Cultural Commentary

The Most Dangerous Communities for African Americans

Black Community Violence

While crime and violence have generally hit a downward slope over the last couple of decades, African Americans are still disproportionately affected by dangerous living spaces. Places still exist in America where African Americans deal with an irregular amount of drug trafficking, and this drug trafficking leads to significant violent crime and police overreach. Discrimination often results from perceptions about criminality in certain neighborhoods, neighborhoods that are disproportionately black and brown. Below is a list of five of the most dangerous areas for African Americans to live.

East Eh Crump & South 4th St, Memphis, TN

This unnamed neighborhood near Washington Heights in Memphis is reportedly the most dangerous neighborhood in the entire country. The neighborhood suffers from immense poverty, with 78% of its children living in poverty. Ultimately, the predominately black residents there suffer a 1 in 9 chance of being a victim of a crime.

Altgeld Gardens, Chicago, IL

One only has to look at the Chicago Sun Times‘ article listings for Altgeld Gardens to see the sheer wave of shootings and violence in the area. Altgeld is the epicenter of legendary Windy City gangs: the Black Disciples, the Black P. Stone Nation, and the Gangster Disciples.

Sandtown-Winchester, Baltimore, MD

This neighborhood is home to jazz greats Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday. It’s also home to Melvin Williams, whose crew served as the inspiration for the Barksdale Organization for the legendary HBO crime series The Wire. According to The Baltimore Sun, the community has been ravaged by violence, especially homicides and gun-related crimes.

West Chicago & Livernois Ave, Detroit, MI

This neighborhood was once ranked as the worst in the country and, despite losing that odious title, it has nonetheless still managed to be crime-ridden and destitute. Vacant houses litter the area, which drives property values down and brings in both vagrants and criminals. At one point, the residents had a 1 in 7 chance of being victimized.

Any neighborhood in Flint, MI

The former automotive epicenter already had a reputation for high crime levels, political corruption, and abject poverty. Then, the city underwent a major health crisis when mismanagement of the city’s water treatment system left scores of people poisoned by their own water. Much of the city’s political infrastructure now faces scrutiny and legal trouble over the crisis. Even though crime remains an important issue for the people of Flint, they have to be more concerned with a safe water supply. 

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Resources Consulted:

ADT Home Defenders | Crime Rates

The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore’s most lethal neighborhoods

News Channel 3 | Study: Memphis neighborhood named most violent in the nation

Neighborhoodscout | NeighborhoodScout Most Dangerous Neighborhoods-2013

Exploring Egocentrism: Pathological Tendencies of the Human Mind

Egocentrism

(Photo Credit: YouTube)

In an epoch where selfishness pervades the land, the use of reason is seriously waning, the value of critical thought is fading, and mendacity has become almost normalized, this piece offers you new vocabulary words to understand what’s at the core of the aforementioned: egocentrism. We must fight the human mind’s proclivity to favor the egocentric. Engage with the following vocabulary words to expand your analyses of egocentrism.

Egocentric myopia: the natural tendency to think in an absolutist way within an overly narrow point of view.

Egocentric memory: the natural tendency to “forget” evidence and information that do not support our thinking and to “remember” evidence and information that do.

Egocentric righteousness: the natural tendency to feel superior in the light of our confidence that we possess the Truth when we do not.

Egocentric hypocrisy: the natural tendency to ignore flagrant inconsistencies—for example, between what we profess to believe and the actual beliefs our behavior implies or between the standards to which we hold ourselves and those to which we expect others to adhere.

Egocentric oversimplification: the natural tendency to ignore real and important complexities in the world in favor of simplistic notions when consideration of those complexities would require us to modify our beliefs or values.

Egocentric blindness: the natural tendency to not notice facts and evidence that contradict our favored beliefs or values.

Egocentric immediacy: the natural tendency to over-generalize immediate feelings and experiences, so that when one event in our life is highly favorable or unfavorable, all of life seems favorable or unfavorable to us.

Egocentric absurdity: the natural tendency to fail to notice thinking that has “absurd” consequences.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Violent Video Games, Mass Shootings and Mental Health

The Second Amendment

(Photo Credit: Fox News)

As Dr. Patrick Markey, Associate Professor of Psychology at Villanova University, recently disclosed on CNN, no empirical research evinces that playing violent video games leads to real-world violence. Although researchers should continue to investigate any potential connections between violent video games and violence in society, we shouldn’t get distracted by the most important issue we should be focused on concerning the recent mass shootings: mental health.  Even though all of the most recent mass shooters covered in the national media devoted significant time to playing violent video games, all of them had serious mental health issues that were not addressed.

While it seems that the divisive national debate about gun control and gun rights is dominating our attention, we need to dedicate more attention to mental health.  We need to make greater efforts to ensure that those with mental health problems do not get their hands on guns, and we need to provide them with the critical mental health services they warrant.

If we really desire to make America safer, then we won’t simply have discourses about how to reduce the number of guns in the hands of Americans; we will have meaningful discussions about how to decrease the likelihood of the mentally ill getting their hands on guns.  It’s time to get real about guns—not overly emotional.  Guns in the hands of mentally healthy Americans save lives.  The Second Amendment guarantees Americans the fundamental right to protect themselves with guns.  Knee-jerk reactions to recent mass shootings shouldn’t lead to diminishing the freedoms safeguarded by the Second Amendment.

It’s probably a good idea for parents to prevent their children from watching violent movies and television programs for exorbitant amounts of time, and it’s probably a good idea to keep your children from playing violent video games for an abnormal number of hours.  Adults should be aware of the number of hours they give to watching violent television programs and movies as well.  For those adults who play violent video games, reflect on the impact that this video game playing may have on you.  We have to be more responsible about the things we allow ourselves and children to consume, considering those phenomena could have negative impacts on us that go undetected.

Let’s not give violent television programming, movies, and video games too much credit for the recent mass shootings, however.

Our efforts to reduce the number of mass shootings should be concentrated on addressing mental health issues, preventing the mentally ill from obtaining guns, and ensuring that those who aren’t mentally ill are able to get guns to defend themselves and others from those who would attempt to engage in mass shootings.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Beauty and Value of the Quotidian

Nature

(Photo Credit: Red Bubble)

Too often we overlook the beauty and value of phenomena present in everyday life.  If we would look around us each day, there are things to adore and treasure.  Let’s never forget to be thankful for the beauty of the natural world.  We can honor the beauty of the natural world by doing things necessary to maintain and protect it.  Being an environmentalist doesn’t have to be an overtly political act.  While we can have honest disagreements about how to take care of our environment, there shouldn’t be anyone who is disinterested in doing things essential to preserve it.

When you’re blessed to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, take a moment to reflect on how appreciative you should be.  Never take anything for granted.  When we take for granted the beauty and significance of quotidian things, we’re not able to experience an authentic appreciation of those things that aren’t mundane.

K – 12 educators should work to instill in students an appreciation for the value and beauty of the quotidian.  We could begin to see a greater value for natural resources and a culture of life when we start teaching people about the importance of things that are commonplace.  Many of the things that we perceive as average are really far beyond average when we devote enough time to analyzing those things thoroughly.

Some people who live in large cities try to look down on those who reside in the country.  While there are numerous things to value about everyday life the city, there are some naturally beautiful phenomena in the country one cannot find in the city.  Those who live in the country shouldn’t feel any lesser than those who live in the city.

The Red Wheelbarrow, a poem penned by William Carlos Williams, affords us an opportunity to see the value of appreciating the quotidian when we engage in a critical analysis of this poem.  On the surface, this poem appears to be boring and simply about a red wheelbarrow.  When we look more closely at the poem, we are able to appreciate the labor of the workers who have constructed this red wheelbarrow, and we can also appreciate the beauty of nature.

What are some common things present in your daily life that you value and find beautiful?  

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Comedians Shouldn’t Joke about People with Disabilities

Bill Maher

(Photo Credit: New York Daily News)

If a comedian truly has talent, he or she does not have to attempt to get laughs at the expense of people with disabilities.  While there’s nothing wrong with being a controversial comedian, one should have enough decency not to disparage individuals with disabilities by exploiting their shortcomings.  With numerous other things and people comedians can use to generate laughs, individuals with disabilities should be off limits.  It’s quite insensitive to mock people with disabilities.  Comedy fans should openly and vociferously express their disapproval of comedians who tell vicious jokes about individuals with disabilities, especially children with disabilities.

When people continue to support comedians who take advantage of those with disabilities, they’re complicit in the wickedness of those comedians.  We have to criticize the comedians who do this and those who support them.

Effective comedy is uplifting and does not take advantage of the vulnerable.  It’s okay to use race, gender, sexuality, and other things that can be controversial to use in comedy, but just be respectful when engaging those things.  One can never employ individuals with disabilities in comedy in a way that’s going to be respectful.  Individuals with disabilities should simply be left out of comedy—period.

Reckless arrogance governs those comedians who insist on exploiting people with disabilities.  It’s mean-spirited to attack those who have disabilities during comedic performances.  Comedians who feel the need to lambast individuals with disabilities need to work on ameliorating their craft and engendering new material.  When comedians resort to using individuals with disabilities in their comedic performances, this reveals their lack of comedic prowess.  When a comedian has authentic talent, he or she never even thinks about speaking negatively about people with disabilities. 

Jokes about people with disabilities are simply not funny—they are sinister.

We have to question if some comedians have any decency.

Let’s begin to boycott the shows, performances, and events of those comedians who maliciously attack individuals with disabilities.  One of the most powerful ways we can get comedians to stop saying ugly things about people with disabilities is to hurt them in their wallets and purses.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison                

What Makes an Entrepreneur?

Entrepreneur

How do you know if you’re fit to become an entrepreneur? Do you see sparks of creativity, dedication, determination, flexibility and leadership in yourself? More importantly, do others see those things inside of you? Those are some of the common qualities seen in the best entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial Insights

Successful business people who started as entrepreneurs arrive at their aha moment at various moments in their career. Some are young, others are older, and they differ in income levels, gender, race and many more facets. Entrepreneurs may have different levels of education and business experience. Having self-confidence, determination, leadership and passion can make all the difference in a startup.

Maybe you’ve been working in business for a while and are feeling ready to branch out on your own. You’ve got a few teammates to join you, the work space is available and the team already has a few clients eager to see work. What’s next?

Get Mobile

You might consider equipping your team with synched mobile devices for contact, coordination and collaboration. An increasing number of great things are being written about the new cell phones from BlackBerry. The company’s Q10 and Z10 models offer NFC purchasing compatibility, thanks to an agreement with Visa earlier in the year. Plus, the two models offer tailored keypad options for users. The Q10 offers the traditional exterior keypad for heavy typers and texters, while the Z10 model’s keypad is built into the software.

Recognizing Inner Talent

Some of the world’s most effective entrepreneurs may not have recognized the traits that would hold them in good stead later. At the early stage of a new business, entrepreneurs need to wear many hats, including chief organizer, top producer, best salesperson and most excellent marketer.

Experts have studied what separates entrepreneurs from common working professionals.  The following is a glimpse of their findings.

  • Self-confidence: This characteristic of business and life isn’t just something that comes naturally. It’s a by-product of thorough planning, which experts say reduces risk and uncertainty for decision-making. Having great knowledge or zeal for a topic also helps to increase self-confidence for entrepreneurs.
  • Passion: This quality called passion is what spurs everyone forward toward a common goal. Can a team grab hold of an entrepreneur’s excitement and find the ability to follow its path and vision? Great passion helps a team get focused and stay there.
  • Great instincts: Entrepreneurial leaders all seem to possess great instincts. Using common sense, matching it with knowledge and passion, and experience gained along the way via school, friendships and work stints can all help build great instincts.
  • Leadership: Hundreds of books have been written about leadership over the years. Resolving an exact definition of leadership for entrepreneurs isn’t easy. Forbes tries to offer a strong definition, but this definition may not satisfy all entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have an uncanny ability to make rules, stick to them, and follow through to reach goals. That’s leadership.
  • Determination: Achieving success comes naturally to many entrepreneurs. What gives them the drive to succeed is determination. Combining persistence, vision, money and determination ultimately leads to success.

Every entrepreneur has one or more of these qualities; he or she uses them in different degrees to achieve diverse goals.  In America, we must do what it takes to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

What Bores Me? Reading Freshly Pressed on WordPress

WordPress Blogging

(Photo Credit: Freelance Folder)

WordPress showcases a number of blogs each day on Freshly Pressed, but there is a conspicuous lack of diversity in the bloggers featured.  When one examines the bloggers that WordPress staff members elect to feature on Freshly Pressed, those bloggers are overwhelmingly White.  One hardly ever finds a Black or other racial and ethnic minority blogger being featured on Freshly Pressed, and this is quite unfortunate, considering numerous minority bloggers using WordPress deserve to be featured.  One of the fundamental reasons why many minority bloggers aren’t being featured on Freshly Pressed is WordPress has a staff deficient in diversity, especially when it comes to staff members who curate Freshly Pressed.

If one reads Freshly Pressed, he or she may come away with the idea that most of the really good or great bloggers using WordPress are White.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Since I’m penning this piece about the dearth of racial diversity in those featured on Freshly Pressed, WordPress staff members will never select me.  If WordPress staff members never elect to feature me, I will be fine with their decision.  I have a highly successful blog and a large readership.  I will survive.  Unfortunately, many minority bloggers, especially Black bloggers, using WordPress need to and deserve to be showcased on Freshly Pressed.  A number of successful Black bloggers use WordPress and have been nominated and/or won awards for their blogs, but WordPress continues to ignore the success of their blogs.

One has to wonder if WordPress really even cares about Black bloggers, their blogs, and the issues that matter to them.

Freshly Pressed is becoming increasingly boring to read.  While WordPress staff members can assert that there are multifarious topics curated on Freshly Pressed, they cannot point to a significant number of those sundry topics being composed by minority bloggers.

As a means of demonstrating that they’re not biased to minority bloggers, I would recommend that WordPress staff members put me on its staff as a Curator.  I don’t need or desire to be paid.  I certainly have the qualifications to be a successful Curator and have an academic and professional record, which includes being extensively published, that would offer some much needed diversity to the WordPress staff.

While I very much love WordPress and posit that it’s the best blogging platform available, the way in which blogs are being curated for Freshly Pressed is unfair and unappealing to many minority bloggers.  It’s my hope that WordPress will begin to feature a tremendous number of minority bloggers on Freshly Pressed.

Many minority bloggers simply see Freshly Pressed as a boring showcase of blogs.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

9 Test-Taking Tips

Black Boy Writing

(Photo Credit: Mayda English Learning)

As many K – 12 and college students are returning to class, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the various tests they will have to take and the necessary preparation for those tests.  The purpose of this piece is to offer nine quality tips for improving one’s chances of being successful on tests.

1.      Get plenty of sleep and a good meal.  You can ruin your chances of not passing an exam by simply not getting enough sleep and not having a good meal before you take the exam.  On the day you take an exam, you should be sure to eat a healthy breakfast.  The breakfast will help you to feel your best.  Additionally, don’t stay up studying so long the night before the exam that you’re too exhausted to stay focused on the exam the next day.

 2.      Bring everything you need to the testing site.

 3.      Remain calm.  Don’t place so much pressure on yourself that you’re not even able to perform well.

 4.      Read the directions on the exam carefully.

 5.      Read all the answers in multiple-choice questions.

 6.      Answer all questions.  Unless you’re taking an exam where you will be penalized more for an incorrect response than no answer at all, you have nothing to lose by guessing.

7.      Read true-false questions carefully.

8.      Organize your thoughts before responding to essay questions.

9.      Review your responses after you’ve completed the exam.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Don’t Allow Distractions to Stop You

Haters

(Photo Credit: Adam Dunlap)

Rise above the distractions.  You will always have people who will attempt to hinder your progress and/or cause you to mess up when you’re using your talents.  My most recent experience with someone trying to hinder my progress and cause me to make mistakes while using one of my gifts happened on yesterday.  While I was interacting with a group of people, there was an intentional effort by one person to drown out my voice with background noise and music.  There was no purpose for this noise and music and this never occurs at the same time, same place, and same date each month.  Nothing new was going on at this location and no new problems were occurring.  This person always wants to be the center of attention, has a deeply hates me, and is envious.  Some other people in this same setting are envious of me, but they never resort to the malevolent tactics of this particular person.  He tries to fool people that he has great character, but he constantly does devious things to me—in an effort to try to undermine me.

I’m going to expose him. I want him to know that I know what he’s doing.  I kept using my gift, despite his distractions; he needed to see that background noise and music will not stop me.  Try again, partna’! Lol!  This is one way you can stop people from trying to distract and undermine you: expose them! I’m a very powerful individual.  I have powerful connections, valuable resources, enough money, prominent platforms, including Revolutionary Paideia with its large readership, prestige and much more.  I’m a mastermind.  I can always outlast you.  Cross me at your own peril!  Now, somebody give God some praise.  Lol!

It’s becoming increasingly popular to assert that adults shouldn’t say they have “haters.”  Some have even constructed what they perceive to be sophisticated arguments about why adults shouldn’t say they have haters.  The reality is many adults do have real haters they cannot avoid, especially when you have to work with these haters.  It’s not always easy to avoid them or get away from them.  I would greatly encourage you to not allow your haters to consume too much of your time.  When you permit your haters to consume too much of your time, they’ve scored a tremendous victory against you: they’ve distracted you in a significant way.

While it’s okay for you to vent from time to time about those who would like to distract and undermine you—this can be a good thing—just be mindful about how much time you’re devoting to venting about the things they do.  This is time you can be investing in progressing.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Lessons from Two Very Different Criminals

Criminals

Numerous stories in the news can shake us to our core.  Every so often, however, there comes a story that brings a smile to your face.  Not because it’s uplifting, but because it involves a criminal so guileful or so stupid that it seems too strange to be true.

Facebook and the Fugitive

BBC News reported that Maxi Sopo moved to the U.S. from Cameroon in 2003.  Initially, he made his living selling roses in Seattle until he found a far more lucrative occupation: bank fraud.  According to The Guardian, Sopo collected over $200,000 in credit from various banks while employing various false identities.  This new career allowed him to leave Seattle to resettle in Cancun, where he spent his days enjoying the sun and his nights enjoying the clubs.

Like most people in their twenties, Mr. Sopo was an avid Facebook user and eager to share updates and photos from the pristine beaches and posh nightclubs for which the city is famous. He was clearly enjoying himself and made sure to insist subtly that he wasn’t being supercilious in his posts.  As reported in The Guardian, this was revealed by frequently using all capital letters to express himself.  He was enjoying himself so much he began to be less than hesitant to make new friends on the social networking site.  One of his newer Facebook friends was a former Justice Department official Mr. Sopo had met in Cancun.

Social networking, Mr. Sopo soon found out, is one of the first things any successful fugitive should abandon.  Not long after the Justice Department official and some of his associates put two and two together, the Mexican authorities promptly arrested Mr. Sopo, and sent him back to Seattle.  The Seattle Times discloses that he could receive up to 30 years in prison.

We do, of course, have ways to be vigilant against such people.  You can guard yourself from becoming a victim of bank fraud through services like LifeLock protection or you can check your bank accounts daily and make sure that all transactions are ones you’ve made.

Hermit, Interrupted

Now, there are less greedy bandits; people who pilfer more than steal.  Such is the case with the “North Pond Hermit,” Christopher Knight.  According to Salon, Mr. Knight had lived alone in the woods for 27 years.  During this time, he had managed to survive in the rugged wilderness of central Maine by committing over 1,000 burglaries until he was finally arrested on April 4, 2013.  He was caught in the act after Sgt. Terry Hughes of the Maine Warden Service set up surveillance equipment in the dining area of Pine Tree Camp.  The Morning Sentinel explains that Sgt. Hughes apprehended Mr. Knight as he was carrying supplies from the camp at around 1:15a.m.

Mr. Knight was not stealing much, just the food, clothing and equipment from cottages and campsites that he needed to sustain himself.  He was also fond of stealing books The Morning Sentinel, disclosed.

Mr. Knight’s actions were discrete—unlike Mr. Sopo’s.  No one arms the security system at night out of fear of someone like him will raid the pantry.  Rather, we worry about car and computer thieves, and protecting ourselves with identity theft protection services.

In a way, Mr. Knight’s actions are quaint because robbers are rarely after the contents of your refrigerator and bookshelves.  Had he been stealing larger items, his victims would’ve felt far more violated.

To safeguard your home from being broken into and learn how you can protect your finances, Follow LifeLock on Twitter.  You will find tips on how you can protect yourself from identity theft, bank fraud, tax fraud and home invasion.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison