Who should be in the African American History Museum and who shouldn’t?

“The white man ain’t the devil I promise, you want to see the devil, take a look at Clarence Thomas…….”

My second piece for Black History Month 2019 may emotionally ‘trigger’ some people, but once again, it’s a question worth asking and it falls under my principles of “Creative” and “Critical” thought. If you have a reaction, please respectfully leave a comment below and share your thoughts after you’ve read this piece. I got the idea to write this blog post shortly after my piece entitled, Whose job is it to teach Black History? The seeds for it were sewn one to two years ago though, shortly after the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture was opened in Washington, DC.

I was perusing social media one day, Twitter perhaps, when a group discussed whether figures like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should have a place in the new museum. Dr. Ben Carson’s name may have come up too. It was an excellent and thought-provoking question. I can’t recall if anyone in that discussion felt that Justice Thomas deserved a place in the museum, but I can tell you that most people vehemently felt that he didn’t. I chose to simply be a ‘fly on the wall’ – like someone slipping into a college seminar, standing in the back momentarily and then stepping out after getting the gist of the discussion. The consensus in this group gave a fascinating insight into what being ‘black’ means in the United States in 2019.

Who should be in the National Museum of African American History and Culture and who shouldn’t? That depends on how complete you want history to be. What’s incredibly clear in 2019 is that while we as black people may be seen as one homogenous group by other races and ethnicities, we clearly aren’t. How do we differ? Well just pick the way that you want to slice us up.

Starting with politics, there are liberal blacks, conservative blacks, and independent blacks. There are black people who believe in Jesus Christ and who regularly attend some form of church, and there are black people who believe in Allah and worship at mosques. There are Black Jews and Hebrew Israelites. There are also atheists.

In terms of social class, there are ‘Old Guard’ upper-class black people. There are also middle- and lower-class black people. All three groups have distinct values and opinions of the other classes. There are numerous books just on class; two that come to mind are Our Kind of People, by Lawrence Otis Graham, and Code of The Streets, by Elijah Anderson.

You have ‘bougie’ black people, and ‘street’ black people. There are other black people don’t fall into either extreme, but instead lay somewhere in the middle. In the black ‘zeitgeist’, many of us, myself included, consider ourselves to be ‘other’.

Back to my original question, who should and shouldn’t be in the new African American History Museum? Of the many distinctions in the previous paragraph, the most polarizing may be that of liberal and conservative. Since the Civil Rights Era, the Democratic party has in large part been the party for black people. Right now, we’re seeing a bit of a shift in the landscape, but traditionally that’s how it’s been since I’ve been alive.

Likewise, the Republican party has been the party of racists who are perceived to not care anything about black people. We’re slowly seeing a shift there as well. In any case, any black person who has associated with the Republican party has been seen as being against the race and something ‘other’ than black.

Regarding the two figures I mentioned earlier in this piece, President George H.W. Bush’s filling of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s seat with Clarence Thomas was a seen as a blatant slap in the face not only on Justice Marshall’s legacy, but also towards black people in general. Dr. Ben Carson’s participation in the Trump administration has all but erased his brilliant career as a neurosurgeon, and his miraculous emergence from poverty in inner-city Detroit – to liberal black people that is.

I’ve only visited the new African American History Museum once since it’s opening, and I only got halfway through it. If you plan on going, I’d recommend planning to make multiple trips. Both Justice Thomas and Dr. Carson are in there which I think is the right thing to do. To not have them in there is to give an incomplete historical account. But that’s just me, and I don’t believe we should all think the same way as described in my piece about ‘Cooning’.

Your opinion about whether they and others like them should be in there will depend on whether you still consider them to be a part of the black race. That leads to the question of whether a person’s political affiliation and core beliefs dictates their level of blackness. I personally don’t think it does, but I’m just one person, and as of now, I’m not making decisions about whose history gets told in that museum.

The opening quote for this piece is a lyric from one hip hop artist KRS-One’s tracks. I think it’s from his self-titled album, or maybe “Return of the Boom-Bap”. I opened my last black history last piece with a rap lyric and decided to do it again. As mentioned in that piece, while our parents thought it was just noise, hip hop/rap music in the 1980s and 90s had many, many social and political messages. I personally learned a lot of black history from some of the artists.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Are you Cooning? Thoughts on Black America’s new favorite racial slur, critical thought, and groupthink
A Black History Month reflection on Percy Julian
A Black History Month interview with Dr. Vernon Morris part one
A Black History Month look at West Indian Archie
A review of Marvel’s Black Panther
A review of Hidden Figures
A review of All Eyez On Me

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Is The Private Health Sector Where The Money Is At?

Three of the focuses of my blog are Current Events, Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. The Health Sector touches everything from our personal well-being, to the economies and governments of whole countries. As such it’s important to keep an eye on the sector. The following contributed post is thus entitled, Is The Private Health Sector Where The Money Is At?

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Private health care is something that’s either going to be really familiar to you, or something that’s going to totally be an alien concept. To those of you who receive state funded health care, or the equivalent in your own country, then you will definitely notice a difference between the two. Sometimes you might go private for a really minor procedure that you just can’t be bothered to wait for. Something like a dentist appointment. Your eyes are opened to a much better standard of healthcare, and it’s easy to see why so many are making millions from an investment into the private health care sector. But the current health situations in so many countries at the minute is just poor, so do you think the private health care sector is where the money is really at? Well, let’s do some digging and find out if it would be worth your while to invest in the private health care sector.

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The Growing Market

The growing market for private health care is definitely one that’s moving at a quick rate. You’ve got countries like the US which is all private health care and all treatments cost. But there are countries like the UK, where funded health care is available, so not as many people go private. But still, more and more are now turning to private health care for better and faster treatment, no matter how much it’s going to cost to do so. Some are going private because they feel in countries like the UK, that the NHS is too stretched to have the time to deal with their issues properly. But the market is also growing, because the price that private trusts are now able to charge, is going up. A more premium service than ever before is being offered, and it’s a luxury that everyone wants a taste of at the minute.

The Investment Needed

The investment needed is going to be rather big, but there are plenty of ways that you could do it. You could start up your own center, employ doctors on a locum basis, and go from there. Of course, it’s just not that easy. There are far more rules and regulations than with any other investment you could have chose. From setting up healthcare payment systems, to ensure you’re working at the highest levels of safety, to keeping to safeguarding rules etc. it’s so complex that it’s not your average investment, but it would more than likely pay off in the end. Or you could just simply invest money in a private organisation that’s already established, and have a percentage back on the investment. There are simpler ways, but they are still both hard routes to follow.

What It Could Do For You In Terms Of Business?

It could give you endless opportunities to make money. The private sector isn’t just going to go away, and if anything, it’s only going to get bigger as time goes on. There are so many private investors at the minute as well, that you’re best off getting your foot in the door before the popularity increases more, and the value decreases.

Is American Democracy Really Under Threat?

A key focus of my blog is current events. There is some talk that democracy is under threat in the United States. Some would attribute this to ‘voter fraud’, while others would attribute it to tampering from other countries. The following contributed post discusses some issues with the voting process and is entitled, Is American Democracy Really Under Threat?

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Voter fraud is a hot button issue at the moment and there are a lot of accusations flying around. In October of last year, a bus full of minority voters in Georgia on their way to the polling station was ordered to stop and they were not allowed to vote. The official reasoning was that the people on the bus were engaged in barred political activity. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one off and there were actually a total of 53,000 people that had their applications for registration denied for very minor reasons, like the information being slightly different from their driver’s license or registration forms. Most of the people that were barred from voting were minorities which sparked a lot of accusations about unfair treatment on the part of the Republican Party.

Statue Of Liberty New York United States Sunset

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This isn’t just happening in Georgia either and if it is allowed to continue, it has far reaching effects on democracy. The Republican party have defended their decision stating that it is necessary to have the power to stop people from voting to combat voter fraud. Critics of the Republican Party point to a long standing tradition in history of people in power trying to quell opposition from expanding voter groups by using accusations of voter fraud as a way of stopping them from voting entirely.

There have also been accusations about tampering with votes and trying to influence recent elections. Trump has come under fire over links with Russia and evidence that they used social media to boost support for him during the presidential election. Bush came under fire when he was elected when there were accusations of vote tampering and vote theft in Florida. In the end, it was not a recount that settled the argument. Instead, it was decided by a partisan split in the Supreme Court. These are all worrying accusations and a lot of people are starting to question whether American democracy is really functioning properly and whether the people actually have control over who is in power. But is democracy really under threat and is voter fraud a legitimate concern?

The issue of electronic voting has been called into question in recent years due to fears of cyber security problems. It’s a well known fact that some of the largest organizations in the world, like the FBI, can be vulnerable to online hacking attacks, so surely an electronic voting system isn’t completely safe? The FBI has already reported breaches that released registration details of voters in Arizona and Illinois, but what about direct attacks on the vote counting systems that would allow hackers to change the results of an election? The bad news is, there’s no clear answer here because the systems that are used are not uniform throughout the country. Each state and local authority chooses their own electronic voting system. Some, like the Smartmatic Electronic Voting Company have better security than others so it all depends on where you live and vote. However, there have not been any reported attacks that have changed the results of an election so far, but it is still a possibility.

In terms of other kinds of voter fraud, it’s incredibly rare. There have been a lot of studies by the National Republican Lawyers Association to look into this and see just how likely it is to happen and they only uncovered 332 cases between 1997 and 2011. When you consider how many millions of votes are cast in an election, you can’t consider voter fraud a huge danger.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a threat to American democracy, it’s just not coming from voter fraud. The real threat comes from a low turnout. Only 38 percent of Americans voted in the 2014 midterms which means that there were millions of eligible voters that didn’t cast their vote. That means that the US ranks very low on the list of voter turnout and that’s a far bigger threat to democracy than voter fraud has ever been.

Turnout is low for a lot of different reasons. First off, the allegations of voter fraud that the Republican Party are using to stop people from voting are making harder for a lot of people to register so they’re simply not voting. The system, in general, is quite difficult because policymakers are yet to introduce same day registration and make the process a lot easier for everybody.

There are also problems with a lack of faith in government. Allegations of Russian collusion and a whole host of different conspiracy theories mean that a lot of people think that they’re completely powerless to change anything anyway so they don’t bother voting. Whatever the situation, that’s not true.

American democracy may well be under threat but it’s not from voter fraud, it’s from low turnout. So, always make sure that you get out and vote.

Has The World Gone Crazy?

One of the focuses of my blog is Current Events and Health and Wellness. As we’re riding into the New Year, it’s clear that we’re living in unprecedented times. Everywhere we look, we see alarming things in politics and the media which seems to be trickling down into everyday life. Numerous people are being silenced in the media, and relationships are dissolving based upon differing viewpoints. The following contributed post is entitled, Has The World Gone Crazy?

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Well, you have to admit, it definitely isn’t the place it once used to be. We get that some aspects of our changing world are totally amazing, but you have to look around and wonder, would it not be better for the whole world to be plunged into an old fashioned way of thinking. There are no so many rules and regulations that we have to follow for everything, and arguments over social media and through television programmes with regards to political matters is now out of control. In a world where the governments are always fighting, and there’s a new thing that you can’t say or do each day, how can you ever find peace amongst it all? Well, we have to say it’s not easy. Because for the most part, we can’t help but think that the world has just gone crazy! Carry on reading to find out more…

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The Politicians Have Gone Mad

This is definitely something that should be said. In the UK and US for example, the politicians of their governments are steering decisions that are quickly affecting the public. In the UK, you’ve got the whole Brexit issue that only ever seems to be taking steps backwards, instead of steps forward. Politics news is often hard to follow, especially when you have so many conflicting views from the media. Even if the information isn’t exactly true, you could read articles that are full of false information, purely because they’re trying to sell the story. But for the most part, we definitely do think politicians have gone mad. The decisions they’re making is changing the course of history, and some would say completely ruining it. More and more people are saying that topics should go to a public vote more often, rather than just letting a set group of people decide it, especially in the UK.

Restrictions Are Crazy

There are now so many restrictions in life, especially over social media. Everyone is so quick to turn it into a racism issue, or gender, or anything else under the sun that you can think of. It’s now rumoured that you can’t sick the baa baa black sheep song anymore, because it could be classed as racist. Some people are now even asked for the male title of Santa Clause to be strippd, because it’s favouring on gender. Freedom of speech is slowly dying in a way, and we think the world is getting out of hand with all of the restrictions the world now has.

It’s So Hard To Find Peace

If you look around you in the world, it’s actually harder to find peace than you would think. Or perhaps you can expect that with all the acts of terrorism, gang violence, and political hate, it’s going to be hard to find peace. We think the more people who look for it and fight for it, the better place the world is going to be. So many of us rally against the wrong thing, when the main thing we should be fighting for, is peace.

Ohio State 62, Michigan 39: My short take

Okay I’m going to try to keep this short. As one of the many Michigan football fans still hungover from yesterday’s 62-39 loss in Columbus, the idea to write a short take on yesterday’s annual game literally came to me during the conclusion of a church service here in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. I’m not trying to be funny, but it’s true. In any case here goes.

First, I want to sincerely congratulate Head Coach Urban Meyer and his staff, the Ohio State Football Team, and their fan base. They did a great job preparing for the game and they executed their game plan damn near perfectly. Despite the rankings and all the chatter leading up to the game, I had a feeling they were going to play at a high level and they did. I also want to note that the game seemed to be officiated fairly and there was little controversy surrounding this contest as was the case in 2016.

I watched the game with my usual crew at Buffalo Wild Wings on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Tonawanda, NY – our annual spot for watching the two school’s annual meeting. What stood out to me as the game unfolded, was that our team didn’t seem to be prepared for the contest in terms of intensity or scheme. Offensively, the game started off positively with a nice run by Karan Higdon. The second play was a pass play in which Shae Patterson got sacked which was a bit of a head scratcher for me, as I would’ve gone back to the running game.

In general, the offense did what it had done all year long which was to try to pound the ball with occasional shots down field. Throughout the year despite its talent level, our offense was never a consistent force, but instead methodically picked and chose its spots with varying amounts of success – sometimes due to a lack of execution, and at other times due to questionable play calling. This worked well as long as the defense stood its ground and repeatedly got the ball back which brings me to my next point.

Early on it was clear that Ohio State’s approach to our physical and blitzing defense was to get the ball out of Dwayne Haskins, Jr.’s hands quickly using crossing and wheel routes out of the backfield. In instances where Ohio State spread its receivers out and were able to neutralize Coach Don Brown’s pass rush, Haskins which is not known for his mobility was able to run the ball up the middle and slide when our coverage held. In other instances, Ohio State was able to draw pass interference calls on our defensive backs which were left on ‘islands’ by themselves in ‘Man’ coverage – No. 28 Brandon Watson particularly got targeted and torched by Haskins. Their running game by itself didn’t hurt us so much.

Approaching halftime, our Wolverines were down 21-6, and with the Buckeyes getting the ball back after the half, it seemed as though it was going to be a maize and blue ‘blood bath’. A special teams fumble by the Buckeyes helped put us in position for Chris Evan’s touchdown late in the second quarter. If not for that gaffe, we would’ve been in serious trouble. That said there was a potential touchdown that we missed out on because Zach Gentry couldn’t secure the ball after a Buckeye defender slapped it out of his hands.

On both sides of the ball as the game progressed it seemed that Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff were being outcoached by Urban Meyer and his. Our offense started slow, interestingly didn’t seem to be taking advantage of our three talented receivers: Donavan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tariq Black. I also wondered why our 6’8” tight end Zach Gentry wasn’t getting targeted more. In a game of this magnitude, we needed to challenge the Buckeye defense more downfield especially when they were ripping our defense to shreds and scoring at will. This brings me to my next point.

My comments on many of the postgame YouTube press conference footage mostly involved my surprise that Don Brown seemingly didn’t look at what Indiana and Northwestern had done his defense and planned for Ohio State to do the same thing or more. During the game, I wondered if he would adjust his blitzing style, and go with more defensive backs, like how Bill Belicheck and Bill Parcells did to my Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV where they slowed down the Buffalo Bills’ powerful offense. Instead he seemed to stick with the same game plan which he used all year which brings me to my last point.

It’s very easy for us as fans and commentators to criticize what’s happening on the field and I acknowledge that. I’ve also never coached a sport though it’s something I’d like to try one day. That said, I know enough to know that in athletics, particularly in big games it’s important to be able to adjust your plan of attack if necessary – or to anticipate having to do so. I discussed this in my interview with legendary Niagara Falls high school basketball Coach Pat Monti, who thoroughly scouted his opponents and figured out what he needed to do to give his teams the best chances to win even if meant making games ugly and unwatchable.

As we’re closing in on the end of Jim Harbaugh’s fourth year, this is something I’m wondering about, and something I wondered about during yesterday’s game. As much fanfare as there was when he got hired, how well can he and his staff really coach when going head to head with opponents like Urban Meyer and his staff on the opposite sideline? I asked myself this for the first time as yesterday’s game unfolded. One of my buddies I watched yesterday’s game with came down hard on defensive end Rashan Gary who was the top high school player five years ago and with good reason. That said it’s the coach’s job to motivate the players and put them in position to succeed. While we support him, right now, me and others in the fan base are questioning the ability of our coaching staff to do this on the biggest stages.

What’s going to happen from this point on? I honestly don’t know. I’m going to close by saying that I feel bad for our players, some of whom may have been looking ahead to Indianapolis and beyond – some of whom who have never beaten Ohio State which is something they’ll always have to live with. As we got closer to the Ohio State game, I became weary of talk of the “Revenge Tour” and Karan Higdon’s guarantee of victory as the team, the program and the fan base might suffer a black eye like we have now. Anytime ever I’ve competed, I’ve never been a trash talker and am a firm believer in just letting your play do the talking.

Like Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams who couldn’t get over the hump, for the remaining players and staff, perhaps this humiliating loss may be a part of their growth process that will eventually push them over the hump. We’ll have to wait and see. This year the Wolverines will once again be in Ann Arbor during the College Football Playoff. Hopefully Coach Harbaugh and his staff will ready first for their bowl game, and then when the Buckeyes come back to Ann Arbor in 2019. There’s a whole year to think yesterday’s game over.

Thank you for taking the time to right this blog post. If you enjoyed this one, you might also enjoy:

Michigan loses to Ohio State 31-20: Reflections on the 2017 game and the season
John U. Bacon presents his new book Endzone to Michigan’s D.C. Alumni Club: A look back
Michigan defeats Maryland 35-10: Two weeks until the 2017 Ohio State game
Michigan beats Florida 33-17: A recap of the maize and blue’s season opener
The 2016 Michigan-Ohio State game, the Big Ten Officials, and the College Football Playoff

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Your Say Matters On Election Day, And Don’t Let Conspiracies Convince You Otherwise

One of the focuses of my blog is Current Events. Over the last 30 years politics in the United States have regularly been linked to some speculation of corruption. In the past, big corporate money and the wealthy have been suspected of controlling our elected officials. In the most recent elections, foreign countries have been suspected of tampering with our elections. Should either case affect whether one votes? The following contributed post is entitled; Your Say Matters On Election Day, And Don’t Let Conspiracies Convince You Otherwise.

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It’s been nearly two weeks since the midterm elections here in the U.S. As with any election, there’s been name calling, close calls, and unhappy members on either side of the political line. The results have seen democrats gaining control of the house by hitting the 218 seat mark. Other monumental events include a record 99 women serving in the house of representatives. Oh, and an astounding 114 million voters turned up on the day. That’s 31 million more than the same vote garnered during 2014. All around, then, this midterm election has been a huge achievement for people finally having their say when it comes to the biggest problems facing the country.

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Of course, not everything ran smooth. This election, like any other, was shrouded in conspiracy theories. They ranged from the expected to the ludicrous, and they all had one thing in common: every single conspiracy suggests that we’re powerless in the game of government. And, that’s what we’re taking exception to, because it’s about time someone stood up and noticed the damage conspiracies like these can cause.

As we’ve already mentioned, the turnout for this election was astounding. The results prove how things change when people turn up and make their mark. This is a crucial message to spread. If Trump’s presidency has proven anything, it’s what happens when people don’t make the effort to vote.

But, then we have conspiracies, which do nothing more than fuel the fire of the people who think ‘there’s no point voting’ anyway. One minute, we’re told that Russia is rigging our elections, so our votes aren’t even our own. The next, we’re facing yet another of the endless Soros conspiracy theories which tell us our votes won’t even count unless we make them by paper ballot. Then, we’re told that representatives like Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are manipulating us to ensure we vote in a certain way. While each of these is entirely unfounded, they can do a great deal of damage.

It should come as no surprise that many of those who didn’t vote chose not to in part because of conspiracies like these. We spend so long convincing ourselves that higher powers control our votes, that many of us truly believe we don’t have a say. And, if you don’t have a voice either way, what’s the point of going out of your way on election day? Let’s not forget, either, that conspiracies also give the other side a springboard on which to discard the relevance of opposing views. If some higher-power rigged the vote, then that opinion is null and void. Right?

No. We’re here to say that it’s time to put conspiracy theories to bed. While they’ll always be there in some form or another, we need to realize the power our ballot papers hold. Russia isn’t pulling the strings of our elections; we are. And, the sooner we take responsibility for that, the sooner we can work towards a country which suits our needs.

Political Correctedness Can’t Explain Increasing Hate Crimes Away

One of focus of my blog is Current Events. Throughout the history of the United States, there have always been racial tensions and discrimination, sometimes resulting in “Hate Crimes”. Hate Crimes are concern even in 2018. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Political Correctedness Can’t Explain Increasing Hate Crimes Away.

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Hate crime is a word we’ve heard a lot in recent years. While it looked like racial discrimination was at an end with our first black president, things couldn’t have changed more since Trump took the helm. Now, we’re seeing new racial slurs and undeniable hate crimes on a daily basis. It’s shocking, and many would argue that it’s a step backwards.

Of course, the news on this issue can be a little misleading. For one, it’s worth noting that crimes like these started a steady increase while Obama was in the White House. That amount has risen much faster under Trump, but this is by no means a new issue. The only real difference is that many of us are now becoming aware of the problem.

It’s also worth noting that hate crime still accounts for a relatively small portion of crimes across the country. In California, for instance, last year saw a total of 1,093. That may not seem like such a bad number until you consider that’s up 44% since 2014. Figures from across the country paint a similar picture in every major city.

Reasons for this rise seem to vary. A change in general outlook has contributed to more obviously hate-based crimes. Equally, an increase in minority groups seems to have played its part in these outbursts. Whatever the reason, though, this is not, as some believe, a case of ‘political correctness gone mad.’

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This is a statement we often hear, and it’s a worrying one. While there are those out there who want to address issues like these accordingly, others are more willing to turn a blind eye. In a way that’s understanding. The thought such violent crimes could be perpetrated from racial differences alone is shocking. But, denying the severity of crimes like these is a harmful approach.

To prove that this increase is nothing to do with sensitive political correctness, consider the definition of a hate crime. According to USA Today, ‘Hate crimes are considered criminal acts motivated by prejudice based on race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.’ As you can see, definitions like these don’t leave much room for doubt.

Consider, too, that evidence needed to gain a conviction here also leaves little wiggle room. A defense attorney for someone facing charges here will fight against any judge who cannot prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that discrimination was behind a crime. If you want to know more about that, you can read about it here or do your own research on the subject. Either way, anyone would have a hard time arguing the increase here is just political correctness with that in mind.

As tempting as it is to deny the severity of cases like these, doing so contributes to the issue. Instead, we should be working to raise awareness of this growing problem, and ensuring those responsible gain the punishment they deserve. How else can we ensure that every U.S. citizen feels safe on these streets once more?

The Biggest Problems Still Facing The Country

Two of the focuses of my blog are Current Events and Social Discussions. We are currently living in unprecedented times, with new events unfolding every day within our country and around the world. The following contributed post is thus entitled; The Biggest Problems Still Facing The Country.

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It has been an incredibly strange year. As we get deeper into the second of 2018, it’s important to peel our eyes away from the drama that continues to play on the TV (or on Twitter) and to gain a little perspective. Here, we’re going to look at some of the biggest problems still affecting the country and what everyday people like us can do about them.

Image sourced by Negative Space

Safety in our schools
At the time of writing, there have been 32 school shootings in the country this year. If that statistic doesn’t highlight that we still have a huge issue with safety in our schools, then nothing else will. A lot of the debate around the issue has revolved around gun control, with even the idea of arming teachers thrown into the mix. However, the mental health aspect of our school safety issue should not be overlooked. One of the solutions that we might be able to push more plausibly than the tricky issue of the 2nd Amendment is the support and call for more school counselling programs.

Hurricanes Maria and Irma
The scope and longevity of the destruction caused by last year’s fall hurricane season is regularly underestimated. Not only is there still widespread damage done to the communities hit, with final fatality tolls still up in the air, we don’t give all communities equal attention. The Virgin Islands suffered their costliest hurricanes. Businesses like Cane Bay Partners have set up initiatives to help with the efforts of long-term recovery, as well as supplying generators, clean drinking water, and even temporarily housing displaced residents. If you’re planning on offering donations or even volunteering, Puerto Rico isn’t the only victimized community you need to consider.

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The border
It’s a politically touchy subject, and many might support the greater efforts to enforce immigration control. However, the implementation has undoubtedly been a disaster with children held in shelters that have been seen to provide sub-par care time and time again. There are a host of charities like RAICES, providing immigrant families and refugees with affordable legal advice, and Border Angels, who fund education programs and immigration services to those in need.

Health care
The problem of how we deal with those in need of treatment they can’t access pops up yet again. The two parties fight over health care time and time again. There’s a growing 71% of the population in favor of changes like Medicare for All. However, while the political ball might take a long time to shift, there’s a lot we can do individually. Volunteering opportunities from Public Health involve not only volunteering free care for health industry professionals but efforts at places like shelters and hospices where even those without training can lend aid to the hard-working staff.

Getting caught up in the political melee can all-too-easily make us forget the real issues still affecting the lives of our countrymen. By getting a little perspective, we can contribute our energies and perhaps even a little time or money to really improving lives.

A case for making schools safer revisited

I originally published this article on the Examiner back in 2012 shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn. While much of the debate afterwards focused on the National Rifle Association (NRA) and banning firearms, someone suggested making schools safer – an approach I was in favor of even if American’s 2nd Amendment rights were taken away. After all, can the bad guys be legally prevented from getting their hands on firearms?

Recently after this most recent mass school shooting in Florida, the same debate has arisen. President Donald J. Trump set off a fire storm when he suggested arming teachers, and the NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre followed up stating that a more sound approach would be greater armed security at schools. Six years later, mental health is working its way into the discussion, but we’re essentially still having the same debate. As with many of my blog posts, the pictures used are courtesy of the Washington Post’s Morning Express.

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In the previous three articles, factors that specifically affected learning were addressed; attitudes, socioeconomics, and environment. In light of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on December 21, 2012, this article will focus on thinking about how to create safer schools, and preventing similar tragedies. Admittedly, this is a very complex issue with no simple solution. The intent of this article is to add to a discussion which will likely continue for a very long time.

The majority of discussions in the media have focused strictly on the 2nd Amendment (the right to bear arms), and gun control. Discussions about making schools themselves more secure have been the minority. Predictably discussions in the social media world erupted in addition to the mainstream media demonizing the NRA and calling for stricter gun control measures. One of many threads on Facebook generated a debate of up to 80 comments about gun control.

On CSPAN the morning of December 18, 2012, a caller recommended to journalist John Fund and the host that a way to make schools more secure would be to set up perimeters and having metal detectors in most schools. Mr. Fund replied that it would be, “too costly and difficult to implement.” Even if that is true, isn’t protecting the lives of innocent children and faculty members worth the cost?

It has been 14 years since the middle school massacre in Jonesboro, Ark., 13 years since the Columbine high school massacre in Littleton, Colo., and 12 years since six-year old Kayla Rolland was shot dead at her school in Mount Morris Township, Mich., by another first grader. Each of these tragedies involved fire arms being brought into schools.

Whether it’s a shooting at a school, a Jewish temple, or in a movie theater, control of guns is clearly a daunting task. While the majority of gun owners are responsible, legislators on Capitol Hill cannot predict when an Adam Lanza, or some other assailant will go on a random or premeditated killing spree. While movie theaters, shopping centers and places of worship are difficult to protect, carefully policing who and what enters an elementary or high school should not be.

Whenever these shootings occur, innocence is further stripped away from everyone, especially from school environments. Our world is not the safe and secure place that it once was even in seemingly secluded suburban areas. Suburban schools may now need to be secured similar to their urban counterparts, and unless appropriate measures are taken, we may continue to see tragedies such as that in Newtown, Conn.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, air travel was forever changed. Because of those events, no one will ever again be able to fly commercially without having to go through stringent security measures. Millions of people fly every day, and it is now considered normal. Similarly, most state and federal government buildings require walking through metal detectors prior to entry for visitors. Isn’t it time to find a similar solution to keep our schools safe?

Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. Lastly follow me at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

What are your plans for your tax cut? Thoughts on what can be done with heavier paychecks and paying less tax

Depending on your world view, this blog post may upset you, but it contains some ideas worth pondering. As they once told us at the Writer’s Center, if you’re not making someone uncomfortable, you’re not doing a good job of writing. This may also be my first blog post to incorporate all of the principles of my blog.

Our calendar year is marked by different seasons. Each year builds up to the excitement of the traditional ‘Holiday Season’ – Thanksgiving and Christmas. When the ball finally drops in Times Square, all of the excitement stops with the birth of new year. The holiday decorations and advertising goes away and ‘Tax’ season starts. It wasn’t until I became a working adult myself that I realized that Tax season was its own season, spanning through the Super Bowl, Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, March Madness; right up until Easter Sunday.

You start seeing advertisements on TV for franchises like ‘H&R Block’, and software like ‘Turbotax’. If you have one your tax preparer starts calling you for your annual appointment. You see people dressed up like the Statue of Liberty on street corners encouraging you to have your taxes done at franchises like Liberty Tax. If you’ve paid taxes, you start gathering your materials together to have your taxes done – your W-2 and other associated forms, your gift receipts, your mortgage interest deduction statement, etc.
Depending on your diligence, you either get them done early, or you procrastinate right up to the middle of April. It’s an exciting time, or a desperate one. Depending on how you’re living your life, the refund (if you get one) will propel you further ahead, or it will be gone as soon as you receive it.

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The 2018 tax season will be different than most in recent times in that many Americans will receive a tax cut, thanks to the recently passed ‘Tax Reform and Jobs Act’. Tremendous controversy surrounded the bill – specifically its beneficiaries. If you were 100% against the bill and are still convinced that it was written solely to help the wealthy, no discussion of the increased standard deductions or the adjusted tax brackets will sway how you feel. This is particularly true if you live in one of the high tax states like my native New York State, whose residents are losing the ability to write off some of their state taxes – taxes which are much higher than the other states.

I would highly encourage everyone to do their own research and not take what you hear on the major cable news networks as the gospel. For this post, I’ve done my own research and am citing projections from the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution which was last updated on December 22, 2017. The majority of the rancor and debate in the Main Stream Media (MSM) has centered around the wealthiest

Americans being the biggest beneficiaries of the law. That discussion leads us down the road of ‘Identity Politics’, ‘Fairness’, and varying perceptions of what’s right and wrong. It brings up President Barrack Obama’s position that, “Some Americans can afford to pay more taxes,” versus the other point of view which is that it’s wrong to excessively take money from those who have created it, or inherited it for unsustainable government spending.

My focus is on the potential benefits for individuals living on ‘Main Street’ and what they can do with a little more money in their pockets. I would encourage everyone else to do the same – ask yourselves what you can do to make your life and the lives around you better, as opposed to focusing on what others are getting. It’s tricky because its gets us into discussions about doing for self, and personal responsibility – difficult discussions, but important ones nonetheless.

The new law seems to have already encouraged companies like Apple to reinvest in the United States, but what are the effects of the Tax Reform and Jobs Act personally for people living on Main Street? First, how it affects your life will in large part depend on how you’re living your life in the here and now. Are you living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ or ‘hand to mouth’ as some would say? Are you living outside of your means? Are you riding a high level of debt? Do you have any emergency money? These questions will determine if you’re able to take any extra money you get back and build with it, or if it will get gobbled up right away.

According the Tax Policy Center’s report, one of the major changes in the bill is the increased Standard Deduction for single people and married couples – $6,500 to $13,000 for single people and $9,550 to $18,000 for married couples. For us on Main Street, this one change is going to either increase your refund, or decrease the amount of tax you owe – a win for most people. The tax brackets and associated percentages have also been adjusted. I was originally going to discuss the host of other changes and provisions, but I’ll just simply say that many of the other changes were made based upon the generous expansion of the Standard Deduction.

In addition to the changes in taxes at filing time which will be seen when filing in 2019 for the 2018 tax year, it appears there are going to be changes to Main Street’s paychecks in the near future. Kelly Phillips Erb of Forbes published an article on January 11, 2018 titled IRS Releases New 2018 Withholding Tables to Reflect Tax Law Changes. Based upon these changes which are to take effect in February, many Americans are going to get ‘raises’ due to changes in the amounts withheld. Many people are going to have extra money to spend.

This brings me back to the title of this blog post. What are your plans for your tax cut? As in my ‘Net Worth’ piece, this is a rhetorical question – one whose answers I wouldn’t recommend broadcasting. There are reasons for my asking this question. Do citizens on Main Street need some extra money at tax time and in their paychecks? The data in the next section suggest that they do.

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About a month or so ago when the tax cut debate reached its crescendo, someone on Twitter shared an article entitled The shocking number of Americans who can’t cover a $400 expense, written by Ylan Q. Mui of the Washington Post. The article was published on May 25, 2016, and was based on a 2015 Report by the Federal Reserve which I’ve linked to this piece.

The article cited Figure 12 from the Federal Reserve’s report. Of the three groups surveyed, the group making less than $40,000 said they’d have the hardest time covering a $400 expense – overall less than 50%. The group making $40,000 to $100,000 had the second hardest time covering a $400 expense – overall 62%. As expected, the group making greater than $100,000 fared the best – overall 81% could cover a $400 emergency expense. That said it surprised me that someone making above $100,000 would have a hard time covering a $400 expense. By the way, the groups were broken down by race. Interestingly, black/non-Hispanics were the least likely of this $100,000 or greater group to be able to cover a $400 expense – 63% and Hispanics were close by at 67%.

The argument could be made that individuals making less than $40,000 just don’t make enough money to live off of, but what about those making above $40,000? The same is true for individuals making $100,000 or greater. This data suggests that either the United States has become too expensive a place in which to live, or that some people are mismanaging their finances. In both cases, it seems quite a few people could use the extra money. One could suggest that it’s unwise to not carry enough for a $400 emergency, but that’s dangerous because it gets us into discussions about personal accountability/responsibility, and self-reliance.

Rodney Brooks also of the Washington Post wrote an article entitled 71 percent of Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement. In the article he cited data from a national survey by Experion in collaboration with Get Rich Slowly stating that 71% of people surveyed said they didn’t have enough money to retire. Why would Americans not have enough retirement money? Mr. Brooks further cited data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stating that among other things, the percentage of homeowners 65 and older with mortgage debt increased from 22% in 2001 to 30% in 2011. Among homeowners 75 and older, the rate more than doubled to 21.2% from 8.4%.

Furthermore, 49% of the people polled had credit card debt, and 46% had less savings than they expected to have five years earlier. Katie Ryan O’Connor, an editor from Get Rich Slowly, was cited in Mr. Brooks’ article stating that 71% of the people in the survey said they were not invested in the stock market, and 41% said that they had no plans to invest due to lack of funds. The data cited in these two articles suggest that some Americans could benefit from having some more money in their pockets. If you’re wary of investing money, a wise alternative may be to simply shove it under your mattress for an unforeseen emergency. Over the holiday season, a relative shared that simply getting, “rear-ended on the expressway,” causing a $500-dollar emergency would put many Americans in financial distress, so this seems to be real. By the way, a really good course for learning about the importance of emergency funds and the dangers of debt is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

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I’ve discussed a lack of money for $400 emergencies and retirement savings, but what else can one do with an increased standard deduction and a heavier paycheck? One alternative is to put something into the collection plate of charities, causes and institutions of your own personal interest that also need money. That can be anything, but I’m going someplace in particular with this.

Early on in President Trump’s first year, some Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Presidents bravely visited the White House, upsetting many alumni, students, and African Americans in general. Why did they go? The answer is simple. Their institutions, many of which are close to folding, needed money. Higher Education is a business – one which relies on funding from the Federal Government via grants and loan programs, in addition to gifts from private industry, and donations from generous and loyal alumni.

Three out of the four years I wrote for the Examiner, I interviewed Allstate’s Cheryl Harris about her company’s ‘Quotes for Education’ program in collaboration with Tom Joyner. What consistently came out of those interviews were discussions about anemic rates of giving by HBCU alumni – something that continues today. For my alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), we’ve experienced the same thing. In 2014, as the treasurer for our DC Alumni Chapter, I unofficially got wind that my class of 1999 had an 11% alumni giving rate. That is only 11% of the alumni from my class gave anything to the university that calendar year. It’s a strange phenomenon in that in 2018, HBCUs – those still open, are still very necessary in terms offering higher educations for students who can’t get them anywhere else.

Recently on December 6, 2017, Reginald Stuart of the online publication, Diverse Education, published an article entitled SACSCOC Places Johnson C. Smith University on Probation. The article discussed how the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Colleges (SACSCOC) placed my alma mater on a 12-month probation due to concerns about the long-term financial viability of the institution. The article stated that SACSCOC’s actions do not immediately impact the school’s accreditation, though a failure to correct the standards cited could lead to the university losing its accreditation and subsequently permanently shutting its doors. The article further stated that JCSU, in addition to Bennett College and St. Augustine’s University, are ‘tuition-dependent’, meaning that they enroll a high percentage of students who need federal financial aid to attend college.

Why would my alma mater and others like it have such low alumni giving rates? It’s a difficult discussion to have once again because it gets us back into personal responsibility. One explanation for the anemic HBCU alumni giving is indifference about the future crops of students. An alternative explanation is that perhaps many HBCU alumni simply don’t have enough money to give back to their alma maters. It thus again suggests that perhaps they could benefit from a tax cut like the one just passed. If you’re an HBCU alumni who will benefit from the Tax Reform and Jobs Act, regardless of how you feel about President Trump and the Republicans, a potential use for your new extra money in your paychecks could be a donation to your alma mater or an organization like the United Negro College Fund, which gives money to black students at both HBCUs and ‘Predominantly White Institutions’. But that’s up to you.

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Clearly, there are a lot of people who can use extra money. How it’s used will depend on the individual. Will it be spent frivolously on a new pair of shoes and other depreciating items? Or will it be used for something long lasting like a down payment towards a house, retirement savings or donation to a charity? Consider the best way to use your gift from the Grand Old Party. Whose lives and community will it stabilize and enrich? Will it be your own? Or will it be someone else’s? Whose job is it to take care of you and your people? Is it yours or someone else’s? I touched upon this briefly towards the end of my blog post titled Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in household income, wealth building, and privilege. And in closing, what are your plans for your tax cut? Again it’s a rhetorical question – one I wouldn’t necessarily broadcast. Instead, it’s something to think about.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. In you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:

Who will benefit from Apple’s $350 investment?
Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions in class, household income,  wealth, and privilege
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
Mother’s Day 2017: one of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff
Your gross salary, your net worth and what they mean
The difference between being cheap and frugal

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.