The cameras are rolling…

June 2, 2020

Jack used a quote in his Jack’s Winning Words blog today that rings true – “Racism is not getting worse.  It’s getting filmed.”  (Will Smith). I’ve been around long enough to know that racism has always been there, but smartphones with video  recording capabilities were not always there to capture it and let it be shown on the nightly news.

The Civil Rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s succeeded in getting many of the overt signs of racism removed and caused changes to the American Education system, but it did not cause racism to go away. Much of the focus of racism shifted from social expressions of separation onto economic and political means of subjugation of the black community.

The racism that sparked the marches and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was still there when the news cameras stopped filming. It had become “old news”. But the protests against it never stopped. I remember Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raising a black-gloved fist during the playing of the US national anthem at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. The news media was all over that. And there were the riots and protests in 1968 over the killing of Dr. King. That got news coverage for days.

I remember also the news coverage of the desegregation of Boston’s public schools and the hate that made the nightly news shows as schools across America were order to desegregate. Much of the focus of protest during the late 60’s and early 70’s was on the Viet Nam war, but racism was always there and sometimes not below the surface.

In 1980 Miami erupted into violent protest and riots over the killing of a black man by four white police officers. And in the 1990’s In Los Angeles in 1992 a week-long series of riots, lootings, arsons and civil disturbance that occurred i, following the acquittal of police officers on trial regarding the assault of Rodney King. That was the last time that the U.S. Army was called upon to quell the rioting.

In the 2000’s much of the attention of the news services shifted to covering mass shootings; but there was always racism bubbling up in the background somewhere. These are just some that made the news:

2001: Cincinnati riots – April – in the African-American section of Over-the-Rhine.

2009: Oakland, CA – Riots following the BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant.

2012: Anaheim, California Riot—followed the shooting of two Hispanic males

2014: Ferguson, MO riots – Riots following the Shooting of Michael Brown

2015: 2015 Baltimore riots – Riots following the death of Freddie Gray

2015: Ferguson unrest – Riots following the anniversary of the Shooting of Michael Brown

2016: 2016 Milwaukee riots – Riots following the fatal shooting of 23 year old Sylville Smith.

2016: Charlotte riot, September 20–21, Riots started in response to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police

2017: St. Louis protests, beginning September 15, large protests erupted when police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.

2019: Memphis riot, June 13, following the fatal shooting of Brandon Webber by U.S. Marshals, Memphis, TN.

It is notable that the first smartphone cameras were introduced in 2002 by Samsung and Sprint introduced the first camera equipped smartphone in the U.S. The public has been documenting racial incidents and the riots that often followed ever since. As soon as the camera quality become good enough for the video to be used on the nightly news we began seeing the stories of racial discrimination and the resulting unrest pop up again on our TVs. It had always been there, but no one could capture it until technology gave bystanders a video camera in their pockets. Some, as we have recently seen in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, were not innocent bystanders; but, rather, were participating in the acts by documentation.

Will Smith is right that things haven’t changed very much, they are just getting documented better. However, it is that constant reminder of the things that need to be changed that will eventually cause that change. It was the ugly nightly newscast pictures and video that eventually drove change at the national and state levels in the 1960’s. Today, it will be the smartphone videos on the nightly news that thrust the ugly reality of racism into our homes, which will drive change. The question is – How many people have to die on camera for us to make those changes?

Let your political representatives know that you have seen enough and demand that they make changes. Let’s turn the cameras on them and see what they do.


Don’t let your mind become tethered…

March 13, 2015

“Imprisonment of the body is bitter; imprisonment of the mind is worse.”  (Thornton Wilder – The Ides of March)  – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – I once had a tour of Jackson State Prison.  After that experience I realized what a severe penalty it is to be sentenced to “life in prison.”  But worse than “life”, is the locking-up of one’s mind.  “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  Society needs to address the problem of mind-robbing sub-par schools and the problem of mind-robbing diseases.

I have written here before about the ability of the mind to soar, even if the body is imprisoned or it is trapped in a dysfunctional body – see post.  I agree with Jack that the sub-par school systems that some are relegated to in our society wastes the minds that flow through them by limiting the training and support that allow those minds to grow, experience and learn about the world. At the other end of life the mind-robbing diseases like Alzheimer’s seem more like a cage that is getting smaller and smaller as more and more of the memories that make up one’s knowledge base drift away, until one is left in the child-like state of a newborn. I agree that more research and more work is needed on both of those issues.

Another issue that I’ve also written about here before seems to me to also be a dui tetherrather large threat to imprison the mind or perhaps the better analogy would be to put the mind on a tether. In Michigan the police use what is called a DUI Tether or SCRAM bracelet, which is as device that is worn usually around the ankle and which can detect any use of alcohol by the wearer. Click here to read an article about how it works and is used. The threat that I’m referring to is our smartphones. Many people have become tethered to their smartphones to such an extent that they actually feel phantom vibrations even when not carrying the phone and suffer a form of separation anxiety if they somehow forget their phone. Even worse, in my mind and admittedly in my case, is how slavishly we react to any call or message or other demand that our phone might make upon us.

The whole texting while driving issue is just one indicator of that inexplicable need to respond to anything that happens on our phone. I often stop and think, “Does it really matter that I respond right now to that text message, in the middle missed callof whatever I’m doing, or can it wait a few minutes?” Does the fact that my phone just buzzed in my pocket, indicating that a new eMail has arrived mean that I must put it out, even while trying to navigate through rush-hour traffic, to try to see what it’s all about? Is that call from some number that I don’t have in my contacts list really likely to be important enough to answer in the middle of dinner? The answer to all of those is obviously No; however the reality all to often is that I do it anyway. I have become tethered to my phone (or by my phone). My mind, in a manner of speaking, has been imprisoned by this beast.

The use of, and your devoted service to, your cell phone can be compared to an addiction. Like any other addiction, it is hard to break. I suspect that a scientific phone with msgstudy of the problem would discover that some endorphin of some sort is released in our brains when we respond to the phone ad that we get used to and actually start craving that endorphin. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to feel connected somehow to other human beings. I’ve seen people spend their entire time at the gym, cycling through various machines and the treadmill, and never get off the phone. I’ve witnessed (in exasperation because it happened right I front of me) a person take a phone call in the middle of a wedding ceremony and actually spend time talking while the preacher was reading through the wedding vows. And I’ve almost been hit a few times by motorists who ran a stop sign at a corner because they were on their phone texting and didn’t see the sign or me. Those were people who had lost control of their own minds to their phones – they were tethered to their phones.

So, now, when I go to church on Sunday morning I leave my phone in the car. I suffer the anxiety of being separated from it for a few moments and I still look at it the instant that I get back into the car to see what I might have missed (never anything important it seems); but I no longer respond to a buzz in my pocket in the midst of the sermon (although, I’ll admit that I’ve experienced phantom buzzes in the midst of the service from time to tome) . It’s a start and an admission that I’ve made to myself that I had become tethered to my phone. I still have work to do on that.

How about you? Are you tethered to your phone? Do you feel those phantom vibrations every now and then?  Do you still check to see what it is that just came in, even in the midst of driving? If you forget your phone at home, do you turn around to go get it or just tell yourself that you’ll check it when you get home? Have you ever spent a hour of more talking on the phone while you were doing other things?  There aren’t Phone Tethered Anonymous groups; but, perhaps there should be.  It’s something to think about over the weekend. Maybe you could put down your phone and get outside for a while without it. After all, that’s what voice mail is for. Have a great weekend.


Don’t be distracted; get real…again!

December 7, 2014

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”  (W. Clement Stone) This little quote from a recent  Jack’s Winning Words blog post was one that I copied and put aside, knowing that there are things to write about contained in Stone’s thought.

emailAn image immediately came to mind of me headed to my computer with a task in mind, only to see that I have some new eMail and getting sidetracked dealing with it. I feel the need to answer some right away or to delete others. Soon I’m walking away, satisfied that I have handled the eMail task at hand and completely forgetting what I went to the computer for in the first place. Has that ever happened to you?

The second thing that comes to mind is a bit more disturbing. It seems to me that the rapid rise of the smartphones and tablets is creating a whole generation of people who are more concerned with what’s happening in the palm of their hands than is what’s going ontablet computer around them. Don’t take me completely wrong. I love what I can do with and on my smartphone and I’m guilty of spending way too much time looking down at the palm of my hand at my phone. What’s concerning is that there may be a generation who are becoming somewhat disconnected from reality; because, for them, reality is what’s going on in that tiny screen. They spend more time with it that they do in face-to-face encounters. I read recently that breaking up with someone via a text message is now fairly common and accepted. How cold is that?

I have found that the ubiquity of Google has taken over a part of my life. I no longer look things up or ask someone – I Google whatever it is that I need to know. That’s both convenient and somewhat sad at the same time. Fortunately that and checking eMail are the primary smartphone intrusions into my life.

I recall, when I was much younger, that some behavioral scientists of the day were similarly concerned about the impact of television on children, especially when TV kids watching TVbecame sort of a pseudo babysitter that parents could plop their kids down in front of for hours. That fear has largely proven to be unfounded. I suspect that is because watching TV, while captivating, is a very passive thing. Using one’s smartphone is interactive and, for some, about as involved as they get with much of their life. With smart-phone based technologies such as eMail, texting, Skype, video conferencing and other interactive means of communicating with another person without being there, it is possible to go for long periods feeling like you are connected without ever actually being with another human being. How scary it that?

So, getting back to our opening quote; maybe what needs to be left undone is some of this artificial “communications” and to get back to more one-on-one real face time with others. Posting on my Facebook wall or sending me a Tweet is not really the same. Try sitting down together at a Starbucks and not sitting at two different Starbucks texting each other. If you want to know where I am and what I’m doing…find me and ask me directly. At that point I’ll be with you and talking to you. What could be better?

Vincent Nichols was on to it, when he said – “We’re losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person’s mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point. Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community life and living together.”  I’m pretty sure that he had our modern smartphones in mind when he said that.

The good news is that we still have the capacity for the things that we have allowed our distractions to keep us from. As Nicholas A. Christakis put it – “Social media and the Internet haven’t changed our capacity for social interaction any more than the Internet has changed our ability to be in love or our basic propensity to violence, because those are such fundamental human attributes.” The key then is to leave undone some of the things that we allow to distract us and get back in touch with our human capacities and attributes. Put down the smartphone and look around you at the real people in your world. OMG!