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Op-Ed: The Reality Of Arming Teachers


Editor’s Note: Sandro Sehic, PhD is a Writer and adjunct Professor based in New York. Sehic’s writings cover an array of current events and topics that lead to national debates. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. He can be reached at:



In response to the recent mass shooting that occurred at a high school in Parkland Florida, numerous ideas about preventing further mass shootings have emerged and came from many different individuals, groups, and organizations. Mass shootings are officially a top political issue. There is not a single day that goes buy without a shooting in America. And they have become very deadly. Sometimes victims are numbered in dozens and unfortunately they include the most innocent members of our society; school children. The members of our society who need to be protected the most are left alone with their teachers at the mercy of well armed mass shooters. This is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated any longer. Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine, are some of the bloody places where dozens of young innocent lives were lost. And now we are the ones who should be blamed. We adults have failed to protect our children. A father whose daughter was killed in Parkland, recently stated that we protect embassies, airports, concerts but we don’t protect our schools. He also stated that mass shootings could happen only once and not anymore. One school shooting should change everything. After Columbine we should change the laws that would prevent mass shooters from committing these horrible crimes.

Similar to what we did after the 9/11 terror attacks. After 9/11 we changed the laws, increased security at the airports, created Department of Homeland Security, and destroyed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and a similar attack has thankfully not happened again. Now we have to do the same thing to prevent further mass shootings especially in our schools attacking our children. Some political figures, including the President of the United States, proposed legislation that would allow teachers to carry guns inside the schools. They claim that teachers would be able to take down mass shooters and defend children. I’m a teacher working in public schools since 2007. I do not have my own children (yet). But I know that many of us have fatherly/motherly feelings towards all children that we work with. Our paychecks are extremely low but we do not hesitate to use our own money to buy lunches and food for those children who cannot afford it, we do not hesitate to use our own money to buy school equipment for those children who cannot afford it. And we can’t even claim those expenses on our taxes and most of us don’t complain about it. And in case of mass shootings, teachers are the ones who use their own bodies to shield students. In the case of fire alarms or lock-downs we’re the last ones who leave the building. Not because we have to but because it’s instinctive. It’s a teacher’s natural reaction to want to help, protect and safe lives. Even so, it seems we are at the cross road where teachers have to choose if they’re willing to secure and protect children with guns. That said, this is what lawmakers will have to know about us teachers and these guns.

  • What type of guns are we going to carry? It seems that mass shooters are using semiautomatic guns such as AR-15s. That’s a very powerful weapon. So, a pistol will most likely not be enough to stop a mass shooter with a semiautomatic gun. Just take a look at the police officers who had to apprehend a mass shooter with a pistol. A pistol against an AR-15 is like a butter knife against a sword. Therefore, you better provide teachers with powerful guns; guns that will make us equal or stronger than the mass shooters. In addition, we’ll need bulletproof equipment.
  • Teachers will need combat training. Yes, that’s right. We’ll need combat training, and not just a regular handgun safety training course. In the case of a mass shooting, teachers will have to take their guns and go out to the hallways and hunt down the shooter or shooters, (Columbine). Schools are like labyrinths full of hallways, rooms, corners, floors, stairs, etc. We’ll be in a similar situation as the NAVY Seals or Green Berates when hunting a terrorist. Also, we’ll have to be able to recognize a shooter and an innocent bystander. This is crucial because the goal is to protect the students that look like the typical school shooter(s). In essence, teachers will have to be trained like Special Forces. And the training has to be extensive because teachers will have to develop their new skills to be warriors with excellent marksmanship skills.
  • SWAT teams will have to be able to recognize the difference between teachers with guns and the mass shooter(s). As a teacher mandated to carry one of these supposed guns, I don’t want to be killed by the SWAT team when they arrive.
  • During a shooting, what happens with the students whose teachers had to pull out their guns and go after the shooter(s)? Are they left alone in the classroom?
  • Most teachers in elementary schools are females and I’ve learned that most of them hate guns and are afraid of them. So, then the question becomes; Do we want a female teacher to go after a mass shooter with an AR-15?
  • As far as the extensive combat training is concerned; will that be something that will be provided by the local school districts, or will that be a requirement of the institutions that educate future teachers?
  • Many times, students have turned against teachers. What are we going to do if the student tries to take the gun away from the teacher?
    These are some of the many important questions on this proposed option. I have personally interviewed 14 teachers from Upstate New York. Interestingly, only one of them said that she would be willing to carry a gun in school. Others seemed to be horrified by the idea. During my student-teaching seminar back in 2007 my mentor told us about political candidates from Wisconsin proposing laws to mandate teachers are armed in their classrooms. We laughed at the idea. But now, it may very well become our new reality. When school districts across the country are consistently complaining about low budgets, where will the money come from for the expensive guns and the expensive combat training? Guns aren’t cheap and neither is the training that will certainly be required for every American teacher. However, one thing that I find interesting is the fact that politicians who make such proposals don’t consult with teachers and educators; those who work in schools and educate children and know the situation first hand.


Blackboard and hand making a sign with pointed finger

If they would ask me, this is what I would suggest:

  • I strongly believe that each school needs armed police officers that will protect schools in addition to regular security guards. That’s something that we can have without additional costs. The local government, the state, and even police departments can assign officers to guard their schools.
  • Each school will need “a security room” that will monitor hallways through cameras, answer calls from the teachers who need security assistance, and contact the local law enforcement agencies, ambulance, and fire departments in case of an emergency. This simple security system is used in many supermarkets, malls and other public institutions but not in public schools. The personnel and the equipment necessary for this security strategy/system are already available in most, if not all schools, but we just have to organize it better.
  • Each public school must have designated entrances that will consist of two doors. First door will allow visitors to step into the secured area with a metal detector and the second door will allow visitors to enter the school once they go through the metal detector. These days, people can just simply knock at any door on the school building and someone will open it and let them in. This will have to change in the future. This is something that can easily be done.
  • The first-floor windows will have to be barricaded so that no one can get in, but can get out in the case of fire.
  • Lockdown procedures are available in most schools. Children and staff usually go through those drills at the beginning of each school year. Now, what’s missing in these procedures is parent involvement. In some cases, and this is what I’ve experienced firsthand, is that some children refuse to cooperate in the case of lock-down procedures by purposely making noise and trying to attract the shooter. Yes, some children do not know how serious it is and therefore the parents should instruct their children on how to behave in case of a lock-down.

These are my expert recommendations as a teacher with a PhD in Education. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.


Utica Women’s March Unveiled The Spirit Of A Forgotten City



Utica Women’s March brought out some incredible people fed up with the current administration’s un-American policies, rhetoric and posturing. More than one hundred marchers took to the streets chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and many more civil rights chants and songs. With support from Utica Police Department and Chief Mark Williams, folks were able to march in the streets from the new YWCA building on 310 Rutgers Street to City Hall.

Kids and adults of all age ranges came out to support the cause of the march; a global movement to empower women and to stand up against racial injustice, discrimination, inequality and policies that aim to control a women’s body and basic human rights. This year’s focus was voter registration.

The march was spearheaded by Citizen Action of New York and a long list of sponsors and supporters including ePluribus: America. It was an honor to be one of the speakers of this event.





Resistance 2018: Women’s March In Utica




Greetings Resisters and Progressive Activists,

Almost one year ago, many of us traveled to Washington, Boston, Syracuse or Seneca Falls, and many of stayed and rallied here in Utica.  From that point on, our shared desire to Resist the Trump-Tenney agenda and to fight for human rights, justice and dignity for all led to huddles, the creation and growth of Indivisible Mohawk Valley (originally Forward Mohawk Valley), and widespread volunteering for local Democratic committees, non-profits such as the Refugee Center, and other local resistance groups in Camden, (CAAM), Madison County, and elsewhere.
The Utica Women’s March, is going to take those efforts to a whole new level.  The organizing committee led by CNY Citizen Action convened earlier this week and brought together many resistance, labor, faith, and community groups.  Like the 2017 Women’s March in DC, this one has women of color at the forefront.  The goal of the Utica Women’s March on Jan. 20 is to mark the anniversary of the Resistance movement and build community and solidarity as we head into 2018.
We need many volunteers to make this event successful.
Week before the event:
  • help paint banners and make signs
  • pass out flyers around Utica
  • provide transportation to and front event for those who have no transport
  • drive people who are unable to walk the route
  • walk around event with clipboards and get people to sign in
  • act as marshals for crowd control and safety
  • help clean up after the event
Whether or not you can be at the event on the 20th, can you help us with the Utica Women’s March?  Please let me know what you are able to do. I will put you on the respective volunteer list, and a volunteer coordinator will call you about that job. 
Also, please don’t forget the very important Indivisible Mohawk Valley meeting we have this Sunday, 2-5 pm at Schuyler Commons (1776 Independence Square, Utica).  We will hear more about the Precinct Program, which is how IMV is going to help win the 2018 congressional election by electing Anthony Brindisi to replace @OneTermTenney.  We will be signing up for the roles, and getting organized with next steps.  We will hear more about Citizen Action and also the Puerto Rican families arriving in Utica and how we can help them (a collection will be taken).  
I am so excited to see how far we have come in the past year, and also where we are headed in our work together for social, economic, and racial justice, women’s rights, immigrant right, and human rights.  We are determined to change the public narrative in our own community, influence our elected representatives, and elect representatives who share our values around justice and human rights.  
See you this Sunday, Jan. 14 at the IMV meeting, and on Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Utica Women’s March!
Breathe, then push!
Contact & Additional Information:
Jen DeWeerth
Always check out the calendars at and

*Friday, January 12th @ 3:30pm-4:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

*Sunday, January 14th @ 2-5pm @ Schuyler Commons, 1776 Independence Square, Utica — IMV monthly meeting. Agenda includes: guest speaker Kristina Andreotta about CNY Citizen Action; Sonia Martinez (MVLA update on what we can do for families arriving from Puerto Rico), precinct program; 2017 election data results; and, strategizing timeline for 2018 victories. 2-2:30pm is social time!

*Tuesday, January 16th @ 6pm @ Waterville Public Library — Waterville’s Women in Action grassroots group meeting. Come learn about the grassroots precinct program and strategize how to build progressive support in the southern towns in Oneida county. 

*Friday, January 19th @ 3:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

*Saturday, January 20th, 10:30 am-1:00 pm @ 7 Rutger Place (YWCA) is the starting point, and the destination is City Hall, Utica Women’s March. Marks the anniversary of the birth of the Resistance movement, build community and solidarity as head into   We need MANY volunteers before, during and after.


*Wednesday, January 24th @10am-3:30pm @ First Presbyterian Church of Little Falls,  Social Justice with Politically Diverse Communities Workshop.  Great opportunity to learn about state and federal budget issues related to poverty and homelessness. Sign up HERE.

*Friday, January 26th, @ 3:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

Saturday, February 24th, SAVE THE DATE for CNY Citizen Action fundraiser at Wakely’s On Varick.  “Turn Up the HEAT: Citizen Action Kickoff Party for Justice.”

Op-ed: Embracing A Culture That Cherishes Traditional American Values


Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed are solely of the writer. Warren Smith received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BYU, a doctorate in technology strategy from the Harvard Business School and currently owns JETS: Japanese-English Technology Services in Durham, New Hampshire. He wrote this piece for the Deserter News. 



While I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. John Armstrong that we must find a kind of patriotism that permits goodwill toward all people, I worry that this op-ed misses the point entirely about what “nationalism” is and is not (“Patriotism vs. nationalism in a Mormon context,” Oct. 10).

While Latter-day Saint teachings caution us against “nationalism” in terms of narrow-minded and ignorant tribalism, which is nothing more than an “us-versus-them” high school rivalry on an international level, it would be equally wrong to ignore the realities of America’s exceptional contribution to the world in terms of systems and technologies that have lifted untold millions (billions?) from literal starvation and abject poverty into relative well-being, and wrong to ignore the fact that the American impact on the world has been a reflection of our historic “American culture” where “culture” is defined as a predominant set of shared values and not superficial cultural markers such as tastes in food and entertainment, etc.

Space does not permit me to define the key aspects of the historical “American culture,” but it is what has enabled America to feed the world, create industry and infrastructure in nations around the globe, and to become by far the world’s largest humanitarian contributor as well.

It must be noted that even the oft-condemned American pseudo-Colonialism has resulted in the creation of infrastructures and systems that set the foundation for the success of many countries in post-Colonial independence, and this has been ultimately a blessing for the very countries that some would argue have been “exploited” by the American system.

Is it toxic “nationalism” to believe that America has (had?) a culture that is superior to most, or perhaps all, other cultures? Before that question can be answered, we must first ask whether it is possible for one culture to be better than another. The easiest way to address this is to ask if there such a thing as a “sick culture.” The answer is a resounding “yes.” The most cursory reading of scripture shows how cultures — not “races” or “nations” — can go through cultural changes that bring misery, where repentance — as a society — brings joy.

Much closer to home, any sociologist who dares can point to subcultures — and I do not mean races or classes — that are statistically characterized by chronic poverty, disregard for education, willing dependency on public assistance, rejection of parental responsibilities, involvement in crime (with concomitant incarceration), embracing of an exploitive drug culture, hatred of law-enforcement, perceived victimhood, vilification of others, and the like. Clearly, such a self-reinforcing set of values is a “sick culture.”

I am not arguing that a traditional Fourth of July celebration is in any way superior to, say, a French Bastille Day celebration, nor that hamburgers are superior to dim sum. On the contrary, these are merely superficial preferences. But there is a set of values that have defined, traditionally, the “American culture,” a set of values that is under extreme attack at present — values such as preferring liberty over security, embracing traditional virtues, belief in the market system, taking responsibility for one’s self and responsibility to care for friends and neighbors personally and not leaving it to the government, commitment to family values, freedom to succeed or fail, etc.

While, of course, in some form or other these values are found in other countries and cultures as well, if a rejection of “nationalism” somehow maps to a rejection of the traditional American culture — and value system — and, perhaps more to the point, of the responsibility that America has borne for the last 70 years in leading the world in lifting people out of hunger and poverty through being a beacon of industry, democracy, and free market competition, then this rejection is a decidedly bad thing.

While I completely agree that any definition of “nationalism” that involves hatred or dehumanizing of individuals of other nations or cultures is fundamentally wrong, I wholeheartedly embrace the view of “nationalism” (which is rightly called “patriotism”) that cherishes the American culture, acknowledges the unique role America has played – and must continue to play – as a force for good in world history. It would be tragic to abandon this “nationalism,” or patriotism, just because there are also some individuals (such as in Charlottesville) who embrace “nationalism” out of hatred or ignorance.

The bottom line is, despite the existence of hateful and ignorant people, for those people who can rise above petty enmity, embracing positive “nationalism” is a decidedly good thing, and I call upon all Americans to defend the values that have made this country great, and invite all people, American or not, to share in our traditional American values.


Op-Ed: The Ugly Truth About The Alabama Senate Race


Editor’s Note: David Farhat, Jr. is an Attorney based in New York. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.




I’m annoyed at the narrative being promoted regarding the Alabama senate election. Yes, I’m always annoyed. This ridiculous idea of a turning tide or America returning to morality or a victory for the Democrats is just a downright lie. The real story coming out of this and the presidential election is the fact that white people overwhelmingly voted for unqualified, morally bankrupt, mentally unhinged candidates because of racism. Make no mistake, the only logical reason to vote for Trump or Moore is racism. Furthermore, the numbers bear this out. You remove the non-white vote and both these people win by a landslide.


Also, the “victory” in Alabama had nothing to do with the Democrats. They were, quite literally, the lesser of two evils. Black people in Alabama went out to the poles in numbers because they realized that their white neighbors were so racist that they would elect a man that allegedly abuses little white girls before they elected a black sympathizer. Make no mistake; that is the difference between Democrat and Republican for those voters.



What drove Black people to the poles was sheer terror; Terror that hasn’t gone away because the reality hasn’t changed because Moore lost. The Democrats benefited from that terror and have done nothing to get rid of it. Why would they? They benefit from it. What other base do they have?! Remember this when you get the argument that there are more issues than race come 2018. The evidence says otherwise.


Lastly, I don’t care who you are regardless of race, politics, etc. if you are celebrating what happened in Alabama, I send you a strong condemnation because what you are celebrating is a desperate act of a terrified population. Ain’t no “we’s” down there. Those people came out to try to save themselves and we do them a great disservice by not taking that seriously.




Postmodernity Sex Education: The Silver Lining In America’s Culture of Sexual Oppression




The three most consistent sources of sex education come from peers, family and media. That’s according to Historian, Author and Professor Jonathan Zimmerman who teaches Education and History at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everybody gets a sex education; all 7 billion people in the world. And, they get it from the day they’re born,” Zimmerman says, adding that survey’s of young people all over the world not only back up these findings, but they also have consistently shown that school based sex education is a very small part of it. “Only some people get sex education in school.”

When it comes to school-based sex education, America can easily claim credit for shaping a modern and global perspective of Man’s sexual behavior. Despite the different beliefs and cultural norms held across the globe, America pioneered mass schooling during the Progressive Era and introduced school-based sex education. Zimmerman says the reason was pretty simple, “In the early 20th century there were more adolescence going to secondary school in the United States than there were in any other country in the world by far. And, because sex education is—here and around the world—mostly taught to adolescence for obvious reasons, it does make a certain kind of stance; that the United States would be the pioneer of that subject.”



Where did progressive America go wrong in teaching healthy sexual behavior?

Majority of Americans wanted their kids to be taught sex education in schools despite objections from the church. Unquestionably a revolutionary move; but have the lessons been effective in light of the numerous accounts of sexual misconduct being reported? Theologians like, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., assert that America’s Christian origin shaped our moral views. In a May 2016 broadcast of Thinking In Public, Mohler says, “As it turns out, many of the controversies in the beginning of the sex education movement are questions that continue to this day. And I would argue, they’re inevitable because if you’re going to talk about sex education and if you’re going to talk about young people in the schools, you’re going to have to talk about what will be taught and how that will be morally presented or if it’s to be presented morally at all, at least in terms of any traditional morality.” In light of the long list of powerful men—many in the clergy—who stand accused of sexual harassment, assault and even rape, it’s clear our morality alone won’t stop the rampant abuse that’s being exposed. It would make sense for schools to face these controversies and move to include modern lessons on preventing sex abuse and harassment.

Zimmerman says two main reasons stand in the way of teaching sexual standards in America; our diversity and the why behind school-based sex education.  “There are 14,000 school districts in the United States and because we’re an incredibly diverse country, obviously there’s going to be enormous variation among the school districts in the messages and the content regarding sex, so it’s dangerous to generalize across them.” He goes on to say that most sex education in America across time has been oriented at preventing negative outcomes. “Specifically, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” he says.

Zimmerman says although the primary focus and motivation of sex education was centered on preventing two negative outcomes—pregnancy and STD’s—a new national consensus is coming to light. “I think it’s fair to say that we’re reaching a new consensus in this country about sexual harassment itself as a negative outcome and it will be interesting to see if schools take that on.” He adds that a fast majority of schools do not use sex education to teach about the dangers of sexual harassment. “I would like them to and I regard that we use these events, starting with Harvey Weinstein as kind of the ultimate teachable moment. And, I would urge schools of every kind to take it on but I would also be a little bit wary about that happening because let’s remember that because sex and sexuality touches on our most fundamental conceptions of ourselves as human beings, there’s going to be enormous descent about it by definition. And creating a consensus around sex, the kind you need to have consistent messages in schools, is a very heavy lift.”

It’s hard to comprehend in 2017 that it’s crucial to teach young people about sexual harassment. But when the phrase “Grab them by the pussy” becomes political fodder used against the President of the United States, it’s not hard to see the need. And rightfully so, because Trump owns these words recklessly spewed on a hot Mic. The hypocrisy of our views and habits on sexuality is not just flagrant, it’s telling. Telling of a historical fact; sexual oppression has operated comfortably on the radar of main stream society. The revelation that Weinstein and those of his ilk were well known sexual predators amongst their peers, friends and family validates the allegation that sex abuse is still a protected and secret form of oppression. And it doesn’t just impact women. Similar to racism, sexual harassment is the other pink elephant in the room no one dares to call out for fear of retribution and shame. It’s an uncomfortable truth, even when a parade of women, and some men, join the #MeToo movement to show solidarity and to call attention to the problem.


Sex Education In The Era Of Eugenics

Race had a profound impact on sex education in the country. The modern eugenics movement out of England at the time, spearheaded by Sir Francis Galton, spread across Europe and many other countries, including the U.S. Eugenics—a principle of selective human breeding now seen as a violation of human rights—was widely accepted as the science to producing better human beings, and validated like Anthropology, Sociology and even Economics. “They were all born at the same time, often created by the same people,” Zimmerman says. Adding that the stronger argument for sex education at the time was a response to outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases in popular cities like Chicago and New York. “Middle class men visiting prostitutes has always been a major conduit of STDs. And, they were going home and infecting their wives. And these were white people. This was a disaster and it created what was called the Race Panic or Race Suicide,” Zimmerman says. Further explaining the rationale he says, “If minorities are infecting each other and reducing their fertility, which is what STDs always threaten, this is not a bad thing…it could even be a good thing. But, if whites are doing it, it’s a form of what Teddy Roosevelt called Race Suicide.” He says the consistent goal of preventing STDs during the birth of sex education was deeply affected by race because the aim was to protect white people from infertility caused by sexually transmitted diseases. “There were already worries that white people were making fewer babies and this could make it worse.”

In Europe the remedy for preventing venereal diseases came through the legal realm like regulating prostitution, while the U.S. created an educational solution. Zimmerman says, “There were international conventions where the Americans were asked to explain the educational remedy because now it was distinct to Americans.” He says the Europeans didn’t get into the game until the mid 20th Century.

Could The U.S. Institute A Singular Form Of Sex Ed?  

“It can’t and it won’t,” Zimmerman says. Even though it’s a legitimate goal he adds, “I think the Unites States is frankly too diverse to make that happen. Within that goal there’s a certain set of assumptions not shared by lots of Americans including recent additions to the United States.”  First, he explains, Americans would have to accept that young people are sexual beings and allow schools to teach sexual development, individual sexuality, sexual pleasure and sexual harassment. “But I think the United States is too diverse for that. The globe is too diverse for that. There are 7 billion people on earth. How many of them believe that an 11 year old is a sexual being? We have sexual desires and sexual identity. I don’t know the answer to that, but my strong guess is a minority.” He says as more and more people and ideas move around the globe, it becomes hard for a school district that has lots of different voices, including newcomers from other countries, to create a consensus around that idea.

Sex and sexuality is a complicated understanding of humanity itself. For example, we don’t even have consensus on female genital mutilation, (FGM) and child marriages. “If we did, FGM and child marriages would not exist.” Zimmerman says it’s only been a quarter of a century since we’ve had dialogue on the subject of sexual harassment, and created a legal frame work to address it thanks to feminist activists and pioneering women like Catharine MacKinnon and Gloria Steinem.

The silver lining of the Weinstein phenomenon can either exhibit how backwards and sexist America is, or it can show us taking a lead in the world again, similar to pioneering mass schooling and sex education in schools. And that depends on how we remedy the problem across racial and cultural lines, and working towards forming a consensus about the evils of sexual harassment. This opportunity to further change our misogynistic culture may very well spur the next sexual revolution. One that takes a page from Sweden, a country with low STDs and teen pregnancy numbers that, according to Zimmerman, was the first to mandate nation-wide sex education in their schools. He says Sweden’s goals were to help each individual develop and discover their own sexuality. “It was much more individuated, it’s much more positive than the American goals which were about social outcomes and indeed preventing negative social outcomes.”



History, Hollywood And The Mad Men Era  

Even with push back from feminists driven movements, Americans still harbor a troubling fascination with sex and sexuality that continues to feed the institution of gender inequality, and exploiting women as inferior members of our society. But it’s not unique to America says Zimmerman, adding, “We see forms of sexual harassment all around the world that replicate the same male dominance, and that makes it difficult to explain what is essentially a global phenomenon by invoking a particular nationalistic history.”

The late historian, playwright and social activist Howard Zinn does invoke this nationalistic history in A People’s History Of The United States 1492 – Present, writing, “It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status. In this invisibility they were something like black slaves (and thus slave women faced a double oppression).”

American women, albeit mostly black women, have long lived under an oppressive social structure that includes being intimately oppressed. Zinn writes, “The conditions under which white settlers came to America created various situations for women. Where the first settlers consisted almost entirely of men, women were imported as sex slaves, child bearers [and] companions.” Powerful men mistreating women shouldn’t shock our morality. Sexual oppression is part of our history as a people. The roots of it reach all the way back to the Pilgrims and our slave-owning forefathers.

Nevertheless, the most powerful and influential Sex Ed teacher in modernity is the media. During the Progressive Era Zimmerman explains that schools were being tasked to compensate for the negative images spawned by the media and Hollywood. “You had figures like Greta Garbo and Rudy Valentino and they were expressing themselves sexually and all kinds of open ways and basically there was a huge amount of concern and people said this is why we need Sex Ed in schools to create a counter to those kinds of messages. And in some ways it’s always been a fool’s errand because the media message is so much more powerful,” Zimmerman says.

Shows like Mad Men set in the 1960s where misogyny plays an essential part, normalize what we now easily define as sexual oppression and harassment. In a 2010 The Atlantic article; Mad Men’s Very Modern Sexism Problem, Sady Doyle writes, “We see sexist jokes, chronic philandering, and office parties in which executives tackle secretaries in order to see what color their panties are.” Doyle continues, “To be fair, Mad Men doesn’t hesitate to show the ugly side of these attitudes; they’re not glamorized in quite the same way as, say, drinking Scotch five times a day. But the show also affords viewers an illusion of moral superiority. We’re encouraged to shake our heads at these men and their outdated attitudes, but by presenting discrimination as a shocking feature of a past era, Mad Men lets us imagine that it’s just one more of those things that We Don’t Do Any More.”

In the era of smart phones young people have greater access to these sexually explicit images and messages, despite an attempt to portray them as outdated. “Kids are in front of screens more than they are in schools. And you can find reasons to begrudge that, but you can’t deny it. It’s a fact. And, it will continue,” Zimmerman says. He adds that the most promising initiatives in Sex Ed are the ones that try to harness the power of technology to reach young people, especially those vulnerable to sexual risks. From the very beginning schools have had to compensate for what families don’t do. All the same, parents are still the primary sex educators.



Dear Al Franken: An Open Letter

Editor’s Note: Brian Hill is an Archaeologist and Anthropologist based in California. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.


Al Franken;


You have really let us down!  Many of us thought you could be the next President, the person who could be trusted, a man whom we could respect, who put the interests of the people, all people, Republicans, women, and everyone else before self interests.  But you have been just another example of what is wrong with our world today.


Maybe, just maybe, you could overcome this failure by taking the lead in being very open with us, the citizens, your family and your groping colleagues by being totally open, contrite, humble, and by undergoing therapy, which also should be made public, about why you abused women, how you personally felt when you did it, and how you will practice overcoming man’s abuse of women.  In this way you could be a leader, a badly needed solution for our times instead just another sad male failure.


Until women can trust men again chaos will rule.


Brian Hill

Archaeologist and Cultural Anthropologist







Las Vegas Massacre Is A Wake Up Call For Reasonable Gun Control In America



If the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas has shaken you to your core, you must have just crawled from under a comfortable rock. Because, mass shootings are becoming as emblematical of America as apple pie, racism, obesity, the glorification of sex and just plain ol’ bad behavior; burying the eloquent hopeful words inscribed in our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and even on the Statue of Liberty, meant to capture our ideals as a people.

To understand our culture one simply needs to look at the things we value and worship like the golden statues described in the Bible right before God rains down terror from the sky on the frolicking heathens below. We’re so deeply conflicted as a people; we contradict ourselves every chance we get. We go to war in the name of democracy, while engaging in the same oppressive deeds that we supposedly abhorre. We pretend to value those who fight for our country—even using Veterans, our Military and Law Enforcement as an excuse to attack a peaceful protest by Colin Kaepernick to end police brutality and social injustice in America—but live comfortably knowing that Veterans are suffering a great injustice at the hands of their own government when they return home from war. We claim to have the greatest power on earth but yet are powerless to enact real change in our culture and society. The “big, big ocean water” surrounding Puerto Rico kept our President from acting swiftly to help the devastated island hit by Hurricane Maria, but he threatens to annihilate “Rocket Man” with all our American might. We claim to want to “Safe the Planet” but are one of the worst polluters and violators of Mother Earth. The list of contradictions goes on and on.

We hold a Bible in one hand, an automatic rifle in the other, a bottle of whiskey under one armpit, a naked woman in a headlock in the other, all while standing on a pile of broken black and brown bodies. Oh, and a photo of a sex symbol—naked with exaggerated lips, breasts and butt—on a stained t-shirt with the confederate flag on it. To complete the image of a typical main stream media American today, picture this person wearing short shorts, cowboy boots decorated with the American flag with spikes at the heel. The word; ‘Merica!’ is prominently featured on the back of the confederate flag t-shirt. Of course, there’s more to an American than what I just described. However, this is the demographic making the most noise since the election of former President Obama and now President Trump, as most decent-minded Americans that fit the description of all kinds of people, (the melting pot) are either hiding their head in shame or taking to the streets to protest the confederacy of dunces we are all witnessing.



We claim to hold the highest ground of morality and the blueprint of democracy despite the reality on the ground even Stevie Wonder can see. And, if one dares to point out the blaring truth that is plain as day, prepare to be met with gnashed teeth, foaming at the mouth, red blooded “real Americans” with tiki torches yelling; “FAKE NEWS! SNOW FLAKE! NOTHING BURGER!” When the president of the United States brags about walking on to NY’s 5th Avenue, shooting someone dead and getting away with it, what do Americans expect from the average Joe or Jane? Many gun lovers and 2nd Amendment fanatics still excuse this comment as political fodder, refusing to see the significance of it as our cultural norm when it comes to our attitudes about guns.

You’ll hear the argument; it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Other than the police, where were the good guys with guns to stop the Las Vegas shooter? Instagram celebrity and gun fanatic Dan Bilzerian was there. He fled. Not to grab his weapons, but to safe his own rear-end. He didn’t live up to his Instagram muscles to stop the shooter with the stockpile of high-powered weapons he loves to show off on social media. What a tough guy, (Insert eye-roll here), until it’s time to actually be that good guy with a gun to stop the bad guy with a gun. On his show on Fox News, Sean Hannity stuck to this strategy too saying, “This guy’s got a machine gun, OK. How are they going to take him on without a weapon? Or, if it’s happening within a crowd, if you’re in San Bernardino, do you want Sean Hannity who’s trained in the safety and use of a firearm in that room when they drop the clip, and they start to reload, you got a shot, you got a chance?” Of course, if life was being played out on a Hollywood movie set where we can have multiple takes and do-overs, Hannity and Bilzerian would be heroes! But, this is real life. 59 people were indiscriminately murdered by a madman who purchased his powerful weapons legally. He exercised his rights as an American to arm himself to the teeth. And, as white privilege in America goes, and according to some Fox News talking heads, we can’t hate him, label him a terrorist or talk about gun control.  Not yet, at least.

Unless you’re in an active shooting situation, you can’t know what you’ll do or how you’ll react. So, why not make it harder, and in some cases impossible, for people to get their hands on these high-powered weapons? What’s the real harm in waiting weeks for a full background and mental health check, instead of days, before handing over such lethal power? Who knows, maybe a zombie apocalypse or another revolution is eminent! Many point to mental illness as an excuse for this latest tragedy however, other countries like Australia, Britain and Canada have citizens with mental illness too and these countries were able to reduce gun violence by enacting strict gun laws. Why can’t America follow suit? It’s apparent, we need policy solutions, but unfortunately there is no movement on the federal level to enact tougher gun laws; just the opposite. As a matter of fact, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan was ready to bring a bill up for a vote that would have loosened access to gun silencers. But, in the wake of the massacre, they shelved it; for now.



And, earlier this year, President Trump reversed an Obama era law that kept the mentally ill from getting guns. H.J. Res 40 passed the House and Senate, and nullifies the, “Implementation of the ‘NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007’ rule finalized by the Social Security Administration on December 19, 2016. The rule implements a plan to provide to the National Instant Criminal History Background Check System the name of an individual who meets certain criteria, including that benefit payments are made through a representative payee because the individual is determined to be mentally incapable of managing them.”

Why stricter gun laws aren’t more tantalizing to leaders at the policy level has to do with fear and money. Fear of not just losing the right to bear arms as stated in the 2nd Amendment, but fear of losing all the money being poured into political campaigns by the powerful National Rifle Association, (NRA). Despite evidence showing stronger reasonable gun policies are warranted, it seems that any kind of gun policy is perceived as an attack on the 2nd Amendment. Most Americans would support reasonable restrictions on guns, especially semi-automatic rifles like the ones used in the Las Vegas massacre, but the NRA will say background checks, even for the mentally ill, is one step to taking our guns away. Fear is a clear motivator but so is money and profit. Mass shooting incidents boosts the NRA’s profit margin. Gun sales increase every time there’s a mass shooting incident, (or the election of a black president.) It’s clear that the NRA uses fear, not data, to galvanize its base. And, unfortunately, opinions and fear outweigh the statistics and research on gun control and violence in America. How ironic that the crowd at Route 91 Harvest, a 3-day Country Music Festival, sang America the Beautiful an hour before the shooting.


Hugh Hefner; His Impact On American Sex, Beauty And Feminism Ideals



The standard image of what a sexy, beautiful and “most desirable” American woman looks like can arguably be credited to the late Hugh Hefner.  And that sex symbol looks like a thin, glamorous blond white woman. It’s evident what kind of women Hefner preferred because he married and surrounded himself with this particular white Barbie type his entire life. And, he built an empire based on his perception of sexy and beautiful women coupled with an unapologetic bachelor lifestyle. All at the cost of exploiting women—starting with Marilyn Monroe—normalizing their objectification, and solidifying them to a place of sexual servitude in American society.

Janell Hobson, Associate Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Albany says the commercialization of white women’s sexuality actually came about after the exotification of women of color through the lens of Anthropology. “The nude body was already on display,” she says pointing to National Geographic, “which was used in an interesting way by white men and western men as a kind of early prototype of Playboy except the nude women in those magazines were African women or Asian women, or Pacific Islander women.” She says Playboy made it palatable to show white women in a similar fashion.

Playboy’s Launch is Rooted in the Exploitation of a Star

Granted, Playboy was not the only magazine at the time of its debut in 1953 that was setting a certain standard of beauty in America. Women’s magazine like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Day and Good Housekeeping had their own standards of what was beautiful too. “What Playboy did was introduce female sexuality upfront,” says Hobson, adding that Playboy centerfolds were playing on the kinds of ideals that were white and blond. Hobson says it’s also important to remember how Playboy stepped onto the world stage. “Playboy launched through nude photos of Marilyn Monroe at the time. Photos that she did not consent to, and had to basically reposition herself when Hugh Hefner was able to purchase the rights of the nude photos that she did for a calendar company…Nude photos that she was doing while she was struggling to become a star, and trying to pay rent.” She says Hugh Hefner wanted to capitalize on the fame that she had. “Not only did Playboy launch through this kind of representation of white womanhood but specifically through the star power of a Marilyn Monroe.” Hobson says that’s a history that shouldn’t be overlooked in terms of what it means that he was able to launch Playboy through this kind of exploitation. And, adding insult to injury, in 1992 Hefner purchased the burial vault next to Monroe for $75,000; haunting her in life and now in death.

The Impact and Legacy of Playboy Is a Complicated One

A part from the nude photos, the magazine in its early days was paving new roads during America’s civil rights movement that came to national prominence in the mid 1950s. Hefner published literature and serious journalism work from prominent black figures like James Baldwin who wrote about the Atlanta child murders and Alex Haley who interviewed civil rights leaders of the time for the magazine. “And, writers like Margaret Atwood was able to get her science fiction stories published in it…I mean, there were clear key classic articles that came out of that,” Hobson says. The magazine, despite its exploitation of primarily white women was also being cutting edge, “both in terms of a kind of intellectualism that it was putting forth but at the same time making sure that it was still marketable and saleable through highlighting white women’s nude bodies.”

Another complicated factor is, in time, Playboy also featured black women on its cover. The magazine had a black model on its cover in 1970, (Jean Bell) and in 1971, (Darine Stern) before Vogue did with Beverly Johnson in 1974. Also, in 1974 Playboy had a 4-page pictorial of black Playmate Claudia Lennear in its August issue. “She was a background singer who was rumored to be the inspiration behind Rolling Stones Brown Sugar that they were singing about. Iman had a Playboy spread back in the 1980s that played on this whole wild African Safari [theme]. Those are ways in which I think when you do see women of color and black women in particular; they are made to take on this kind of exoticized representations. So, whether we’re talking about the blond, you know, girl next door or the exotic African woman, they’re definitely ways Playboy was playing with those images,” Hobson says.

Nevertheless, Hefner was not alone in his objective to use women for his own benefit and wealth; many others share in this American heritage that still exists in our modern culture. One significant piece to Hefner’s legacy, according to Hobson, is what he was putting out there, which was far from the norm of that era. “I think he was really just putting out there a kind of hedonistic bachelor lifestyle…you know, you don’t have to get married or settle down and be a family man. You can always have your bachelor pad and if you’ve got enough money, you can get these young beautiful women dressed up in Playboy Bunny suits that cater to your every whim.”

Hugh Hefner and Women’s Sexual Liberation

Considering the era when Playboy made its debut and how it launched using photos of a woman who didn’t consent, or received a dime for the popular first edition, one can easily surmise that Hefner did more for men’s sexual liberation than for women. Hobson explains, “Representing that kind of bachelor pad lifestyle, he was making it acceptable for men to not be ashamed to pursue a life outside of marriage and family. But, for women, they still had to be in these positions of servitude to that, so what might be a kind of sexual liberation for one sex certainly didn’t necessarily translate to the other.”

This appraisal is plainly evident when writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer, Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Playboy Bunny. Her investigative exposé bluntly revealed this uncomfortable reality. In her report, A Bunny’s Tale, Steinem witnessed firsthand how Hefner ran his operation by luring young women to apply for what was advertised as “the top job in the country for a young girl” only to be faced with catering to men in the most objectifying manner imaginable. From the revealing outfits, the long hours on mandatory 3-inch heels to the manner a Bunny serves cocktails to her clients using the Bunny Stance or Bunny Dip to ensure they don’t break their tight corset costumes; the indignity of it all will undoubtedly be analyzed and critiqued for generations to come. The promise of a glamorous jet setting lifestyle being courted by wealthy powerful men and making between $200 and $300 a week was exposed by Steinem as a sham when she uncovered what actually happened to Playboy Bunnies.

Undoubtedly, Hefner contributed to the larger media narrative of what a desirable American woman looks like however, Hobson says, “I don’t know if he had the main driving force because keep in mind, to be a Playboy centerfold is to not be a woman who is respectable. So, even if he was playing with images of blond innocence and girl next door, they were nude, so they were already seen through the lens of the pornographic.” She says he didn’t necessarily influence what was beautiful but rather what was sexy. Hobson says Miss America, which was at the height of its popularity around the same time as Playboy’s debut, was giving the larger culture ideas of what was considered beautiful. “And, that was respectable.”



Here Bunny, Bunny, Bunny!

The cost of being a Playboy Bunny was impactful in more ways than one. For example, according to Steinem, Bunnies were required to take “a complete internal physical” to ensure they were free of venereal and other diseases like syphilis. And, although the NYC Board of Health didn’t mandate restaurant servers to take physical exams in order to work, Hefner did. Of course, one can’t help but wonder why the need for these types of tests, when it’s explicitly written in the “Bunny Bible” that Bunnies’ are forbidden from dating club members. Nevertheless, and conveniently left out of the written manual, is the suggestion that Bunnies “are to go out with Number One Key Holders” which are the big shots that included “important members of the press, club executives” and other VIP’s. Number One Key Holders were granted the most access to the Bunnies, even having them take part as “bona fide guests of the club.”

Following the success of Playboy, Hefner was at the top of his game and was highly sought after by the media for interviews. During one such interview he described his vision and the principles behind his club saying, “The club is really an extension of the concept that was developed in the magazine and it’s an attempt as much as possible to kind of bring to life the many of the notions that are popularized in the magazine; The concept of relaxed urban living, good food and drink, pretty girls and good entertainment.” He left out an important part; for men. The Bunnies not dating the customers is one of the things Hefner promoted. He went on to say that the Bunnies are forbidden to date the customers, “To separate business from pleasure,” he asserts, even though the women were found to be pressured to date Number One Key Holders and “make them happy.” Perched on his rotating bed, Hefner adds, “Playboy’s philosophy is a personal expression of my own views, and some of the social and sexual views of our time.”

The preparation to become a Playboy Bunny in the 1950s was extensive. Training, which in the beginning lasted three weeks, were unpaid despite the long hours required to do so. Also, Bunnies were charged $2.50 a day for the upkeep of their costume, $8.15 for the eyelashes and blush they had to wear, and $5 for the black nylon tights. They were paid—mandated by state law—$50 a week, however Hefner structured his business to chip away at every available cent the Bunnies earned. From getting demerits and merits that had monetary values attached to them for screw ups and good deeds, to having to split their tips in half with the Playboy Club. Another farce uncovered by Steinem is the difference in Bunny pay. Table Bunnies can keep half their tip in addition to their weekly paycheck minus the charges noted above. Hat Check Bunnies on the other hand, were not allowed to keep their tips. They were paid a flat $12 for 8 hours of work, a significant amount less than what was advertised. Also, these Bunnies were forbidden to tell club members that their tips were going to Hefner. Instead, they were instructed to, “Just smile and accept tips gratefully.”

Hugh Hefner’s Role in America’s Race Relations

The legendary civil rights activist, writer and entertainer, Dick Gregory, who recently passed away, commended Hefner for his work to advance the civil rights movement by opening doors for black comics to work at his clubs, a rarity for many during that time. And, in line with the Playboy culture, Bunnies were instructed to laugh when a comic like Dick Gregory was on stage. “I think that he’s done a lot for men. What has he done for women other than to make more women’s bodies visible in terms of placing their bodies on display, exploiting their beauties, their sexuality, and keeping a Harem of sorts?” Hobson asked rhetorically. Adding, “I’m thinking about a music singer like R. Kelly who has all kinds of young barely legal women in his mansion and the description of it sounds like abuse but it also sounds very much like what Hugh Hefner has been doing throughout his life but yet we would recognize one as being abusive, and the other we want to call hedonistic and libertine. And, I think we need to think about why we are willing to give him that leverage.”

Love him or hate him; Hefner, who studied psychology, was a trend setter who also impacted race relations in the country and that can’t be overlooked or ignored. “He did change things because Playboy came around a time of ultimate and ultra sexual conservatism. He tapped into this opportunity for sexual release as it were. So, because women’s bodies were used to define that kind of sexual release, it gets called liberation,” Hobson says. Hefner made sexual liberation more permissible and accessible through his magazine and that was significant during a time when American culture was more conservative, but like Hobson asserts, we would be remiss to confuse his impact on our society as part of women’s sexual liberation, or a boost for the feminist movement. The fact is, he liberated men and held women captive in sexist stereotypes that are still prevalent today.

Another contributing factor is how black cultural expressions, like the Hip-Hop genre enabled pornographers like Hefner to fetishize black bodies. According to Hobson, “That genre redirected the cultural gaze on the butt, which interestingly Playboy doesn’t really fetishize the butt that much, they usually fetishize the breast. Hip-Hop redirected Playboy’s gaze to the butt, and the butt’s that they focused on were mostly black women, Latino women and eventually included white women like Iggy Azalea, Kim Kardashian and Latinos like Jennifer Lopez to the point where in 2014 Vogue had to put out a whole article called, ‘We’re In The Era Of The Big Booty’ so, look how long it took for Vogue to recognize that particular aesthetic.” She says it wasn’t until white and Latino women were part of the big butt obsession that main stream media started to recognize it as part of a women’s appeal despite what Hip-Hop has done to refocus men’s sexual appetite and gaze. Hobson says it shows that as a culture we’re still invested in whiteness as the norm. “The main stream media still wants to keep whiteness at the center,” she says. Essentially, Playboy fetishized women’s boobs and Hip-Hop fetishized women’s butt’s. And what do they have in common? Hobson says, “They’re both driven by men and male sexual desire; even if the race is different.”

Partly due to Hip-Hop culture, Hefner opened up space to think about sexuality differently but, still, only through the realm of exploiting and ogling women’s bodies. It’s apparent Playboy was not opening up opportunities for women to explore their own sexuality. “And, even then I don’t know if we’ve gone far enough in terms of addressing what female sexual empowerment would be or could be,” Hobson says. She notes that when the real women’s sexual revolution happens it will look much different than what we see in Playboy, Hustler, Vogue Magazine, or even in Hip Hop music. She says the next sexual revolution will be more inclusive. “It would look like a diversity of bodies so it’s not just skinny women or white women. It’s big women, all kinds of women, it’s men, it’s transgender, it’s queer, it’s all kinds of stuff.”

Ultimately, Hefner’s legacy is centered on men’s pleasure by way of sacrificing the progress made by the women’s liberation movement. Thanks to Hefner, feminism took a hit on the chin when Playboy launched in 1953, despite the images we see of smiling Bunnies in sexy costumes. Hefner died of natural causes on Wednesday, October 30 at the age of 91. And, in a perverse way; tattooing the notion that it’s still a man’s world even in the afterlife as he takes his place in eternal rest next to Marilyn Monroe.


The Black And The Blue: A Peek Into America’s Law Enforcement Culture



The disproportionate policing of minorities, especially black men in America has been a topic of national debate for some time now. Michelle Alexander captured this evolution poignantly in her book, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Even so, there is another voice chiming into the larger issue in an effort to add a deeper understanding of policing in America. Matthew Horace, Corporate Security Executive and retired Law Enforcement Executive, co-authoring his latest book; The Black And The Blue, says his new book may shed some light into this social justice issue in America’s law enforcement culture.

Horace, a frequent CNN law enforcement contributor, says his first co-authored book, The CALL, started as a project aimed at mentoring young black men but following his frequent guest appearances on national news programs, he realized he needed to reach a bigger audience and decided to write a second book. “I was being called to go on-air, on national news, to talk about the spate of police shootings of black men and others around the country and it seemed that week after week, month after month, there were more incidents… The Black and The Blue started by examining Coptics. I came up with the term Coptics. And, what Copitcs is, is the optics of policing in the digital age.” Horace says he coined the term Coptics because it became very clear that video was changing the course of the narrative, “and was sort of creating a discourse because now people were seeing what some communities had been talking about for so long.”

Alexander alludes to this troubling realization by saying, “…I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control and functions in a matter strikingly similar to Jim Crow.” There’s no debate that African Americans have disproportionately felt the brunt of American policing. This treatment is not new as Horace and Alexander assert. And, the Walter Scott case is more clear evidence of the Jim Crow style of policing subjected to blacks in America. Horace adds, “Had most people not seen that on video, they may never had believed that a police officer would have shot somebody in the back who was running away, you know, five or six times. So, now this puts the whole world into the living room of what actually happens out here.” He says it is incidents like these that galvanized him to take an analytical view on American style policing.  “Taking a look at the different incidences of what actually happens and what the public thinks. But, also, the idea that the 10-second video clip doesn’t create the entire narrative because it doesn’t capture the whole incident.”

Horace says there are several elements to consider when analyzing the Scott case. “There’s the incident; you know, what actually happened, what is the truth. What was the engagement? Were police right or wrong in their use of force? There’s the crisis management and how the police respond to the community after the incident.” Also, he says the media coverage adds to the overall narrative of an incident. “And, whether the coverage accurately reflects the actual incident,” Horace said. He explains that the Scott case was unique because the video came from a private citizen and not a dash cam or body camera most police officers are required to wear now due to these types of police-involved shootings. “The video came in right away and because the Walter Scott case was after some of the other cases like Michael Brown and others, the government, meaning, the Mayor’s Office and the police, had to respond pretty vigorously, and they did. They fired the police officer ASAP awaiting charges. They came out with very strong communications messages that it was abhorrent, despicable and they were going to get to the bottom of it. They met with the community; they voiced their displeasure with the incident with the community. So, in that case, the government in my view did a really good job of managing the crisis from the community perception stand-point.”

Horace says despite the numerous incidents of police involved shootings, citizens must still give law enforcement officials the benefit of doubt before rushing to conclusions based on a short video that doesn’t tell the entire story. “If we can’t believe broadly that police officers are telling the truth, than we can just turn the lights out and go home because broadly we are dependent upon to tell the truth. Not just about incidents, but in court matters and matters of public records.” He adds that the presumption that an officer’s account is the truthful one has a lot to do with culture, more so than the process. “Culturally, other police officers are definitely going to side often times with police officers before they have all the information. So, you have the presumption of truth and then you have the cultural aspect of, ‘we believe the cop first.’”He says sometimes it’s the right move and sometimes it’s not.

Nonetheless, the contradictions lay at America’s ethnic history that encompasses an ugly truth Alexander brings to the forefront in her book when she talks about our racial caste system that’s still on full display in many of these police and even civilian shootings of unarmed black people. She says racism is highly adaptable, adding, “The rules and reasons the political system employs to enforce status relations of any kind, including racial hierarchy, evolve and change as they are challenged.” Giving law enforcement officials the benefit of doubt would be more widely accepted as a cultural norm if our racial history told a different story of how justice is carried out… still. And, although our justice system is structured to be blind, we see case after case, incident after incident that our unyielding past still rears its unsightly head to muddy the American ideology we are striving towards. It is a common assumption that a black American or another minority will experience a heavier hand of justice compared to white Americans, making institutions like the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and Southern Poverty Law Center, (SPLC) extremely necessary in the pursuit of equality for those unable to escape the stigma of brown skin.

Alexander points out that since the abolishment of slavery and Jim Crow, new rules “in the legal framework of American society” have only morphed with language for a new social consensus that produces the same results. It’s no coincidence that the demographics in American jails show minorities—especially black men—being the majority. For Horace’s Coptics to work as intended, America must continue its trajectory towards racial equality. Reva Siegel, a legal scholar at Yale Law School dubbed this phenomenon, “preservation through transformation.” Alexander quotes her saying it is, “the process through which white privilege is maintained, though the rules and rhetoric change.” She adds, “This process, though difficult to recognize at any given moment, is easier to see in retrospect. Since the nations’ founding, African Americans repeatedly have been controlled through institutions such as slavery and Jim Crow, which appear to die, but then are reborn in new form, tailored to the needs and constraints of the time.”

Horace also highlights his book as a discussion on the convergence of black and blue. He says blacks and other minorities in blue uniform are also facing down mostly black protesters that typically follow a police shooting of an unarmed black person. “What we are facing in the world right now is a convergence of technology—everyone is armed with an iPhone—we have the use of video technology and then we have this idea that police actions are now being caught live and in living color by ordinary citizens.” He says law enforcement has not adequately kept up with the pace of technology making them more victims of it than partners to it. Despite this observation Horace says it’s actually a good thing for all involved. “And, here’s the reason why; because the video evidence doesn’t lie. There may be ways to interpret the video evidence, there may be ways to evaluate the video evidence but at the end of the day, there is no better evidence than an accurate account of what exactly happened. So, in that light, in defense of policing, often times the video evidence defense the story or narrative that they’re using. And, not just the story for the public but the story for the police reports, which are used in court rooms. And that can go from a local court all the way to the Supreme Court.”

As it pertains to body cameras, Horace says while it’s a crucial tool meant to protect police and civilians, there was resistance from some in law enforcement that had more to do with the culture of policing. There is a great resistance to change he says, adding, “A lot of departments didn’t want to do it at first but most departments now have body cameras.” He says they have come to embrace it as another avenue of documentation of their actions. “Now, it doesn’t help when officers aren’t doing the job the right way, but when they are doing the job the right way, these video depictions of events actually help them. Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion had never changed throughout the years.”

On the other hand, when Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion become a profiling technique to stalk black men and other minorities, law enforcement officials are inevitably causing more harm than good. A form of profiling called Stop-and-Frisk was a major police tactic that blossomed under former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, a Federal District Court in New York ruled that the tactic violated the constitutional rights of minorities. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin who rejected the Stop-and-Frisk tactic concluded in her decision that, “The City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of singling out ‘the right people’ is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution.” Despite her decision, Scheindlin says the Stop-and-Frisk program is a useful tool for law enforcement as long as it’s not used to discriminate against minorities.

The Black And The Blue, as explained by Horace, stresses the importance of seeing the full picture of a police incident or policing in general before rushing to judgments. “We want people to remember that there are several different sides to every story. For instance a 10-minute video of a 30-minute incident does not give you an accurate depiction of what actually happened. Also, people should remember that policing is no different than any other profession. I lived and worked in it for 24 and a half years. Yes, there are racist law enforcement officers. Yes, there are sexist law enforcement officers. Yes, there are officers that should not be on the job. And, police departments need to do a better job of hiring, promoting, screening and retaining or terminating those bad officers. But, the overwhelming majority of police officers do the job well and do it for noble causes.” And, he says the public needs to understand that when it comes to the use of force there is a graduated level of force to the process called, The Use of Force Continuum. “Whenever you see things escalate to the point where police officers are using deadly force, there should have been a graduated level of force process.” Horace says often times there is a time for that but sometimes things escalate too quickly for this process to work as intended. “In dire situations a suspect pulls a gun, or a knife or a hatchet, things are evolving very quickly, you may not have the opportunity to go from talking to walking to empty hand control, to physical control to use of deadly force. In those situations things happen so quickly you don’t have the opportunity.”

He adds that the book is also aimed at shedding light on the typical questions that come up following an incident. When the public wants to know why an officer didn’t use a taser instead of a gun, or why did an officer strike a person rather than subdue them or wrestle them to the ground, etc… “These are all questions that people that are not in the profession don’t really understand the answers to no matter if they’re watching the video or not, so we’re trying to shed light on that.” Horace says police officials need to understand the public’s perception of policing from the early 1600s up to now. “Policing was used back during Jim Crow and prior to that to enforce segregation laws. So, a lot of people still view law enforcement as enforcing laws that were discriminatory from the very beginning of time, and the only way to overcome that is through good community policing strategies.”

He says it’s crucial to understand that policing is not a black and white issue. “That’s why there’s no title in the book that says, white and black and blue.” He goes on to give an example of the Department of Justice, (DOJ) finding wrongdoing and violations of citizens rights in Ferguson, MO—a predominantly white police force and governing body—and in Baltimore, MD—a predominantly black police force and governing body, following investigations on the heels of two high profile police incidents, (Michael Brown and Freddie Gray) that caused rioting and major protests. “So, we as a culture should not assume that this only happens in situations where whites are in control of politics and blacks aren’t. It’s happened in departments throughout the United States where there’s been equal representation of blacks and whites, so it’s a problem that we need to come to the table and solve together but we have to do it truthfully and honestly and with a real open eye.”

Horace explains that in progressive law enforcement circles there is an honest attempt to get officers to understand how their own implicit biases impact their ability to treat people and the public. “And, that goes for police, fire and everyone.” He says policing is very different than other professions because they have the power to take people’s rights and lives away, and he adds, “Implicit bias plays a very big role in policing, it’s not only direct racism. Part of it is recognizing where your implicit biases lie and then understanding how to manage them so that these behaviors aren’t the norm and may become the exception. Things have to change. We have to get better.” He says biases create an issue for all of us when you paint people and communities with a broad stroke and fashion what he calls, “The Boogie Man Factor.” Fear of black men is not a new phenomenon in American culture and Horace says recognizing that it has been a historic and cultural problem in the U.S. is the first step in enacting wholesale culture change.

The International Chiefs of Police, (IACP), an institution founded to support law enforcement members, also joined nationwide efforts to improve policing and law enforcement culture in America in light of the increasing number of police involved shootings and killings of unarmed black men and other minorities. In an October 2016 statement, the group’s then president, Terry Cunningham said, “There have been times when law enforcement officers, because of the laws enacted by federal, state, and local governments, have been the face of oppression for far too many of our fellow citizens. In the past, the laws adopted by our society have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks, such as ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans. While this is no longer the case, this dark side of our shared history has created a multigenerational—almost inherited—mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies. Many officers who do not share this common heritage often struggle to comprehend the reasons behind this historic mistrust. As a result, they are often unable to bridge this gap and connect with some segments of their communities. While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future. We must move forward together to build a shared understanding. We must forge a path that allows us to move beyond our history and identify common solutions to better protect our communities.”Horace says the statement started an important dialogue within the law enforcement community. “There were a lot of people in the profession that disagreed with him because they felt like he was painting a broad stroke, but he wasn’t. He was just saying, listen, we’d all be fools to sit here and say that law enforcement is not a part of the problem.”

The country is at a crucial point where the expectations of communities all across America are greater than they’ve ever been. This shift has also paved the way for social justice groups like Black Lives Matter, (BLM) to form and vigorously demand change and equality in policing. And, Horace, who believes BLM is an important and vital movement, says if law enforcement refuses to adapt to these changes taking place, “We risk losing confidence and the faith of people that trust us to police.” He says using technology to support the law enforcement narrative will improve relationships with the public. “You have to be a part of what the community values.” Horace says hiring the right people for the job plays a vital role in policing. “We have to continue to bring people in that will help execute the agenda that communities across America, and the government demands and anything less than that is a recipe for failure.” He also asserts that there are internal processes in place to deal with cops who break the law, saying, “They are no different than anyone else who commits crimes, and make it very difficult for the rest of us to maintain credibility.” Horace says in general the public depends on police officers to show up when they dial 9-11 and appreciate the work they do.

Although America is guided by laws, it is not a perfect system. We still have our work cut out for us. Nevertheless, this experiment that is America still reigns supreme when compared to any other society on earth. Nowhere else on earth have so many different people come together to try and form a union based on shared values and a strong belief system. We’ve certainly come a long way but the road to the American ideal is still being paved and we have to keep working together, and hand in hand with law enforcement, to fulfill it.