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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Column for June 28, 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Current Column (June 21, 2015)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

My Column for June 7, 2015

My Column for May 24, 2015

ED PALM | ‘Thug' defined by what one does

Leave it to Shakespeare to pose probably the most famous rhetorical question in the English language: “What’s in a name?” Juliet — of “Romeo and Juliet” fame — asks. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Inspired by Shakespeare and current events, I’ll pose a rhetorical question of my own: What’s in a “thug”?

The answer, insofar as I’m concerned, is a predisposition to engage in acts of violence, vandalism, or intimidation, regardless of race, color, creed or national origin.

My personal definition is consistent with those found in any modern dictionary.
I find it curious, therefore, that African-Americans seem to have appropriated the term as a racial slur aimed at them. President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have both felt compelled to apologize for characterizing as “thugs” those who reacted to the death of Freddie Gray by throwing rocks and bottles, setting fires, and looting. To my mind, no apology was necessary.
Obama and Rawlings-Blake both were merely drawing a reasonable and necessary distinction between the Baltimore residents who demonstrated peacefully and those who rioted.

A common misconception is that dictionaries prescribe the meaning of words. They don’t; they describe how words are commonly being used, and both the connotation and denotation of words can change over time.

The word “thug” comes to us from the Hindi word for thief. It was commonly applied to professional thieves and assassins who preyed upon travelers. The current sense of the term in English dates to the mid-19th century. Now, within the span of a few days in one American city, “thug” has entered the lexicon of racial antagonism.

I’m wondering if it’s OK for African-Americans, among themselves, to refer to black rioters as “thugs.” My Webster’s New World College Dictionary tells me that the N-word is “acceptable only in black English,” implying that black people have license to use the word within the black community, but the rest of us may not utter it. The word “thug,” I’m told, is similarly thrown around among black rappers in celebrating or lamenting the gangster lifestyle of the ghetto. But unlike the N-word, white people have never exclusively used “thug” as a hostile racial epithet. A “thug” is as a “thug” does, whether the “thug” is black or white.

As it just so happens, I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, and I’m well aware that some are extolling Toya Graham as the mother of the year. Graham, you may remember, has been credited with striking a blow against “thuggery” — quite literally — by smacking and dragging her rock-throwing 16-year-old son away from the riots in Baltimore. She has been praised for pulling her son out of harm’s way, but also criticized for hitting him. “I don’t believe you should ever hit a child,” I heard one commentator say.

Under the circumstances, to fall back on the vernacular, I have no problem with her going up alongside his head. Our society would be a lot better off if more teenagers, black and white, had some sense knocked into them. Still, personally, I can’t side with those praising Graham as mother of the year.

As Graham herself has admitted, her only motivation was to keep her son from becoming “a Freddie Gray.” She was not making a statement against rioting. Her goal was to “keep him safe.”
And according to the Huffington Post’s Julia Graven, she was motivated mainly by a long-standing fear of the police among the black community in Baltimore.

But even more troubling from my perspective is the fact that Graham is the single mother of six.
No less than President Obama has observed that, unless we deal with the underlying problems of inner-city black communities, we can look forward to what happened in Baltimore happening again and again. And the “biggest impediment” to progress in those communities, as George Will pointed out in 2013, is the breakdown of black families. Between 1965 and 2010, the percentage of African-American children born to single mothers rose from 24 to 72 percent.

This too has been challenged by the Huffington Post, which recently quoted from an article in
The Atlantic arguing that the birthrate among black women, single and married, has been declining.
Be that as it may, just watch the daytime court-TV shows, and you’ll witness cases brought by black single mothers complaining about the “baby daddies” who blithely pass through their lives.

Not that it justified his death, but Walter Scott, the unarmed black man a police officer shot in the back in South Carolina, was a “baby daddy” running from his responsibility to support his children.
As long as young black women allow themselves to be impregnated and discarded, and young black men run from personal responsibility, the ghettos will continue to burn.

Contact Ed Palm at efpalm@centurylink.net.