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Tag: "racism"

How the Conservative King Was Created

[ 52 ] January 16, 2017 |

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Today is our annual reminder that the conservative cooptation of Martin Luther King continues in its grotesque march forward away from the truth into a fascist candyland of “colorblindness” to serve the purposes of white supremacy. How did this begin? I am always skeptical of monocausal explanations, but its pretty clear that Grandpa Caligula played a pretty big role. Reagan of course hated King, rode white supremacy into the White House, and then resisted creating the MLK holiday with support from his good friend Jesse Helms. Why did he change his mind and sign the bill? Pure politics and realizing that he could message King into meaninglessness.

However, in a dramatically about-face, Reagan capitulated in the final months of 1983. The month following his news conference—and fifteen years after Michigan congressman John Conyers first introduced legislation for the King observance—Reagan sat on the White House lawn and signed a bill establishing a federal holiday for a man he had spent the previous two decades opposing, whilst several hundred attendees sang “We Shall Overcome.”

Yet even after he publicly changed his position, Reagan wrote a letter of apology to Meldrim Thomson, Jr., the Republican governor of New Hampshire, who had begged the president not to support the holiday. His new position, Reagan explained in the letter, was based “on an image [of King], not reality.” Reagan’s support for the federal King holiday, in other words, had nothing to do with his personal views of the civil rights leader. Instead the holiday provided Reagan with political pretext to silence the mounting criticism of his positions on civil rights. By 1983 Reagan faced an onslaught of criticism from groups such as the NAACP and the Urban League for his aggressive assaults on affirmative action and court-ordered busing. With a reelection bid on the horizon, he began to make more concerted efforts to pacify his critics and soften public opinion over his open hostility to civil rights. The King holiday was the primary component of this effort.

Reagan’s pivot on the King holiday provided a two-pronged benefit. On the one hand it would pacify critics of his positions on civil rights, but on the other it enabled Reagan to position himself as the inheritor of King’s colorblind “dream”—a society in which “all men are created equal” and should be judged “not . . . by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”—in order to advance the anti-black crusade he had waged since the 1960s, now under the alluring mantle of colorblindness.

The notion of a “colorblind” approach to U.S. law originated in 1896, when Justice John Marshall Harlan argued in his dissent to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision—which established the legal precedent for racial segregation—that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional because “our Constitution in color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” Nearly sixty years later, Justice Harlan was vindicated when the Warren Court invalidated Plessy in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Yet Harlan and Reagan understood colorblindness in profoundly different ways. For Harlan, colorblind law safeguarded non-whites from the institutionalization of white supremacy in state and local governments under Jim Crow. For Reagan, who opposed both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, colorblindness offered an effective ideology through which to roll back the victories of the civil rights movement.

Reagan’s efforts to align himself as the inheritor of King’s colorblind “Dream” picked up considerably during his second term in the White House. Reagan’s assistant attorney general for civil rights, William Bradford Reynolds, began defending the president’s opposition to civil rights programs by insisting that Reagan’s actions were informed by King’s colorblind philosophy. Throughout his second term, Reagan would frequently turn to the colorblind rhetoric, and only the colorblind rhetoric, of the civil rights movement to justify his continued assault on civil rights as a realization of King’s dream.

The most revealing example of Reagan’s second-term King strategy occurred on January 17, 1986. Three days before the inaugural Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Coretta Scott King unveiled a three-foot solid bronze bust of her slain husband in the Capitol rotunda (later moved to Statuary Hall). After the ceremony Reagan met with King and other civil rights leaders and urged them to “never, never abandon the dream” of a colorblind United States. Reagan’s rendering of King begins and ends on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It is a King who said little more than a single sentence: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Absent entirely from Reagan’s representations of King are his critiques of capitalism, the war in Vietnam, nuclear weapons, or white supremacy.

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D’Souza

[ 203 ] January 15, 2017 |

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I find Dinesh D’Souza so confusing. The man clearly wants to return to the Jim Crow years. Or even slavery. But why does he think that if that was to happen, he wouldn’t be affected by it? Here is D’Souza on slavery:

Recently convicted felon and conservative columnist Dinesh D’Souza’s book, “The End of Racism,” provides some great examples of rewriting race. D’Souza says of slavery, “No free workers enjoyed a comparable social security system from birth until death.” Later, he writes, “Masters … encouraged the family unit which basically remained intact.” In a particularly appalling passage, he writes, “slavery appears such a relatively mild business that one begins to wonder why Frederick Douglass and so many other ever tried to escape.” And concludes, “In summary, the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.”

And then his tour de force tweet of yesterday:

I actually expect this from Attorney General Forrest. But, again, why does D’Souza think he would be excepted from the racist regime he fights for?

The Harvard Cross-Burning

[ 27 ] January 15, 2017 |

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I was reading an academic article yesterday and came across a reference to a 1952 cross burning at Harvard, as white students protested 8 black students living in a dorm. One of those students was J. Max Bond, who would late become a leading architect, not to mention being the cousin of Julian Bond. I was curious to see if Harvard had done anything to remember this really horrible incident, as it was the first I had heard of it. Turns out, no.

Max’s widow, Jean Carey Bond, a writer, teacher, and activist, had prepared an 11-page recollection of his life. In it, she noted that Max entered Harvard at age 15, finished in three years, graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Yet shortly after his fifteenth birthday, he was welcomed by the burning cross. Even more outrageously, wrote Ms. Bond in the handout, he was subsequently threatened by the Harvard administration (presumably to protect the University’s image) that any black student who reported the incident to the Boston media would be suspended.

But Max and Lou Sharpe, co-chair of the Harvard Society for Minority Rights, defied the threat, and a story or short account of the cross-burning appeared in The Crimson, the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the New York Times, and elsewhere, in the U.S. and abroad. As someone (white) whose work and personal life are replete with anti-racism activities, I decided I’d try to get Harvard at least to apologize for their alleged threat (and the censorship that threat would have constituted). While this is a very different era in U.S. race relations and one hopes that such an event would not happen today, past incidents of racist behavior certainly deserve an apology, if only for its educational or symbolic value.

I first wrote a letter to the editor of Harvard Magazine. Next I went to the top: On Sept. 2, 2009, I wrote University President Drew Gilpin Faust, recently appointed as Harvard’s first female president, referring to my just-published letter, summarizing the history, and urging an institutional apology. Indeed, Brown University had just recently apologized for its own racial history. In return, Faust wrote me, essentially asking for documentation of the threat and clearly reluctant to accede to my request.

While I made some real effort to locate such documentation, attempting to contact the relevant deans at the time, such historical documents are essentially closed to researchers; contacting those of Max’s fellow black students whom I could find (some of whom—more than five decades later—had only dim memories of the incident), but who were unable to pass on to me any firm proof of who made the threat, to whom, and in what form.

President Faust’s response struck me as truly off-putting and defensive—no offer to search the archives (by me or someone else) for relevant documentation, no willingness to contact Jean Carey Bond or their children to find out what Max had told them of that incident, no trust that Jean was accurately reporting something Max had conveyed to her. President Faust’s words: “Unfortunately, in a university as old as ours there will be many regrettable incidents involving administrators whose values are different from ours, and not all of them are easily verifiable after much time has passed… [The] episodes described in your letter to the magazine are particularly egregious and make painful reading. I do appreciate your bringing them to my attention.”

Of course Drew Gilpin Faust, one of the nation’s leading Civil War historians, has been a general embarrassment as Harvard president to anyone who thinks historians should apply the lessons about injustice that they write about to the present. Really shameful. Harvard needs to do something to apologize for this and commemorate it on campus.

Right to Work a Man to Death

[ 27 ] January 14, 2017 |

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A key reminder that the intellectual founder of the right to work a man to death movement was Vance Muse, anti-Semite, racist, and anti-worker. Of course these things are not unconnected. Neither are they today as Kentucky destroys its unions and Missouri may well do the same, building on the many states to do so in recent years.

Muse had long made a lucrative living lobbying throughout the South on behalf of conservative and corporate interests or, in the words of one of his critics, “playing rich industrialists as suckers.” Over the course of his career, he fought women’s suffrage, worked to defeat the constitutional amendment prohibiting child labor, lobbied for high tariffs, and sought to repeal the eight-hour day law for railroaders. He was also active in the Committee for the Americanization of the Supreme Court, which targeted Justice Felix Frankfurter, a Vienna-born Jewish man, for his votes in labor cases.

But Muse first attracted national attention through his work with Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby in the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution, which sought to deny Roosevelt’s re-nomination in 1936 on grounds that the New Deal threatened the South’s racial order. Despite its name, the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution received funding from prominent northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers including John Jacob Raskob, Alfred P. Sloan, and brothers Lammot, Irénée, and Pierre du Pont.

Among Muse’s activities on behalf of the Southern Committee was the distribution of what Time called “cheap pamphlets containing blurred photographs of the Roosevelts consorting with Negroes” accompanied by “blatant text proclaiming them ardent Negrophiles.” Muse later defended the action and the use of its most provocative photograph: “I am a Southerner and for white supremacy… It was a picture of Mrs. Roosevelt going to some n—-r meeting with two escorts, n—–s, on each arm.”

In 1936, on the heels of the Southern Committee’s failure to deny Roosevelt’s nomination, Muse incorporated the Christian American Association to continue the fight against the New Deal, offering up a toxic mix of anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Communism, and anti-unionism. The Christian Americans considered the New Deal to be part of the broader assault of “Jewish Marxism” upon Christian free enterprise.

The organization’s titular head, Lewis Valentine Ulrey, explained that after their success in Russia the “Talmudists” had determined to conquer the rest of the world and that “by 1935 they had such open success with the New Deal in the United States, that they decided to openly restore the Sanhedrin,” that is, both the council of Jewish leaders who oversaw a community and the Jewish elders who, according to the Bible, plotted to kill Christ.

This “modern Jewish Sanhedrin” – which included people like Justice Frankfurter and NAACP board member Rabbi Stephen Wise – served as the guiding force of the Roosevelt Administration and the New Deal state. Vance Muse voiced the same anti-Semitic ideas in much simpler terms: “That crazy man in the White House will Sovietize America with the federal hand-outs of the Bum Deal – sorry, New Deal. Or is it the Jew Deal?”

By the early 1940s, Muse and the Christian American Association, like many southern conservatives, focused much of their wrath on the labor movement, especially the unions associated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The Christian Americans solicited wealthy southern planters and industrialists for funds to help break the “strangle hold radical labor has on our government” through the enactment of anti-union laws.

Muse and his allies continued to claim that Marxist Jews were pulling the national government’s strings, but the membership of this cabal shifted from the likes of Wise and Frankfurter to CIO leaders like Lee Pressman and Sidney Hillman. The Christian Americans, like other southern conservatives, insisted that the CIO – which had become shorthand for Jewish Marxist unions – was sending organizers to the rural South to inflame the contented but gullible African-American population as the first step in a plot to Sovietize the nation.

Nice guy. Perfect for the Republican Party of 2017.

Also, in case any needs a primer on the origin of my term for those laws.

Subtext: A Quaint Idea of the Past

[ 49 ] January 12, 2017 |

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Remember when we used to talk about how sometimes Republicans would “say the quiet parts loud” or that “subtext became text” when they would say the racist stuff out loud without trying to hide it? That’s such a cute thing of the past. Because in Trump’s America, you can just be an open racist and wave that freak flag. That very much includes people in power, such as Alabama’s lizard congressman Mo Brooks.

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks said in a radio interview on Tuesday that criticism of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is Donald Trump’s pick to be attorney general, is part of an ongoing “war on whites” by Democrats.

“It’s really about political power and racial division and what I’ve referred to on occasion as the ‘war on whites.’ They are trying to motivate the African-American vote to vote-bloc for Democrats by using every ‘Republican is a racist’ tool that they can envision,” the Republican congressman said on “The Morning Show With Toni & Gary” on WBHP 800 Alabama radio. “Even if they have to lie about it.”

Wanting black people to be able to vote and trying to keep Nathan Bedford Forrest out of the Attorney General’s office is indeed a war on whites.

See also:

There’s Always a Market to Blame Black People

[ 114 ] January 11, 2017 |

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Damon Linker, Very Serious Thinker, follows up on his pre-election writing that Donald Trump and his fans just can’t be a bunch of racists and his earlier concern trolling about immigration by blaming intersectionality for the decline of the Democratic Party.

This is a Very Serious Thinker.

I wonder what the connection is between all of these pieces? I just can’t put my finger on it…..

What on Earth Was the Los Angeles Times Thinking?

[ 112 ] December 12, 2016 |

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The Los Angeles Times is subject to a lot of outrage right now for printing letters to the editor that defended placing Japanese-Americans into concentration camps during World War II. What would cause them to do such a thing? The newspaper has apologized but there are deeper issues at play here. What are the boundaries of acceptable political ideas today? Well, as we are discovering day by day, every single historical issue about which we thought we expressed shame–genocide against Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese internment–are all now being actively defended by Trump supporters. And because the mantra of the media is that Both Sides Must Be Represented, these absolutely revolting viewpoints are being mainstreamed. This is deeply disturbing and as I have been saying, we are simply going to have to fight this at every juncture. Thanks to all the people who expressed their disgust at the LA Times for this.

Manslaughter for a White Man Killing a Black Man? Shouldn’t He Get a Medal?

[ 22 ] December 6, 2016 |

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Newell Normand, sheriff of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana (and other than Bull Connor, how much more appropriate could a name for a southern white sheriff be?) has a great justification for his extremely poor choices made around the murder of former Jets running back Joe McKnight by a white man. First, he didn’t he arrest the guy. Now the guy has been charged with manslaughter, probably meaning he won’t serve much time, if any at all. And then there’s his actions at press conferences:

The sheriff said that officials had 10 hours of non-custodial interviews and two hours of custodial interviews with Gasser, who didn’t ask for an attorney. Normand added that officials had 160 interviews related to the case since Thursday, and criticized those who were critical of law enforcement.

Normand took a significant portion of his time to a condemn some of the national reaction to the story. For the second time, he said that a witness lied when they claimed that McKnight was apologizing as Gasser shot him, after which Gasser stood over his body as he said, “I told you don’t fuck with me,” before shooting again. “Shame on that individual,” Normand said.

To add detail to his argument, Normand read an anonymous internet comment out loud directed at one of his colleagues, that included the insults “you punk-ass Uncle Tom coon” and “rat-ass faggot punk.” When asked by a reporter why he read those comments, and if he understood why a case with a white man shooting a young black man would be so nationally scrutinized, Normand cited black-on-black crime statistics for the parish. “If you want to look at the statistical data, your fear is somewhere else,” Normand said.

Black on black crime! The favorite dodge of racists everywhere justifying white murders of black people. The only lesson we can take is that black lives don’t matter so go ahead white people, kill ’em all! They will probably kill each other anyway! For that matter, let’s suppress their voting rights and destroy the social safety net and anything else that might conceivably help a black person live a dignified life in this nation.

Today in Trump’s America

[ 136 ] December 2, 2016 |

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Example #1: The execution of former Jets running back Joe McKnight.

Ronald Gasser, the man authorities say shot and killed former NFL player Joe McKnight, was released from custody overnight without being charged, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office authorities said Friday morning (Dec. 2).

Gasser, 54, has not been formally charged, said JPSO spokesman Col. John Fortunato. Investigators are consulting with the district attorney’s office on the decision whether to formally charge Gasser, Fortunato said.

As the investigation into McKnight’s death continues, Fortunato asked anyone with information about the shooting to contact department homicide detectives at 504-364-5393.

McKnight, 28, was shot about 3 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 1) at the intersection of Behrman Highway and Holmes Boulevard in Terrytown. A witness, who declined to give her name, said she saw a man at the intersection yelling at McKnight, who was trying to apologize. The man shot McKnight more than once, the witness said. She said he shot McKnight, stood over him and said, “I told you don’t you f— with me.” Then the man fired again, she said.

He murdered an unarmed man execution style and the cops just let him go. That my friends is what you call a racist nation with a racist “justice” system allowing for whites to kill black people and be treated with kid gloves. Maybe he and George Zimmerman can go on the road together.

Example 2: Trump giving white men the room to do whatever they want to Muslims.

Three men physically attacked a Muslim teenager at a Manhattan subway stop on Thursday night while shouting the name of the President-elect, police told the New York Daily News.

Police said the unidentified 18-year-old victim was waiting alone for the uptown 6 train at the 23rd Street and Park Avenue station when three young men approached her shouting “Donald Trump.”

Officers told the Daily News that they followed her onto the train, continuing to shout Trump’s name and allegedly calling her a “fucking terrorist.” The men, who the victim said appeared intoxicated, also allegedly told her to “get the hell out of the country” and said she didn’t “belong here.”

When she did not respond, they ripped her purse off her shoulder, breaking the strap, and attempted to pull off her hijab, police said.

What is terrible here is also that no one intervened and stood up for this woman. When we see this, we must do the right thing, even if that places us in physical danger ourselves. When we cower in terror, understandable as this may be when it happens, we enable fascists to act ever more boldly, leading to increasingly horrible crimes. I know it’s easy for me to sit here and write this and I’m not trying to act as a keyboard warrior. I’m just saying we all have to figure what we are going to actually do in these situations if we see them. And some people are doing the right thing and intervening.

How to Respond to Hate in Trump’s America

[ 51 ] November 25, 2016 |

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People in an Albuquerque grocery store have the right response to hate.

It was an unpleasant experience for Smith’s shoppers in Albuquerque Wednesday morning, particularly for a woman wearing a hijab, when another customer accosted her.

Barney Lopez was in the store at Coal and Yale when it happened around 9:30 a.m. He remembers walking in and passing the woman with the head scarf as she was checking out.

“I went down the aisle to go get sodas and then all of a sudden I hear somebody starting to yell at her,” he recalls, “And they’re saying things like ‘Get out of our country, you don’t belong here, you’re a terrorist!’”

At that point, Lopez says, practically everyone in the store stopped what they were doing and ran to the defense of the woman in hijab.

Lopez snapped a picture, albeit a bit shaky, of the person screaming at the woman in the hijab. The lady is wearing a hat and sunglasses. A Smith’s employee appears to stand in the way to keep her back.

“There was even another woman that like went over to the woman in the hijab and put her arm around her and gave her hug and held her while the Smith’s employees came,” he says.

Employees shuffled the shouting lady out of the store, but Lopez says the screaming woman waited in the parking lot for the woman in the hijab to come out.

“So all the Smith’s employees gathered around this woman and escorted her to her car and helped her load her groceries,” he recalled.

This is how we have to react. Right now, racists are fully empowered to yell and scream and beat and kill people of color. The way we stop them is to stand up collectively and fight for those we see oppressed. That’s what people did in Albuquerque yesterday. The only way this could have been improved upon is that someone took down the license plate of the racists who did this so she could be investigated by the police.

Today in Trump’s America

[ 124 ] November 18, 2016 |

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Not sure my liver can stand up for the next 4 years. Luckily, I’ll probably be in some political prison by 2018.

One of the latest examples came at a high school volleyball tournament in Snyder, Tex., where Archer City High was facing off with Fort Hancock on Friday.

Clumped in the stands, according to the Dallas Morning News, a group of Archer City students holding Trump/Pence signs and wearing wigs, trucker hats and fake mustaches directed a chant toward their opponents on the other side of the gym: “Build that wall.”

Fort Hancock is about an hour south of El Paso, along the Mexican border. The Fort Hancock Independent School District’s student population is 97 percent Hispanic, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Archer City is about two hours northwest of Dallas, near the Oklahoma border. The Star-Telegram, citing the Texas Education Agency, noted that Archer City High had an enrollment of 384 students last year, 83 percent of whom were white. Just 9 percent of the students were Hispanic.

The Archer City students also held a Texas flag and a second one declaring, “Come and Take It.” The latter is an iconic emblem of the Texas revolution that was flown at the Battle of Gonzales, the first military clash between Texans and Mexican forces. Known to anyone who’s taken an eighth-grade history class in the state, it remains a source of antagonistically tinged pride among some Texans who look down upon their southern neighbor.

Home town of Larry McMurtry, FWIW.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions

[ 244 ] November 18, 2016 |

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Your nominee for Attorney General:

The man who President-elect Donald Trump will nominate as the 84th attorney general of the United States was once rejected as a federal judge over allegations he called a black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for black clients was a race traitor, joked that the only issue he had with the Ku Klux Klan was their drug use, and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” organizations trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an early Trump supporter who has been playing a major role on the Trump transition team, met with the president-elect in New York on Thursday. A former aide to Sessions is managing the Justice Department transition. In a statement, the Trump team said the president-elect was “unbelievably impressed” with Sessions.

Any Democratic senator who votes for Sessions should be immediately expelled from the caucus. Meanwhile, I hope you are as ready to put your body on the line to refight the 1950s and 1960s era civil rights movement as I am. Because that’s what is going to be necessary.

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