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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dangerous Dicks Invading Jane's Restroom


 

The Trump administration took its first major anti-LGBTQ policy action by withdrawing Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let the students use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity. Civil rights groups have denounced the withdrawal as a politically motivated attack that will endanger transgender children and sow confusion over the federal government's role in enforcing civil rights.

Let me simplify the issue. Conservatives, as part of their campaign against LGBTQ people, are scaring people about bathrooms. Creating a myth to strengthen their base, they say, “If people are allowed to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identities, men will disguise themselves as trans women to sneak into women's bathrooms and sexually assault women.”

In no nonsense terms, these Puritanical zealots believe hordes of young, cross-dressing heterosexual perverts brandishing lustful, sinister penises will gain access to public bathrooms to harass and rape the female population – dastardly dicks in dresses will be mass humping unsuspecting girls.

Excuse me, but … damn, son-of-a-bitch, and what the hell?

This has never happened as a result of states' nondiscrimination laws. There is no evidence that nondiscrimination laws – and other policies that also let trans people use the bathroom for their gender identity – lead to sexual assault in bathrooms and locker rooms. In two investigations, Media Matters confirmed with experts and officials in 12 states and 17 school districts (covering 600,000 students) with protections for trans people that they had no increases in sex crimes after they enacted their policies.

(Rachel Percelay. “17 School Districts Debunk Right-Wing Lies About Protections For Transgender Students.” Media Matters. June 03, 2015.)

And, get this, please – even if trans people are allowed to use the bathroom or locker room that aligns with their gender identity, sexual assault remains illegal. Laws to punish perps are already on the books.

History shows conservatives propagate such myths to sustain discrimination of all kinds. They latch onto people's insecurities and create lies that appeal to their emotions. Bathrooms are places where really private things happen, even if they are accessible to the public, and this makes people feel vulnerable. In brief, people often feel afraid because they're exposed. Conservatives prey on these fears.

Gillian Frank, visiting fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, relates how this happened in the struggle for racial equality in the United States.

Franks says, for example, during the World War II era, conservatives began employing the idea that social equality for African-Americans would lead to sexual danger for white women in bathrooms. And it was used to stop the Equal Rights Amendment, which tried to establish legal equality between men and women, because opponents claimed it would lead to the abolition of bathrooms for different genders, potentially putting women in danger.
 
And, since World War II, public bathrooms have figured centrally in African-American civil rights struggles for racial integration in the workplace and in schools. Integrating these spaces in the Southern United States meant doing away with Jim Crow laws that mandated, among other things, separate public bathrooms for blacks and whites.

American segregationists often interpreted demands for racial equality as black male demands for interracial sexual contact with white women. White women also emphasized that contact with black women in bathrooms would infect them with venereal diseases claiming that racial integration with blacks would cause them to catch syphilis from shared toilet seats and towels in public restrooms.

(Gillian Frank. “The Anti-Trans Bathroom Nightmare Has Its Roots in Racial Segregation.” Slate. November 10, 2015.)
 
Historian Phoebe Godfrey summarized the racial, gender, and sexual dynamics at play. Conflicts over bathrooms “were rooted in beliefs about the vulnerability of southern womanhood to blackness, which by its mere presence had the power to contaminate, symbolizing a sexual threat regardless of gender.”

And still, conservatives are using fears and bathrooms to discriminate. Now, they are repealing laws that protected LGBTQ people. They are portraying transgender people as pedophiles while, in truth, violence against transgender people in public bathrooms abounds.

In a 2012 study, Jodi L. Herman found that 68 percent of transgender people she surveyed experienced verbal harassment, 18 percent had been denied access, and 9 percent experienced physical assault when trying to use gender-segregated public restrooms.

Herman discovered restroom violence is symptomatic of the broader forms of discrimination transgender people experience with alarming regularity. 

(Jody L. Herman. “Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and its Impact on Transgender People’s Lives.” Williams Institute. UCLA School of Law. 2012.)

What is to be learned from all of this toilet trash talk and turmoil? To those who look at the core of the issue, the lesson is that legislation enforcing restroom boundaries is all about prejudice – the partiality of race, gender, and sexual relations. It is not about protecting the delicate flower of feminine virginity. We have sufficient laws in place now to assure heterosexual women are safe… even in public restrooms. Perhaps it is time we assure the same safety for transgenders.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trump, Transgenders, and Shameful Denial


 

Do you remember when then presidential candidate Donald Trump said last April that he supported the rights of transgender people to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” At the time, he said that Caitlyn Jenner, perhaps the most famous transgender person in the country, could use whichever bathroom at Trump Tower she wanted.

“North Carolina did something — it was very strong — and they’re paying a big price,” Trump said. “And there’s a lot of problems. And I heard — one of the best answers I heard was from a commentator yesterday saying, leave it the way it is, right now.” 

(Ashley Parker. “Donald Trump Says Transgender People should Use the Bathroom They Want.” The New York Times. April 21, 2016.) 

Evidently that was then and this is now.

Now, the Trump administration plans to roll back protections for transgender students and is preparing changes to federal guidance that required the nation’s public schools to allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identities.

This is different from President Obama administration’s position, which was that denying transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice violates federal prohibitions against sex discrimination

The Obama administration’s stand was based on the position that requiring students to use a restroom that clashes with their gender identity is a violation of Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in public schools.

Gay rights groups condemned the move preemptively. This reversal by Trump would be a significant setback for the gay rights movement, which made enormous gains under Obama, winning the right to marry and gaining the ability to serve openly in the military.

“Such clear action directed at children would be a brazen and shameless attack on hundreds of thousands of young Americans who must already defend themselves against schoolyard bullies, but are ill-equipped to fight bullies on the floors of their state legislatures and in the White House,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

(Sandhya Somashekhar, Moriah Balingit, and Emma Brown. “Trump administration poised to change transgender student bathroom guidelines.” The Washington Post. February 21, 2017.)


Allow me to speak about gender. First, I would like you to read the American Psychological Association's definition of the word “gender” and explain how it differs from the definition of the word “sex” ...

Gender (n): “the condition of being male, female, or neuter. In a human context, the distinction between gender and SEX reflects the usage of these terms: Sex usually refers to the biological aspects of maleness or femaleness, whereas gender implies the psychological, behavioral, social, and cultural aspects of being male or female (i.e., masculinity or femininity.)”

Please understand that a person's gender identity (also defined by the APA) is that being's “deeply-felt, inherent sense of being a boy, a man, or male; a girl, a woman, or female; or an alternative gender (e.g., genderqueer, gender nonconforming, gender neutral) that may or may not correspond to a person’s sex assigned at birth or to a person’s primary or secondary sex characteristics.”

(APA Resources. http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf)

Thus, Gender Dysphoria occurs as discomfort or distress related to incongruence between a person’s gender identity, sex assigned at birth, gender identity, and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics (Knudson, DeCuypere, & Bockting. 2010).

In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition adopted the term Gender Dysphoria as a diagnosis characterized by “a marked incongruence between” a person’s gender assigned at birth and gender identity (American Psychiatric Association. 2013. p. 453).

Gender Dysphoria replaced the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in the previous version of the DSM (American Psychiatric Association. 2000).

Every day obstetricians, doctors and midwives commit the procedure of assigning an infant's gender without even asking for the parents' consent. When a doctor holds a child up in the delivery room and looks between its legs, that medical person declares the child to be a boy or a girl based on this hasty assessment of genitals.

Nothing in this examination is necessarily wrong or criminal or meant to harm the infant.

However …

This decision can be potentially critical to the welfare and well-being of a child. Christin Scarlett Milloy – activist, writer, journalist – explains the weight of this gender assignment in the following:

“With infant gender assignment, in a single moment your baby's life is instantly and brutally reduced from such infinite potentials down to one concrete set of expectations and stereotypes, and any behavioral deviation from that will be severely punished—both intentionally through bigotry, and unintentionally through ignorance.

“That doctor (and the power structure behind him) plays a pivotal role in imposing those limits on helpless infants, without their consent, and without your informed consent as a parent. This issue deserves serious consideration by every parent, because no matter what gender identity your child ultimately adopts, infant gender assignment has effects that will last through their whole life.” 

(Christin Scarlett Milloy. “Don’t Let the Doctor Do This to Your Newborn.” Slate. June 26, 2014.)

More and more, we see stories about transgender people in the news. They are a part of the LGBT minority. The National Health Interview Survey reported in July 2014 that 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual. In a Williams Institute review based on an June–September 2012 Gallup poll, approximately 3.4 percent of American adults identify themselves as being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender). According to the report from the Williams Institute, the transgender population represents about 0.3% of American adults.

We are finally understanding the truth about gender and all of its complexities. Every parent now understands there is a chance their child might be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and no parent wants a child to face what feels like a stacked deck against them.

Each child – no matter their orientation – deserves equal respect and human dignity, yet we are well aware that a child of any minority becomes subjected to harassment and mistreatment. Psychological abuse for gender nonconforming children is common – transgender people are far more likely to be depressed, and they have a devastating 41 percent rate of suicide attempts, nearly nine times the social average. It is imperative for all of us to understand this – people are not miserable because they're transgender; they're miserable as the result of being assigned the wrong gender at birth.

(Ann P. Hass et al. “Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults.” The Williams Institute, in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. January, 2014.)

The unconditional love of a parent is the utmost protection for any child. It is clear how important this concern must be for a transgender child. These parents must fight gender discrimination as they seek equality for their children. Even though Western culture has traditionally viewed gender as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options: male or female, modern science shows that biological gender occurs across a continuum of possibilities.

Until those who hold onto the binary concept of gender recognize the diversity of other gender identities, sexual discrimination will plague our nation. Until all people practice inclusion, transgender people will suffer as gender continues to be closely monitored and reinforced in beliefs so primitive they judge only genitalia, not who a person really is.

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"God Empowers You to Fight For Justice": Advocate Austin Channing Brown


 
 Austin Channing Brown 

Austin Channing Brown is a speaker and writer advocating for justice and racial reconciliation. A graduate of North Park University and Marygrove College with a master's degree in social justice, Austin currently serves as a resident director and multicultural liaison at Calvin College. 
 
Austin recently wrote an article for Today's Christian Woman titled “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Fight for Justice And the One Reason You Should.” In her article, she speaks honestly about her commitment to seeking racial justice. Working in foster care and homeless shelters, churches, and college campuses, Austin speaks of a calling that “follows her into every moment of her life.” Yet, she confesses ...

Doing this work is hard. Really hard. In fact, fighting for justice is the worst. It’s not sexy or romantic; it’s often quite gut-wrenching. So in an effort to be honest about this work, I decided to make a list of why you shouldn’t fight for justice.”

(Austin Channing Brown. “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Fight for Justice And the One Reason You Should.” Today's Christian Woman. 2017.)

This is that list of why you should not fight for justice:

1. It will exhaust you.

It is a deeply emotional investment that requires working behind the scenes with little pay.

2. You never feel like you're doing enough.

Societal issues are intricate and far-reaching. With those complexities come more opportunities to act, to serve, to fight.

3. You’ll never be able to unlearn what you’ve learned.

The more we learn, the more our lives and relationships are disrupted. When our eyes are opened to the injustices in the world, our lives begin to center on understanding how certain injustices have developed over time and how they are currently maintained. We’re often rejected, shouted down, and silenced.

4. The hits will keep coming.

Our cultural awareness, heightened by our passion for a specific issue, reminds us of all the ways our work is still undone in this fallen world—and it hurts.

5. You'll hardly even “win.”

In the work of justice, “wins” are tough to come by and often difficult to define. The few and far between victories are often a small but significant reminder that God is still working in the world—that hope can win.

Wow! This is enough to dissuade anyone from standing up from justice. The reasons are brutally honest. It's just not worth the effort. However, make no mistake, Austin Channing Brown is dedicated to activism, and she wants you to help fight the good fight, too

Despite all of reasons not to fight for justice, Brown finds her bedrock for setting at liberty those who are oppressed in the Bible. She says, “In Luke 4:18–19 Christ stood before a gathering and read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (ESV).

To put it succinctly, Brown says the one reason we must fight for justice is “We serve – and are empowered by – a God of justice.”

Austin Channing Brown warns us that fighting for justice is extremely difficult. In fact, she acknowledges as a commitment to learning and educating others grows, the journey may cost us some friends The struggle essentially puts us into a new community of those she calls the global community of “freedom fighters.”

Austin is a devout Christian woman who believes activism is essential – both to her society and to her faith. So many today choose to hand injustice to God and trust he will absolve all problems. They deny the charge to battle prejudice and inequality. They pray but leave the temporal work to God. Unlike meek bystanders, Brown accepts the charge of the Almighty to lead a movement of rectitude. Her integrity bolsters her commitment. She is at work dismantling unjust systems and exposing them to the searing light of truth.

Austin Channing Brown tells you this about her work ...

“We make peace. We promote truth and love above politeness and civility. We make noise because our lives depend on it. Our commitment to racial justice and reconciliation requires we dig into the muddiness of humanity, reckoning with the worst of our humanity as we call out its best. This work is not for the faint of heart. It requires hope. Not a hope founded on good feelings or good intentions, but hope that demands. For our hope is risky, relentless, rooted in our certainty that love will win.

”God bless you and your activism, Ms. Brown.

Please read more about Austin here and join her movement to better our country: http://austinchanning.com/

Monday, February 20, 2017

Freedom of the Press -- President Trump's "Enemy"



Freedom of the press in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This clause is generally understood as a means to prevent the government from interfering with differing opinions. The right guarantees freedom to gather, publish, and distribute information and ideas without government restriction, and it encompasses freedom from prior restraints on publication and freedom from censorship. It protects the freedom of an institution as well as that of individuals. 
 
The First Amendment reads, in part, "Congress shall make no law… abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the press.” 
 
The courts have long struggled to determine whether the Framers of the Constitution intended to differentiate press freedom from speech freedom. Most have concluded that freedom of the press derives from freedom of speech. Although some cases and some legal scholars, including Justice Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court, have advocated special press protections distinct from those accorded to speech, most justices believe that the Freedom of the Press Clause has no significance independent of the Freedom of Speech Clause.

(“Freedom of the Press. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com. 2017.)

With unlimited access to information, journalists serve as the eyes, ears, and voice of the public. The press is an important force in the democratic system of checks and balances. From network news to investigative reports to the front-line accounts of embedded journalists in foreign wars, the press supplies the masses with timely, important news.

President Donald Trump has recently tweeted: "The FAKE NEWS media (failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" In an all-out attack on the Freedom of the Press, the president is accusing American journalists of being traitors. The BBC responded … 
 
Being branded an "enemy of the people" by the likes of Stalin or Mao brought at best suspicion and stigma, at worst hard labor or death.

Now the chilling phrase - which is at least as old as Emperor Nero, who was called "hostis publicus,” enemy of the public, by the Senate in AD 68 - is making something of a comeback...

The US president's use of 'enemies of the people' raises unavoidable echoes of some of history's most murderous dictators. 
 
Under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, out-of-favour artists and politicians were designated enemies and many were sent to hard labor camps or killed. Others were stigmatized and denied access to education and employment.

And Chairman Mao, the leader of China who presided over the deaths of millions the of people in a famine brought about by his Great Leap Forward, was also known to use the phrase against anyone who opposed him, with terrible consequences.”

(“'Enemies of the people': Trump remark echoes history's worst tyrants. BBC News. February 18, 2017.)

To make a gross understatement, President Trump is not an astute scholar of either the Fourth Estate (the mainstream press) or the Fifth Estate (a socio-cultural reference to groupings of outlier viewpoints in contemporary society). He evidently doesn't realize the social importance of either unless, of course, he judges their coverage to be favorable to him.

The Fourth Estate must be an important, coherent and independent force in society. True to its purpose, the press does not share the same aims as government, the legislature, the executive, religion or commerce. It is, or should be, an outsider. Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian and owner of the Guardian and The Observer, said …

Of course, the press must be responsible for its own standards and ethics. But it's not the job of journalists to run things: they are literally without responsibility. They don't have to respond to a party whip, make the compromises necessary in politics or answer to shareholders. They are not bound by the confidentiality agreements that bind others. They are careless of causing inconvenience or embarrassment. They don't have to win votes. They can write things – about the economy, say, or the environment – which may need saying but which are unsayable by politicians. They come from a different place.”

(Alan Rusbridger. “The importance of a free press.” The Guardian. October 06, 2011.) 
 
The Fifth Estate actually dates to the 1960s counterculture and the establishment of an underground newspaper first published in Detroit in 1965. Now, Fifth Estate blogs have the potential to prevent governments from adopting hasty and misjudged decisions. These news sources also serve to advocate for justice, provide insider information, facilitate communication between experts, promote grassroots efforts, discredit political figures, and set policy agendas. This revolution in technology – the most significant since the invention of moveable type in the 15th century – allows virtually anyone to create and share their news and thoughts.

(Stephen D Cooper. Watching the Watchdog: Bloggers as the Fifth Estate. 2006.) 
 
As mainstream and secondary sources produce news, opinion is generally protected. Limitations do exist for fighting words, threats, words that incite, and certain offensive speech.

In Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, 51 S. Ct. 625, 75 L. Ed. 1357 (1931), the Court held that the government could not prohibit the publication of a newspaper for carrying stories that were scandalous or scurrilous. The Court identified three types of publications against which a prior restraint might be valid: those that pose a threat to national security, those that contain obscene materials, and those that advocate violence or the overthrow of the government.

Without freedom of the press, people do not have the right to have the information they need to make informed decisions about their government. A press that is the organ of the government stands silent when individual liberties are threatened. As reference in the BBC report, control of the media is one of the first objectives of those who would control any society. This is an essential part of the rule of an autocrat – he suppresses and eventually controls the press.

The press must remain free and independent. No president can be allowed to delineate “fake” and real news. No American president should call the press “the enemy of the people.” It is a clear attempt to suppress dissent. It is evident such thought comes from the mind of an overlord. In this case, from President Donald Trump. Rusbridger explains the threat a leader like Trump poses …

“Totalitarian governments can never allow a free press. Our own relative freedom has been fought for over 400 years, and there can never be a moment when freedom can be considered 'won.' When people talk about 'licensing' journalists or newspapers, the instinct should be to refer them to history.

“Read about how licensing of the press in Britain was abolished in 1695. Read about how Wilkes, Cobbett, Locke, Milton, Mill, Junius and countless anonymous writers, lawyers and printers argued and battled for the comparative freedoms the press in Britain enjoys. Remember how the freedoms won here became a model for much of the rest of the world. And be conscious how the world still watches us to see how we protect those freedoms.”

(Alan Rusbridger. “The importance of a free press.” The Guardian. October 06, 2011.)

American Taxpayers Paying Billionaire Trump's High Cost of Living


 

This Friday, President Trump and his entourage jetted out for the third straight weekend to a “working” getaway at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. Many remember when he told the Hill newspaper in 2015, “I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done.” It seems he has forgotten his pledge.

Especially troubling beyond the expense is the Trump family’s unprecedented commingling of their business with the presidency, Already Trump has attended a ball hosted by the Red Cross before holding a Super Bowl party at his club. The Atlantic reported “the Red Cross, a federally chartered organization, paid around $300,000 for the privilege of hosting the event at the president’s estate, while the Super Bowl party blurred the line between paying the Trump Organization to have a good time and paying the Trump Organization for the chance to bend the president’s ear.”

(Jeremy Venook. “Why the Trumps' Travel Expenses Matter. The Atlantic. February 07, 2017.)

On Saturday, Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., with their Secret Service details in tow, were nearly 8,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates, attending the grand opening of a Trump-brand golf resort in the “Beverly Hills of Dubai.” This trip comes at considerable cost to the taxpayer.

And meanwhile, New York police will keep watch outside the Trump Tower in Manhattan, the chosen home of first lady Melania Trump and son Barron. And, the tiny township of Bedminster, N.J., is preparing for the daunting prospect that the local Trump golf course will serve as a sort of northern White House for as many as 10 weekends a year.

(Drew Harwell, Amy Brittain, and Jonathan O'Connell. “Trump family’s elaborate lifestyle is a ‘logistical nightmare’ — at taxpayer expense.” The Washington Post. February 17, 2017.)

Mind you, this is a man who ran for president with promises to cut exorbitant expenses and “drain the swamp” of wasteful politicians. He explicitly pitched his platform in opposition to “crooked” politicians enjoying themselves on the taxpayers’ dime. Trump spent much of the campaign slamming wealthy elites, yet he has larded his cabinet with billionaires. And, he is quickly becoming what he claims to oppose as he spends, spends, spends.

To date, the President shows no signs of cutting his own personal spending while in office. Since he has bragged about using loopholes to his advantage, why should anyone expect the president to curtail his own extravagance when someone else will pay the tab?

A month into office Trump has run up a price tag that, based on past assessments of presidential travel and security costs, could balloon into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of a four-year term.

The Washington Post reports that adding to the costs and complications is Trump’s inclination to conduct official business surrounded by crowds of people, such as his decision last weekend to host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a working dinner while Mar-a-Lago members dined nearby.
Here are the likely costs for the government as reported by the Post:

* Three Mar-a-Lago trips – $10 million

* Guarding Trump Tower in New York – $500,000 a day

* Eric Trump's trip to promote a Trump-brand condo tower in Uruguay – $100,000


The problem with the Uruguay charge is that, for all intents and purposes, it was a business expense, one of what will likely be many instances of the federal government paying to effectively subsidize the Trump Organization. The expense came out of the federal government’s budget, de facto subsidized by the American taxpayer.

(Jeremy Venook. “Why the Trumps' Travel Expenses Matter. The Atlantic. February 07, 2017.)

The Post claims ...

For Trump, the costs come with an additional perk: Some of the money flows into his own pocket. While Trump has removed himself from managing his company, he has refused to divest his ownership, meaning that he benefits from corporate successes such as government contracts. 
 
The Defense Department and Secret Service, for instance, have sought to rent space in Trump Tower, where leasing a floor can cost $1.5 million a year — though neither agency has disclosed any details. In addition, Trump’s travel to his signature properties while trailed by a press corps beaming images to the world allows the official business of the presidency to double as marketing opportunities for his brand.”

The expense is especially troubling as the Secret Service has endured years of budget shortages. Mar-a-Lago presents a logistical nightmare for the service due to its exposed oceanfront and position on a narrow, busy island, where traffic problems were already routine.

President Donald Trump, the master of the deal, appears to be a hypocrite with no intention of curtailing his own interests or expenses while in office. Trump has repeatedly stated his position that the president is not bound by the same ethics rules as lower-ranking government officials. Of course, to what bounds Trump may push unethical behavior is yet to be seen.

This may be true – Trump could still run his businesses as president. However, many see the need for him to “isolate” himself from management of his company to ensure the American people that his actions as president are about the people and not about his businesses. For the American public, this is a real concern with the egotistical Trump.

In actuality, Trump has not divested himself from his businesses, but he has put Trump Inc. into a trust managed by his sons, Erik Trump and Donald Trump Jr. In truth, what Trump says and does are often vastly different things. So, in the real world, who denies that President Trump will continue to deal himself a winning hand – winning at the expense of the public? You and I will see.


 

Friday, February 17, 2017

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


 

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

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

Then, Trump said …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However …

Cristian Farias of The Huffington Post reminds us ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Momma Welfare Roll 

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


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


--Maya Angelou



Sunday, February 12, 2017

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

In truth, American history shows the words are different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Susan B. Anthony

Saturday, February 4, 2017

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Tragic Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Demonstration

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to Eugene Collins Sr ...

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

“Clear the pool!” the lifeguards shouted.

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

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

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

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

 The Aftermath


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

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

But then, entered Dr. Scott.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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