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One commenter asked my perspective on the implications of racism of this Presidential election on society as a whole, so I decided to respond to this comment as Part III on this subject.

Racism in America has been a major issue ever since President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This Executive Order was issued on January 1, 1863, during the Civil War and proclaimed the freedom of 3.1 million of the nation’s 4 million slaves.  About 50,000 or so were freed immediately with the remainder freed as the Union armies advanced.  Of course, the total abolition of slavery was finalized by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which became effective in December 1865.  Although African Americans were the main focus on the Executive Order, the Thirteenth Amendment makes involuntary servitude illegal under any U. S. jurisdiction whether at the hands of the U.S. Government or in the private sphere, except as punishment for a crime.

Some form of racism continues to exist throughout the world.  As in most countries, many people in the United States continue to have some prejudices against other races.  In the view of the US Human Rights Network, “Discrimination permeates all aspects of life in the United States, and extends to all communities of color.”  Racism against African Americans, Latin Americans, and Muslims is widely acknowledged.  The US Human Rights Network, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, is a national network composed of over 200 self-identified grassroots human rights organizations and over 700 individuals working to strengthen what they regard as the protection of human rights in the United States.  The organization seeks “to challenge the pernicious belief that the United States is inherently superior to other countries of the world, and that neither the US government nor the US rights movements have anything to gain from the domestic application of human rights.”

Although much progress has been made in attempting to eliminate racism, some believe that there was a significant set-back when President Barack Obama was inaugurated as President.  Twenty-first century racism at its finest emerged.  The rage during the campaign and over the past 3-1/2 years have been unprecedented especially when you hear emotionally charged members of the white community say that they want to, “take their country back” as though it has disappeared because there is an African American President in the White House.  I believe that the overall impact on our society, however, with the election of President Obama is significant primarily because he has “paved the way” for other minorities to achieve the same level of success–the opportunity to hold the highest office in the nation and maybe even the world.  This, in my view, is at the core of the right-wing anger against this President to discourage other African Americans from seeking this high office.  Of course President Obama’s success was made possible because of some early “pioneers” including non African Americans.  The Jackie Robinson story comes to mind.

In 1945, Jackie played one season in the Negro Baseball League, traveling all over the Midwest with the Kansas City Monarchs. But greater challenges and achievements were in store for him.  Although racism was very prevalent, in 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey approached Jackie about joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Major Leagues had not had an African-American player since 1889, when baseball became segregated.  When Jackie first donned a Brooklyn Dodger uniform, he pioneered the integration of professional athletics in America.  At the end of Robinson’s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he had become the National League Rookie of the Year with 12 homers, a league-leading 29 steals, and a .297 average.  In 1949, he was selected as the NL’s Most Valuable player of the Year and also won the batting title with a .342 average that same year.  Jackie was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.  As a result, the color barrier particularly for African Americans was broken, not only in baseball, the nation’s preeminent sport, but also in sports, business, academia, government, and especially in politics.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is another pioneer for Civil Rights through his non-violent marches and demonstrations, and this week, he is being acknowledged on the National Mall by the unveiling of a monument in his honor.  Not only is this an outstanding achievement, he is the only African American to receive such an honor.

African Americans had already been elected to the highest state office as governors, but now one has reached the pinnacle of the political spectrum as President of the United States.  Like most people, African Americans and other minorities’ just want an opportunity and those who have the drive and determination will not only succeed but will far excel in their endeavor.   Although my federal career started in the 1960s during a time when racism in the federal government was a bit subtle, I was honored to be the highest ranking African American in a Federal agency and presented with the agency’s highest honor when I retired in 2002.  I believe that many successful minorities have experienced some form of racism during their careers.

I believe that President Obama will serve a second term and when the annals of history are written, the record of his accomplishments will be ranked among some of this country’s greatest presidents.  Maybe during his second term, racism will finally be put to rest at least for a season.

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Perhaps many of you have had occasion to purchase a diamond but didn’t know the questions to ask the jeweler.  You can purchase two appearing identical diamonds yet once could be several thousand dollars from the cost of the other.  So the next time you are in a diamond buying mood, here are some things that you should know.

Webster defines Diamond as – A very hard, highly refractive, colorless or white crystalline allotrope of carbon, used when pure as a gemstone and otherwise chiefly in abrasives.  The diamond is nature’s hardest substance, resistant to both fire and steel.  This invincible strength and its rarity have made it an extremely coveted material, symbolic of wealth, power, magic, and love.  The word diamond stems from the latin diamas, meaning the unconquerable.

Diamonds were first discovered in India where they were valued more for their magical powers than for their beauty. The first recorded account of a diamond used in a wedding ring was in 1477 by the Archduke Maximillian of Austria in his proposal to Mary of Burgundy. This began the tradition that remains with us today.  The discovery of a large mine in Africa in 1870, lead to the availability of the diamond on a much larger scale. The gem that was exclusively worn by kings and noblemen became accessible to the general public. This resulted in greater experimentation in the cutting and polishing of diamonds that allowed a diamond’s truly unique beauty to shine above all other gems.

A diamond’s journey starts at the mine, and travels to many places and through many hands before it reaches the person who finally wears it. Diamonds are mined in various places around the world including, Australia, Zaire, Botswana, Russia, Namibia, Brazil, and South Africa.  Diamonds in their rough form look like dirty pebbles and do not resemble the cut and polished gems we are accustomed to.  It is the skill of the diamond cutter that unleashes the fiery brilliance that is the beauty of a diamond. The skill of diamond cutter is passed on from generation to generation through apprenticeship and rigorous training. There are four diamond centers internationally, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, New York, and Bombay that I am aware of.   Once the diamond has been cut and polished, it is placed in a setting that complements its natural beauty. Setting designs are as varied as the individuals who wear them.

Maybe you have heard of “The 4Cs.” The 4 C’s are four variables that are used to calculate the value of a diamond. These are:  Clarity, Color, Cut, and Carat Weight.   Clarity describes the clearness or purity of a diamond. This is determined by the number, size, nature, and location of the internal (inclusions) and external (blemishes) imperfections.  The clarity scale is broken down into the following grades:

IF – Internally Flawless Free from all inclusions or blemishes.

F – Flawless No inclusions visible at 10x magnification.

VVS1 – Very Very Small Inclusion  #1 Inclusions that are extremely difficult to locate at 10x.

VVS2 Very Very Small Inclusion  #2 Inclusions that are very difficult to locate at 10x.

VS1 Very Small Inclusion #1 Minor inclusions that are difficult to locate at 10x.

VS2 Very Small Inclusion #2 Minor inclusions that are somewhat difficult to locate at 10x.

SI1 Small Inclusion #1 Noticeable inclusions that are easy to locate at 10x.

SI2 Small Inclusion #2 Noticeable inclusions that are very easy to locate at 10x. Some inclusions may be seen with the unaided eye.

I1 Included #1 Obvious inclusions. Somewhat easy to locate with the unaided eye.

I2 Included #2 Obvious inclusions. Easy to locate with the unaided eye.

I3 Included #3 Obvious inclusions. Very easy to locate with the unaided eye.

Two methods used to affect the clarity grade given to a diamond are lasering and clarity enhancing. Lasering of diamonds is the process in which a laser is used to drill a tiny hole into a diamond and the black of the imperfection is then removed. This is a legitimate and widely accepted treatment.

The second treatment is called clarity enhancing. This method is widely disputed because a foreign element is injected into the diamond. This method is not permanent and therefore not recommended. All clarity treated diamonds must be disclosed as such prior to sale. I do not sell clarity enhanced diamonds.

Color describes the amount of color the diamond contains. This can range from colorless to yellow with slight tints of yellow, gray or brown. Colors can also range from intense yellow to brown, blue, green, pink and red. These fancy colors are rare and therefore more valuable.  It is possible to influence the color by an irradiation treatment followed by a heat treatment.  I do not sell color treated diamonds.

Cut refers to the proportions, finish, symmetry, and polish of the diamond. These factors determine the fire and brilliance of a diamond. Well cut diamonds sell at a premium and poorly cut diamonds sell at discounted prices.

Carat is the unit of weight for the diamond.  A carat is further subdivided into 100 points (0.01 carat = 1 point). The greater the carat size of the diamond, the greater its worth.

So be sure that you keep these points in mind when you are making a diamond purchase and show your jeweler that you are a well-informed shopper.

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