KEVIN POWELL'S BLOG

Archive for October, 2012

Weather Expert Speaks on Sandy, Climate Change, Presidential Election

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

As someone who has lived in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area my entire life, I know we do not get hurricanes. Or at least we did not, until very recently. I’ve spent the past couple of days, along with several others, trying to help as much of my community as possible through this devastation, while also hearing again and again questions on how and why Hurricane Sandy could happen, and happen here. While I will continue assisting others by every available means I also think it important that we in America make this a teachable moment, that we have more serious talk about climate change and global warming and whether or not those things help to create super storms like Sandy.

So I decided to do an interview with Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, president-elect of the American Meteorological Society (he takes office January 2013). AMS is the largest and oldest professional/science society in the United States for the meteorology, climate, and related science
fields. He is also Director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program. Before joining the UGA faculty in 2006, Dr. Shepherd spent 12 years as a scientist at NASA. Dr. Shepherd is brilliant, honest, to the point, and I think it will do all us Americans some good if we pay close attention to his words, below. I also encourage you to follow him on twitter @AMSPresElect

KP: What, in your opinion, caused Hurricane Sandy?

JMS: Sandy was a unique and unprecedented storm that was, from a
meteorological perspective, the perfect convergence of three weather
systems: a late season hurricane, an early season Nor’easter, and a
persistent high pressure system over parts of the Arctic and
Greenland. We knew, several days out, that we were dealing with
“Jekyll and Hyde.” The hurricane would be a minimal hurricane but
quite impressive for so late in the season. It had the lowest
pressure of any hurricane this season. However, the bigger concern
was that the storm would transition near landfall to a “Nor’easter”
that typically causes big northeast snowstorms later in the season.
Literally, the hurricane went from a system deriving its power from
the ocean (hurricane), to one deriving its power from the jet
stream/weather system coming from the interior U.S. The High Pressure
system that I mentioned to the north caused a “roadblock,” if you
will, and prevented Sandy from veering out to sea, instead steering
it into the United States. The sheer size, path, and speed of the
storm coupled with horrible timing, in terms of high tide, a full
moon, and elevated sea level from climate change made for a
catastrophic storm surge coupled with rain, persistent tropical storm
force winds, rain, and blizzard conditions on the back side. One
encouraging note, many of our computer models picked up on this
unique set of events several days out, so we knew what was coming,
and this probably saved many lives and reduced the economic damage,
which still may be in the $20-100 billion range.

(Please see Dr. Shepherd’s recent blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/10/28/hurricane-sandy-and-the-waning-finances-of-u-s-meteorology/)

KP: How do you explain climate change in the simplest terms for
everyday Americans?

JMS: Climate change is quite challenging to explain. I published a
scholarly paper in the journal Animal Frontiers called “Carbon,
Climate, and Controversy” (http://animalfrontiers.org/content/1/1/5.abstract) which tries to
explain many of the concepts. Additionally, the AMS recently issued
its “Information Statement on Climate Change” and is a good read for
the layperson (http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/2012climatechange.html).

I basically establish that our climate changes naturally due to solar
variation and changes in Earth’s orbit (this is why we have ice ages,
and we will have them again). However, to play on James Carville’s
“It’s the economy stupid” line, “it’s the rate of change, stupid.” The
rate of warming that we are seeing happens on time periods of decades
to 100 years and is related to human contributions on top of the
natural changes. Such changes, naturally, use to take 10s to 100s of
thousands of years. “Joe” and “Jane” public (and my wife is a good
litmus test as she says “will we notice 1-5 degrees warmer on
average?”) will say, “what is the big deal with a rise in average
temperature, just makes the winter’s warmer or my vacation in Aruba
nicer, right?”

Umm, no. I try to get people to focus not just on the
warming aspect but the total changes in our weather and climate
(e.g., changes in rainstorms, droughts, heatwaves), new threats (e.g.
mosquitoes/diseases like Dengue, Lyme Diseases in places they
couldn’t thrive, loss of our ability to produce grains/corn for
market, national security vulnerability as Arctic ocean opens, water
scarcity emerges, etc.). The analogy is a sick child with a fever. If
a child is running a 1-3 degree fever, is that a big deal? Yes, if
sustained it can cause the body’s various systems to respond. Same
with our Earth.

A couple of other points. The public struggles with the difference
between weather and climate. This causes them to ask questions like
“Dr. Shepherd, it is snowing, I thought there was global warming?”
My response, it is February and winter, it snows in winter and always
will. Weather is your mood today, Climate is your personality.

Many in the public also don’t recognize that, as renowned author Upton
Sinclair noted, “It is difficult to get a man to understand
something, when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”
There are sectors of our society that have a vested interest in
creating confusion and misinformation on the topic even as the
overwhelming majority of scientists and published literature are
clear. It is the old Tobacco Industry strategy playing out.

KP: You referred to climate change as storm steroids in a tweet to me. Why?

JMS: There is vigorous discussion on whether climate change “caused”
Sandy. I think such language is too speculative and early, let the
science play out on this more. I think that we can make a better
case, without jeopardizing credibility, that climate change factors
affected aspects of Sandy. For example, climate change has caused
rising sea levels, which would certainly amplify the horrific storm
surge that we saw with Sandy. Further, peer-reviewed studies suggests
that with warming climate and seas, future hurricanes may be more
intense because warm water is their “fuel” and warmer air can hold
more moisture. However, can we definitively attribute causation of
Sandy? Not so fast. I think of it like steroids in baseball. We know
that the steroid era in baseball was leading to more and longer
homeruns although it would be difficult to link any particular
homerun to steroids. This is how I look at storms like Sandy.
However, is Sandy a harbinger of future storm impacts in a “new
climate?” That is a fair question.

KP: Why do you think climate change has barely been mentioned in this
year’s presidential election campaigns and debates?

JMS: The climate silence discussion is interesting. President Obama did
mention climate in one debate. I do argue that the “energy debate”
in the campaign is implicitly a “climate” discussion. Choices we
make on fossil fuels and renewables will impact climate. Studies do
show that the American public is coming around on climate change, and
many are finally recognizing that it is not a “left” or “right”
litmus test, but a “test of humanity and our kids’ future.” Some of
the key winners and losers in climate change solutions and policy are
also heavily investing in the campaign too, which may provide some
clues, but I am only speculating.

KP: What can we do as regular Americans to deal with issues of
climate change and global warming, like very basic things?

JMS: Americans can become more climate literate and consume information from vetted, peer-reviewed sources, and not just any website, radio host, or show. Know the experts. I don’t take advice on my hearing from a cardiologist (NOAA’s climate.gov or climatecentral.com are good sources of information for the public).

Clearly, more sustainable and green activities (changing lights, public transit, etc.) can chip away at the carbon emission problem but candidly, I believe that the public has to understand and weigh in with policymakers on the large policy issues that can really get at the problem (e.g. cap and trade, carbon taxes, carbon capture), adaptation strategies
(build sea walls, put AC in older urban apartment buildings, etc.),
and geoengineering (changing the Earth in some way to mitigate).
Finally, many people don’t realize that certain groups are more
vulnerable to climate change. In our country, for example, African
Americans and Latinos overwhelmingly live in urban areas, which will be even warmer, work in climate change sensitive industry (farming, auto,
etc.), and have health ailments particularly sensitive to heat or air
pollution. So knowledge is power.

Kevin Powell is a long-time community and political activist, a nationally-acclaimed public speaker, and an award-winning writer. Kevin is also the author or editor of 11 books, including his newest title, “Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays.” Learn more about Kevin’s work at www.kevinpowell.net/about.php, or follow him on twitter @kevin_powell

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Surviving Breast Cancer: One Woman’s Story

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

I first met and became aware of Kupenda Auset (born M. Joette Harland), as the super-talented writer she is, in the early 1990s. Kupenda is a native daughter and life-long resident of Atlanta, Georgia. At that time she was a recent graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, the famous women’s college, and was among a large number of students from that era who were very gifted intellectually, artistically-inclined, community-centered, and, without question, unapologetically about the empowerment of women and girls. Indeed I can say that Kupenda had such a great impact on my life during those very wild 1990s that she was among the first who got me, a man, to think about manhood, about sexism, about how males relate to females (or not), in a very profound way. So you can imagine my shock and fear many years later when Kupenda announced that she had breast cancer. Ever the warrior, Kupenda has carried on and although we have not been in touch as much as we were in our earlier lives, she remains someone near and dear to my heart. Given that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I asked Kupenda Auset if she would discuss what it is to have breast cancer, to be a breast cancer survivor, in her own words. She graciously agreed, and it is her first time ever speaking so publicly on the matter. If you’d like to send Kupenda a note after reading her very moving thoughts please feel free to email her directly at Kupendasplace@gmail.com

KP: At what age did you learn you had breast cancer?

KA: Age 37

KP: What was your initial response to the diagnosis?

KA: I was terrified. I felt like I was doomed with a diagnosis that I could do nothing about. I was terrified of the possibility that I would die and leave my two school-age children without a mother. I didn’t want to die.

KP: How did your daughters, family members, and other loved ones respond to your telling them you had breast cancer?

KA: I don’t think my youngest daughter understood fully at first. My oldest daughter was scared. It felt like Doomsday. It’s not a diagnosis that anyone would want to hear.

KP: What steps did you take initially, emotionally, spiritually, and medically, to deal with breast cancer?

KA: First, I told a co-worker and then Stephanie Hughley, who is a cancer survivor. She told me about 3 important books and she made sure that I got them. One was “A Cancer Battle Plan” and another was “You Can Heal Your Life.” I also let my immediate family members know. After reading “You Can Heal Your Life,” I understood more the relationship between emotions and illness. I am not a person that tends to hold grudges but after reading that breast cancer is believed to be related emotionally to deeply held resentments, I made a list of everyone I could think of in the course of my whole life who I thought I needed to forgive.

Physically, I got a second opinion and then I chose doctors. I began to read everything I could to understand what was going on in my body. I did not want to do conventional treatment methods. So I educated myself as much as possible about all of my options on survival and research about conventional methods, alternative ones, and complimentary methods of treatment.

And I prayed. I didn’t ask “Why me?” but I did want to try to understand the meaning of the experience. I wanted to understand what the message was and what any deeper healing beyond the physical that needed to occur.

KP: Did you go through a period of shock, denial, fear, all of the above?

KA: Fear and shock, for sure. Not denial.

KP: What have you learned about breast cancer since your diagnosis?

KA: That question is so loaded that I could not possibly say it all here. So much!!! So much!!! I have learned that some cancers can be prevented. That food and lifestyle can factor in greatly to disease and to health. I knew those things but I know them so much more now. One of the most important things I learned is how precious life is. How much my family and living meant to me. I gained an incredibly deeper appreciation for everything. Like every morning I woke up or after taking a nap, I’d think “Yes! I woke up! Thank you, God!” I savor everything. I learned that many things we think are so important are nothing compared to things like health, love, peace, kindness, gratitude, and quality time with people we care about. I learned that one of the most important things in life is “to be happy,” but not while harming or at the expense of others. Otherwise, what is the point?

KP: How did you deal with the removal of a breast, with the mastectomy?

KA: The mastectomy was a scary idea at the time. But the chemotherapy is what scared me the most. The left breast, the one over my heart, or nearest my heart, is gone. That means I had radiation that could have affected my heart. One of the things I remember very vividly is that right before the surgery I was being so grateful for excellent caregivers. I was thanking all the people who were taking care of me every step of the way to surgery.

(Kupenda starts to cry)

I did not realize this was going to be so emotional. Feels like it was another life. Like a dream, then I woke up. When I was in recovery from the surgery, which lasted 6 hours, my family was there but my daughters were at school. My youngest daughter was so afraid she would be called aside at school and told I had died. (Kupenda cries again)

During the 6 hours I was there for my mastectomy a total of 18 different women had come to the hospital for the same surgery. Two were from my mother’s church. It is too common, so common. And it is largely preventable. So many people survive it, but so many do not. More emphasis needs to be placed, by the healthcare field, on the prevention of breast cancer.

KP: How old are you now, and how have you managed to continue on with your life and all your activities?

KA: I am now 45. It took me a long time to recover from breast cancer. It took time to regain my physical energy and functioning. It took me longer to recover emotionally and mentally. I didn’t know it would take me so long. I thought after treatment I’d just resume my life and the plans I had before the diagnosis pretty immediately. That didn’t happen at all. People who go through the experience of surviving cancer experience it in different ways.

KP: What kind of work or employment have you been able to do since your life was changed because of breast cancer?

KA: In retrospect some things that happened before breast cancer have taken a very very long time to move forward. Now I am perfectly capable of working a job but I feel like that breast cancer has led me to realize the work I have been most effective at is raising my two daughters. I do not qualify for any disabilities so I pay the bills very sporadically doing various projects, like writing, public relations, marketing, program coordination, and producing events. I am also a freelance blogger for cascadepath.com, a local online publication. I also do consulting for a local organization that trains women small business owners. I have tabled House of Life for a few years. House of Life was my cultural arts presenting organization. It was tabled because I had to recover from my battle with breast cancer. I tried to do something after that and it was just too much for me.

KP: Are you or have you been a part of any circles of women who are also breast cancer survivors?

KA: Oddly, no. I did (and still do) have a strong support system of women friends in my life. That makes a tremendous difference in living.

KP: What advice do you give to women who do not have breast cancer?

KA: My advice is not to take health for granted when it is good. To focus on preventing breast cancer first and foremost. If women cannot be behind “the 8 ball” don’t. It’s much better to do everything possible to prevent it. To take great care in emotional health, balance, and especially in what they eat. And to not be afraid to go to the doctor to get anything unusual checked out. It might be nothing. But it might be something. If it is something, getting diagnosed early can make all the difference in the world. Learn how to live in more healthy ways (especially stress reduction and good eating, exercise, etc.) and teach our children and others, by example, a better way to live.

KP: What do you say to men who want to understand better what breast cancer is and how it affects women?

KA: I’d suggest that men educate themselves about breast cancer through independent research. One thing they may be surprised to find is that men can also get breast cancer, although it is far less common than in women. Also, if a man knows someone who has breast cancer and that person doesn’t mind talking about it, he could ask that person about it and find out what he can do to help support the woman who has it. Emotional support can go a long way and can help in the healing process.

KP: Have you been able to date, to relate to men, given all you’ve experienced?

KA: Some of the first things doctors ask is how old are you, do you have children, because chemotherapy puts women in premature menopause. So I was a little apprehensive about my dating life going forward. I talked to other women who had gone through it. It was helpful. But I have not had a problem with dating or my sex life. Besides, if it is not a significant man in my life there will be no sex anyhow. (Laughs) In many ways I am forever changed, and in many ways I am still me. Amputation did not remove that at all. For example, I had a non-sexual encounter with a man. He had had a terrible accident and parts of his body had been disfigured. So we had a moment when he showed me his injuries and I allowed him to touch where my breast had been. His disfigurement was a not a turn-off to me, because he was alive. When he touched me where my breast had been it was a moment of such joy and endearment. And understanding. Unlike somebody who had not experienced that kind of thing, who may have not have understood.

KP: What are your thoughts on how breast cancer treatment is done, traditionally, on alternative treatments, and how breast cancer awareness has become a very popular brand, to the point where major sports have their athletes wearing pink during games in October?

KA: I think it is important to use the best of “complimentary treatment” for breast cancer. At all times and not just when a person gets sick, it is important to do things that keep the immune system strong, such as rest, sleep, drink plenty of water, eat and drink lots of green food, get natural sunlight, take daily walks, take time for relaxation. These things may not sound like things that could help address or even prevent or survive breast cancer, but they are vital. A strong immune system can help a person to survive the harsh therapies of conventional breast cancer treatment. Alternative therapies can be effective but they are much harder to measure. They are not as well researched and documented in terms of their effectiveness. So relying solely on alternative treatments is a “slippery slope.” That is what someone once said to me, and it is true. I spent one year addressing breast cancer through very aggressive alternative and natural treatments that were based on lots of research and talking to people who had done the same thing. I do believe that it is possible to heal from breast cancer via alternative and natural therapies but the risk is great. I didn’t not trust how long it would take me to heal from breast cancer as compared to how quickly the cancer could spread. There is great risk in conventional therapies too. There is more knowledge about survival rates, effectiveness, diagnostic tools, etc., than alternative/natural therapies. That isn’t to say that alternative/natural therapies are hocus-pocus. I think the best thing that can be done to prevent, diagnose, eradicate, and survive breast cancer as an epidemic is for Western medicine and Eastern medicine to meet. There is so much ignorance and fear surrounding Eastern medicine and Naturopathy. That is a shame. Too many lives are being lost to all kinds of diseases because of economic profit and because of the lack of balance in our lifestyles. Some of the alternative treatments for me included Reiki Healing, sound therapy, and a Native American rock reading. And because I was so resistant to the idea of chemotherapy, I decided to perceive it as a healing elixir, rather than as a toxic implosion. I could say so much more. So much more… Especially about all of the natural things I did that were helpful to me. Sadly, sometimes people do the things I did both natural and/or conventional and they transitioned (died) any way. That saddens me greatly.

The Breast Cancer Awareness campaigns are beautiful expressions and ways to raise awareness. Many of them are also a marketing ploy to get consumers to buy products. For example, some foods that have the breast cancer awareness symbol on them are foods that have been linked to breast cancer. I am concerned that too much of the campaigning will de-sensitize people and they will lose their effectiveness. What I think we are missing is the crucial opportunity to support and know about campaigns that support breast cancer prevention and survival. If people can prevent having breast cancer in the first place, that is best. I would recommend that people support The Cancer Project (www.cancerproject.org) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org).

KP: What is on your mind these days, being a breast cancer survivor?

KA: Being a survivor is something else. When you see famous people you grew up with, like Ed Bradley from “60 Minutes” or August Wilson, the great playwright, die from what you have, it is mind-blowing. Just makes me think a lot about the thin veil between life and life. I have life insurance but I do not have a will. I should have more life insurance than I have, and I should have a will. But I cannot bear to think of me not being here. I want to live for a long, long time, and with a good quality of life. And I intend to. And I pray that I will. And I am so thankful I did not pass away when my children were young. My youngest daughter use to always ask “Mommy, if you die, who is going to take care of me?” (Kupenda cries softly) I am so glad I have been able to raise my daughters. I feel if I were not here tomorrow they have such a strong foundation that they will be okay now.

Kevin Powell is a long-time community and political activist, a nationally acclaimed public speaker, and an award-winning writer. Kevin is also the author or editor of 11 books, including his newest title, “Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays.” Visit Kevin’s website at www.kevinpowell.net, email him at kevin@kevinpowell.net, or follow him on Twitter, @kevin_powell

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@AnnCoulter: An Un-American and Very Dangerous Mind

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Very sad and tragic that some people will do virtually anything to be famous, and practically anything to sell a book, even if it means spewing hatred, division, and manufactured lies and half-truths just to get a rep, as the late rapper Guru once rhymed.

Case in point is Ms. Ann Coulter, the right-wing political commentator, syndicated columnist, and omnipresent media personality whose new book, “Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama,” is so bad, so poorly written, so drenched in shameless historical revisionism that one has got to wonder if she, Ms. Coulter, believes anything she has put on paper.

In this her eighth book Ms. Coulter’s itchy trigger finger takes aim at those dreaded White liberals who’ve made big power plays off the backs of us poor and misguided African Americans. Colored folks, mind you, who do not comprehend that our Civil Rights Movement has been pimped by said liberals, and unfairly expanded to include, among others, women, immigrants, and gay people. What Ms. Coulter refuses to grasp is that while the Civil Rights Movement definitely was kickstarted and propelled by Blacks, it was to make the entire American democracy experiment better for all. So little wonder that, say, women, the LGBT community, persons with disabilities, environmentalists, and immigrants have cited and continue to cite the Civil Rights era as a tremendous galvanizing force for their own movements. In other words, none of us live in a bubble, each and everyone is interconnected, whether we like, admit, or acknowledge that fact or not, so it is nearsighted and inhuman to pretend as if we do not shape and influence each other’s lives.

Ms. Coulter goes a step further, in her book and on her endless publicity tour, to paint Republicans, “the party of Abraham Lincoln,” as the real protectors of the rights of Black people, and Democrats as the ones who not only did not support Civil Rights in America historically, but who have created the racial stand-off in our country. Divisions, mind you, stirred by the numerous Democratic-initiated “welfare” programs we Blacks have become depended on. And divisions stirred by these liberals, these Democrats, whenever they need to point fingers at Republicans, especially when it comes to racial problems, real or imagined.

However, this is nothing new. I came of age during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, as a teenager, as a college student, and I watched right-wingers, politicians and pundits alike, meticulously produce a game-plan to pit Americans against each other: liberals versus conservatives, Whites versus Blacks, people of color versus White people, straight people versus gay people, the poor and middle class versus the wealthy, American citizens versus immigrants, you against me, us against them, and America versus the entire world….

Rather than discuss and champion a United States where we can bring people together, in spite of our differences, and deal with the hardcore issues of everyday Americans, these right-wing activists hustle and flow in the red zone of divide and conquer. As long as we who share this land are at each other’s throats, they continue to wield power. A kind of power that controls the direction of national conversations: which ones we have and do not have, and how and why, in our America.

Take, for example, my very recent “debate” with Ms. Coulter on the Current TV program “Joy Behar: Say Anything!” It was neither a discussion nor a very productive and solution-oriented dialogue, as you can see here:

trib.al/NVOoQZ

Instead, Ms. Coulter did what she always does: she makes up “facts” as she goes along, she talks at the level of a rebel yell with no ability nor care whatsoever for listening to others, and when challenged and called out for who she is—a racist peddling books for a buck—she resorts to attack mode because I dared to speak to her as she habitually does to others. I have watched Ms. Coulter on panels and debates long enough to know if I did not jump in and meet her at her level I would have never gotten a word in edge-wise. Because, for her, this is not about educating and uplifting people. It is about entertainment and the media circus that documents her rants ad nauseam. Ms. Coulter was visibly shaking on the set next to me with raw anger and refused to shake my extended hand when I was leaving. This is an immature schoolyard mentality, yet I have witnessed young people behave more rationally and speak far more logically about serious social matters.

That is because individuals like Ms. Coulter are neither intellectually equipped nor emotionally or spiritually-grounded enough to engage in sincere and honest dialogue about the huge challenges of our times. Ms. Coulter claims to be a Christian and I do not doubt her belief in God and Jesus Christ. But the God I as a Christian worship is about love and understanding, not hate-mongering and people-bashing. God is about kindness and grace, not mean-spiritedness and a reckless disregard for the feelings of other human beings. Clearly love, understanding, kindness, and grace are not prime preoccupations for Ms. Coulter. Right-wingers like her are strictly about book sales, media ratings, sensationalistic shock value, and pissing people off and keeping people separated and in perpetual states of paranoia, rage, and mistrust.

That, to me, makes Ann Coulter and so-called thinkers like her very un-American, very dangerous, and the exact opposite of E pluribus unum, the seal of our United States which translates, in Latin, as “one from many.” But ultra-conservative activists do not think in terms of “we.” It is “I,” and there is the conundrum.

That certainly explains why every single time I either appear with a right-winger on radio or tv, or write a blog discussing an issue from my perspective, a barrage of offensive and hateful tweets and emails flood my inboxes, like this one from someone on Twitter a moment ago:

“kevin_powell You’re one racist nigger hell bent on keeping racism alive in America. Someone should drag you under a truck 12 city blocks!”

I’ve received so many threats and disses through the years that I’ve become immune to them. But of course the great irony, above, is in one breath this gentleman calls me both a racist and a nigger. Too damaged emotionally to get he is doing what he is accusing me of. Furthermore, given the community work I have done for nearly 30 years, in nearly all 50 American states and globally, how many workshops and trainings I have led or participated in that have been about bringing people together regardless of their race, culture, or ethnicity, and how extensively I have written on diversity and cooperation between different groups, it is abundantly clear to me that many people in our great nation simply do not read, listen, or bother to do basic research via Google.

Put another way, hatred and ignorance are so ingrained in the minds of some, logic flies out the window and you have to wonder if some actually realize what they are saying as they hide behind fake names and fake photos on the social networks, uttering the most disdainful things to those either different from them or whose views they detest so profoundly. Additionally, you begin to wonder if some of these folks are so wired with knee-jerk reactions that they cannot see that the most divisive forces in America’s conservative movement do not even care about them, regular everyday Americans doing their best to make ends meet.

Thus what we are left with is an American climate so bullet-ridden with hatred that you pray to God (at least I do) that the sort of assassination attempt that happened to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords does not spread, like a vicious virus, because some of the more mentally and spiritually unstable amongst us have decided to match the hyper-aggressive and violent rhetoric with violent action.

That is why an Ann Coulter is so very dangerous. She and right-wingers like her do not genuinely care about working class and middle class White Americans who’ve been so deeply affected by our tough economic times any more than they care about Blacks, Latinos, Asians, or immigrants of any background. What she and her peers care about is money, power, fame, privilege, and manipulating the masses. For sure, they scream, “we are taking our country back” for a reason. But I sure do wonder how Native Americans feel about that one dropping from the puffed out lips of these particular kinds of folks given they are the original owners of this land? But these ultra-conservatives do not care what anyone thinks because they do not really care about us. What they care about is blowing wind, very hard, onto the burning fires of alienation, disillusionment, fear, and anger, and creating moving, breathing targets that would otherwise be allies. After all are not most Americans struggling financially regardless of our background? Do not most Americans want access to better public schools, better jobs, small business opportunities, basic healthcare, and a decent and affordable place to live?

Racism wins, White, Black, Brown, Yellow, and Red people, when we permit someone from outside our neighborhood-community-environment-reality to dictate to us who we should and should not like, who we should and should not trust, based on ancient fears and divisions created back in the day to keep human beings separated and under the thumb of the powerful. Nothing wrong with power if it is used for good, used to bring people together, to uplift and motivate people. If that power is born from love. But if it is not, my God….

And that is why it is such hogwash for Republicans to continue to say they are the party of Abraham Lincoln. First of all, Republicans like Ann Coulter are not; Lincoln was trying to save the Union, not burn it to the ground with hateful rhetoric. Second, even Old Abe had serious issues around race and flip-flopped quite a few times, publicly and privately, around ending slavery, so it is a bold-faced lie to continue to perpetuate the myth that Lincoln was that clear-cut in his vision around African Americans and slavery. He was not.

But, to be fair, of course I will acknowledge and honor what Lincoln and other Republicans did on behalf of civil rights, on up to President Dwight Eisenhower during the Little Rock 9 school integration battle in the late 1950s, and President Nixon’s support for Affirmative Action initiatives during his first term. But, by and large, the Republican Party of yesteryear is not the Republican Party since the Nixon era (Black folks who know will never forget how Nixon’s law-and-order tactics shut down, literally, the last vestiges of the Civil Rights Movement, for example), and if we are going to be honest, we must be honest about that. I do not think even Mitt Romney’s dad, nor Abraham Lincoln, for that matter, would survive in the 21st century version of the Republican Party. Not with the fire-breathing fury of the Tea Party and Ann Coulter out there stage far right.

And to imply or outright say that Democrats, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson, did close to nothing is another bold-faced lie. And a double lie to suggest that Blacks have no criticisms whatsoever of the Democratic Party, of President Barack Obama, when we do, and it is stated very visibly, and very often, in blogs, on the social networks every single day. You just have to look, and read. Blacks, to be brutally honest, have stuck by the Dems because it is, one, the lesser of two evils as I have heard more than a few elected Black Democrats say themselves. And second because at least the Dems make an effort to be inclusive. Republicans, meanwhile, are ridiculously pathetic in that regard.

Finally, it needs to be stated that Black folks have been in America far too long to think either party represents our empowerment or salvation. We have been both Republicans and Democrats in our American journey and, not for nothing, we have always been a group who knew we had to do some things for ourselves no matter who is representing us at any given moment. Yes my mother and I needed welfare at one point, and yes I got help going to college, but to suggest that Black people have done nothing more than look for handouts from the government is not merely a lie, but a great disrespect to who we are historically and culturally in the context of America. As a matter, my life work of public service is partially because I feel so blessed to have gotten help when I was growing up in poverty. So I cannot imagine not helping others to succeed, too.

Beyond the above, most Black Americans don’t have the time or energy to debate who are the good White folks and who are the bad White folks. We do not even think like that. Our challenge is historical and present-day racism, whether it comes from a White liberal or a White conservative, and God knows we’ve gotten it from both sides, equally. But do the vast majority of Black people hate or blame White folks for everything? No, not even close. I know. I am Black, and I am in Black circles all the time, all across America. So racism even lifts its ugly head when certain White Americans believe that Black people are somehow so obsessed with race, with racism, with playing the so-called race card that we just sit around discussing them all the time. That is funny, at best.

So it is abundantly clear from Ms. Coulter’s writings, my “debate” with her, and her many appearances around this book that she has never lived with nor around vast and diverse groups of Black people for any extended period ever, has never studied Black history on any high level, ever, and does not get that it is even inherently racist, as a White person of privilege, which she is, to assume you can speak for an entire race of people on a movement and matter so central to their existence and sojourn in America. I would never do that to my White sisters and brothers, or my Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Jewish, Arab, or Native American sisters and brothers, and I do not want anyone doing that to and for me. The path to racial and cultural harmony in America has to be based in the respect for any people to tell their own stories, on their own terms, with my voice equal to yours and yours to mine.

My problem with the Ann Coulters of the world is that there is no real critique of the system of racism, just flash moments to prove some twisted point that suit their immediate agenda. When I attempted to raise to Ms. Coulter the issue of stop and frisk in New York City, she was dismissive. As if the lives of Black and Latino young males are so tragically worthless that our getting stopped by the police more than any other demographic in New York, in America, is somehow insignificant. That is when you know this person could care less about anyone except herself and her bank account. And maintaining a status quo run by ultra-conservative old school wealthy White males who are so terrified of the multicultural America that sits upon their doorstep, with a hiphop soundtrack bursting from its loins, that they will do and say anything to stop the hands of time. That means voter I.D. laws. That means propping up a mediocre presidential candidate like Mitt Romney. That means making sure an Ann Coulter will always have a platform and always be a New York Times bestselling author even if her books are as dangerous and disposable as the worst fast food.

Finally, I always find it interesting when people say they do not agree with my politics, as Ann Coulter’s supporters have done nonstop since our Current TV debate. My politics are real simple at this stage in my life: I believe in love, nonviolence, peace, and truth-telling, even when it makes some uncomfortable. Only way the world ever changes is for us to confront lies, untruths, oppression, and the marginalization of any and all people. We are in this together. I really believe that. Sad and tragic some people truly believe, in the darkness of their souls, it is us against them. We have a choice in life: be bridge-builders or be bridge-destroyers. Folks who are bridge-destroyers are also known as racists, sexists, homophobes, religious bigots, anti-Semites, haters of persons with disabilities, and classists. Bridge-builders are also known as human beings. Better to be human than to be inhuman. For the good of yourself, for the good of us all.

Kevin Powell is a long-time community and political activist, a nationally-acclaimed public speaker, and an award-winning writer. Kevin is also the author or editor of 11 books, including his newest title, “Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays.” Learn more about Kevin’s work at www.kevinpowell.net/about.php, or follow him on twitter @kevin_powell

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