The Truth Board

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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


On February 9, His Excellency, Michael Oren, Ambassador to the United States from Israel, is coming to Los Angeles to address the Loyola Marymount University community. He is sure to encounter an audience with wildly divergent views about a complicated U.S./Israel relationship that has been further complicated by our deteriorating standing in the Arab world because of the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars—and by an African American President who has lobbied for a more balanced U.S. role as mediator in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. My unsolicited advice to Ambassador Oren is that he seek, first, the Kingdom of common ground. Intercultural dialogue seems to work best when all parties are standing on the same platform. Ear to Heart. This position and posture is especially important when the parties include Arabs, Blacks and Jews.

Ears to Hearts help to keep the Boogie Man known as Demonization at bay. A demon too big even for Zombieland.

The Demonization Boogie Man has a passport. And not just one that provides access across international checkpoints. His Visa works, too, at the borders of the mind. Be very afraid because he’s also a master of disguise. The Boogie Man was seen praying—suspiciously—at a mosque in Los Angeles. He’s appeared as a black male lurking inside a Detroit elevator, inches from a clutched purse. Circumstantial evidence recently placed him in a New York high rise speaking Yiddish—on cell phone.

The collective demonization of Blacks, Jews and Arabs could give the Halloween film franchise enough imagined scary material to keep Jason coming back until his Social Security benefits kick in. Or run out.

Sociologists Lincoln Quillian and Devah Pager wrote in their 2001 study “Black Neighbors, Higher Crime?” “Our results suggest that whites (and Latinos) systematically overestimate the extent to which percentage black and neighborhood crime rates are associated; this association persists even when official crime rates are controlled.”

In a 2003 study entitled “Anti-Semitic Beliefs in the United States,” Dr. Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community research found that a majority of Americans hold at least one anti-Semitic stereotype.

When the Council on American-Islamic Relations Research Center conducted an American public opinion poll about Islam and Muslims in 2006, they discovered that when participants were asked the open ended question, “When you hear the word ‘Muslim,’ what is the first thought that comes to your mind?” only 6 % of the respondents mentioned a positive comment.

With so much subtle and direct animosity directed toward the Black, Jewish and Muslim communities in America, one would hope that these groups would come together more and commiserate. Break bread and talk about the common struggles they share as peoples who have been historically misperceived. And how those misconceptions have followed them right on up into the modern context, as numerous studies about minority populations have concluded. Affecting their socio-economic prospects and threatening the future prospects of their children’s children.

However, instead of the breaking bread among these groups, there has been the pouring of salt. Into open wounds.

The Jewish Week reported that a 2001 poll on the 10th anniversary of the infamous Black-Jewish Crown Heights , New York riots found that 47 % of Jews and 58 % of Blacks thought relations between the groups had declined or remained the same in the city with the nation’s largest Black-Jewish population.

No study is needed to document the conflict between Muslims and Jews. All we have to do is open a history book. Or a Holy one. Or sit down for the 11 O’clock news.

I am not naive. Obviously, there are long standing political, economic and social reasons why many Blacks, Muslims and Jews are choosing salt over bread. These are complicated issues that people of good conscience, on all sides, have worked to resolve—and have come up short as Black History Month.

Part of the problem is that the well meaning folk who are leading the way are the usual suspects. Politicians. Religious leaders. Academics. Community activists. These are segments of the population, who will certainly be needed in the future, but it’s certainly time to make room for some new shot callers: Artists.

In a March 1963 speech entitled “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity” James Baldwin told a New York City audience, “The poets, by which I mean all artists, are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only the poets.”

Baldwin suggests that artists are better equipped (than the usual suspects) to understand that the truth about human beings is that we are the same. One. This understanding is not limited to an intellectual embrace of the concept. It’s an understanding that manifests in a day-to-day lifestyle. A lifestyle that posits that love is a verb. That involves doing the good work of excavating the connective tissue that binds us all.

If Ambassador Oren will embrace my first bit of unsolicited advice, maybe he will dig this second bit too: Bring an artist to the podium and give her voice. An artist’s ability to look beneath surface differences and navigate the geography of the human heart is precisely what qualifies artists to lead the way in meaningful intercultural dialogue. Even if leading means serving as an opening act for the Ambassador from Israel.

Peace & Blessings,

Michael Datcher


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