Why I refuse to use the term “African-American”

The English language fluctuates. A lot. No news there.

I’m a curmudgeon. I’ll change, but only after I’ve seen the wisdom of the change; I’ll choose the action, or verbiage, that makes sense to me. I use “retarded” not to degrade an individual, but to make dispassionate observation that his/her development is slower than the norm. I’ll use “album” for music, even though most “albums” are now on CD.

“African-American” is a term I cannot ever see using.

I live in the Metro DC area. In the first apartment building I lived in when I moved here, there were individuals from at least five different continents, either at birth or one generation removed. About half were US citizens; some were not *yet* citizens, and some were simply here working legally.

This is a very, very diverse area. I love that about it. But there is NO way to know if the individual next to me is American or not. S/he may be of African descent, but until I learn something about that person as an individual, I cannot tell if s/he’s “of African descent” or African or American or hoping-to-be-an-American, or what.

Not only that, but two in my circle are Americans of African descent, but are white. One was born in Africa to Africans, another was born in America to Africans legally present in the US. They are truly African-American, but each has been chastised for referring to himself as such. Some in similar circumstances (and I forget the specifics of the cases) have been denied scholarships or programs designed for African-Americans — because their skin is not black.

So, if I must refer to one’s race, I’ll use “black”.

In fact, I spoke a couple of years ago to an older black man who also uses that term. He told me his rationale — “they keep changing my group. First it was Negro, then black, then African-American, and ‘person of color'”. I’m tired of living by others’ labels. I stopped at “black”.

Very wise, my friend.

Important Legislation for a Short Session

Virginia has “short” and “long” sessions of its legislative session.  This is a “short” year, when legislators tell you they haven’t much time, and must deal with the most important issues.  Here is just a sampling of some they apparently put in that category.


HB 1420
Newborn screening; Krabbe disease. Requires the screening tests conducted on every infant born in the Commonwealth to include a screening test for Krabbe disease and other lysosomal storage disorders.

This is not the first time the Virginia legislature has dictated what tests must be run on newborns.  whether or not a person with an actual medical degree believes it necessary.

HB 1515

Information for maternity patients; safe sleep environments for infants.  Information for maternity patients; safe sleep environments for infants. Adds information about safe sleep environments for infants that is consistent with current information available from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the list of information that licensed nurse midwives, licensed midwives, and hospitals must provide to maternity care patients

Not only does the legislature want to practice medicine; it also wants to dictate what information your pediatrician or other health professional must provide you, removing all discretion based on medical knowledge and individual cases


Revocation of concealed handgun permit; delinquency in child support payments. Provides for the revocation of an individual’s concealed handgun permit if such individual (i) has failed to comply with a subpoena, summons, or warrant relating to paternity or child support proceedings or (ii) is delinquent in the payment of child support by 90 days or more or in an amount of $5,000 or more. If the obligor remedies the delinquency, reaches an agreement with the obligee or Department of Social Services to remedy the delinquency, or complies with the subpoena, summons, or warrant, he may reapply for a concealed weapons permit.

Because the two are so closely related.  Doesn’t matter that you can’t afford your child-support payments, your life is not worth maintaining. Fortunately, does not note that one may carry a firearm in Virginia without a Concealed Handgun Permit.  This is a nose under the tent to removing firearms eligibility.
What happened to “punishment should fit the crime”?


Grading system for individual school performance; star number scale. Requires the Board of Education to develop an individual school performance grading system and assign a grade or a series of grades to each public elementary and secondary school using a five-star to one-star scale, five-star being the highest grade. Current law requires individual school performance to be reported by October 1, 2016, using five letter grades from A to F.

Uh, excuse me?  The current six-letter scale uses A-F, but apparently we think our students and parents can’t understand the same grading method we use to grade them.  Let’s make it a five-star scale.  What?  Are we rating hotels?  Is this really an issue?


Losing Loved Ones in a Tragic Accident Month

Who doesn’t want a “Losing Loved Ones in a Tragic Accident” Month?


Definition of fur-bearing animal.  Defines the fisher as a fur-bearing animal in hunting and trapping provisions of the Code of Virginia. The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a small carnivorous mammal native to North America. It is a member of the weasel family.

Apparently, Virginia law has to mirror wikipedia, which lists 70 references for the animal..  Never mind that there is an entire branch of science devoted to Mammalogy, and that scientific documentation of species identifiers already exists.  I doubt (though I can’t be certain) that any members of the General Assembly are members of the American Society of Mammalogists, but perhaps they should be?

Political Gamesmanship Again/Still in Virginia

State Senator Linda (Toddy) Puller, D-36, announced her retirement. She did so at the beginning of the session, to allow her compatriots to play their games.  Now, I notice that for the first time in years, she has updated her photo, no longer using the one from before her stroke, but rather one that makes her appear much more frail.  (NB: Though her body is frail, and has been for years, her mind is still extremely strong.)  She’d have had a harder time winning elections with the new photo in campaign ads, but is more realistic now.  And yes, people will make decisions based on photos, unfortunately, so Puller has been demonstrating she is very politically astute.

So Scott (“Isn’t-it-Nice-I-Got-Named-to-a-Leadership-Position-Again-in-Time-for-an-Election”) Surovell has declared his intent to run in her place.  No surprise there.   Dems hand-picked their Fairfax County Chairman to replace Kris Amundsen, who conveniently decided to announce after primary day that she wouldn’t run again; now they elect Surovell chair of the caucus (read:  special-interest group) in the House.  No good little Democrat Party Member would announce against him.

According to Megan Howard, Surovell’s Legislative Assistant, Scott will not resign his current position in order to run.  Think about that.

Democrat Paul Krizek has announced a run for Surovell’s seat.  What’s he going to do?  Challenge Surovell in a primary?  Or will they hold a firehouse primary so they can run Scott for both seats and promise the likely opening to Krizek?  Will they truly force a special election on the voters (of course, assuming the Republicans, Libertarians, or Independent Greens actually bother to run a candidate)?

No Republican, Libertarian, Independent Green (well, maybe the IG; they’re not very politically savvy) can announce now, because that would be tantamount to acknowledging Surovell is a shoo-in — which he is, but mostly because no one will commit to the effort to take him on in an issues-based race.  So toady publications like the Connection newspapers run items like this, probably weekly or biweekly, for the next year so Google searches have lots of name recognition for searches when election season rolls around.

Hey, Republicans and Libertarians, THIS is how you take elections.   NOT by nominating someone no no one has ever heard of, or leaving it to the Independent who spent $5 on an election and still managed nearly 30% of the vote.

First-world problems, I guess

Several years ago, my parents requested that we not buy Christmas gifts for them, and instead donate to a charity of our choice. They did request that it be a charity that serves our local areas.

One year we chose our local VFW, specifically the program that provides Christmas gifts to children of impoverished servicemembers. One year it was a bunch of $5 and $10 gift cards to grocery stores and fast-food places (their requested method) to a homeless-support group.

This year I found Good Shepherd Housing which seems to do really good, very local work, giving chances to people who are willing to work, and localized to just four ZIP codes.   I mailed my check to arrive for Christmas.

On the 29th of December, we got a thank-you letter acknowledging our gift.  I filed it with tax information, and that was that.

Today, I received another envelope, in a first-class, USPS tracking, package that cost $2.32 to mail.  Inside was another thank-you letter, a bookmark, and a postcard with a lapel pin attached.

Even at large-quantity pricing, the charity spent significantly more than I would have liked to send me something I’ll not use, that duplicates what they sent me before.  They sent it with tracking?????

On the front of the envelope, too, is a banner that says “Welcome”.  Uh, what?  Welcome to what?  My check said “donation”.  I don’t want to join anything; I don’t want to buy anything; I don’t want to see my donation dollars spend on feel-good marketing.

I do hope this is the last I hear from them.  After my experiences with the USO and the American Red Cross (not part of the Christmas gift issue; just donations), I do not want letter after letter after letter and gift after “gift”.  A letter, or maybe two, bulk mailed, throughout the year is one thing, but I don’t want to feel my money is being wasted.

Published in: on January 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

The things you think about, sometimes …

I was thinking yesterday “why does the crape myrtle keep its leaves until frost, then dump them all at once?” – which is really just the lead-in to this set of ponderings.

When we say “why?”, we look for one of two answers: “,,,because …” or ” … so that …” Those two answers represent an interesting look at the world.

“… because …” implies a look backward. It says a thing does something because, or in response to, a stimulus or an action by another thing.

“… so that …” looks forward. Something or someone does something that causes other people or things to react.

I wonder if this will color how I look at the TV programs I truly enjoy — those on botany, biology, archaeology, anthropology, etc. Will I start to wonder whether a population evolved “because” something else happened, or “so that” something could happen? Will the terminology I hear color the credence I give to the “experts” on these shows?

Nothing in my queries is earth-shattering.  I don’t even know for certain that the concept hasn’t been explored; I just haven’t thought of things in this way.  I don’t even know for certain that it will color how I look at things a week, a month, or a year from now.

I was just pondering.

Published in: on December 31, 2014 at 7:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Veterans Day

On Veterans Day, I find it difficult to utter “Happy Veterans Day”. Some part of me recognizes for many, it is not in the least happy.

For those who feel their service is unrecognized, or worse, punished due to inexpertly written or poorly applied laws; for those who are subject to administrative actions that are clearly so intent on doing what’s “fair” that they forget the option of doing what’s “right”; for those who bear the trauma of their service for the rest of their lives, I am profoundly and truly grateful.

Those of us who were fortunate to have served only in peacetime can look at inconvenient deployments, unaccompanied overseas tours, and the like, and realize though it felt like hell at the time, it was nothing compared to what our less fortunate brothers in arms have felt.

While we all did our part, we all, too, owe the greater debt of gratitude to those who experienced the worst of service life.

Thank you.

Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  


Thanks to Shayne Simmons, who hasn’t had anything to say here, for sending views my way.

Published in: on November 6, 2013 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Barriers to entry

I’ve been taking a lot of flack from self-defined “one-issue” voters lately. What’s annoying is that these are really not one-issue people at all, but they think they are. They (most of them) think “conservative” is an issue and the Tea Party defines “conservative.”

I refuse to vote the self-identified “conservative” candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial race.  Because every gun-rights group in the Commonwealth has endorsed him, I’ve been called stupid, a traitor, a “liberal” (as a pejorative, of course), misguided, and other terms.

What many of these people – people who have known me for years – fail to realize is that gun-rights is simply the barrier to entry.   After that, you other positions come in to play.  If you don’t support my gun rights, I don’t recognize your “right” to my vote, pure and simple.  That lets out Terry McAuliffe, though I have a strong handful of other reasons.  My only other absolute barrier is a conviction that the Tennessee constitution got it part right (“Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.”) and I’d carry that to “any elected office”.  Those are the barriers to my vote.

After the barriers comes the curtain – the other civil rights.  Candidates can pass the curtain if I disagree with them on these issues, but only if they have very very strong credentials and a record of respecting others’ beliefs and practices.  Among these are the right to marry the person I choose; the right to confer with my doctor and elect those medical procedures best for me; the right to speak my mind even if that speech might offend your god; the right to be treated equally under the law; and the right to insist that your religious preference not affect mine.    In other words, believe what you want, but don’t restrict others.  After that, I assess life experiences and personal characteristics.  And I consider whether my votes can help keep the government split.  That is, all else considered, let’s assure that no one party controls the Governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature.

It’s that latter set of criteria that many of my gun-rights acquaintances don’t understand.  I believe that in their minds, those rights are inextricably linked, and individuals can have differing opinions on each and every one of them.  It’s a matter of prioritization, and deciding which have to be met and which can be squishy.  In my mind, the gun-rights question must be met, and a combination of the others must be met.  Cuccinelli can’t meet any of them.

Both barriers are in place for LG.  That’s a shame, because the LG is an important person in Virginia, with tie-breaking authority in our evenly divided State Senate.  “None of the Above” as a write-in is the only option.  I feel this is a cop-out, but it is the only way an American has to show that no candidate is acceptable.   We are literally prevented by election law from expressing our opinions.  Even a “none of the above” is seen only in the category of “write-ins” – also-rans – unless there are enough of them the same.   If all voters would write in, maybe the message would be carried, but there are just too many who are happy to select all the people with the same letter after their names, no matter their qualifications.

I am still seeking the election that has a slate of candidates without barriers.

OUR Government?

Is it really “our” government?  If so, why is it “closed”?

We’ve paid them.  We’ve dutifully paid taxes we allowed them to impose.  A LOT of taxes.  Yet we’re letting them take the money, not appropriate it, and then close OUR facilities.  OUR monuments.  OUR courts.  OUR national parks.  Including those that get NOT A DIME of federal funding.  Including monuments with NO doors to lock, no restrooms to clean, and no trash cans to empty; outdoor monuments on OUR National Mall, in OUR national capitol.   Federal Park Police are “essential” to impose the restrictions, in the name of “protecting federal lands, buildings, waterways, equipment and other property owned by the United States.”   Um, that’s by US.

The Washington Post lists “public schools” under the heading of “Federal services” that are open.  Where are the federal public schools?  Yes, I understand that public schools receive some federal funding (without going in to the why of that).

Federal web sites?  Closed.  Because, you know, it takes SO MUCH human intervention to maintain them operable.  Okay, I get that those with changing content may not be updated.  But closed???  Inoperable???  

And, of course, the first lady can’t pour forth her supportive messages without federal funding.

So, this is information you can get anywhere.

What are you doing about it?   Yesterday, I got a lot of busy signal at the Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121.  Today’s Washington Post indicates the monuments and memorials are only half-heartedly closed.  It may be necessary to gather some volunteers to empty trash by the weekend, and that seems like a worthwhile cause.  (No matter how much I expect better of my fellow Americans, I know they do not clean up after themselves.)

Published in: on October 3, 2013 at 9:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Double standard?

So, here I am reading the local paper this morning (Mt. Vernon Patch, to be precise), and I see yet another article on one of our gubernatorial candidates attacking another.  This time, I see McAuliffe’s statement that “he did nothing wrong and has never received any special treatment because of who he’s friends with or happens to know.”

Yet his champions, here and here, are insisting McDonnell got something because of who he’s friend with or happens to know — that it’s impossible not to.   


And they expect us, the voters, to think there’s a difference between the parties?


Now, the gifts McDonnell got were tangible, rather than skid-greasers

Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 8:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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