kennedy's candidacy was endangered by his Catholicism despite his assertions he wouldn't be beholding to or guided by those in Rome. He, like Senator Obama, found it necessary to explain his membership and the fact that he would remain a participant in his church of choice. Skeptical voters sought assurances that he could separate the duties and objectives of his party and the office of the president from the doctrines and objectives perceived to be espoused by his clergy.

Many years later, in 2004, John Kerry met with the disfavor of a number of leaders of the Catholic Church. His support for a woman's right to choose (and other positions) was in opposition to the teachings of the Church yet his ongoing commitment to his religion of choice didn't elicit suspicions as to his allegiances or what he might do once elected. With the passage of decades, those who chose to support John Kerry were able and willing to accept that the Senator's beliefs differed from those within the hierarchy of his church. In fact, he was even able to separate his own personal beliefs on abortion from the constitutional obligations he felt came with winning the presidency.

Returning to reversal, Levin disagrees, as do I, that it is a requirement to validate his hypothesis. Instead, it likely means that further research and better understandings are necessary to explain why there may be an absence of reversal in the minority group. To that end, I suspect that minorities simply begin to internalize the categorizations that society imposes...regardless of whether they have been applied by the majority consciously or as a matter of unconscious, though ingrained discriminations.

In fact, I believe that those who feel such recognitions are applied as negative attributions would be resistant to adopt the use of similar discriminations. While doing so could be construed (by the minority) at some level to be a measure of retribution, it could also lend support to those seeking vindication for their actions and validation of their generalized, though often arbitrary, attributions. I suspect the absence of reversal in minorities is therefore accompanied by an increase in dissonance. Over time, the negative discriminations...and thus the dissonance...may well abate as assimilation is advanced.

From Monitor On Psychology:

Tim Valentine, PhD, of Goldsmiths College, University of London, also challenges Levin's interpretation. In order for Levin to support his claim that people more quickly classify other-race faces according to their race than they classify own-race faces, he says, "it is necessary to show that an effect for one race of participants reverses for the other race--for example, that black participants classify white faces faster than black faces. Levin has never shown this crossover that is critical for his hypothesis."

Levin disagrees, however, that showing such a reversal is critical. His argument, he emphasizes, depends only on having found that people who are poorest at recognizing cross-race faces are in fact best at discriminating between them on the basis of race.

And Levin concurs with Mullen that members of minority groups are likely to respond differently than are members of majority groups. Indeed, he points out, his report discusses previous research that suggests that minority group members tend to code not only people of other races at the category level, but also do so for people of their own race.

Ultimately, suggests Alice O'Toole, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Dallas who also studies face recognition, Levin's new findings may be compatible with perceptual expertise and similarity hypotheses.

"I see less division in the ideas than he does," O'Toole says. "One consequence of the perceptual problems that we may have with other-race faces could simply be that race is just a much more salient aspect of our encoding of faces of other races than it is of faces of our own race. I think the hypotheses are compatible, but Levin's idea is at more of a social level of analysis."

Levin acknowledges, "The problem with the [perceptual expertise] models is not really that they're wrong, per se. Rather, it's a problem of focus. They're focused on this sort of reductivist analysis of similarity, when they really ought to be focused on trying to figure out why people use the features they use."

In the final paragraph of the above excerpt lies the fundamental question of interest. Understanding the phenomenon of cross-race recognition deficit and all the behaviors that may be associated with it is only the first step. Being able to dissect the underlying beliefs that lead to this type of behavior is likely to help us understand and deconstruct the dynamics that drive racial tensions and the prejudices that fuel and promote them.

In the end, Senator Obama is an individual. While many impugn the validity of his stated beliefs and refuse to accept any of the distinctions he has made with regard to his beliefs and those of his pastor, the degree of doubt that remains is likely to be more reflective of the society in which we live than it is of our ability to make informed discriminations absent the influence of race.

Barack Obama may well continue to be harmed by his linkage to the words and images of Pastor Wright. Unfortunately, I contend that connection is a manifestation of the subtle and insidious racial divisions that continue to inhabit our perplexing psyches. Much of what Wright says may be wrong...but concluding Obama is wrong for America because of what Wright has said is also wrong.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Cross-Race Recognition Deficit, Daniel Levin PhD, Jeremiah Wright, John F. Kennedy, John Kerry, Kent State University, Psychology, Race Relations, Racism

Daniel DiRito | April 28, 2008 | 11:27 AM | link | Comments (2)
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April 23, 2008

The Democrats' Dilemma: Stupid Is As Stupid Does genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

StupidIsAsStupidDoes.jpg

During the last two presidential elections Democrats marveled at the number of voters who cast ballots for George W. Bush, a move that was obviously contrary to their own economic self-interest. Time and again, Democratic operatives have marveled at the stupidity of such actions. As we approach the 2008 election, the number of Democrats who suggest they will do the same appears ready to exceed any prior measurement on the "stupid voter" continuum.

The most recent polling indicates that Democrats are prepared to either jump ship and support John McCain or simply sit out the coming election if their candidate should fail to be the nominee.

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- New polls show many Democratic voters could swing their support to Sen. John McCain in the general election if their candidate isn't nominated.

The most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, taken March 14-16, shows the percentage of Sen. Barack Obama supporters who said they'd be dissatisfied or upset if Sen. Hillary Clinton wins the nomination has gone up -- from 26 percent in January, just after Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, to 41 percent now.

The poll suggests if Obama wins, a majority of Clinton supporters -- 51 percent -- would be dissatisfied or upset. The number was 35 percent in January.

According to a Gallup Poll taken March 7-22, about one in five Obama supporters -- or 19 percent -- said they will vote for McCain if Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

If Obama's the nominee, more than one in four Clinton supporters -- or 28 percent -- said they'd vote for McCain.

The ongoing slog towards choosing a Democratic nominee isn't apt to diminish the animosities that underlie the apparent willingness to vote Republican or stay at home. Exit polling in Pennsylvania supports these prior numbers and paints a dismal picture for the Democrats in November should they hold.

From CNN:

(CNN) -- John McCain said Tuesday he isn't sure if a prolonged Democratic race is benefiting his candidacy, but the exit polls appear to show it is.

The Arizona senator stands to win supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama if their candidate does not win.

Only 50 percent of Clinton voters in Pennsylvania said they would support Obama if he is the nominee. Twenty-six percent said they would back McCain over Obama, and 19 percent said they would not vote at all.

Among Obama's Pennsylvania voters, 67 percent said they would support Clinton if she is the party's nomine. Seventeen percent said they would back McCain instead, and 12 percent said they would stay home.

Add in the number of voters who indicate they wouldn't vote for a woman or a black and the depth of voter stupidity is fully illuminated. It also highlights the challenge facing the Democrats in November.

From The New York Times:

The results of the exit poll, conducted at 40 precincts across Pennsylvania by Edison/Mitofsky for the television networks and The Associated Press, also found stark evidence that Mr. Obama's race could be a problem in the general election. Sixteen percent of white voters said race mattered in deciding who they voted for, and just 54 percent of those voters said they would support Mr. Obama in a general election; 27 percent of them said they would vote for Mr. McCain if Mr. Obama was the Democratic nominee, and 16 percent said they would not vote at all.

From Yahoo News:

Obama would be the first black president, and the survey detected some evidence of racial discomfort in voters' minds. It found that about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president. It produced an estimate of about 13 percent of Republicans who would feel that way, but suggested very few if any Democrats would now be uncomfortable. In November, about 5 percent of Democrats indicated discomfort at voting for a black person for president.

From The New York Times:

Thirty-nine percent of the women who responded to the Lifetime poll said that they would not vote for Senator Clinton, and another 7 percent said that they would not vote for any woman under any circumstance.

Unfortunately, according to NBC News polling, the number of Democrats who will ONLY be happy if their candidate becomes the nominee has continued to grow since the California primary. This irrational partisanship reached a high point in Pennsylvania. While I expect that the number of Democrats who will vote for John McCain or sit out the election will decrease once a nominee is selected, the final number is apt to be large enough to jeopardize the election of the Democratic nominee.

Come November, should the Democratic nominee lose the election as a result of this self-defeating intransigence, the Party will find itself in the unenviable position of having lost a third election due to a portion of the electorate voting against their own self-interest. However, they won't need to look any further than their fellow card carrying Democrats to place the blame.

The truth of the matter is that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in virtual agreement on every issue of import to Democrats. Yes, there are subtle policy differences and marked stylistic distinctions...but both candidates would serve the self-interests of their Democratic constituents. John McCain, on the other hand, would be a virtual continuation of the Bush administration.

Should Democrats aid in the election of John McCain, we will have proven that our stupidity matches or exceeds that of those we assailed for placing George W. Bush in the White House for eight years. If that happens, Forrest Gump had it right when he stated, "Stupid is as stupid does". Even worse, we will have conceded what should have been a certain victory in what may have been the most important election in recent history.

Doing so would suggest that the Republican Party holds no monopoly on pettiness and that we Democrats are not only willing to engage in "lip service"...we're willing to kneel down and swallow defeat rather than buck up and stand together. That would really suck.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Democratic Nomination, Democratic Primary, Gender, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Race

Daniel DiRito | April 23, 2008 | 8:26 AM | link | Comments (1)
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April 19, 2008

GAO Calls Bush On His Game Of Chicken SCHIP genre: Econ-Recon & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

LittleBigMan.jpg

Last year, President Bush shut down legislation designed to provide health insurance to more low income families and rewrote the rules to limit the coverage states could provide. At the time, his minions were busy eviscerating a family that spoke in favor of the measure. According to the Government Accountability Office, it turns out that the President didn't have the authority he thought and and actually violated the law. Nothing new there, eh?

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration violated federal law last year when it restricted states' ability to provide health insurance to children of middle-income families, and its new policy is therefore unenforceable, lawyers from the Government Accountability Office said Friday.

The ruling strengthens the hand of at least 22 states, including New York and New Jersey, that already provide such coverage or want to do so. And it significantly reduces the chance that the new policy can be put into effect before President Bush leaves office in nine months.

At issue is the future of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, financed jointly by the federal government and the states. Congress last year twice passed bills to expand the popular program, and Mr. Bush vetoed both.

In a formal legal opinion Friday, the accountability office said the new policy "amounts to a marked departure" from a longstanding, settled interpretation of federal law. It is therefore a rule and, under a 1996 law, must be submitted to Congress for review before it can take effect, the opinion said.

But Jeff Nelligan, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said, "G.A.O.'s opinion does not change our conclusion that the Aug. 17 letter is still in effect."

What happens next is not clear. New York, New Jersey and several other states have filed lawsuits challenging the Bush administration policy. In addition, Congress may consider legislation to suspend the directive.

Under the Aug. 17 directive, states cannot expand the Children's Health Insurance Program to cover youngsters with family incomes over 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($53,000 for a family of four) unless they can prove that they already cover 95 percent of eligible children below twice the poverty level ($42,400).

Moreover, in such states, children who lose or drop private coverage must be uninsured for 12 months before they can enroll in the Children's Health Insurance Program, and co-payments in the public program must be similar to those in private plans.

The administration told states they must comply with the directive by August of this year or else they face "corrective action." Compliance could mean cutting back programs.

It amazes me that a President who sold himself to the electorate as a compassionate conservative is willing to restrict health care to the needy while insisting on spending billions of dollars year after year on his failed war in Iraq. It makes one wonder just who the President is protecting with his war on terror. I suspect those who risk losing coverage under Bush's arbitrary guidelines feel terrorized by their own government.

Then again, we shouldn't be surprised that a man of privilege (who acted out like a rebellious teenager until reaching the age of forty) lacks any tangible empathy for those in need. No, he would rather wax endlessly about the need to make permanent his tax cuts for the wealthy and finish the job his daddy didn't have the wherewithal to pursue.

When it's all said and done, I can't help but conclude that America has been the playground for an insecure and ego-challenged charlatan with little regard for anything that didn't serve to stroke his obtuse persona. Yes, his legacy will be legendary...though I'd wager it won't be of the nature he had hoped. In the end, I doubt many Americans will shed any tears when this 'little big man' rides off into the sunset.

Tagged as: Compassionate Conservatism, George W. Bush, Health Care, Iraq, Little Big Man, Poverty, SCHIP, State Children's Health Insurance Program, Tax Cuts

Daniel DiRito | April 19, 2008 | 4:11 PM | link | Comments (1)
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April 16, 2008

A Contemplation On Race, Politics, Obama, & The Future genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

It's clear that the pundits in the mainstream media prefer to stir the pot. Doing so generates the ratings they seek but it also serves to bolster the talking points of the political campaigns they cover. This symbiotic relationship does little to inform voters and likely accelerates the partisanship and division that has come to typify our political terrain.

I found the following interview with Dr. Cornel West a refreshing alternative from a number of perspectives. Regardless of his support for Senator Obama, he's able and willing to offer a critique that places knowledge and truth ahead of political pursuits. In fact, his statement (at 3:00 - 5:00 minutes into the first video) on the tendency of political objectives (the attainment of power) to clash with the dissemination of the truth is a refreshing assessment. His candor, absent the partisanship we've come to expect, ought to inform us.

When West explains the similarities between the recent words of Senator Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and those of Martin Luther King, he points out the degree to which candid critical pronouncements are often rejected at the time they are delivered. Such is the nature of a nation's (collectives of human beings) reluctance to come to terms with the mistakes it makes and the injustices it embraces.

My suspicion is that America is struggling with the possibility of entering another phase of introspective analysis similar to the one that existed during the timeframe occupied by the civil rights movement and the opposition to the Vietnam War. I would compare it to the process that unfolds in psychotherapy. The therapist is akin to the political visionary in that his or her role is to facilitate reflection that might otherwise be avoided or ignored.

At the same time, the therapist or the political visionary can easily lose the ear of the patient or the nation should he or she push too hard. When West points out that Dr. King exuded more unconditional love than Reverend Wright, he's simply talking about the effectiveness of the therapist to persuade the patient to look within.

In the jargon of psychoanalysis, since the election of Ronald Reagan, we (the American public) have been in a period of reticent resistance. In fact, if one looks at some of the words spoken by President Carter...words that often focused on sin and redemption...one begins to see that his presidency marked the point at which the nation reached saturation and opted to enter a new phase.

We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.

Speech - March 1976

Martin Luther King, Jr., was the conscience of his generation.... He and I grew up in the same South, he the son of a clergyman, I the son of a farmer. We both knew from opposite sides, the invisible wall of racial segregation.

Speech In LA - 1976

I think those Southern writers [William Faulkner, Carson McCullers] have analyzed very carefully the buildup in the South of a special consciousness brought about by the self- condemnation resulting from slavery, the humiliation following the War Between the States and the hope, sometimes expressed timidly, for redemption.

New York Times Interview - 1977

I've looked on many women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.

Playboy Interview - 1976

A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.

Speech In New York - October 1976

We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities - not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.

_Jimmy Carter, in his 1980 farewell address _

The final Carter quote seems amazingly prescient and profound. He sounds like a man who recognized the passing of an era and the perils that the nation would face as it attempted to embrace its future. Given the tone of the 1980 election, it would have been obvious to Carter that the nation was about to embark upon a different path.

A look at the words of Ronald Reagan, his successor, evidence a dramatic shift and the subtle rejection of the restive and sometimes radical reflections of the 60's and 70's. His election signaled the start of a new paradigm.

The glistening hope of that lamp is still ours. Every promise every opportunity is still golden in this land. And through that golden door our children can walk into tomorrow with the knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America.

Her heart is full; her torch is still golden, her future bright. She has arms big enough to comfort and strong enough to support, for the strength in her arms is the strength of her people. She will carry on in the Eighties unafraid, unashamed, and unsurpassed.

In this springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal; America's is.

RNC speech - August 1984

Clearly, Reagan ushered in a new period of pride...a forceful step beyond the contemplative critiques of his predecessor. His presidency signaled a tacit refusal to entertain doubt. Instead he fostered an unapologetic trumpeting of America and her values. Note the use of the words "unafraid, unashamed, and unsurpassed"...words that reflect a confident nation that had arrived and no longer needed to explore the inner depths of its identity. George W. Bush's presidency simply attached a religious stamp of approval on the "Reagan Revolution".

Strange as it may seem, President Carter's willingness to incorporate his faith into his presidency is not that dissimilar from George Bush. If one tracks the period from Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 to the present, what we actually see is the completion of a cycle. In effect, we have traveled from the Carter era...a period in which faith served as the mirror in which we looked to find the means to purify our souls...to the Bush presidency...a period in which our actions are extolled as a reflection of the degree to which our faith has purified our souls.

Returning to Dr. West's observations, perhaps we're on the precipice of another introspective period...one that reopens the wounds that subsided but never fully healed. If history unfolds repetitively...and I suspect it does...it would seem that turbulence may soon trump tranquility as we engage in the dialogue of discovery.

With that said, reaching a new plateau is apt to be a lengthy journey. It's doubtful we'll be able to predict the time of our arrival...and while we may eventually reach our destination - a better place...it's likely that the historians of the following generation will be the first to document the distance we traveled. Many believe that 2008 will be a change election. History tells us the easy part will be casting our ballots in November. Electing to change will be a far more daunting task.

Cornel West Interview - Part One

Cornel West Interview - Part Two

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Cornel West, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Media, Partisanship, Politics, Poverty, Punditry, Racism, Religion, Ronald Reagan

Daniel DiRito | April 16, 2008 | 10:32 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 12, 2008

Do The New Ads By Hanes Make You Feel Good All Over? genre: Gaylingual & Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Hanes used to tell us they would make us feel good all over. With the following ad campaign, one might question whether the underwear company has had a change of heart. The tagline states, "Because the world gives you enough tags" and it's intended to highlight Hanes' new line of tagless products. While the ads were produced in India and aren't scheduled to run in the U.S., they are certainly drawing the attention the ire...of a number of Americans. I certainly understand the reactions, though I'm not sure I fully concur with all of the criticisms.

Let me attempt an explanation by first asking a question. If acceptance emanates from understanding, can the former be achieved if the latter is ignored? Here's the point. Labels are a form of understanding...or in the case of prejudice...misunderstanding. Changing those misunderstandings...and therefore the beliefs (prejudices) that underlie the labels we apply...requires two things. First, there must be an open discussion of all that is incorporated into the conceptions (both good and bad) of those we seek to enlighten. Second, there must be an honest disclosure of the identity (both good and bad) we seek to substitute for the faulty, or more likely, incomplete perceptions.

In looking at the "Faggot" image, my first inclination was to apply my own version of a truth test. Hence, I wanted to know if the image represented any, all, or none of my understandings of being gay. Yes, the first thing I noticed was the word "Faggot"...and it would have been easy to allow this word...frequently used as a pejorative...to halt my thought process.

I didn't do that because I'm convinced that the word itself has no power or meaning. That can only be determined contextually. With that said, an understanding of the ads intent soon emerged as did an appreciation for the journey others (on the outside) must travel in order to comprehend the true essence of those who "wear" this label. The transformative process cannot otherwise begin.

The journey, by those who don't wear these labels, to achieve an acute awareness of those who do, requires an effort that must exceed the obtuse understandings of those who have made known their negative intentions when applying the label. While many complete this journey in spite of the dissonance, real community can only be achieved when the words and the intentions of all the parties becomes harmonious. Reaching that point of stasis can only be achieved when full understanding is realized. Unfortunately, that can only happen when and if it is sought.

Hence, the power or meaning behind these labels cannot be stripped away unless and until the motivations and misconceptions that bolster them can be removed or repaired. Therefore, efforts to forbid the labels circumvent the process necessary to alter the intentions and misunderstandings that corrupt or color them. Their absence from the vernacular has little, if any, correlation with extinguishing the hatred that remains virulent, though hidden and harbored...but perhaps no longer vocalized (at least in public).

We may think silence is solace but that is akin to believing the lamb can safely lie down with the lion without ever having reached the understandings that are required to enable it. Such an act must be predicated upon a mutual respect for the worth of the other...and therefore an acceptance of the right of the other...to exist. Absent that, peril will always persist and quiet must not be misconstrued to mean that cunning has suddenly been quelled.

Faggot, nigger, and paki are labels that appropriately perpetuate corresponding tags like homophobe, racist, bigot, and many more. The incendiary fuel that hides behind all of these words...ready to erupt...will only abate when both sides entertain and pursue transcendent understandings. While logic may tell the lamb it would be foolish to even imagine a direct discussion with the lion...it nonetheless instructs both parties that the primordial change is otherwise precluded.

In the end, the change we seek must be an action, not an admonition. The former moves us forward; the latter moves us apart. The faggot will lie down with the homophobe when the humanity that undoubtedly joins them is allowed to undo the doubts that divide them. In allowing that miraculous moment of awareness, one man can and will choose to lie with another...not as faggot and homophobe...but as nothing more than all we are...human beings. Only then will we all feel good all over.

The three images follow. If you click on the two smaller images, they will be opened as full size images comparable to the larger one that precedes them.

If you would like to see even larger images (far more readable detail is revealed), visit the following link and click on the images:

Ads Of The World

HanesFaggot.jpg

HanesPaki.jpg

HanesNigger.jpg

Tagged as: Bigotry, Gay, Hanes Underwear. LGBT, Homophobia, India, Labels, Prejudice, Racism

Daniel DiRito | April 12, 2008 | 3:17 PM | link | Comments (1)
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April 11, 2008

The Daily Show: John Oliver Documents Fox's Faux News genre: Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Should we laugh at the fact that The Daily Show provides a more accurate version of the facts that underly the news than does Fox News? Here's your chance to decide by watching John Oliver's documentary on the two faces of Fox News.

Funny as it is to watch this piece in which the many Fox News correspondents spin an issue one way if it favors the GOP and another should it cast a positive light on the Democrats, it provides a frightening commentary on the degree to which Fox News is neither fair or balanced.

It really is amazing to see the blatant partisanship that has come to typify much of what is disseminated by Fox. It is even more amazing that they are able to attract the formidable audience they do.

I'm reminded of my one of my favorite quotations. Horace Mann once stated, "We go by the major vote, and if the majority are insane, the sane must go to the hospital". As it now stands, I'm currently scheduling my exploratory visits. If Fox News wins over many more viewers, I'll soon be seated at the admissions desk.

John Oliver On Faux News - Part One

John Oliver On Faux News - Part Two

Tagged as: Bill O'Reilly, Comedy Central, Democrats, Fair & Balanced, Faux News, Fox News, George W. Bush, GOP, Humor, John Oliver, Jon Stewart, Partisanship, Sean Hannity, The Daily Show

Daniel DiRito | April 11, 2008 | 4:51 PM | link | Comments (0)
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