A Son of the Deep South, Flags, Negroes and Racism

As a son of the Deep South, in fact I have never lived more than a few months at a time anywhere except Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Florida, I grew up when the rebel flag was ubiquitous in white communities. I had a giant rebel belt buckle, I loved it, I liked the flag on top of the Gen. Lee. I had a rebel t shirt. Yet I had a strong dislike for Wallace and a great appreciation for Dr. King and the entire civil rights movement. I hated the KKK.

When I was about 14, I decided I was opposed to Nukes, all types. I drew a rebel flag on the cover of my composition notebook for school, but replaced each star with a white cooling tower and a red circle and line (the symbol for “ban this”). It did not occur to me that my attempt to stop one thing I considered bad was promoting something equally as bad. In fact, none of my white friends, and yes, at the time, I would have only had white friends thought to point it out to me. I never had any black friends until I went to college. And that is another thing nobody in my circle found odd. In fact, if someone had a black friend, they would have been suspect.

As my work life, my educational life, and my social life expanded, I finally made a few Black friends, and I began to be exposed to ideas that were not so all white. It was then, probably in my early twenties that I realized that my sense of white privilege was completely missing because it was all I knew. As I began to understand the black experience, academically, as an outsider, and began to realize how we had built two Americas, crisscrossing each other but rarely touching that I got a sense of racism. I began to see that the marches, the voting rights acts, integration, busing, equal housing and a million other progressive steps in the right direction were not the end of racism, but only small steps at the beginning of a long and arduous journey.

Racism

Removing the battle flag, admitting the Civil War was about the “states’ rights” to allow a white person to own a person of color. The “right” of a white man to rape a woman he held in captivity, and then to enslave his own mixed race child! This was the “just cause.” This is what the confederacy stood for. Not the grace and charm of grand mansions and white columns echoing Greek architecture.

I have a friend who wonders how the non-slave holding southerners could have been willing to support the wishes of the two percent who were slave holders. The 98% were in bondage to the 2% even more than they are today. There issues around the civil war were 2% non-slave economy related and 98% slave related.

But more importantly, the battle flag was resurrected much like the swastika in the post WW2 era to be used for the same effect. They are the same. By the way, membership in the Nazi party was never more than 7% of Germany. To me, they are the same flag, and to most of the flag wavers I grew up with they meant the same thing. Racial superiority in America could not use the Nazi flag in the 1940s because everybody hated Hitler, but calling up the spirit of the “lost just cause” of “states’ rights” with something associated with mint julips, grand ball and hoop skirts was a more genteel way to promote “White culture.”

So, I DO understand my fellow whites, especially those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 70s in the Deep South. We were lied to and not told we were living in a white privilege bubble and the Negroes that we either despised or at best held as some “Separate, but not quite equal parallel society” were being held, against their will, in a near slave condition. And the ones that broke free were not proof that the others were (and still are) free to live under the “equal justice for all” so beautifully recited by us all in our very pledge.

I recall a conversation with my late uncle back in the late 1990s. He pretty much represented the mindset of the good decent establishment southern white male. I had reached a certain degree of enlightenment, at least in my mind, and I wanted to share it with this 70+ year old gentleman how it would be better if we treated Black folks as equals. He said, “Anthony, I do treat them that way, but they are just sorry, its in their blood, they can’t help it.”

I was not shocked to hear him say this, because all my life, it was given to me like the fact that the sun comes up every morning that black folks would lie and steal and not show up for work and would slack anytime and anywhere they could. Even a good Negro would be like that if you turned your back, they couldn’t help it.

But, as a grown up, I had met and worked with and for black folks, I got to know some of them and I found out this amazing thing, some were just as I had been told, some were not, and it occurred to me that was true of white people, too. and it began to occur to me that black people were individuals, most of them were good people, some were not. often there were good reasons for folks of any color to behave badly, but no matter, 90-95% of all people of all races, religions or whatever category, are good people, who do the best they know how.

But my uncle, obviously still believed the crap they were preaching when he was young. So I prodded him a bit.

“Uncle (he was a home builder), what about he black folks that work for you?”

“Oh, they are just like the rest.”

“Do you pay them the same as the white folks that work for you?”

“I pay them a good wage.” he replied.

“But the same?” I pressed.

“I pay some of them more than some of the white folk.” I kind of doubted him but he was my uncle and not known for lying.

“For the same job?” I asked.

“Well, the black folks do concrete, and the white folks  do framing and trim.” He explained. By this time, I had done a little of both concrete and framing. Concrete is brutal, framing is just good hard work. I liked framing and hated concrete.

“I pay some of my colors over $15.00 per hour (in the late 1990s in Alabama, this was a very good wage),” he said.

“And they are still sorry?” I asked.

“Oh yes, They wont show up, they don’t take care of tools, they are constantly quitting.”

“Why don’t you hire white people to do concrete?” I asked.

“White men wont do concrete.”

We finished our breakfast and I realized he could not see the obvious. Black men were sorry for not wanting to do a horrible job even for pretty good pay, but white people were not sorry, even though they would not even do the job at all for any amount my uncle thought was a fair wage. It had not and would not ever be obvious to him, that in degrees of sorry-ness, his much lauded white men, were well behind the black folk.

Now, in fairness, if the racist caste system of the south was not what it is, the black men would have all been carpenters and the cost of concrete work would have been doubled or more, because nobody wants to do it. because black folks are pretty much blocked out of the other trades, they are given the option of making a half decent living doing what they hate, and somehow, they should be more motived. This is not a story that describes all black workers, nor all white men in their 60s, and older, but it is very representative of the perspective of blindness caused by our white privilege.

So take the flag down, rename the buildings. Take down the monuments. Place the flags and monuments to the terrorism that is racism in museums, lest we forget. But do not think by doing so we have eradicated racism.  Like Rosa Parks, and Dr. King and a million others before, we are taking another small step. This is a very good start to ending the hostilities that have brewed for 150 years! I am glad to see white southern conservatives joining in the fight to get rid of the hate. It gives me hope, but please do not think this is the end. It is maybe the middle or the end of the beginning.

50-70% of white folks don’t even understand that the flag is evil, that every building in America from W. A. Gayle planetarium in Montgomery, to Tillman hall on the Clemson campus (Oh, and there are plenty of northern institutions who need to clean house, too, Harvard comes to mind.) to every bridge and high school and park named for confederate generals and politicians and for those whose main claim to fame was their “defense of the white race” should be renamed. These are all small steps in the process of allowing all Americans to enjoy what we have proclaimed from the beginning is the innate right for all of us. The fight is long, the way is hard.

It is nice to stop for a moment of reflection and joy now and then, when a great tragedy moves the needle a little in the right direction, like Charleston seems to have done this past week. It would be great if little black girls didn’t have to die in a church basement in Birmingham and a bunch of sweet old ladies and good people didn’t have to be mowed down in a prayer meeting for it happen. It seems white America only seems to understand a glimpse of their collective guilt when they see innocent blood spilt on a church floor.

MLM? How Would You Sell Coffee? Like a “Box of Rocks”?

I wrote this a while back on Linkedin, but i never posted it here. Recent conversations regarding “Home Based Businesses” and “Network Marketing” reminded and i thought i would share it.

box of rocks

Just read one of the folks I follow here on Linkedin:

David DuHamel / Home-Based Business Advocate and his most recent post:

Is MLM a Bad Word?

I have to say, I was a little disappointed. David referred to Mary Kay, Avon and Tupperware and linked “Home Based Business with Multi-Level Marketing. First of all, every person who starts selling shoes or beads or tee shirts or web services out of their living room is a Home Based Business, but not all of them are Multi Level.

The three companies above are MLM, in a sense, and always have been, but they are primarily sales driven, whereas most MLMs I have run into over the decades, play down sales and play up recruitments, and downlines and overrides.

(for the record, here is a list of some of the bigger MLMs)

Ever since I can remember, I have been doing sales, besides selling the house as a pre schooler, I loved selling candy, donuts or whatever, I sold soda, cars, bathrooms, food, and a few years ago, I tried, with my brother, to start a coffee company.

We had little money, and no coffee industry business experience, but we both love good coffee and have had more than a half century in sales and production management between the two of us. Our father has tried his hand at nearly every MLM scheme he ever ran into, with the exception of Herbalife and MonaVie. so while we were both a little skeptical, we decided maybe we should consider it.

We both had connections who had varying levels of success at MLM, so we consulted with an old and dear and trusted friend who had made and lost a couple of fortunes and was, at the time, sleeping on a friends couch and looking for the next big thing.

Pretty soon I came upon what I like to refer to as the “box of rocks” effect.

Most MLMs run on the idea that they sell a great product and it is really over priced, but it is okay, because you only have to buy $50-$100 per month and if you have a down line 6 deep and 6 wide and they all just buy the $100 and you are making and average of 3% override (more and less depending on the level), you will more than cover your $100, and if our of that 6 x 6, you hit at least one person who is a supper star, you will make $1000s per month!

So, in truth, if the perfume doesnt smell so good, the space age irradiated food is only so so, the detergent is not really better than the store brand, and the berry juice is almost undrinkable, who cares?

Here is the problem, somebody somewhere has to drink the stuff. If you really are pushing the highest quality product, you cant afford MLM. Which is why 97% of the money goes to the top 3% of MLM organizations. I know, in america, that is pretty much the way the money shakes out in other businesses. The difference is, The Waltons, love them or hate them, are on the hook for millions in inventory, millions in property and construction, if they succeed, so be it, if they fail, so what? but in MLM, the maker of the product and the top tier of the sales organization do the least, risk almost nothing, and you, the cog in the wheel grind away, burning thru your cash, burning thru your friends, and ALL your spare time, and if all you do is buy $100 worth of rocks and talk 36 others into buying the rocks, you made $8 bucks, they made less than nothing, the guys at the top made millions and the guys who own the rock making company sold their product for more than it was worth, because nobody was actually going to use the rocks.

Actual business model:

R&D + Big idea + lots of elbow grease +good luck + some capital (yours and probably your friends, and maybe some VC)= start up.

then, you have a product. each one costs you $20 to make, plus you use some marketing system that costs you say, another $5, and you sell to a distribution network, or build your own, but either way, your $25 widget leaves the factory for $32.00 if you are lucky, the distributor sell it to a retailer for $55.00 who then sells it to the public at about $79.00.

In MLM if you sell it to the network for $32, the network “sells” it to the “associates”, the guy running the home based business has to inventory, recruit and sell for $113.00 so he can get $13 off his box of rocks, and “only” pays $100.00, but he gets $13 on his first line, too!, and $9.00 on his 2nd and so on so that his 36 average $3, and he makes $8.00 PER MONTH for selling about $4000.00 worth of product. If you can sell $4000.00 worth of mediocre product, you need to be in traditional sales, and you would have made between $200 and $500 commission. If you can lead a team of 36 sales professionals, you should be getting close to a 6 figure salary. instead, you are getting frustrated and the top guys, are going to Europe and eating at Ruth’s Chris steak house. And your friends are afraid to answer your calls.

Find you passion, start a home based business, sell your paintings on line and at art shows and festivals. promote the hell out of what you believe in, but for goodness sake, dont get into the “Box of Rocks” business!

A Few Billion for a Good Cause

Currently, there are various programs to assist the potential buyer of lower and mid ranged priced Electric Vehicles (EV), state and federal programs offer, when funded and when reauthorized, up to 10,000 for cars under $45,000, if they carry a large enough battery pack, and up to $2000 for a home charger and more to help get businesses install public chargers.

The system of rebates and vouchers are a bit confusing and change at different times as funding runs out.

The cheapest EV is the Mitsubishi, a small 4 door with a range of 62 miles, which is more than we use on 99% of all our trips in America. There is also now Quick Charge technology that allows you to recharge another 25-30 miles in about 15 minutes, which is comparable to a nice fillup/bathroom break, if you are on the road. This car costs about $23,000, so you can get it in the $15,000 range with the right assortment of rebates.

We are the largest EV market in the world, and in spite of all the talk about reaching this number or that, we are yet to break a million private EVs on the road, out of a fleet of

The Current state of affairs:

In order to achieve these goals, the DoE is providing up to US$120 million over the next five years to fund the new Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), a research center led by the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. JCESR is a consortium of five DOE national labs, five universities, and four private-sector enterprises, and it is being likened to theManhattan Project of battery technology.[57][58]

An initial progress report for the initiative was released in January 2014. Four key successes of the first year of the initiative were reported:[59]

  • DOE research and development reduced the cost of electric drive vehicle batteries to US$325/ kWhr, 50% lower than 2010 costs.
  • In the first year of the Workplace Charging Challenge, more than 50 U.S. employers joined the Challenge and pledged to provide charging access at more than 150 sites.
  • DOE investments in EV Everywhere technology topped US$225 million in 2013, addressing key barriers to achieving the Grand Challenge.
  • Consumer acceptance of electric vehicles grew: 97,000 plug-in electric vehicles were sold in 2013, nearly doubling 2012 sales.

97,000 out of 15.4 million! Less than 7 out of every thousand cars sold. We need 1 out of ten and here is how we do it.

For the price of the F35 program, per year, we invest, per year, in a campaign to trade in poor peoples’ clunkers. The average age of a car on the road in America is now around 11 years old! Think about it. If we offered the Domestic auto industry a challenge, to build a car that sold for no more than $20,000, carried at least 4 people a range of at least 100 miles on a charge and had in excess of the equivalent of a 75HP motor, the US Govt would guarantee at least 1 million of them a year would be sold. First of all, all US Govt auto procurements of vehicles that are met by such vehicles would be filled with a contract for the new Domestic EV (I say new, but in truth the Chevy spark is already there, except it sells for about $25,000. I am thinking that a guaranteed sales figure of 2,000,000 per year would make it available to the govt and to the public for $19,999.00). The GOA does not need 1,000,000 cars, nor would it need to buy them. Of course, the general fleet would be stocked with them as needed. On a given year, the Govt buys about 40,000 cars per year, and could, if needed replace 100,000 per year if needed.

But the key would be to offer a blanket credit for $5000.00 for each car for five years, to be phased out after that over another 5 years. So now the public can buy the car for 15 grand. Nope, if your family income is under the median of $51,000, you also get a credit for $2000.00 for each year over five that your car is. So. Let say your family income is $50,000, your car is a 2004 model, your car is 11 years old. You trader it in and it goes to the crusher, you get $5000, just like everybody else, but you also get a $12,000 credit for your car. You get a new car for $3000.00. If you sell or trade the car within the first 5 years, you will owe the IRS for the $12,000. If you keep it at least 5 years, or trade it on an approved newer more energy efficient model EV. You do not owe anyone anything. Oh, we are going to give you a govt guaranteed loan for the last $3000.

Note: the maximum you can get in total credits for your purchase would be $20,000. And, the govt will also give you up to $1000 to put in a home charging station. Also, the govt will subsidize 1005, up to $10,000 every public charging station that is not less the 40 miles from an existing charging station.

What about the other two groups of people? Those who make over $51,000 get a $5000 credit, and $1,000 credit for each year over 5, with a limit of a FREE CAR!

And the people who do not have a trade and make less than $51,000 family income? They get a $10,000 credit. For about 12-15 billion dollars per year for 5 years and about half that for the next five, we would add around 20 million EVs to the American road and subtract 10-15 million Internal Combustion Engines (ICE), as well as establish a sustainable charging network and make the EV market a self-sustaining market that would likely replace the ICE in a generation!

Done! Not to mention creating a huge profitable industry or two along the way.

If $15 billion per year sounds like a lot of mooney, remember the total federal budget is $3.5 TRILLION or 250 times that amount…. The military budget is about $526 Billion or around 30 times the budget of this program. That number does not include the cost of wars, that is just the cost of our standing army.

The funny thing is, the $100 billion total expenditure may not save the planet, but it might. It will likely save more than it costs in reduced military actions to acquire and defend energy sources, as well as maybe that much again in climate change mitigation. Hey, it’s my idea, but I think it’s a dern fine one.