Subscribe via RSS Feed

Tag: "racism"

From Jackson to Trump: The Problem of American Whites

[ 441 ] April 21, 2016 |


Reading the discussions of Andrew Jackson over the last couple of days has been really interesting to me. With both Dylan Matthews and Scott, I agree on all the merits of the case against Jackson. But I think it’s also just slightly misguided in emphasis. Jackson was terrible in pretty much every conceivable way–economic policy, slaveholding, genocidal murderer of indigenous peoples, extralegal executions of foreign traders, etc. John Quincy Adams was indeed much more of a visionary of a more just and functional America.

So you’ll see no disagreement from me on banishing Jackson to the back of the $20 or getting rid of him entirely. Good riddance.

But I think all of this lets the real culprits of American crimes off way too easy: white people. Relatedly, I this is a result of and is spurred on by too much focus on the presidency as a way to understand what is still a Great Man History that we can’t get beyond and a way to understand modern politics. These two issues intertwine to provide us a somewhat limited view of the problems of the past and the present. The problems of the past and present in the United States can be blithely summed up as too many racist, selfish white people. Matthews and Scott are both right by calling Jackson a reactionary. He was indeed. But it’s not like Jackson was putting himself out on the line politically. Jackson’s actions–destroying the National Bank, holding slaves, committing genocide against Native Americans–were all the popular positions of the American white population. There’s a reason he was so popular and a reason why the Whigs struggled so much to defeat him. He delivered on what millions of Americans wanted.

Andrew Jackson was the living embodiment of the American Dream in the early 19th century. Growing up dirt poor and barely literate, he managed to rise rapidly in American society through his use of violence, shrewd financial dealings, and military success. Owning slaves was the primary way to wealth for basically the entire South during the pre-Civil War period, a part of the nation it should be remembered that also included Maryland and Kentucky. Moreover, many, many whites would have loved to own slaves in southern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The genocidal project was supported by nearly every white American, outside of the northeast at least. What is forgotten about in the Indian Removal debates is that the whites of Georgia simply would have massacred the Cherokee had the government not removed them. Yes, Jackson should have followed John Marshall’s decision. But remember that he and Van Buren faced zero political fallout for ignoring Marshall. The Democratic Party was the embodiment of white desire. Jackson may have been a reactionary, but so were the majority of American whites.

Another way this is really interesting is that it’s really hard for me to see people who are damning Andrew Jackson defend the American Revolution. The American Revolution was largely a movement of racist white tax avoiders who openly advocated for genocide against Native Americans and who then acted upon that. Yes, the fancy Enlightenment thought that gussied up the Declaration of Independence did cause some whites to question their society and you saw northern states slowly move toward banning slavery, although this was by no means an easy task in many of them. But even there, the real issue was slavery wasn’t making any money and so was easily disposed of. In the South, the reason there was some emancipationist talk was that the tobacco farms had depleted soil and so it didn’t make much financial sense. Almost the very moment the cotton gin is invented, all of that southern talk about emancipation disappears and the region doubles down on slavery. Slavery once again became the way for white wealth accrual in much of the nation. Andrew Jackson helped move that process along but he was also very much a creation of it.

The problem of Andrew Jackson is the problem of white people. It’s the problem of genocide against Native Americans after the American Revolution. It’s the problem of slavery. It’s the problem of James Polk lying to Congress to invade Mexico to expand slavery. It’s the problem of John C. Calhoun and John C. Breckinridge. It’s the problem of popular sovereignty and Bleeding Kansas. It’s the problem of the Democratic Party running Horatio Seymour in 1868 and Horace Greeley in 1872, both running on the Republicans doing too much for black people. It’s the problem of William Tecumseh Sherman and Phil Sheridan wanted to exterminate Native Americans and being irritated with Grant for not allowing that. It’s the problem of Wade Hampton and Tom Watson. It’s the problem of Woodrow Wilson and the Ku Klux Klan, first, second, and third editions. It’s the problem of George Wallace and Strom Thurmond. It’s the problem of Reagan giving campaign speeches about race in Philadelphia, Mississippi and people responding to that. It’s the problem of the Tea Party and the rise of Donald Trump.

In other words, the problem of Andrew Jackson is not just that Andrew Jackson was a terrible person. It’s the problem of most American white people being racists. By focusing too much on Jackson or too much on Trump, we let ourselves and our society off the hook. Take Jackson off the $20, please! But by focusing our criticism too much on a single individual, we not only reinforce a type of personality politics today that is deeply problematic and reinforce Great Man History, we also cover up for our own culpability in all of these horrors and culpability of our ancestors.



[ 47 ] April 1, 2016 |


The three last sociopaths competing for the Republican nomination will be debating this Tuesday in Milwaukee. Of course, they will be pushing visions that are counter to the interests of the people who actually live in Milwaukee, as opposed to the racist white suburbs that are Scott Walker’s base.

Desmond’s harrowing data points about the material indignities of Milwaukee poverty derive in turn from hard, ugly facts about America as a whole. Well-paying jobs fled the city to be replaced with service sector work that paid less than half as much. Those who turn to the criminal economy in order to keep the roaches out of their kids’ cereal boxes, or just to avoid eviction from their current rat hole, end up having to check a box on every job application acknowledging their criminal record and dooming their chances of getting a call back.

One in four times that an impoverished Milwaukee family moved house from 2009 to 2011, it was involuntary. Most of those forced uprootings were formal evictions, though Desmond notes that landlords who don’t want to bother with housing court and sheriff’s eviction squads sometimes tear the front door off a delinquent tenant’s home or otherwise push them out informally.

While evictions are commonplace today, Desmond writes that American communities used to rally together against them with force and verve. A New York Times article from the Depression era once described a 1,000-person anti-eviction protest crowd as small.

When they’re not evicting people, Desmond writes, Milwaukee’s slumlords encourage them to “trade their dignity and children’s health for a roof over their head.”

One in five Milwaukee renters lives with broken windows, busted appliances, or days-long rat or roach problems. One in three have had their plumbing clogged up for more than a day. One in 10 have endured a day with no heat. Kicking up a fuss about any of these problems might mean a city inspector came out and cited the landlord, but it would probably also mean being evicted and starting from scratch.

Desmond’s reporting reveals a casual brutality grinded into every corner of the low-income rental market by decades of job flight, poverty, and neglect.

An inner-city landlord named Sherrena Tarver, while at times callous, is laboring away on her own hamster wheel of incentives and constraints. A woman named Arleen moves her boys into a shelter after Sherrena evicts them, and goes through 90 different landlords with open listings just to find a single one who will take her – and days later, they toss her back out on the street again.

There’s the trailer park manager who supervises a hard-assed Illinois man’s investment in white destitution, and a woman on disability for a middle school hip fracture that was never treated. There are housing court commissioners who crank out scores of evictions every day, often awarding landlords the right to collect debts later from any flat-broke tenant who manages to turn her life around.

The landscape corrupts all who deal in it. And beyond the immediate landscape, a complex and far-flung industry extracts profit from the evictions churn by selling related services to landlords and tenants alike.

It’s a sort of cottage industry designed to extract profit from a crisis that American cities create by failing to build and maintain enough housing that their residents can actually afford. Trump’s own early career involved some real estate dealings that contributed to that shortage, focusing his resources on building luxury housing where dense, rent-controlled units previously stood.

The only mistake made here is emphasizing Trump. This isn’t Trump’s America. It’s Republican America. It’s Scott Walker’s America. It’s an America of over a century of the exploitation of black communities by zoning laws, slumlords, housing markets, urban renewal, de facto and de jure segregation, all tied together in a big package of racism. Hell, it isn’t Trump’s America. It’s just America.

White Supremacists of Politics Past

[ 59 ] March 9, 2016 |


Donald Trump’s embrace of white supremacists reminds Ben Railton of that mostly forgotten election year of 1924, when the KKK dominated the Democratic Party and anti-immigrant politics won the day, closing the American borders to most immigrants for four decades.

Lost in the latest Trump uproar is that the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists have been significant players in our national politics for a century, engaged in debates over not only race and region but also over immigration, culture, and American identity more broadly. Indeed, just under a century ago, the Klan muscled its way to center stage at a national political party’s convention in a moment that captured the hate group’s tenacious national presence. Back then it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, struggling to quell the divisions within their ranks. But the story speaks volumes about the racial tensions that continue to tear at the national body politic.

It was 1924, and the Democrats were holding their national convention in New York’s Madison Square Garden, a political brawl that ran continuously for more than two weeks and required a record 103 ballots to nominate the party’s presidential candidate. The two frontrunners coming into the convention were William Gibbs McAdoo, a California businessman and future U.S. senator who had served as Woodrow Wilson’s Treasury Secretary, and New York Governor Alfred Smith, a Catholic vehemently opposed by the Ku Klux Klan. The delegates linked with the Klan, which had over the preceding decade had gained significant, controversial national influence in the Democratic Party and beyond, supported McAdoo. Like Trump when first asked about David Duke, McAdoo did not disavow or decline the endorsement.

From June 24 to July 9, Catholics, immigrants, and other coalitions within the party fought the Klan delegates in a series of back-and-forth nominations of Smith, McAdoo, and a number of other candidates. The result was a convention that broke all records for length, came to be known as the “Klanbake,” and eventually nominated a broadly unpopular alternative candidate, namely former West Virginia Congressman John W. Davis. Davis went on to lose the presidential election to Republican incumbent Calvin Coolidge by a margin of nearly 250 electoral votes.

That historic convention serves as a reminder that white supremacists have been tied to both major parties, and that Democrats have not been immune from ugly racial attacks. Indeed, the Klan and its ilk were most prominently associated with the Democratic Party until at least the 1948 “Dixiecrat” revolt, when segregationist Democrats nominated Strom Thurmond as a third-party presidential candidate. (To be clear, this does not mean, as the recent comments of CNN analyst and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord suggest, that the KKK is a “leftist” organization; the hate group has always been and remains thoroughly reactionary.) Yet the 1924 convention also illustrates the nation’s ongoing struggle with itself over immigration and visions of our collective identity. The Klan’s rise a century ago went hand in hand with the passage of the first comprehensive national immigration law, the Immigration Act of 1924 (also known as the Johnson-Reed Act).

At the time, the 1924 law extended and made permanent the so-called Emergency Quota Act, a 1921 law that had established immigration quotas based on national origin. The central arguments for both creating a national immigration law and basing it on such quotas were openly racist, as reflected in a speech delivered on the Senate floor by then-South Carolina Senator Ellison Durant Smith, himself a white supremacist dedicated to “keeping the niggers down and the price of cotton up.” Smith, one of the 1924 law’s more ardent supporters, argued that “the point as to this measure … is that the time has arrived when we should shut the door. … Thank God we have in America perhaps the largest percentage of any country in the world of the pure, unadulterated Anglo-Saxon stock; certainly the greatest of any nation in the Nordic breed. It is for the preservation of that splendid stock that has characterized us that I would make this not an asylum for the oppressed of all countries, but a country to assimilate and perfect that splendid type of manhood that has made America the foremost Nation in her progress and in her power.”

I doubt I’m the only who could see Trump making speeches very similar to Ellison Durant Smith.

“You have to get out of that neighborhood if you want decent children”

[ 68 ] March 9, 2016 |


I have news for everyone. There are other things happening in the world than the presidential campaign. Perhaps we should pay attention to them. For instance, there is the long-term issue of racism and housing that continues to impoverish African-Americans today. This is an outstanding lengthy discussion of the connections between race, housing, and inequality in Memphis. It explores the growth of the early 20th century black middle class when Memphis was one of the nation’s leading cities and how that was utterly destroyed by the city’s racist political machine when alliances with black politicians were no longer needed. This set off a long history of violence, white flight, and urban blight led by racist politicians and residents that has left Memphis in the dust of other southern cities economically, has created a huge geographical city with a stagnant population, and condemned African-Americans in Memphis today to long-term structural inequality. An excerpt:

White flight intensified the geography of disparity. Beginning in the 1950s, working-class whites moved just beyond the city’s boundaries, first north to Frayser and south to Whitehaven, and then “out East” to Germantown, Collierville, and Cordova, where they built roads, schools, shopping centers, and hospitals — all the features of a city, spread over small rural communities. The completion of the I-240 freeway loop, in 1984, directed commerce away from the urban core of Memphis and toward the suburbs. Today, the highest concentrations of wealth, educational attainment, and jobs are on the eastern edge.

n an ongoing effort to recapture its lost revenue base, Memphis has annexed this ever-expanding crabgrass frontier so that it can collect property taxes from white flighters. Over time, the city has grown to a sprawling 324 square miles, larger than New York City, Atlanta, or St. Louis, without increasing its population of 650,000. Now the city government is responsible for providing services to that vast area, and yet the county roll shows that a third of the land — 95 square miles — is essentially vacant, and much more is sparsely populated. In several cases the city gambled badly, annexing planned developments that never materialized, and now its diminished resources are spread thin across an ever larger territory, much of which generates no revenue.

In modern Memphis there is no figurehead, no Henry Loeb or Boss Crump, to articulate and symbolize the tenets of white supremacy. In fact, one result of white flight and black population growth has been the ascent of African-American political leadership. In 1974, Harold Ford, Sr., won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the state’s first black congressman. In 1991, former school superintendent Dr. Willie Herenton became the city’s first African-American mayor, an office he held for five terms. But the election of black leaders has done nothing to end racial division in Memphis — today, white opposition is expressed in continual growth beyond the city. In suburban malls and parks, you hear the loud echo of those nice white ladies in the mayor’s office in 1953: “You have to get out of that neighborhood if you want decent children.”

The racial prejudice of many suburbanites is revealed by their hostility to integrated public schools. Over the years, proposals to merge the government of surrounding Shelby County with the city government never gained much traction — but when county and city schools were finally merged, in 2011, that sparked a new segregationist revolt. Within two years, six suburban municipalities withdrew from the consolidated system and established their own schools (with a huge assist from the state legislature, which changed a law that had prohibited new school districts), and now those suburban districts no longer need to share their resources with the city. Urban residents nonetheless pay both city and county property taxes, benefiting the communities that have withdrawn their resources from Memphis.

This is well worth your time.

Why Are Our Cities Segregated?

[ 102 ] March 7, 2016 |


Because that’s what the government intended after World War II:

“We have a national myth that the reason our metropolitan areas are segregated is for informal reasons—private prejudice, differences in income, demographic trends, racial steering by real estate agents and so forth,” Rothstein said. “The reality is that the segregation that we see today was established by the federal government with help from state and local governments. It’s an officially established system.”

Rothstein said the federal government purposefully created segregated neighborhoods throughout the country when it started building public housing in the 1930s. He said sometimes the government destroyed integrated neighborhoods like St. Louis’ Desoto-Carr neighborhood to build public housing that was earmarked for one race. Clinton-Peabody, for instance was built for white families on the near south-side of St. Louis while another public housing project was built for black families downtown.

After World War II, the federal government subsidized the construction of great swaths of homes in city suburbs and made them available to purchase for veterans—as long as they were white. Rothstein credits the appreciation in value of those homes as being a major reason white Americans have been able to build more wealth over the past few generations.

“The enormous difference in wealth between median African-American families and median white families is almost entirely attributable to federal housing policy of the 20th century by which whites were subsidized to buy suburban homes which then appreciated in value many times over over the next generation or two and African Americans were prohibited from buying those homes so they didn’t gain any of the benefits of equity appreciation that white families gained,” said Rothstein.

Ferguson resident Cassandra Butler was part of a small but invested crowd listening to Rothstein speak Saturday. She said his research was an affirmation.

“African Americans aren’t necessarily in the economic position they are in because we ourselves are inferior,” said Butler. “It’s constructed, institutional policies that have led to where we are.”

The continued institutionalized racism against African-Americans is why the argument for reparations is morally correct if politically impossible. It also means that only federal programs will fix it. That includes ensuring that educational opportunities are not significantly better for suburban white kids than urban kids of color, whether through busing or nationalizing school funding, or other innovative programs. It’s the only way to move toward solving these problems in education, in housing, in employment, and in so many other facets of American life.

Race, Class, and the Tea Party

[ 67 ] February 15, 2016 |


What drives the Tea Party? Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel suggest it is racial resentment, not class anxiety. That a reasonable conclusion as far as it goes, but it’s not like the two issues can really be separated among white working-class voters. Racism is a huge driver of American politics and society from the beginning of European occupation to the present. That racial resentment cuts across class lines, but it certainly has long been useful for employers and politicians to deploy in order to draw attention away from class-based oppression. So white workers see government programs as helping people of color and thus oppose them based upon racism, even as opposing those programs also hurts them. But then at the same time, the economic resentment is also real in an America where employers are moving good paying jobs overseas. The reason Trump is winning the Republican primary is because he is making those racial and class resentments real and interconnected. It’s the Mexicans and Chinese and Vietnamese stealing our jobs, not the rich employers stealing our jobs, but either way, Trump says he is going to stop it from happening. So does race trump class in Tea Party (or more usefully at this point, right-wing populism) support? I suppose it defends on the definitions, but I don’t think we should be asking these questions in this form. More valuable is to understand the variety of reasons why people are inclined to feel and vote this way, reasons that will always be complex.

Does Racism Influence Our Response to Terrorist Organizations?

[ 97 ] February 11, 2016 |


Probably. Boko Haram is as if not more deadly than ISIS. But because it is strictly in Africa, the media hardly covers it at all. Yet ISIS is the epitome of terrorism because they kill white people. This is reflected in policy as well, with far more political attention paid to ISIS than Boko Haram.

On November 13, 2015, ISIS members coordinated a bombing attack throughout France that brutally massacred 130 innocent souls from Paris to Saint-Denis. The world sat in disbelief at the audacity of the attacks, and prayers everywhere went out to France.

On January 31, 2016, just earlier this week, the Nigerian terrorist faction Boko Haram savagely killed 86 people in Dalori Village by firebombing huts and burning innocent children alive. Just 5 kms outside of northeast Nigeria’s largest city, a survivor recalled hearing unimaginable screams as their flesh was burnt away from their bodies.

Yet, days later, the executions of these same innocent victims of extremism have not garnered the world’s attention. While the mainstream media response about this tragedy has been underwhelming, the added calamity lies in how the Obama administration has seemingly neglected to treat Boko Haram and the victims of their maniacal violence with the same resources and attention that has been provided to ISIS and victims throughout Europe.

This past October, President Obama deployed 300 U.S. Armed Forces personnel to Cameroon to surveil Boko Haram, but it all seemed ‘too little too late.” The Pentagon recently asked for $7.5 billion dollars to take on ISIS in 2017. Despite the fact that Boko Haram and ISIL are responsible for half of all terrorism deaths, the response to both is clearly uneven in many ways.

We prayed and mourned with France. Global leaders pledged swift justice to those responsible. Every presidential candidate had to address the Paris attacks, including Donald Trump, who used the moment to promote prejudice against Muslims. Most American politicians took a stance on whether or not ground troops should be sent to confront ISIS on the battlefield.
-Boko Haram burns kids alive in Nigeria-

Yet the continual slaughter of innocent Africans has not elicited an equal response from the nation or from the Obama Administration, when in fact Boko Haram is the most deadly Islamic terror group on Earth. This is no exaggeration. In 2014, Boko Haram killed 6,664 people, while ISIS was responsible for 6,073 deaths. Boko Haram is also the faction that kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, which prompted the viral #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.

I know the story here is more complicated than just racism, but this scenario sure reinforces the fact that the United States and its citizens simply care less about Africans than any other people in the world. And then gets reflected in both media coverage and foreign policy priorities.

This Machine Might Not Actually Kill Fascists. But It Does Accompany My Nasty Lyrics About Them

[ 11 ] January 22, 2016 |


This is pretty amazing:

Guthrie’s two-year tenancy in one of Fred Trump’s buildings and his relationship with the real estate mogul of New York’s outer boroughs produced some of Guthrie’s most bitter writings, which I discovered on a recent trip to the Woody Guthrie Archives in Tulsa. These writings have never before been published; they should be, for they clearly pit America’s national balladeer against the racist foundations of the Trump real estate empire.

Recalling these foundations becomes all the more relevant in the wake of the racially charged proclamations of Donald Trump, who last year announced, “My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”

How did Woody Guthrie relate to Trump Sr. and his legacy of building exclusively white housing?

Old Man Trump’s’ color line

Only a year into his Beach Haven residency, Guthrie – himself a veteran – was already lamenting the bigotry that pervaded his new, lily-white neighborhood, which he’d taken to calling “Bitch Havens.”

In his notebooks, he conjured up a scenario of smashing the color line to transform the Trump complex into a diverse cornucopia, with “a face of every bright color laffing and joshing in these old darkly weeperish empty shadowed windows.” He imagined himself calling out in Whitman-esque free verse to the “negro girl yonder that walks along against this headwind / holding onto her purse and her fur coat”:

I welcome you here to live. I welcome
you and your man both here to Beach Haven to love in any
ways you please and to have some kind of a decent place to
get pregnant in and to have your kids raised up in. I’m
yelling out my own welcome to you.

For Guthrie, Fred Trump came to personify all the viciousness of the racist codes that continued to put decent housing – both public and private – out of reach for so many of his fellow citizens:

I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project ….

And as if to leave no doubt over Trump’s personal culpability in perpetuating black Americans’ status as internal refugees – strangers in their own strange land – Guthrie reworked his signature Dust Bowl ballad “I Ain’t Got No Home” into a blistering broadside against his landlord:

Beach Haven ain’t my home!
I just cain’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

Like racist father, like racist son. I guess we need some new anti-racist singers hating on Trump. Also good to know that this nation has totally rejected white supremacy. Post-racial society indeed!

Our Middle Eastern Ally, Ladies and Gentlemen

[ 102 ] January 15, 2016 |


Looks like a Trump presidency will actually have a lot in common with Israel:

Israeli passengers on a recent Aegean Airlines flight from Greece to Israel forced the cabin crew to remove two Israeli Arabs from the flight before allowing it to take off, according to a report by Israel Radio.

The incident occurred at Athens airport on Monday night, when Jewish Israeli passengers decided that the two Israeli Arab passengers on the flight constituted a security risk. After bringing their concern to the attention of the crew, they prevented the flight from taking off by standing in the aisles.

The two Israeli Arabs finally acceded to crew requests that they disembark, in return for a hotel room and compensation.

According to the airline, “an initially small group” of passengers “very vocally and persistently” demanded that two Israeli Arab citizens be “checked for security issues.”

Of course what should have happened is that the Israeli Jewish passengers should have been taken off the airline if they didn’t want to fly. But racial discrimination won the day. Trump’s neofascist supporters and Netanyahu’s neofascist supporters have a lot in common. What a day of international cooperating in hating Muslims we could have in a year!

Racism and Opposition to Paying NCAA Athletes

[ 108 ] January 14, 2016 |


Above: Shaquille O’Neal during the period when his labor was stolen from him.

There is literally nothing in the United States that can be explained without race as central to the analysis. This includes whether people believe that NCAA athletes should be paid:

There’s evidence that he’s right. In survey after survey, strong national majorities oppose paying college athletes. In March 2015, for example, an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll found that 65 percent of Americans do not think college athletes in top men’s football and basketball programs should be paid.

But these attitudes vary significantly by race. In every survey to date, blacks are far more likely to support paying college athletes when compared to whites. For instance, in the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), 53 percent of African Americans backed paying college athletes–more than doubling the support expressed by whites (22 percent).

Huh. Wonder if there’s anything more to this? Oh, of course there is.

In a statistical analysis that controlled for a host of other influences, we found this: Negative racial views about blacks were the single most important predictor of white opposition to paying college athletes.

The more negatively a white respondent felt about blacks, the more they opposed paying college athletes.

To check our findings’ validity, we also conducted an experiment. Before we asked white respondents whether college athletes should be paid, we showed one group pictures of young black men with stereotypical African American first and last names. We showed another group no pictures at all.

As you can see in the figure below, whites who were primed by seeing pictures of young black men were significantly more likely to say they opposed paying college athletes. Support dropped most dramatically among whites who expressed the most resent towards blacks as a group.

This is not surprising at all. This doesn’t mean it’s the be all and end all in understanding opposition to paying players. After all, there are still plenty of African-Americans who for some reason are totally fine with blacks performing for no money in front of mostly white audiences. But it once again shows that racism frames every single thing in the United States.

The Texas Rangers

[ 23 ] January 10, 2016 |


I was somewhat disappointed this season that the campaign to stop saying the nickname of the Washington Racists totally disappeared and NFL broadcasters reverted to using ethnic slurs on national television. I had real hope that the pressure would continue on Dan Snyder, terrible human, even if he no interest in listening to it. I guess buying Ari Fleischer’s services helped here or something.

Anyway, it’s worth noting that the United States’ love of memorializing its own racist history in sports nicknames goes farther than just the Washington Football Racists and the Cleveland Baseball Racists. It also extends to the Texas White Supremacist baseball franchise. Greg Grandin:

 In Texas, the rangers were established on an ad-hoc basis in the 1820s, to protect the settlers making inroads into Spanish borderlands. Soon, Mexicans and Mexican Americans replaced Native Americans as the prime target of ranger repression. For a century—from Mexico’s War for Independence from Spain in the 1820s, the Texas Rebellion, the Mexican-American War, and the upheaval caused by the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910 and lasted years—the borderlands witnessed all the elements that make, for a certain class, death squads necessary: concentration of wealth, military occupation, racial domination, ethnic cleansing, property dispossession, and resource extraction (the Texas legislature officially authorized the formation of four ranger divisions in 1901, the year the Spindletop oil field was discovered, setting off the Texas oil boom).

In response, the Texas Rangers: not America’s only death squad but its most celebrated, complete with its own reliquary, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.

There are historians working to document the horrors of the Texas Rangers. What are those horrors?

 Texas Rangers played a key role in these atrocities. On September 28, 1915, for example, after a clash with about forty raiders near Ebenoza, Hidalgo County, the victorious Rangers took about a dozen raiders prisoner and promptly hung them, leaving their bodies in the open for months. Several weeks later, on October 19, after a dramatic attack derailed a passenger train heading north from Brownsville, Rangers detained ten ethnic Mexicans nearby, quickly hanging four and shooting four others. Cameron County sheriff W.T. Vann blamed Ranger Captain Henry Ransom for the killings. Vann took two suspected men from Ransom and placed them into his custody and likely saved their lives. Both proved to be innocent of any involvement.

This was not Ransom’s first such action: a month before, on September 24, he casually shot Jesús Bazan and Antonio Longoria as they rode by the site where a raid had occurred. Ransom left the bodies exposed, shocking Rancher Sam Lane (himself a former Ranger) and young Anglo ranch hand Roland Warnock, who helped to bury Bazán and Longoria several days later. That fall, Ransom made a habit of running ethnic Mexicans out of their homes as he patrolled the countryside. At one point he casually reported to Ranger headquarters in Austin that “I drove all the Mexicans from three ranches.”

Former Rangers were also among the worst perpetrators of violence. A.Y. Baker, a Ranger involved in disputed shootings of Mexican suspects during the previous decade, had left the Ranger Force to become Hidalgo County’s sheriff by 1915. He also developed a similar reputation for casual racial violence. Many sources named him as the instigator of the September 1915 mass hanging. Decades later, a soldier deployed by the National Guard in 1915 who stayed in the Valley recalled he witnessed Baker “killing three guys, three Mexican fellows in cold blood . . . that’s the kind of man A.Y. Baker was. He was killing Mexicans on sight.”

A large portion of the United States military was mobilized and deployed on the Texas-Mexico border because of the violence unleashed by the Plan de San Diego. Military officers became increasingly alarmed at the conduct of the Rangers and other law enforcement officers. As mass executions began, the Secretary of State telegraphed Texas governor James Ferguson to enlist his support in “quieting border conditions in the district of Brownsville” by “restraining indiscreet conduct.” This oblique reference to lynchings was soon replaced by more pointed and adamant condemnations of state officials, such as General Frederick Funston’s threat to put South Texas under martial law so as to restrain vigilantes, Rangers, and local law enforcement personnel.

After a brief resumption of a few raids in the spring of 1916, the uprising associated with the Plan de San Diego ended. But the Rangers’ involvement in subordinating ethnic Mexicans continued. In May of 1916, José Morin and Victoriano Ponce were arrested in Kingsville on suspicion of plotting a raid, and disappeared after Ranger Captain J. J. Saunders took custody of them. Thomas Hook, a local Anglo attorney, helped residents prepare a telegram to President Woodrow Wilson asking for federal intervention to safeguard their rights. Soon thereafter, Saunders pistol-whipped Hook in a courthouse hallway.

The entry of the United States into World War I brought changes to the Ranger force that heightened this kind of retaliation against the exercise of political rights by Mexican Americans. The State expanded the Ranger force, increasing the number of Rangers from seventy-three to more than one hundred and thirty. Moreover, legislation empowered the governor to appoint three “Loyalty Rangers” in each county in order to monitor anti-war activity. In South Texas, these loyalty Rangers participated in an unprecedented assault on Mexican-American voting rights. In the 1918 election, for example, Rangers reduced the number of votes cast in Alice, Texas from some three hundred in an earlier primary to only sixty-five in the general election. “The former large number of Mexicans who have voted in previous elections was conspicuous by their absence,” noted one observer. “They did not congregate at the polls, but up town they gathered in small groups and discussed among themselves this new thing of being watched by the Rangers.” Voting across south Texas plummeted when Rangers were deployed. Rangers also harassed, disarmed, and humiliated Mexican American office holders such as Cameron County Deputy Sheriff Pedro Lerma. Rangers entered Lerma’s home while he was absent, “frightened his wife and daughters to death.” Other Mexican Americans in similar positions were forcibly disarmed; one was hung by the neck twice.

A new, more brutal white supremacy had come to the border.

So why are the Texas Rangers named after these white supremacists? Well, given that it’s the team of the Dallas metroplex, these racial crimes are a feature, not a bug. Unlikely we are going to see any grassroots effort in Texas anytime soon to rename the Rangers to the Texas Executors of Innocent People or the Texas U.S. Constitution Doesn’t Apply Heres. But at the very least, we can bring awareness of just how deep America’s racist past remains intertwined with its sporting teams.

Black Pain, Past and Present

[ 31 ] January 8, 2016 |


I liked this Lisa Wade piece connecting the desperate attempts by ex-slaves to reconstruct their families through placing newspaper ads in the late 19th century to Black Lives Matter today in the terms of how white people consistently denigrate and ignore the emotional pain African-Americans have felt over the centuries over the violent destruction of their families and their bodies. It includes a link to this newly released digital collection of these advertisements. Wade’s conclusion:

I worry that white America still does not see black people as their emotional equals. Psychologists continue to document what is now called a racial empathy gap, both blacks and whites show lesser empathy when they see darker-skinned people experiencing physical or emotional pain. When white people are reminded that black people are disproportionately imprisoned, for example, it increases their support for tougher policing and harsher sentencing. Black prisoners receive presidential pardons at much lower rates than whites. And we think that black people have a higher physical pain threshold than whites.

How many of us tolerate the systematic deprivation and oppression of black people in America today — a people whose families are being torn asunder by death and imprisonment — by simply failing to notice the depths of their pain?

Page 2 of 1812345...10...Last »