Monday, July 28, 2008

We must confront our own racisim

This first published July 24, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

ATLANTA — The weather here is hot and sticky. The days get long and hot here in the South. The resting place of the greatest civil rights activist in American history, Martin Luther King Jr., this is the perfect location to discuss racism in America.
This week I have the privilege of spending a week at Oglethorpe University, with not only many of the brightest minds in the area of social justice, but also people who teach and live it.
The Social Action Summer Institute brings Catholic social action leaders from around the United States together to share best practices and study advanced topics.
It is a national institute for Catholic social justice ministries to develop leadership skills in community activism and the advocacy for those living in poverty or on the margins of society.
This year’s advanced track is a symposium on racism with presentations titled “The Color-Blind Ideology: The Current Racial Order in the U.S.” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, professor of sociology at Duke University. The Rev. Bryan Massingale, doctorate of sacred theology and associate professor of theology at Marquette University, is presenting “The History of Catholic Social Teaching on Race and Racism.”
Although the intention is to build skills to prompt Catholics in the pews to take action, that action benefits all people of every race and every faith. The very basic theme is to protect human dignity of all people in the human family.
Ms. Sherry Frank of the American Jewish Committee is presenting “Building Interreligious and Interracial Justice Coalitions.” The title of this presentation exemplifies the importance of solidarity within the human family just as it is important in your or my immediate families. Individuals together with families create communities, the collective power of communities make nations and the people of those nations make up the human family. And just as there is strife, disagreement and fighting within families, it is the same with the human family. Therefore as people of faith, with all faiths working together, a change in the world is possible.
Having grown up in a family where racism was pretty much non-existent and taboo to say the least, we grew up understanding all people are created equal no matter what the color of their skin, race, nationality or gender. Our parents took every opportunity to share different cultures with us.
In my own experience, I was pretty much color-blind as a child, having a Pollyanna view of racism because I had not ever experienced it. That was until we moved to Las Vegas from Carson City and I transferred to Valley High School. It was there I got my first taste of racism — but it was a reverse racism where I mistakenly felt at the time I was the victim. At first it appeared to be just a case of bullying and intimidation, until names referring to the color of my skin were used.
Fortunately, it didn’t last long. I ended up befriending many of my African-American tormentors. Sounds odd doesn’t it? Today I can draw on the same friendships developed back then following a racially turbulent time in Las Vegas. Some of my friends are now successful businessmen and community leaders.
My parents helped me understand the racial strife and how to deal with it by example, a few good books and a couple of movies to start. But most of all, their care and love for all people was evident and made a lasting impression. Their encouragement to experience others’ cultures or the cultures of different nationalities, including language and best of all cooking, set the foundation for human understanding and compassion.
The challenge today is to get people to confront their own prejudices by first eliminating the “us and them” mentality and striving for equality among all people. It’s not only a class issue, but rather deep-seated color issues, as well as white privilege.
This year we honored the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 40 years after his assassination, and today, after 40 years, we have not come close to abolishing racism. Although we have developed tolerance in society, tolerance is not the solution, but rather a Band-Aid.
Yes, we could very well elect an African-American president this year, but does that mean we have become less racist in America?
I don’t think so, but it does indicate a shift in the scale of racial equality.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Return to hectic life disappoints

This first published July 10, 2008 in the Boulder City News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

After a few days of R&R in Lincoln County, I begin to wonder why I don’t spend more time in rural Nevada. It is a simple life where things tend to move at a slower pace than our urban and suburban paces — except when it comes to family, a neighbor in need or work.

One can be sure most folks in rural Nevada are kind, generous and hard working.

Admiring the view of the Dry Valley from the back porch, I watched the ranchers cut one field of alfalfa while on another field they were busy gathering up harvested alfalfa into one-ton bales. In a third field, they tended to the irrigation system that delivers life-giving water to the alfalfa.

The most pressing thing on our minds was what to fix for breakfast and when to go fishing or exploring the back roads of the mountains.

However, in the back of my mind were the realities I intended to leave behind at home. Concern about the price of gas coupled with a failing economy was ever present from Las Vegas to the rural stretches of the state. It appeared fewer people were escaping the heat of the Las Vegas Valley.

Normally traffic from Las Vegas to Pioche would be busy on a holiday weekend, with motor homes, campers, travel trailers and the like. Although there were a good number, it was not nearly as many as in previous years.

It still made for a very relaxing weekend with no real crowds to deal with at the nearby lakes and streams. By Sunday afternoon, I was charged and ready to get back home.

My recharged batteries were quickly draining by 7:30 Monday morning while making my daily trek from Henderson to Bishop Gorman High School as part of my carpooling duties for summer school. The 32-mile summer school commute has been much quicker than during the regular school year largely because, during the summer, we hit Interstate 215 before 7 a.m.

However, on this Monday some genius came up with the bright idea of reducing the westbound 215 Beltway to one lane. At first I thought there might be an accident, because a Clark County School District police car passed us on the left emergency lane with lights flashing. That’s odd, I thought, a school cop responding to a freeway accident.

After 30 minutes of toiling in the stop-and-go traffic, I realized that the previously mentioned genius had reduced traffic to one lane during one of the heaviest commutes of the day. I must have overlooked the notice in one of our papers warning of it.

I was already revved up over the traffic mess, but I got really turbo-charged at the thought of the school cop using his lights and the emergency lane to get through the five-mile traffic jam. I will never know whether he had an actual emergency or not. However, I would bet not.

If you happen to be a parent, then you must realize I endure all sorts of strange music with the kids in the car. After dropping off the kids, I continue my morning ritual by scanning between the AM news stations to pick up on breaking news.

This is where conspiracy talk radio festers like a boil on backside of who knows what. The host this Monday morning laid out his question by saying Assemblyman Mark Manedo, D-Whitney, is creating a back-door attack on talk radio with a proposed bill to ban teen use of cell phones while driving.

The host continued to say the bill is actually a ploy to prevent his listeners from calling into his show using their cell phones.

No kidding, Manendo’s bill is a liberal attempt to ratchet up the “Fairness Doctrine” to push conservative talk show hosts out of business by preventing callers from calling in on their cell phones.
Whoa!!! Don’t drink out of that Kool-Aid cup.

I’m not a big fan of any kind of ban on cell phone use and I agree it would slowly chip away at our freedom of choice — to choose when and where we use cell phones. How we use them is a good point, though, and I have no problem with encouraging people to use a hands-free device while driving.

I’m the biggest offender of all when it comes to using my cell phone and driving. The cell phone has made it possible for me to get twice as much done in my day.

Texting is another issue altogether, because it requires the use of one hand and both eyes. Both of my daughters would disagree because they claim they can text without looking, which is unnerving. They are probably the exception rather than the rule.

The bottom line is that this proposed ban of cell phone use needs some rethinking. It should not take away a freedom nor single out teens or minors. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, and if such a law were passed, it should apply to everyone of all ages.

But in no way is Manendo’s proposal intended to stop conspiracy radiophiles from reaching out to their gurus of conservative spin.

With days like this, I could use another three days in rural Nevada, where conservative values reign and so does a little common sense.

Fishing anyone?

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at