Have you noticed that almost every “news” story describes the people involved by their race? I find that … racist. What is the point of describing someone based on his or her race? A person’s race does not define that person. Even the hue of one’s skin has no bearing on the person’s thoughts, actions, morals, values, education level, intelligence, and so forth.
Imagine for a moment that instead of race, we described the color of shirt that the person happened to be wearing. It seems irrelevant to us, but what if it happened so often that you begin to think that people wearing red shirts tended to be more hostile or violent, while people wearing blue shirts tend to be calmer? It does not matter the shade of the color, just that the person was wearing either a red shirt or a blue shirt. Now, what about the people wearing purple shirts? They are technically wearing red AND blue. So, are they hostile and violent, or are they calm?
I know that sounds like a ridiculous example. But, describing people based on race seems just as ludicrous to me. Is your personality defined by your race? Or is it defined by a lifetime of experiences, some good and some bad? I think it is the latter. Does race affect our choices? Of course! If your parents are African-American, you probably know what collard greens are. A white person may not know what they are, and even if they know what collard greens are, they probably have never tasted them. Race helps to shape us, our customs, and our lives, but they do not define us.
We have seen the racial tensions in the United States increase in the past decade or so. Some say that they have always been there, just under the surface and now the media is finally bringing these issues into the light. That may be true. But, it’s also possible that the media is adding fuel to something that does not need to be inflamed.
However, when the media constantly describes the subjects of a news story by their race, it automatically sets up a division. Do we need to know whether the suspect was black, white, Hispanic, or some other race? Do we need to know the race of the national spelling bee champion? Does it matter? In 99% of the situations, race has no bearing on the story.
I would also like to suggest that describing people in racial terms in completely outdated and often inaccurate. First, there are so many interracial couples and individuals that it makes it difficult to accurately assign a race to a person. The best example of this is our last president. People claimed he was the first black president. But, he really wasn’t. He was mixed. To call him the first biracial president would be more accurate, but not completely. There may have been other biracial or multiracial presidents. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Dwight D. Eisenhower have all been reported to have had anywhere from 10% to 50% of African American blood. None have been confirmed nor proven false. So, what can we say for certain about President Obama? He was the president with the most melanin. In other words, he was the president with the darkest skin to date.
But that does bring an important issue to the forefront. With so many people being interracial, biracial, or multiracial, how can we accurately define a person’s race just by looking at him or her? We have seen errors before. A news report comes out describing someone as white, only to find out later that the person was really Hispanic, or someone described as black and we later find out that the person was Hispanic or Middle Eastern.
Even describing someone as black is not very descriptive. “Black” could refer to someone with a “milk chocolate” light brown color, anyone with dark brown / black skin, or anyone in between. Racial descriptions are simply not accurate in describing a person’s skin color, nor the person’s more important qualities of character and integrity. So, what should we do?
The answer to the currently inflamed racial tensions is quite simple. Shut up! Stop talking about race. Do not use it when describing another person. After all, you may be assigning a wrong racial designation to that person. So, stop labeling people based on what race you “think” that person is. It is highly inflammatory to refer to a person’s race. I think it should be considered discriminatory speech and be banned, but with a few caveats.
There are certainly times when the public has a “need to know” about the color of someone’s skin, although these situations are rare. One such time would be reporting on a story where a particular school has reported that someone has been trying to lure children into a vehicle when walking to and from school. Information about the vehicle and the person could be vital to protecting children. Describing the potential suspect by race does not go far enough and has the potential for inaccuracies. It would be better to describe the skin tone of the potential suspect by using a melanin scale, like the one below.
In situations where the public has a “need to know” in order to protect the public, a scale similar to the one above would be a more accurate tool to describe the person of interest. This takes the “race” out of the equation and allows us to view people as people of various shades, rather than some arbitrary label. As you can see from the scale above, someone who is a 7 – 9 could be a tan Caucasian, a light skinned African American, a Hispanic, a Middle Easterner, or any combination of those. The racial label is not a full and complete picture, but using the scale above gives a more defined and accurate description, without assigning a racial label.
Racial tensions will not decrease immediately. But over time, we will see a dramatic shift in American culture. When we stop talking about each other in racial terms, we will start to see each other as simply Americans. Sure, we will still be able to see the diverse skin tones, but those skin tones will not be a factor of the person inside the skin. Rather we will see the skin tone as irrelevant to the person’s character as the color of shirt the person is wearing.
Of course there are a few situations where the racial label will still be needed, such as in medical situations. There are some disorders and diseases that only afflict certain racial groups or are more prevalent in certain racial groups. However, these are situations where the racial label is only spoken of in confidential settings, such as between a doctor and his or her patient.
We may not be able to completely erase racial discrimination, but we certainly have the opportunity to decimate the vast majority of it by simply starving it of oxygen. When the media uses racial labels to describe people, it shines a magnifying glass on race, making something insignificant seem gigantic. It is time to rethink racial labels, how discriminatory, and how ripe for mislabeling they are. It is time to be united, as one people, as Americans, as humans. The only real race we all belong to is the human race. And if you think different racial groups are all that different from each other, just remember that the fairest of white people and the darkest of black people, still share 99.9% of their DNA (National Human Genome Research Institute, FAQ page, “Why are genetics and genomics important to my health?”, https://www.genome.gov/19016904/faq-about-genetic-and-genomic-science/, updated 3/2/2016, retrieved 5/8/2018). So, why do we quibble over that measly 0.1%? Sounds a little juvenile and insignificant, don’t you think?
Slander and Libel Laws
None of us like it when someone says or writes negative things about us, even if it is true. When it is not true, it can be even more harmful. Imagine if a story was written about you robbing a bank, even though you never did such a thing! It would harm your relationships with friends, family, co-workers, and even cost you your job.
What makes slander and libel so difficult, especially for public officials and public figures is that they have to prove an extra element of “actual malice.” Actual malice is extremely difficult to prove because you must prove that the person making the statement knew that the statement was not true, didn’t care whether it was true or not, and was reckless with the truth. Basically, you need to prove that the person making the statement was either negligent or intentionally making the false statement.
Regardless of whether there was “actual malice,” the damage is the same. A person’s reputation is the ruined. When it comes to the news media, the standards are supposed to be higher. Sources are supposed to be verified. If they are not, then it’s not “news”, but gossip and/or fiction writing.
Regardless of the victim’s standing as a public official, public figure, or private citizen, “actual malice” should not need to be proven. We need to hold news reporters to higher standard, not lower the standards. When news reporters know that publishing or airing a salacious story, about a public figure or public official, without verifying the facts could put them in legal jeopardy, they may think twice about reporting unproven, unverified stories.
The public has a right to know when our public officials and public figures have done something legally or morally wrong. However, when it is being reported by a “news” outlet (print, television, or online), they must be held to a higher standard so the public is being told facts, not rumors.
When I was growing up, there were supermarket tabloids (rumor mills, smut publications, which most people viewed as entertaining, but did not trust) and the nightly news (where we could get the verified facts about the world around us). Now, the nightly news (and 24 hour news channels) have become the supermarket tabloids and consumers don’t know what, or who, to believe and/or trust.
When we get back to trusting news sources which only report on verified stories, we can get back that trust in the press. Freedom of the press hinges on trust. That trust has been broken. Changing the slander and libel laws to make it easier for public officials and public figures to sue for salacious, unverified rumors, we can bring integrity back to the news media and the public arena. Then, we can start to mend the trust issues, so we can have a healthy society where the people trust the news media.
Removing the “actual malice” element to slander and libel claims, restores the public faith in news media and in our public officials and public figures. Society is built on trust and we need to restore trust and faith in our society. This is a start.
News Integrity Bill
Of all of our speech and press rights, none is more sacred than the “news”. This is the field that reports facts to the American people. This field is supposed to be based in facts and research, with few to no opinions and/or spin. This is the field of speech and press that “informs” the public. The field of “news” needs a high bar of integrity. But, in recent years that bar has fallen dramatically.
What provides trust and respect in any profession? Licensing is often the vehicle to respectability. Not only do we require doctors and lawyers to be licensed to practice their respective crafts, but we also require licenses to assist someone with their taxes, work on someone’s vehicle, do electrical work, or provide regular childcare for a friend. All of these fields, and more, require licensing. The licensing provides proof of proper training and a certain level of professionalism to be exhibited.
Requiring licensing for “news” professionals will raise the bar of professionalism, give the public more trust in the work product of our “news” professionals, and encourage quality reporting in an age where speed has replaced quality. Licensing will NOT limit the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press at all. Every reporter will still be able to write or report whatever he or she chooses. Let me explain.
Unlicensed Writer or Reporter
When a reporter writes a story (newspaper, magazine, online article, etc.), he or she must include the word “Opinion” at the beginning and end of the article. This alerts the reader to the fact that it is written by an unlicensed person. It merely gives the consumer additional information, just like the information on a nutritional label on food or a movie rating. It does not take away anything from what the writer has written. Instead, it added information to what was already written.
Licensed News Reporter
However, if the reporter is a “licensed news reporter”, the word “opinion” is replaced with a letter rating (A, B, C, D, or F). This letter rating corresponds with the percentage of named sources vs unnamed (anonymous) sources. An article with 10 sources mentioned, with 2 of those sources “anonymous”, would have 80% verified, named sources. That article would have a B rating. However, if that same article had 8 “anonymous” sources, it would have 20% verified, named sources and would have an F rating. This allows the reader to quickly be able to identify the stories that are more factually reliable vs the stories that are not as reliable.
The Rating System would be (percentage of verified, named sources):
A+ = 100%
A = 90 – 99.99%
B = 80 – 89.99%
C = 70 – 79.99%
D = 60 – 69.99%
F = 0 – 59.99%
The licensed news reporter would be required to maintain a C average among his or her most recent 100 “news” articles in order to maintain his or her license. The licensed news reporter would still be able to write opinion articles, as long as he or she used the “opinion” label instead of the rating. The “opinion” articles would not calculate into the reporter’s average. Only the “news” articles would be calculated.
If the reporter’s average falls below the C rating needed to maintain his or her license, the reporter would need to get additional training in factual reporting and bring his or her average up to a B rating (although those new articles or stories would be labeled “opinion” while the reporter’s license is suspended), in order to have his or her license reinstated.
This allows the consumer to be informed as to the veracity of the “news” being presented. The consumer gets to decide which reporters they believe, trust, and spend their time reading or watching. The consumer would also have the ability to “report” a reporter who is incorrectly rating his or her articles. When a reporter has been excessively “reported” to the licensing board, an investigation is opened into the reporter, which could result in disciplinary action, up to and including suspension of the license.
Additionally, “Licensed News Reporters” would be able to bargain for higher salaries due to the additional education, training, research, skills, and professionalism they bring to the paper, magazine, network, etc.
As for reporters and anchors on television or online videos, the same system would apply. The “opinion” label or the rating would just be in the ticker at the bottom of the screen. If the reporter or anchor is reporting on multiple stories, the ticker label would change as he or she moves from story to story. The same rules apply for the maintenance of license and to have a suspended license reinstated.
Raising the standards of professionalism in news reporting will be able to restore the faith and trust that the press once enjoyed, but in recent years has been squandered away in our rapid-fire technological reporting world. Restoring the consumers’ faith and trust in the press is imperative to maintaining a free and open press, and to the preservation of our great nation.
English as America’s Official Language
A society can succeed only if the individuals in the society are able to communicate effectively. When a society is operating with multiple languages, the society’s ability to communicate and share information is severely hampered. Imagine a person sees that a second person is in danger and wants to warn the person. If those two people speak different languages, neither understanding the other’s language, the message of “Watch out” will not be understood.
The same thing happens when multiple people are working on a job site, trying to complete a project. If they speak different languages, it will be difficult to complete the project in a timely manner. This affects the company they are working for and their customer(s). Money is wasted on this additional time added to the project and everyone ends up frustrated.
The smooth operation of any society, whether on the micro-level (home) or the macro-level (business, government, society as a whole), depends on the effective communication skills of the various members of that society. Having multiple languages hinders progress in any society. Having a uniform language, spoken and understood by all, provides a barrier-free, more united society.
There are 291,484,482 people in the United States aged 5 and older, as of October 2013. Of those, 25,148,900 speak English less than “Very Well”. This means that 262,335,582 speak English “Very Well”, or 91.38% of the population in the United States speaks English “Very Well”. English is the dominant language in the United States, by a very wide margin. The Census Bureau also states that “most governmental functions are in English.”
For the smooth operation of our nation, it is in everyone’s best interest that we are all using English for all public uses. Some exceptions would be available for culture-specific enterprises, such as restaurants, where speaking in a different language is germane to the cultural experience.
This bill in no way limits the use of other languages in private conversations. It only applies to public services, such as government and public functions. It also provides a smoother assimilation process for immigrants who wish to make the United States their home. The sooner they learn English, the easier life will be for them in the United States and the more prosperous they will become in the United States.
 United States Census Bureau, Detailed Languages Spoken at Home and Ability to Speak English for the Population 5 Years and Over: 2009-2013, October 2015 Report, http://www2.census.gov/library/data/tables/2008/demo/language-use/2009-2013-acs-lang-tables-nation.xls?#, accessed December 15, 2018.
 United States Census Bureau, Language Use, https://www.census.gov/topics/population/language-use.html, accessed December 15, 2018.
Congressional Honesty, Integrity, and Reliability Bill
All members of Congress are elected by his or her respective constituents. Those constituents put their trust in their respective Representatives and Senators. Our government cannot survive if that trust is eroded.
In order to achieve, and maintain, the highest level of trust in our elected members of Congress, it is imperative that our members of Congress be held to the highest level of honesty, integrity, and reliability. Each member of Congress is required to ensure that his or her public statements (written, internet, radio, television, streaming, social media, etc.) are truthful.
If a member of Congress knowingly makes a false statement publicly, he or she will be immediately suspended from any House or Senate votes for 30 days, pending an investigation into the statements. Within the 60 day suspension, a public hearing before the opposite chamber of Congress will convene and render a decision as to the validity of the accusations.
If the accused member is found to NOT have knowingly made false statements, he or she will be removed from suspension. If the accused member is found to have knowingly made false statements publicly, the accused member will resign within 24 hours of the decision and a special election will be held within 3 months for a replacement.