A Thousand Crystal Clear Words

Let’s keep this brief.  This weekend’s events were horrific and completely un-American.  That being said, are we really surprised at what took place?

The images of the weekend if painted in greyscale look eerily similar to images of yesteryear.  Like those older images, these newer images show a reality that may have been difficult for some people to imagine.

Well, the truth is out now—each photo saying a thousand crystal clear words.

In summation, let’s meditate on the following verses from Titus 1: 15-16:

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or on AL.com here.

Uncivil Actions

Why Fear is Not a Reason to Vote

If you haven’t been paying attention for the past few months, then you’ve missed the selections of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as major party nominees for this year’s Presidential Election.  With those selections have come anxiety, worry, and any other emotions associated with fear.

But why fear? Why is fear the most prevalent emotion presently?  Let’s allow nationally-recognized pastor, Max Lucado, introduce this bewilderment a little more deeply.

There’s an angst in the country, and I think there’s a fear.  I think there’s a fear of we don’t know what’s next.  And I’ve tried, maybe you can help me, I’ve tried to put my finger on the root of this fear.  – Max Lucado

Lucado goes on to say he believes this fear comes from a disconnect with God and a disconnect with fellow man.

I tend to agree with him as Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

So if you’re a Christian reading this, I plead with you to stop being fearful.  If you knew how much weight has truly been lifted from you, then you would not sweat something as trivial as politics.  However, based on some of the anger that I am seeing displayed, it’s fairly evident that you are in a deep panic.

If you’re anyone else reading this, I plead with you to stop being fearful as well.  Fear just isn’t going to solve your problems.  Fear almost always causes poor decision-making.  And likewise, it’s a terrible reason to vote.

In fact, neuroscience research from a few years ago suggests the following remedy when gripped with fear: neutralize the situation.

This means not being a fearmonger.  It means avoiding people who are overly pessimistic about the economy. It means tuning out media that fan emotional flames.  Unless you are a day-trader, it means closing the web page with the market ticker.  It does mean being prepared, but not being a hypervigilant, everyone-in-the-bunker type.

I don’t know about you, but I hate fear.  It robs me of friendships—new and old.  It robs me of critical-thinking skills.  And it robs me of joy.  Like any thief, I want it out of my life.  It’s my hope that you will eventually want fear out of your life too.

In relation to the current election, kick fear to the curb before you hit the voting booths.  If we keep fear around, it will build up strength and make us believe we have fewer choices than we actually have.

So be courageous.  No vote submitted from a position of courage is ever a wasted vote.  Not yesterday. Not now.  Not ever.

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or on AL.com here.

Trump Clinton

Tuscaloosa: A Rally for Peace and Unity in our City

A dear friend of mine, Pastor Fred Schuckert, has diligently and humbly met with several leaders around our city in order to promote peace and unity.  Here is his call to action that he asked people to share:

I met this morning with Schmidt Moore and a handful of other pastors concerning the rising racial tensions related to the deaths of young black men by police officers in various cities and also the senseless killing of policemen in Dallas.  We talked with our mayor and police chief about having a prayer gathering for peace and unity in our city.  They were in favor of this, including the mayor and police chief of Northport.

At 7:00 this Sunday evening, July 10, at Government Plaza downtown, we will be having a “rally for Peace and Unity in our City.”  If it rains, we will meet at Bethel Baptist Church located at 3003 25th St, Tuscaloosa, AL ·

We are inviting the whole church in our city to participate.  Please share this with other Christians you have contact with in the greater Tuscaloosa area.

We are very fortunate to have outstanding governmental officials and law enforcement in our city and county. We want to pray for them as well as for the families of these young black men and police officers who have been killed.

Please help share Pastor Fred’s message.  Like, share, and retweet.

Photo Credit: http://www.harrison-const.com/

Photo Credit: http://www.harrison-const.com/

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or at AL.com here.

Why the Black Lives Matter Movement Needs to Die

“…good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” 
– Albert Camus, Philosopher

Photo: New York Times

Photo: New York Times

The Black Lives Matter movement needs to die. There I said it. Now that I’ve gotten that over with and depending on your view, the shock or gratitude is sinking in. Before you label me an Uncle Tom or Don Lemon, I’ll explain why I think the Black Lives Matter or BLM movement needs to die. I’ll start by saying that I do NOT believe that cops should target minorities, particularly black people, with extreme prejudice. Nor do I believe black people deserve to die at the hands of police officers when our hands are in the air, our backs are turned to the officers, and our disposition poses no immediate threat to ourselves or others. There has been too much damage done to the BLM movement at this point to salvage its name, but its aims should be taken up by new leadership under a new name and better organization. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I have identified many problems that highlight why this current incarnation of a millennial pseudo-black power movement is doomed to fail.

The first problem I have with the Black Lives Matter movement are its methods. Marches by African-Americans in the present day no longer have the same impact as they did when the civil rights leaders of the 60s marched to display to the world the frustration and pain of a disenfranchised people desiring for their voices to be heard. Honestly, when was the last time a march led to any meaningful change for the black community? As a people, we protest far too often to be taken seriously when we gather to march from point A to point B.  It seems like every time the wind blows and our feelings are hurt, we need to march. We march for current issues while also marching several times a year in cities across the country to commemorate other historic marches that were actually successful in their goals. We have essentially become a people prone to anger parades with rage-filled hearts and bitterness on our tongues.  The problem is no one lines the streets to view what has unfortunately become a pageant of ebony frustration.

Our marches no longer invoke change and no longer invoke others to aide our cause. The marches are often juxtaposed with riots and looting, though the “formal BLM protesters” will say that they weren’t involved in the rioting aspect of a protest, as seen in the Baltimore protests in 2015 when a CVS was burned and looting occurred. Some in the movement point to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote which says, “A riot, is the language of the unheard.” Counter to this, further study of Dr. King reveals that he was speaking of an understanding as to why some in the black community rioted during the Civil Rights Movement, but he himself held firm to non-violent tactics. If the BLM movement wants to be viewed as progressive and wants its tactics to be seen as constructive rather than destructive then it must divorce itself of those who loot, riot, and leave the ashes of small-businesses in their wake. The only image the country should see are the tear-stained faces of mothers and the trembling lips of fathers who have lost another child to a system that routinely discriminates against people of color.

The second reason I believe the BLM movement has failed is because there has been a cacophony of voices in the media and in the general public that sees the movement as doing more harm than good. Fox News in their usual bigoted vitriol describe the BLM movement as a hate group. Right-wing zealots screamed bloody-murder when Beyoncé vaguely represented Black Power during the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show. And Donald Trump has only increased the animosity by promoting violence at his rallies where protesters have been expelled and violently struck for disrupting Mr. Trump’s speeches. The unmerited bias is to be expected by those whose ears are attuned to the dog-whistle politics that promote discrimination between the races. However, the BLM movement’s protesters have grossly underestimated the followers of the GOP’s leading candidate and have disrespected the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

True, Senator Clinton’s husband did more harm than good to the black community with his failed incarceration policies, but at the same time there is a time and place to be heard that doesn’t distract from the overall message that the BLM movement wants to make. The phrase “you know a leopard by its spots” is also applicable when considering why some in the movement choose to protest at Donald Trump rallies. Donald Trump promotes bigotry and misogyny, no change could come from protesting there as all in attendance are fervently for the very things the BLM is against, and the attendants have shown time and time again that they will react violently against Trump protesters.

The protesters have also interrupted Bernie Sanders, and one can simply google Bernie Sanders and Civil Rights Movement to see that he has a history of promoting equal rights before most of the young BLM movement protesters were even born! These tactics only serve to bring negative attention to the BLM movement when all of the headlines read ‘Protesters interrupt the rally of (insert politician here) and below the caption is an image of 4-5 black people frozen in time with their mouths open and their brows furrowed with rage. This should NOT be the image the public associates with the BLM movement.

The BLM movement has also been damaged in the media because of its name. I know the name means well, but it has been distorted and bastardized to the point that police departments and unions across the country have come out in full force against the movement. Politicians and the ignorant public alike have even started “all lives matter” responses even though the BLM movement was never about black supremacy or Black Nationalism but about championing the equality of black lives.

Perhaps the gravest issue with the Black Lives Matter movement, which also relates to its name, is the amount of violence that blacks perpetrate against other blacks. How can the BLM movement expect America to respect the sanctity of a black life, when we often don’t respect the lives of those with the same skin color? Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and Birmingham: these four cities have a rampant problem with black-on-black homicide. Weekends with low murder counts are celebrated in Chicago, a city of a large black population in which the poor black population is destroying itself every week. The BLM should equally throw its weight behind promoting black people respecting the lives of other black people with the same fervor they expect it from law enforcement. Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks is quoted as saying, “”I dealt with a best friend getting killed, and it was [by] two 35-year-old black men. There was no police officer involved, there wasn’t anybody else involved, and I didn’t hear anybody shouting ‘black lives matter’ then.” The BLM movement must raise its voice in equal volume and outrage over black-on-black crime as it does over white-on-black crime.

Sad to say, it may all be too late as the BLM movement has already aligned itself and championed those who don’t do the cause any justice. Remember Michael Brown who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer? His story sounds like a rallying cry for the movement, but if you are to study the events leading up to his shooting and death, you’ll see that Michael Brown wasn’t behaving as a productive citizen in society. I won’t go into all of the details here, but I say this to make the point: if you’re going to make someone an angel, make sure they don’t have any demons in their past. A lot of people don’t know that Rosa Parks wasn’t the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, but a woman by the name of Claudette Colvin was. The NAACP and other civil rights leaders refused to use her as a symbol of injustice due to the fact that she was pregnant by a married man. If you are striving for equality, make sure the faces of the movement can withstand the public scrutiny of their private lives.

This brings me to my last point on a need for the immediate end to the Black Lives Matter movement, and it’s the fact that the movement lacks real leadership. If you research the original leaders of the movement, you’ll see the names of two people who were born in the early-mid 80’s. In order for this organization to be successful, the leaders of the first civil rights movement will need to help beyond lending a voice to thousands of screams. Dr. Cornel West, for example, is a participant in the movement, and young African-Americans gravitate to him because he’s Ivy-league educated, charismatic, highly intelligent, and most importantly, he’s black too. The problem is Dr. West has really done nothing substantial to advance the goals and message of the Black Lives Matter movement. The true leadership needed already has a structure but has been silent in recent years when it comes to major civil rights issues concerning black people.

The NAACP should be at the forefront of the fight with their senior leadership leading the charge, pressing corporations and big business for their support in the fight for equality, and simultaneously promoting non-violence in the black community.  The movement doesn’t need Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson as the nation as well as the black community has grown tired of their voices and their insistence to be the token voice of an entire people. The message is important, but those currently leading the BLM movement have no vision for getting there beside hashtags and marches. Walking and tweeting can only promote change so far, it will require senior leadership and support from benefactors with deeper pockets than the frustrated college students who want change but can’t afford what is necessary to accomplish real change in the 21st century.

I don’t have all of the answers on how the movement should be led, what its defined goals should be, or even what name if any should be used when calling for the sanctity of black lives to be upheld and respected. I do however see that this current incarnation does not work, it has failed black people, it has failed in the media, and its name has been distorted to the point that some view it as hateful. Regardless of who leads the movement within the black community, there is still work to be done.

The Civil Rights movement didn’t end with reforms in the 60s and 70s, nor did it end with the election of the nation’s first “black” President, President Barack Obama. The Civil Rights movement will not be complete until the words of this country’s Declaration of Independence apply to all citizens, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The journey to equality is complicated and will be paved with trials and complications, but we must press on. Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” Problem is, I don’t think the Black Lives Matter movement should be knocking at the gate.

Marsalis Jones is a frequent contributor for the topics of film and politics.

 

While Family Sleeps, Increase Your Skills and Abilities

night-owlChances are very likely that if you are reading this, you are not doing so right after midnight.  If you look at the time stamp of this posting though, you will notice that, in fact, it was posted right after midnight.

That strange time frame is not by accident.  I intentionally try to get postings like this done while my family is asleep and doesn’t care what I’m doing.  That’s no slight on my family, but they primarily want me to care about them while I’m with them.  And deservedly so.  However, many major things for my family and for myself would never get done if I didn’t make the best use of the inconvenient times of the day.

For example, my entire household is asleep by 8:30pm central.  In most places, that’s still considered early, and it is considered early for me too.  So when the family sleeps, I get to work.

  • Business school homework and assignments
  • Church projects that can be done from home
  • Literature of the non-fiction , uplifting variety
  • Family budgeting and long-range planning
  • Catching back up with missed emails and calls
  • Decluttering, reorganizing, and doing laundry
  • Laughing aloud with friends on social media
  • Heroically rocking our toddler back to sleep
  • The list goes on, and on, and on, and on

While it may seem a bit overwhelming, I’ve naturally become more effective at the above activities simply because I perform them regularly.  As the old adage goes, “we become what we practice.”

So that’s my story.  What are some tasks that you would like to become better at or more intentional about?

Leave a reply in the comments section, and please hit subscribe.

Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or AL.com.

Driving While _____ in the South

A few months ago, I was on a radio show expressing how I felt that my hometown, Dothan, had always had less racial tension that other cities in the South.  But with all the stories that keep coming out about racial tension (especially with police), it made me think of inappropriate behavior that has happened to me just in the city of Dothan.  Here are my stories.  What about yours?

police-in-rearview-mirror

My first story occurs near dusk as I was driving home from work at a local electric generating plant. As I was nearing my apartment, I was unexpectedly pulled over by a police officer that had been lingering behind me since I started my commute.

As the police officer approached, I became very nervous. At this time, I had no idea what I was being pulled over for, but I knew something fishy was in the air.

When the officer arrived to my front door, I rolled down my windows as the officer began to say, “I’m going to need you…”

Before he could finish his statement, he sees my company badge and interjects himself with, “Oh, I didn’t know you worked for the power plant. I had been following you for several miles, and I just wanted to make sure you were OK.”

I sheepishly responded, “Yes, I’m OK.”

The officer then left my car and returned to his police vehicle. Meanwhile, I’m panicking and wondering why this police officer actually pulled me over. Did he pull me over to plant drugs in my car? I’ll never truly know, but I know he wasn’t really checking to see if I was okay.

My second story also occurs near dusk as I was driving from my apartment to shop at the nearby supermarket. Before I could get a block away from my apartment complex though, I was pulled over by another police officer.

Again, once the officer arrived at my driver side door, I rolled down my windows. This time, the officer’s words were not interrupted.

He says with a thunderous voice, “I’m going to need you to get out of your car.”

Because I didn’t want to get physically abused by this police officer, I did what he asked and got out of the car. The officer then proceeds with further statements and questioning.

He states, “I’m going to need to frisk you, and I’m going to need to search your car for drugs.”

If you can imagine, I was very puzzled, but I still cooperated.

As his frisk and search finished, the officer responded, “I just wanted you to know your left tail light was out. Go get that fixed.”

That was the only explanation that he gave. As one might guess, the whole bogus ordeal made me very angry.

The above anecdotes shouldn’t paint the whole picture, but they are signs that we have a systemic problem with inappropriate police behavior—even in supposed progressive cities like Dothan.

Follow @Ben_Baxter on Twitter. Or find him on AL.com and TouchdownAlabama.net.

Moving to ATL Won’t Solve All Life’s Problems

A good friend of mine, Robert, tipped me to a great tweet from this weekend that really spoke to me. From @akidnamedspiffy it reads “Why do black people think moving to Atlanta will solve all their problems?”

Can we get an “amen” up in the house tonight?! I’ve never understood the obsession with Atlanta.  The only reason Atlanta is of any worth is because millennials and X-geners, like myself, have obsessed about the city and the overgrown suburbs for nearly 20 years.  Life imitated hype.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate Atlanta.  I just think we should be realistic with ourselves and understand that cities like Birmingham, Augusta, Memphis, etc could be world-class if all of our best talented young people didn’t lustfully flock towards Atlanta.

What do you think?  Am I being too cruel?

Stay Away from ATL

 

Baxter Nominated for National Black Folks Spokesman

After what has seemed like an eternity, the elections for the next National Black Folks Spokesman are underway.  The advertised deadline for consideration is June 30, 2015.  The actual deadline is December 31, 2015 due to the melanin-related phenomenon called CP Time.  The first nominee in the running to replace the tandem of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson is Ben Baxter of Alabama.  His campaign strategy is listed below.

Baxter puts his hat in the ring for 2016!

Baxter puts his hat in the ring for 2016!

As the next National Black Folks Spokesman, the Honorable Reverend Doctor Ben Baxter Jr will make a two-faced effort to complete the following promises.

  • He will speak for you whenever a white friend or coworker asks a question as simple as “How are things going?”
  • He will magically show up whenever “thug” is used by a white person to describe a young black male.  In addition, he will show up with an entire HBCU marching band if previously mentioned white person becomes frustrated and uses the n-word.
  • He will retweet anything that you send to him that has the hashtag #blacklivesmatter or #handsupdontshoot included.
  • He will always hog television time from relevant victims of abuse or harassment by shucking and jiving.
  • He will give the impression that his services are free, but he will eventually charge you a minimum of $25,000 just for showing up.
  • He will inevitably disappear whenever your situation gets tough.  But again, he’s going to charge you that $25,000 minimum fee no matter what.  He cannot stress that enough.

God Bless America, Black Jesus, and President Obama.

This message was brought to you by Citizens for Baxter, Incorporated.  Ben Baxter was not affiliated with this message at all.

The TRUE Effects of Free Community College

ObamaThursday President Barack Obama announced his plan to provide two free years of community college coursework “for anyone who’s willing to work for it.” In a video that he posted on the White House’s official Facebook page , the President spoke about education being the key to success not only for traditional aged students but for work force development as well. As he sat aboard Air Force One the President spoke, “It’s something that we can accomplish and it’s something that will train our work force so that we can compete with anybody in the world.” The hope is that all 50 states will buy into the President’s initiative, supporting 25% of the program while the U.S. Government foots the bill for the other 75% (Parsons,2015) . Now the President’s plan is groundbreaking on the Federal level, but it can trace its roots to a plan implemented by Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, called the Tennessee Promise .

On the surface this looks to be a feel-good win for the President and an initiative that could do a lot of good in this country. When it comes to certain work force sectors in this country we are operating with serious gaps and deficiencies. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has cited studies that show by 2025 due to an aging population the shortage of Registered Nurses in the workplace could exceed 500,000 . A 2012 survey of employers conducted by the Manpower Group showed that skilled trades positions have been amongst the hardest positions to fill due to lack of job-seekers with qualifications and the prerequisite training . Allied health programs and technical training programs are two of the niche areas in post-secondary education that community colleges tend to do well in, so this initiative could go a long way towards fulfilling those needs; however there are still many questions and potential drawbacks that need to be addressed.

For starters, will this program actually meet its aim and actually help the people most in need of an opportunity? Many times initiatives aimed at getting more people an opportunity to enroll in school, ends up being taken advantage of by those who probably would have gone to college anyway without help. Can we really afford to pay for this at the moment? The White House hasn’t put an estimated figure on how much this program will cost yet, but I imagine it will be significant and will come out of the U.S. tax payer’s pocket. There is also the theory of ratcheting and the revenue theory of costs (Bowen’s Law). Howard Bowen believed that when it comes to higher Education that costs are determined by sources of revenue relative to student enrollment. This program would essentially be providing another stream of revenue to colleges, perhaps as an unintentional consequence raising the tuition costs of those who fall outside of the qualifications for the program. With the potential influx of new students what about increases in faculty, staff, infrastructure? You just can’t add more students without people to teach them, people to assist in all areas of instruction, and areas to house and educate them. In addition to these issues what, if any effect, will this initiative have on the ever looming Higher Education Bubble that some predict will burst under the burgeoning student loan debt and costs associated with it (Wasik, 2013)?

In reality the president’s announcement was merely a teaser and more concrete information about how this program will be managed and operated will need to be known before anyone can say objectively whether this program will be a major success or waste of tax payer’s dollars. For those crafting the program, they will need to pay close attention to how Tennessee’s program fares as it rolls out this year. This isn’t something that we all should rush into lightly. If studied, thoughtfully planned and executed, I could see this initiative doing wonders to help with the issues of access, equity, and workforce gaps we have in this nation. If enacted haphazardly without proper forethought this could become another Albatross around the American taxpayer’s necks saddling us all with more debt and doing nothing to actually improve the real issues at hand. At events today in Tennessee, the President plans to deliver more details of his initiative. Hopefully we can learn more about his plans in enacting this landmark move.

  1. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153120229619238&set=vb.63811549237
  2. Parsons, C. (2015, January 8). Obama plan for free community college: U.S. would pay 75%, states 25%. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-obama-community-college-20150108-story.html
  3. http://tennesseepromise.gov/
  4. Nursing Shortage. (2014, April 24). Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/nursing-shortage-resources/about
  5. 2012 Talent Shortage Survey. (2012, January 1). Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.manpowergroup.us/campaigns/talent-shortage-2012/
  6. Wasik, J. (2013, September 4). Three Reasons Why College Bubble Will Burst. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2013/09/04/three-reasons-why-college-bubble-will-burst/