Lukewarm; What Would Jesus Do?

I watched a couple of Christian movies yesterday.  The first was Lukewarm, which was a 2012 Christian movie.  The second was What Would Jesus Do?, a 2010 movie that was based on Charles Sheldon’s 1896 classic, In His Steps.  John Schneider from the Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville was in both movies.  Here are some of my thoughts:

1.  There was a lot going on in the first movie that I saw, Lukewarm.  Luke Rogers, a Christian (ha ha, LUKEwarm!), is working at a bar with his friend and is calling himself spiritual rather than an old-fashioned Christian on his drunken joy-rides with his friend and some attractive ladies.  Luke’s friend drinks and drives and accidentally runs over a homeless man one night.  One of Luke’s neighbors, an older gentleman named Thomas, is handing out Christian tracts and is annoying a non-Christian neighbor, who wants Thomas to leave.  Luke’s girlfriend, Jessie, is being pursued by a New York lawyer, who thinks that he can love and support her better than Luke can, but she still loves Luke, as much as Luke disappoints her.  Meanwhile, Luke is dealing with resentment because his father (played by John Schneider) walked out on him and his mother when Luke was a kid and failed to pay consistent child support.  Luke has fond memories of his father, yet cannot bring himself to forgive him.

The movie was rather enjoyable, I guess, but the character I liked most was Thomas.  Thomas had lunch with a homeless man and told him never to underestimate the power of prayer.  When the homeless man said that he never accepted Christ because he figured that his card had already been punched for hell, with all of the sins he had committed, Thomas encouraged him that God could forgive him.  What was remarkable was not that scene, as much as the fact that Thomas continued to maintain a relationship with the homeless man—-to have lunch with him regularly.  Thomas didn’t just witness to the man, figure that his job was done, and walk away, but he sought to maintain a relationship with him and to offer him prayers, friendship, and support.

Thomas also prayed with Luke, asking God to take away Luke’s anger and to give Luke the strength to forgive his father.  Thomas knew about the destructiveness of anger, for he saw it in his father, who (as an African-American) deeply resented the injustices he suffered in the Jim Crow South.  Thomas also told his persecutor, George, that George must be filled with anger, and he told George that he would be praying for him.  The reason that this stood out to me is that I’ve felt in the past as if Christians expect me to carry the burden of my anger alone—-it’s my problem and responsibility to forgive.  But I could have used prayers and moral support.  Evangelical men often support one another when the issue is sexual lust, but I have not seen that type of support among evangelicals when it comes to anger or unforgiveness.  Perhaps they are reluctant to admit such things because they believe that they convey weakness: Sure, they’ll talk about their struggles with lust when a nice-looking lady hits on them, but they want to come across as the strong, Stoic types, the sorts of people who do not get angry.  Maybe I am off base here, but I am just communicating my speculations.

2.  In What Would Jesus Do?, John Schneider plays a drifter who drifts into an economically depressed town.  He is looking for work, but he is turned away, even by people who go to church.  One lady, a real estate agent, tells her secretary not to give leftover sandwiches from a meeting to him because he would then keep coming back, but she should throw the sandwiches in the trash instead.  Another lady does not want to hire him at her newspaper place because he has no experience, plus she does not know him.

Meanwhile, people are struggling.  A shady politician is promising jobs through the replacement of a church with a casino.  The real estate agent and newspaper editor are supporting him.  The pastor of the church is mourning the loss of his family and finds himself jaded and unable to pastor his congregation.  A young man writes Christian songs and is offered a lucrative contract if he will sing the company’s songs, and he and his mother need the money because otherwise they will be thrown out of their home.  People are pressured to compromise, morally and spiritually.

The drifter challenges the people about their failure to follow Jesus, right before he dies.  After that, the movie gets a bit cheesy: the cold real estate agent is now a committed Christian and becomes a candidate to challenge the shady politician.  The rest of the movie still had some redeeming moments, however, as when the real estate agent’s even colder mother finds within herself the compassion to reach out to a homeless runaway.

Overall, the movie was good because it challenged me to think about how people can go to church every Saturday or Sunday yet fail to live according to Christian ethics the rest of the week.  Why are so many of us like this?  Are we afraid to do what’s right because of possible negative consequences?  And can we reach out to people or do what is right, while being realistic?  Should we throw realism out of the window for the sake of principle, or is there a way to be principled and realistic at the same time?  I am sure that people on the front lines of helping others have wrestled with these questions.

Published in: on April 15, 2014 at 1:57 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Gospel, Courageous, and Facing the Giants

I’ve been watching Christian movies lately.  I’m waiting for God’s Not Dead to come out on Netflix, so, until then, I will satisfy my hunger for Christian movies by watching other Christian movies.  Here are three that I recently saw:

1.  The Gospel.

This movie came out in 2005.  I was intrigued when I first saw the trailer.  One reason was that I saw that the actress who played Rudy Huxtable in The Cosby Show was in it, and I often wonder what happened to actors and actresses who played in the sitcoms of the past.  Another reason was that the movie seemed to be about people losing their spiritual way in the church, amidst the trappings of religion, and finding their way to an authentic spirituality.

The music in the movie was fantastic, let me tell you!  I ordinarily am not a fan of Gospel music, preferring Contemporary Christian Music instead.  But the music in The Gospel was very powerful!

The plot was all right, I guess.  A guy leaves the church, becomes a big-time music star, and returns to the church of his youth, where the new pastor, his childhood rival, is building a personality cult around himself, all in the name of God and his vision for the church.  That was interesting to watch, but, overall, the plot did not grab me that much.

2.  Courageous.

This movie came out in 2011.  It is about four police officers, and a Hispanic friend named Javier, who resolve to be Christian men of integrity.  Javier was my favorite character.  He loses his job, cries out to God, and then someone he doesn’t even know calls his name and gives him tools for a project to work on.  It turned out that this guy was expecting another Javier.  Good thing the Javier who needed work showed up!

I liked this movie because it was about leadership, and, by that, I don’t mean telling others what to do, but rather working on yourself (with the help of God and others) and leading by example.  In this movie, the characters experience challenges even to the end.  One of them passes the test of his character, while another does not.  The plot was meandering at times, but I still enjoyed spending time with the characters.

3.  Facing the Giants.

This movie came out in 2006.  It was made by the same gentlemen who made Courageous, the Kendrick brothers.  Alex Kendrick, who played in Courageous, also played in this movie.  It is about a high school football coach who initially has problems: his car does not consistently work, his team is consistently losing, people want to replace him with a new coach, and he cannot give his wife a child.  The coach then dedicates himself to God and encourages his team to live for God’s glory, and things go pretty smoothly then.

The first half of the movie was fantastic.  I liked seeing how the coach inspired his team to become winners when they saw themselves as losers.  While I was surprised that nobody complained that a coach in a public school was teaching his players Christianity (I doubt that’s even legal), I thought that he imparted a lot of wisdom, about cleaning up one’s own side of the street, for instance.  In one scene, the coach tells a player that he cannot make him believe in Jesus, for this is the player’s own decision, but that he hopes that the player will come to see how much Jesus loves him.  Another character, a puny soccer player who joined the football team and struggles to kick the football over the goal-post (I think that’s the right term), asks his Christian father why God made him so weak, and his father responds that it’s so God can show God’s strength through him.

The second half of the movie, however, was not so good.  While the main characters did experience challenges, on some level, things were going very smoothly for them overall once they got on track.  I felt like I was eating too much ice cream.  The reason that I like the other Kendrick brothers’ movies that I saw (Courageous and Fireproof) is that, on them, events do not necessarily go smoothly after the protagonists make a Christian commitment, but the protagonists know how to handle the events better, for they have been changed and now walk in wisdom.  If only I saw more of that in Facing the Giants!

 

 

Published in: on April 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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Is Bill Cosby Right? 8

On page 250 of Is Bill Cosby Right? (Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?), Michael Eric Dyson quotes something that Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. said about the program Amos ‘n’ Andy.  Gates stated in a November 12, 1989 New York Times piece:

“One of my favorite pastimes is screening episodes of ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy’ for black friends who think that the series was both socially offensive and politically detrimental.  After a few minutes, even hardliners have difficulty restraining their laughter.  ‘It’s still racist,’ is one typical comment, ‘but it was funny.’  The performance of those great black actors—-Tim Moore, Spencer Williams and Ernestine Wade—-transformed racist stereotypes into authentic black humor.  The dilemma of ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy,’ however, was that these were the only images of blacks that Americans could see on TV.  The political consequences for the early civil rights movement were thought to be threatening.  The N.A.A.C.P. helped to have the series killed.”

Dyson’s quotation of Gates is in an endnote that goes with a paragraph on page 31.  There, Dyson talks about stereotypes of African-Americans in entertainment media: as “dumb, lazy, criminal, sex-crazed, and so on”, or as “coons, maids, cooks, butlers and the like” in early depictions.  Dyson states that “Cosby has attempted to resist stereotypes from the start of his career.”

There have been possible exceptions, though.  For example, Dyson notes that, although the show I Spy sought to ignore race and to depict the Bill Cosby-character as the Robert Culp’s character’s social equal, there was a time when the Cosby-character was posing as the Culp-character’s valet and tennis-trainer when they were undercover.  Cosby also played a doctor with Richard Pryor in California Suite, and the two of them were bumbling, leading critics to allege that they were depicting African-Americans as dumb.  Cosby lashed back in an ad in Variety: “Are we to be denied a right to romp through hotels, bite noses, and, in general, beat up one another in the way Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, Martin & Lewis, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin did—-and more recently as those actors did in the movie Animal House?  I heard no cries of racism in those reviews.  If my work is not funny—-it’s not funny.  But this industry does not need projected racism from critics.”

In my opinion, comedy entails depicting people as bumbling or as short-sighted.  This was the case with I Love Lucy, and all sorts of shows.  The problem, as Gates noted, occurred when African-Americans throughout the entertainment media were primarily portrayed as bumbling or as short-sighted.  That could perpetuate stereotypes.

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Is Bill Cosby Right? 1

I started Michael Eric Dyson’s 2005 book, Is Bill Cosby Right? (Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?).  The book is a critique of Bill Cosby’s controversial 2004 speech before the NAACP.  Dyson contends that Cosby in that speech was unfairly targeting the African-American underclass, which needs compassion and assistance, not blame and belittlement.

I’ll have plenty of opportunities over the next few days to talk about Dyson’s criticisms of Cosby’s arguments, so I won’t focus on that here.  What I want to discuss in this post is what fascinated me in my latest reading of Dyson’s book, namely, Dyson’s point that Bill Cosby has made a conscious decision over the years not to talk about race.

Of course, Dyson in making that point is asking why Cosby suddenly decided to talk about race in his 2004 speech before the NAACP.  That’s a good question, but it’s not of primary interest to me right now.  What interested me was that Cosby’s ideas about racial equality actually influenced his long decision not to talk about race.  Cosby did not want to portray himself as a black man, per se, but rather as a human being who happened to be black.  He was promoting color-blindness: not looking at a person’s race.  On I Spy, he was just a guy who was working with the Robert Culp character.  In his comedic routines, Cosby talked about life rather than race.  Cosby did not want for black people on television to be problems (i.e., victims of the problem of racism), but to be people, with aspirations, hopes, and dreams, just like white people.  Cosby thought that could promote social equality between whites and African-Americans.

My impression is that Dyson, on some level, understands and is sympathetic towards where Cosby was coming from.  Dyson believes Cosby was ultimately wrong not to focus on race, but Dyson can see the logic in Cosby’s approach.  Dyson’s problem with Cosby’s approach is that it essentially pretended as if racism did not exist, as well as ignored African-American struggles and culture.  In effect, it presented a distorted picture of what race relations were like.

Let’s take The Cosby Show.  On the one hand, the show was good because it depicted an African-American doctor and lawyer.  One way to undermine the stereotype that African-Americans can’t be doctors and lawyers is by showing competent African-American doctors and lawyers on TV.  Hopefully, that would inspire African-Americans to want to become doctors and lawyers, and it would open white society up to accepting them as such.

But, on the other hand, whites may get the impression in watching The Cosby Show that most African-American families are upper middle-class, or that many African-Americans have a decent shot at becoming upper middle-class in this society.  They may conclude that racism is not really a problem holding African-Americans back, and that conditions are better for African-Americans than they actually are.

As I said some posts ago, Cosby’s show, A Different World, actually did address the topic of racism.  One could perhaps argue that it looked more at individual white people not liking blacks rather than systemic racism (though, of course, it is the former that leads to the latter), but there was an episode of A Different World that was pro-affirmative action, which indicates to me a support for systemic change.  I thought that criticisms of Cosby for not focusing on race were not entirely true.  Now, after reading parts of Dyson’s book, I see that Cosby himself acknowledged that he did not want to focus on race.  That makes me wonder how one can account for A Different World.  Was it an anomalous incident of Cosby responding to his critics’ concerns?  Was there a part of Cosby that wanted to look at race, but usually did not due to a fear of alienating white audiences?

Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Millard Fillmore and Ringing Bells

I was watching the CBS morning show before leaving for church yesterday.  You know, the show that Charles Kuralt used to host.  Does that name (Charles Kuralt) ring any bells?  Anyway, there was a segment about President Millard Fillmore, since today is President’s Day.  Different people shared their assessments of Fillmore.  One lady was defending him against detractors who criticize his signing of the Fugitive Slave Law, arguing that President Fillmore signed the Compromise of 1850, of which the Fugitive Slave Law was a small part.  Another guy was lambasting Fillmore, calling him anti-Catholic, anti-black, and the list went on.  There seemed to be a common admiration for one thing that Fillmore accomplished, however, and this admiration appeared to be shared even by his harshest critic: Fillmore lowered the price of the postage stamp!

On a side note, wasn’t the high school on Head of the Class named after Millard Fillmore?  Does that show ring any bells?

Ralph Waite

Ralph Waite, who played the dad on The Waltons, has passed on.  I was also interested to learn that he had roles on Days of Our Lives (as a priest) and Bones (as Booth’s grandfather).  And, of course, he was the Mark Harmon-character’s father on NCIS

I have long been interested in him from a political and a religious standpoint. 

Politically, my understanding is that he was very left-wing.  I was one time watching a documentary, and it was saying that Ralph Waite stood with Ed Asner in publicly opposing President Ronald Reagan’s policies on El Salvador.  The documentary was presenting this as a very controversial stand on Ed Asner’s part, one that did not help Ed Asner very much.  But Ralph Waite was willing to make that stand alongside him!  Many actors and actresses are liberal, but how many of them are serious enough about their liberal beliefs to make a bold stand for them when doing so could place them under attack?  Ralph Waite was serious about his beliefs.

Waite also ran for Congress three times as a Democrat, and, in 1998, he was defeated by Mary Bono, the wife of Sonny Bono. 

I was one time talking with a Republican lady, and she was disappointed to learn that Ralph Waite was left-wing, since she loved his character on The Waltons.  My response to her was that his character on The Waltons was rather left-wing, too, in that he supported Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, whereas it was Grandma Walton who was the right-wing Republican.  Granted, John Walton, Sr. was probably not as left-wing as Ralph Waite was, but he still tended to lean in the Democratic direction.

Religiously, Ralph Waite attended Yale Divinity School and was a minister and religious editor prior to his acting career.  Later in his life, he came back to prioritizing faith, and he taught Sunday school at a progressive Christian church.  See here to hear him talk about his faith journey.  On The Waltons, his character was not particularly religious.  He believed in God, on some level, but he did not regularly go to church, to the annoyance of his devout wife, Olivia.  One reason that I loved The Waltons was on account of its exploration of religious issues.  People like to call it a Christian show that had Christian values, but I always found its exploration of religion to be more open-minded and honest than that. 

R.I.P., Ralph Waite.

Two Nations 1

I started Andrew Hacker’s Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal.  I have the 1995 version, which includes reflections about the O.J. Simpson verdict.  An African-American friend a long time ago recommended this book to me to show me that racism is a problem in the United States.

In this post, I would like to use as my starting-point something that Hacker says on pages 45-46:

“At this point, it can be said that few teachers attempt to explain how the human beings consigned to slavery shaped the structure and sensibilities of the new nation.  Apart from brief allusions to a Sojourner Truth or a Benjamin Banneker, your people appear as passive victims and faceless individuals.”

I don’t consider myself to be a racist.  I know plenty of African-Americans who are not just equal to me, but are superior to me, especially in intellect.  But I have to admit that the way that the race issue was presented to me over the years gave me some racist sentiments, at least somewhere in my mind.  And I am not just talking about the narratives that I heard from white conservatives; I blame liberal narratives for this, too.

When I was in school learning American history as a child and a teenager, I heard about slavery, racial discrimination, and segregation.  My teachers taught me that those things are wrong.  The thing is, though, the image that I was continually getting of black people was that they were victims.  “Oh, those poor black people, always being treated so badly,” I thought.  When I watched Roots, I saw these advanced white Europeans coming to primitive Africa and capturing Africans to sell them as slaves.  Now, granted, the African culture was not depicted badly, per se: the Africans on this miniseries valued community, tradition, wisdom, and heroism.  But they were not as technologically advanced as the white Europeans who captured them.  If one is a victim, does that make one inferior?  I don’t think that I ever verbalized that idea, even in my mind, but it was somewhere in there.

I think that there are Afro-centric scholars who try to compensate for this by arguing that there was a time when black Africans were advanced, when they were warriors.  I vaguely recall this idea being expressed in the movie, Malcolm X: an African-American named Baines tells Malcolm that blacks were a race of kings, while white Europeans were still swinging off trees.  To be honest, I do not know enough to evaluate this claim.  I am aware of scholars who question the arguments in Black Athena, and I one time heard a professor in Egyptology question the notion that Egyptians were black, as she referred to Egyptian pictures of blacks that she found to be rather racist.  But that is the extent of my knowledge.  The friend who recommended to me Hacker’s book referred to statues of blacks that indicated to him that blacks sailed the world way back when, but I do not know the specifics of that.  (UPDATE: On page 178, Hacker refers to a sample lesson, and he sums up its message as: “The fact that some Pre-Columbian statutes have what could be seen as Negroid features strengthens the supposition that it was Africans who first sailed across the Atlantic to America.”)

Were the Israelites inferior to the Egyptians when the Egyptians enslaved them?  Well, the Egyptians were certainly more advanced at that time, since they had been around longer as a nation; they had time to develop, when the Israelites were just getting started and were focusing on herding their flocks.  (I’m just assuming the historicity of the Exodus here, but I realize that there are plenty of reasons to question that.)  I suppose that is one key: that it’s not a matter of one nation or race being superior to another, but some have managed to develop earlier than others.  When the developed ones go into not-so-developed countries (or even developed ones) and manage to stomp out whatever chance these countries have to improve themselves or to support themselves, then that is a problem.  It’s not the case that the Babylonians were racially superior to the Israelites when they took them over, but it’s a fact of life that some countries manage to advance above other countries: maybe it’s because they have been around longer and have become firmly established, and they take advantage of their head start so they can stay in the lead.

Perhaps I should be looking at the question of why countries rise and fall—-how some get to the point where they are able to conquer another country. 

Anyway, please do not take offense at my remarks.  They come from my ignorance, not from any hostility on my part.  One factor that I believe is holding back progress on race relations is political correctness: that people cannot express what they think for fear of being attacked.  Hacker seems to discuss this phenomenon in this book.

Losing the Race 7: A Different World

On page 259 of Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, John McWhorter comments on the sitcom A Different World, which was created by Bill Cosby:

“One of the sweetest television pleasures I have ever experienced was the late, great series A Different World.  I sat mesmerized through every single episode of this show chronicling the adventures of black students of all walks of life at the fictional all-black college Hillman, because there was depicted the black America of my dreams.  Week after week, this marvelous little show kept alive my faith that there can and will be a black America alive with the music of black dialect, a compassionate sense of responsibility for the less fortunate, a spontaneous connection to music and dance, regular commemoration of the struggles and victories of the past, an electric sense of humor, and even a guest appearance by Jesse Jackson, yet combined with a dedication to personal advancement, a disinclination to fixate upon victimhood, an openness to cultural fusion, and a sense of school as an inextricable part of American life.  There is not a logical reason why this could not be black America.”

I watched A Different World back when I was a kid.  It was on right after The Cosby Show.  I really liked The Cosby Show, but I did not particularly care for A Different World.  Part of this was my age.  I was a kid for much of the time that The Cosby Show was on, so I enjoyed watching Bill Cosby’s over-the-top humor.  I could also identify with the kids, since they were around my age (but I liked Sonya, even though she was a college student).  I could not really identify with the characters on A Different World, since that show was about college life, and I was not in college at the time.  Moreover, I did not care for most of the characters.  Ron was a clown.  Dwayne Wayne was a clown, too, until he became a calculus wiz who took himself way too seriously.  Denise was probably my least favorite character on The Cosby Show on account of her “Who cares?” attitude.  Freddie struck me as a self-righteous liberal intellectual type.  The cook scared me.  Probably the only character I liked was Whitley Gilbert, and that was because I thought she was hot.

But I can’t deny that I learned from A Different WorldThe Cosby Show has been criticized because it avoided the topic of racism, but A Different World got into all sorts of controversial issues: racism, affirmative action, etc.

I think that I appreciate A Different World more in my older years than I did back when I was a kid.  One episode that comes to my mind is one in which someone is challenging Dwayne Wayne’s decision to attend Hillman College, as if that is holding him back and Dwayne could do better for himself at a more prestigious college.  Dwayne asks Whitley why she came to Hillman, and she responds that she could have gone to a prestigious college (I forget which one it was—-perhaps it was U. Penn), but someone told her that Hillman would be where she’d be really loved.  “Nobody will love you as they do at Hillman.”  I didn’t think about those kinds of issues when I was a kid; nowadays, as an adult, the topic of an accepting environment frequently crosses my mind.

Published in: on February 8, 2014 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Losing the Race 5

For my blog post today about John McWhorter’s 2000 book, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, I will use as my starting point a story that McWhorter tells on page 172.  The context is the controversy surrounding Proposition 209 in California, a measure that banned race-based admissions at public universities.  An anti-Proposition 209 organization at Berkeley was By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN.

“Indeed, it is difficult to avoid sensing at BAMN meetings, as well as in their literature and in conversations with their members, a yen for indignation rather than constructive engagement with the actual facts and positions surrounding university admissions and race.  Nothing indicated this more strongly than the organization’s treatment of a group committed to class-based, rather than race-based, admissions who tried to make a statement at one meeting.  The head repeatedly refused to allow the representative to speak, and when he finally managed to say his piece, predictably with a certain degree of exasperation at having been silenced for so long, she dismissed his position as ‘an attitude.’  This group’s ideas were considered beyond the pale not on any logical basis, but because class, an inchoate concept in America, is less easily harnessed into personal, identity-based grievance, and is thus only fitfully commensurate with Victimology.”

Here are some thoughts:

1.  This passage coincides with other themes that McWhorter discusses in this book.  McWhorter criticizes a trend that he sees among African-American spokespeople that he believes is knee-jerk rather than intellectually rigorous.  In addition, as I talked about a couple of posts ago, McWhorter argues that most African-Americans are not poor.  This influences his critique of affirmative action, for McWhorter points to statistics indicating that most African-American students admitted to Berkeley on the basis of race, under lower academic standards, are not from poor families.  Moreover, remember that scene in the West Wing in which President Bartlet’s conservative Supreme Court nominee, Christopher Mulready, is debating affirmative action with Charlie?  Charlie is defending affirmative action by saying that African-Americans have been historically discriminated against, and Mulready responds that Charlie’s argumentation is stuck in the past, that Charlie should instead focus on the fact that minorities admitted to universities under affirmative action actually perform competently in academics once they get into college.  Charlie wants a paper and pen so he can write that down!  In any case, McWhorter would probably disagree with Mulready on this, for McWhorter argues that a number of African-American students who got into Berkeley due to affirmative action did not do particularly well in academics once they are in college.

2.  I have heard African-Americans who have said that Martin Luther King, Jr. later in his life fought classism, and they appear to praise him for that.  Why would BAMN not be open to someone saying that admissions should be based on class rather than race?  I can somewhat see McWhorter’s point (if I understand it correctly) that it may be harder to organize a movement against classism.  Moreover, there was probably a concern within BAMN that America could go back to the days when African-Americans were not adequately represented within certain fields, such as medicine and law, and that race-based admissions were necessary to keep this from happening.

I’m in favor of everyone having a shot at a good life, regardless of class or race.  I question whether having colleges admit people under lower standards is the way to go, however.  It’s not that I believe that only the cream of the crop or the best academic performers should have a shot at life, but rather that I think that people should develop competency.  The goal should be to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to do this before they apply to college.  Unfortunately, we’re arguably a long way off from having a level playing field, when it comes to education in America.

Published in: on February 6, 2014 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Richard Bull

I would like to comment on two recent deaths:

1.  The first, of course, is the shocking death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I loved his acting.  Some of his characters I liked better than others.  I thought that his characters were rather snobbish in Patch Adams and The Talented Mr. Ripley.  But I loved his role in Magnolia as the kindly nurse who went the extra mile to track down the estranged son of the dying rich man for whom he worked.  But I also liked Philip Seymour Hoffman in some of his swarmy roles: as the campaign manager in The Ides of March, his role in Charlie Wilson’s War, and others.  When we are picking out movies to watch, and we learn that Philip Seymour Hoffman is in one of them, that tells us that there is a more-than-average chance that it will be a good movie.

Over the past few days, I have had an opportunity to read more about Philip Seymour Hoffman: his faith, his longtime sobriety, his love for his children, and the way that he treated actors the same, whether they were well-known or not.

R.I.P., Philip Seymour Hoffman.

2.  Richard Bull passed on at the age of 89.  He played Nels Oleson on Little House on the Prairie, which has long been and continues to be one of my favorite shows.  (Actually, I’ll just say it: It is my favorite show.)  Nels owned the local merchantile.  Nels was a kindly and a fair person, even though he could get quite frustrated with his family!

R.I.P., Richard Bull.

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