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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.

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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.

Today in Trump’s America

[ 133 ] November 12, 2016 |

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Exhibit A:

A Gwinnett County high school teacher said she was left a note in class Friday telling her that her Muslim headscarf “isn’t allowed anymore.”

“Why don’t you tie it around your neck & hang yourself with it…,” the note said, signed “America!”

Mairah Teli, 24, who teaches language arts at Dacula High, said she feels the note is in reaction to Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race.

“I feel children feel safe making comments that are racist or sexist because of him,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Gwinnett County Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said in an email that the district is “doing all it can to identify the person who wrote and left this note.”

Teli said the administration and fellow teachers were very supportive after she informed them she found the note.

Teli, a California native who grew up in Gwinnett, suspected it was from a student.

She said she was shocked and disturbed but worked to be measured when she addressed class. She told the students she was happy to speak with them if there were questions about her hijab.

Exhibit B:

Swastikas and other inappropriate images were spray-painted on school banners, sidewalks and telephone poles at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda over the weekend, according to Assistant Principal Gabby Bellagamba.

Bellagamba sent an email to parents late Sunday night informing them that Montgomery County police are investigating the incident. The assistant principal said the graffiti has been covered and “will be removed as soon as possible.”

Gboyinde Onijala, a Montgomery County Public Schools spokeswoman, said maintenance crews will be at the school Monday to remove the graffiti.

Police said Monday the vandalism was reported on Sunday morning by a member of a Jewish congregation that holds weekly services at the school. An image of male genitalia was also spray painted on the banner, which was posted near the school entrance, according to police. The school is at 7900 Beech Tree Road.

Heck, maybe over the next 4 years, the greatest Jewish-Muslim unity alliance in the world will develop in the U.S. has both have to survive the racist hell of unleashed Trump supporters.

1901? Could be 1898 Soon

[ 65 ] November 3, 2016 |

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North Carolina’s nakedly racist voter suppression program reminds a judge of 1901.

North Carolina’s process for challenging voters’ registration seems to harken to a bygone era when fewer safeguards were in place, a federal judge said Wednesday as she presided over a lawsuit that alleges voters are being purged unfairly.

Lawyers for North Carolina countered that state data shows only a sliver of names have been removed from county rolls in the past two years – fewer than 7,000 statewide out of 6.8 million registered voters.

The comments came during an emergency hearing over NAACP allegations that at least three counties purged voter rolls through a process disproportionately targeting blacks.

Early voting is already underway in the critical swing state that the NAACP has previously sued over other voter access issues. So far, North Carolina’s black voter turnout has lagged the 2012 presidential election.

The NAACP says counties are violating federal law by removing voters less than 90 days before the election. However, state officials say the process complements federal law and preserves due-process rights.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said multiple times the challenge process sounds “insane.”

“This sounds like something that was put together in 1901,” she told lawyers for the state.

Yeah, might be 1901. Although the way things are going, North Carolina in 1898 might soon be a scary but apt comparison:

A politically motivated attack by whites against the city’s leading African American citizens, the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 documents the lengths to which Southern White Democrats went to regain political domination of the South after Reconstruction. The violence began on Thursday, November 10th in the predominantly African American city of Wilmington, North Carolina, at that time the state’s largest metropolis. Statewide election returns had recently signaled a shift in power with Democrats taking over the North Carolina State Legislature. The city of Wilmington, however, remained in Republican hands primarily because of its solid base of African American voters. On November 10th, Alfred Moore Waddell, a former Confederate officer and a white supremacist, led a group of townsmen to force the ouster of Wilmington’s city officials.

Waddell relied on an editorial printed in the African American-owned Wilmington Daily Record as the catalyst for the riot. Alex Manly, the editor of the Daily Record, had published an editorial in early November arguing that “poor white men are careless in the matter of protecting their women.” Paraphrasing articles by Ida B. Wells on the subject of lynching, Manly opined that “our experiences among poor white people in the country teaches us that women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white men with the colored women.” Manly’s public discussion of the taboo subject of interracial sex exposed the reality of sexual exploitation of black women by white men and challenged the myth of pure-white womanhood.

Forty-eight hours after Manly’s editorial ran Waddell led 500 white men to the headquarters of the Daily Record on 7th Street. The mob broke out windows and set the building on fire. Manly and other high profile African Americans fled the city; however, at least 14 African Americans were slain that day. An eyewitness later wrote that African Americans fled to the swamps, or hid in the African American cemetery at the edge of town. When their criminal behavior resulted in neither Federal sanctions nor condemnation from the state, Waddell and his men formalized their control of Wilmington. The posse forced the Republican members of the city council and the mayor to resign and Waddell assumed the mayoral seat. Over the next two years North Carolina passed the “grandfather clause,” as one in a series of laws designed to limit the voting rights of African Americans.

Who can’t see Pat McCrory getting behind this?

Today in the Post-Racial Society

[ 34 ] October 26, 2016 |

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I interrupt my avalanche of work to bring you this delightful story from the post-racial paradise of Mississippi.

Along a secluded gravel road that runs between a riverbank and cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta region, a purple sign marks the area where Emmett Till’s mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in the summer of 1955.

For eight years, the sign has been riddled with bullet holes.

The 14-year-old from Chicago was visiting the South when he was accused of whistling at a white woman and murdered. His death became a rallying cry for the civil rights movement, but several signs meant to memorialize the killing — including the one on the riverbank between the towns of Glendora, Miss., and Webb, Miss. — have been vandalized by spray paint and bullet holes. Others have been stolen.

It took a visiting filmmaker, Kevin Wilson Jr., to rally support for replacing the sign by the Tallahatchie River when he shared a photo of it on his Facebook page this month.

“I’m at the exact site where Emmett Till’s body was found floating in the Tallahatchie River 61 years ago,” Mr. Wilson wrote on Oct. 15. “The site marker is filled with bullet holes. Clear evidence that we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Stop and Frisk

[ 52 ] September 28, 2016 |

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Simon Balto has a rejoinder to Donald Trump’s fearmongering call to institute stop and frisk policing in Chicago. See, Chicago has a long history with this. It’s not a good history.

Legally constructed in the 1960s, stop-and-frisk was forged in a political moment that, much like our own, was governed by racial fears and anxieties, and against a backdrop deeply contoured by a black-led movement that demanded the radical transformation of America. In Chicago, this was an age of black in-migration to the city, white hostility to the new black presence, a vibrant local civil rights movement—including a nearly year-long open-housing campaign partly led by Martin Luther King, Jr.—and, ultimately, a blowback that saw many whites retrench into steely resentment.

Guiding the police force against that tumultuous backdrop was Chicago Police Department Superintendent Orlando Wilson. Already a renowned criminologist when he took over the department in 1960, Wilson was a thoughtful man and, at least overtly, a steady racial moderate. Nevertheless, as a progenitor of what’s called “preventive policing,” Wilson aggressively called for proactive rather than reactive policing. Under this model, police departments shifted from a focus on responding to crimes already committed, and toward eliminating potential crimes by confronting “suspicious persons” on the street. In so doing, Wilson and others enacted policies that usually ended up singling out black communities as problem areas, and that saddled them with unique forms of surveillance and control. Stop-and-frisk was the centerpiece of this.

The fault lines were immediate. Within a black community that was becoming increasingly mobilized in response to racism and inequality, people could not have known that Chicago’s violent crime rates would get significantly worse after implementation of stop-and-frisk, but they suspected that crime rates would not be significantly improved. Moreover, many of them correctly forecasted that it would be black people who would overwhelmingly face the effects of stop-and-frisk. Black Illinois House member and future Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, the ACLU and others cited a litany of reasons for this – not least because black people were uniquely vulnerable to CPD officers harboring anti-black racism. This assertion received the strongest possible stamp of affirmation in 1967 and 1968, when a Ku Klux Klan cell that included the Illinois Klan’s Grand Wizard was found operating within the CPD.

But those arguments against stop-and-frisk drowned in a sea of favorable white opinion. Although it would not become official policy until 1968, the real breakthrough for stop-and-frisk in Chicago came in 1965 when a number of political processes collided to give the issue a particular saliency.

Superintendent Wilson, continuing to see stop-and-frisk as necessary police policy, ramped up lobbying efforts to get it protected by the courts as a legitimate police prerogative. Tellingly, the political leaders who were quickest to offer their support were from Chicago’s white suburban ring, not the city proper. Republican politicians from Melrose Park, River Forest and other suburbs led the initial charge to see a stop-and-frisk bill introduced into the state legislature.

Perhaps the most important booster in the long term, though, was Democratic Mayor Richard Daley, whom Wilson successfully recruited to the stop-and-risk cause that same year. Daley refracted stop-and-frisk through his own racial lens and used it to his own ends. He’d been bleeding white voters and was electorally vulnerable, and so stop-and-frisk appeared at that juncture as a way to win the trust of white voters who thought that he hadn’t been tough enough on race and crime. The holder of famously tremendous political clout in Chicago, he joined with Wilson to work across the partisan aisle for the bill’s passage.

The bill failed to pass through in 1965 and was vetoed by Democratic Governor Otto Kerner in 1967, but the coalition and the dynamics that would see it succeed were set in place. By 1968, the same year that the United States Supreme Court enshrined it into law in Terry v. Ohio, stop-and-frisk’s supporters saw it become Illinois law. It has persisted as a profoundly controversial policy measure ever since.

Of course everything Trump said about race in his debate was calculated to scare white people. It’s as if his entire view of the inner city comes from repeated viewings of Colors and New Jack City. Which it might. And given the number of white people who are scared of black people, he might ride that vision straight into the Oval Office.

Welcome to Trump’s America

[ 121 ] August 24, 2016 |

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Racists, let your freak flag fly.

The message on the receipt rattled Sadie Karina Elledge, but it made her grandfather see red.

Instead of leaving a gratuity on Monday, a couple eating at the Harrisonburg, Va., restaurant where Sadie works scrawled: “We only tip citizens.”

The dig was aimed at Sadie, 18, who was born in the United States but is of Honduran and Mexican descent. So, John Elledge took a photo of the grease-stained receipt left for his granddaughter and posted it on Facebook.

Beneath the photo he typed: “You are a complete and total piece of dung.”

Earlier on Facebook, the lawyer had written some other harsh words:

I’d happily do the jail time if I could get just one solid punch in to the face of the son of a bitch who paid for his meal at the luncheonette where my granddaughter works and left the receipt for her with a note saying, “Sorry, we only tip citizens.”

Elledge, who is white, told The Washington Post he’s particularly sensitive to slights directed at his multicultural family.

FWIW, this is also another reason why we need to pay restaurant workers a decent wage and eliminate tipping.

The NRA is a Racist Organization

[ 51 ] July 16, 2016 |

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The National Rifle Association, the nation’s most morally abhorrent organization and producer of vile children’s propaganda, does not actually support unlimited gun rights. It supports unlimited gun rights for white people. It’s worth remembering that the NRA was originally just a hunting rights organization and that in the 70s it was on the verge of closing its Washington offices and moving its headquarters to Colorado to focus on its core mission. But then new leadership took over that connected gun rights to white backlash to the civil rights movement. Ever since then it has been a front line organization in the culture wars, which of course have always been more than tinged with racism. So it’s hardly surprising that it has nothing to say when the police kill black gunowners.

Baton Rouge in Context

[ 18 ] July 14, 2016 |
Community members attend a vigil in memory of Alton Sterling, who was shot dead by police, at the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jeffrey Dubinsky

Community members attend a vigil in memory of Alton Sterling, who was shot dead by police, at the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jeffrey Dubinsky

What’s the context of the Baton Rouge police murder and protests? LSU professor Christopher Tyson, an African-American and city native, as well as the 2015 Democratic nominee for Louisiana Secretary of State, explains the deep divides in the city:

It’s only by crossing that line that one can reconcile the more affluent neighborhoods of south Baton Rouge with the city’s grim statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 Baton Rouge ranked first in the nation for estimated H.I.V. and AIDS case rates per 100,000 people. For many years we’ve been one of the nation’s top murder capitals. Black men in East Baton Rouge Parish had a 46 percent high school graduation rate in 2011-2012. One-third of black residents live below the poverty line. And a vast majority of them are concentrated in north Baton Rouge

Recently, there was an organized effort to form something called the City of St. George. The goal was for south Baton Rouge to break off and form a new city, a move that would have exacerbated our community’s growing stratification. The effort ultimately failed, but we now all live in a city in which we know that a significant percentage of our neighbors want out.

Too many view the lives of people in north Baton Rouge as the cumulative result of poor choices, weak values and dependency. This is more than just lazy thinking. It’s an intolerable lie predicated on the erasure of all of our city’s and nation’s history. Like many urban communities, north Baton Rouge is the result of specific policy choices, social patterns and the toll that all of it eventually takes on neighborhoods, families and individuals. It’s a very American story of how black people have systematically been denied the opportunity to live in safe and stable neighborhoods. No amount of “individual responsibility” or “bootstrapping” will ever change that.

In the past few years, many of us have worked to bring attention to the challenges facing north Baton Rouge. A lack of access to reliable public transportation, quality health care, youth mentors and nutritious food are among the many crises that define day-to-day life in this half of this city. One example of what activists are working on: the lack of an emergency room in north Baton Rouge after the area’s public hospital closed its doors.

This past weekend teenagers from the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition, a college-prep mentoring organization I co-founded, planned and led a peaceful march attended by more than 1,000 people. There is a dedicated, multiracial coalition of civic and justice-minded folks working hard toward a more equitable and humane future. But the suffering grows every day, and there simply aren’t enough of us doing this work.

This is the context within which a man is led to sell CDs at midnight to feed his family. This is the context for the anger, frustration and exhaustion erupting not just from the corner of North Foster and Fairfields, but from all over the city. When I first visited Mr. Sterling’s memorial two days after his death, I spoke with other people there about our responsibility to his family and this city. We affirmed our linked fate with each familiar greeting and new introduction. We dapped up and exchanged hugs. We contemplated our next steps. We questioned the adequacy of our efforts. We all felt a need to be there, for Mr. Sterling, for each other and for our city.

In other words, structural and intentional white supremacy combine to keep African-Americans poor, the police ready to crack heads, and racial tensions high. It’s surprising there aren’t more violent upheavals given these conditions.

…..See also this piece.

New Fronts in the War on the Poor

[ 26 ] July 8, 2016 |

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It’s incredibly expensive to be poor in the United States. Many have made this observation, noting not only the relatively high price to live in many places but also the prices charged to the poor for “services” like payday loans. Another is charging defendants fees to access their basic rights. Of course this is also another manifestation of racism given who the poor are and who the police target for arrest.

 A brush with the police for pot possession might quickly spiral into a stiff penalty for a missed court date, deepening legal debt, missed work, re-arrest, a longer rap sheet. In daily life, the accompanying stigma layered over indebtedness “perpetuates inequality among African American and Latino men and among high school dropouts in the employment market.” The long-term opportunity cost could include mental-health crisis, forgone voting rights, and chronic recidivism, because people with nothing left to give also have nothing left to lose.

The question of poor individuals’ “debt to society” in the criminal justice infrastructure has exploded amid high-profile police-violence scandals, particularly in Ferguson, Missouri, where the bullet that killed Michael Brown sparked riots and exposed patterns of criminalization that afflict mutually reinforcing social and economic damage. A recent Department of Justice investigation uncovered a system in which officials see black citizens “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”

What do the numbers look like?

 Even due process carries a price tag in states like Washington, where fees for jury trials have risen lately. A 2005 bill set a cost of “$150 and $250 for a six-or twelve-person jury, respectively.” Yes, the right to a jury of your peers costs $25 a head—add another $100 or so for a defense attorney.

Punishing the supposed deviance of the poor with still more poverty reflects “rhetoric in contemporary American society about personal responsibility and accountability,” Harris explains via e-mail:

What is interesting about monetary sanctions and the criminal justice system, similar to that of education and even health care, is that we have shifted what should be a guaranteed right or governmental responsibility to the people who are processed through the system.

Harris’s subjects started with an average debt of about $9,200 each, generally as the combined cost of several convictions. After five years, even with regular monthly payments of about $31, the debtor “would owe $10,667 as a result of the accumulated interest and surcharges—an increase of $1,463 over the initial debt.”

Of course all of this adds up to an inability to pay the rent, clothe the children, eat properly, mental health, etc.

 Legal debtors struggle to live with dignity. Nick, a 38-year-old black man who was attending community college through the help of a reentry program, was trailed by a chain of debt leftover from three convictions in the mid-1990s—violations related to “drug addiction and mental health problems” in adolescence that poverty only exacerbated later on. When Harris interviewed him, he had been sentenced to 56 months in state prison, been jailed several times, and “accumulated a total of $3,178.06 in legal debt,” an impossible sum for him pay down.

This is a complete injustice. But it’s just par for the course for hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Alton Sterling

[ 289 ] July 6, 2016 |

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Like many of you, I watched the video of the Baton Rouge police killing Alton Sterling. There’s no two ways around this–it was a flat out execution. I would say I am shocked, but of course I am not shocked. The police have been executing black people in the United States and the British colonies before that for almost 400 years. Literally, the only major change that has taken place is that today we all have little cameras that allow us to record the executions. That vision allows us to have the evidence we need to be properly outraged. But the chances that the Baton Rouge officers who committed this horrible crime will be brought to justice are almost zero. Maybe, just maybe, they will be brought to some sort of trial, but I would put the chance of conviction at just about 0%. I just don’t even know what to say anymore except that taking to the streets is probably the best thing anyone can do.

I also love the cops saying that their body cameras “fell off” during the confrontation with Sterling. Yeah, cool story.

What Gets in the Way of Gun Control?

[ 142 ] June 16, 2016 |

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Would you be surprised to know it’s racist white people? No, I don’t think so. From April:

Racial prejudice could play a significant role in white Americans’ opposition to gun control, according to new research from political scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In their paper, published in the journal Political Behavior in November, Alexandra Filindra and Noah J. Kaplan found that whites were significantly less likely to support gun control measures when they had recently looked at pictures of black people, than when they had looked at pictures of white people. The study, which surveyed 1,000 white respondents, also found that the higher they scored on a common measure of racial prejudice, the stronger negative effect the photos of black people had on the respondents’ support for gun control.

Taken together, those two findings “demonstrate that racial prejudice influences white opinion regarding gun regulation in the contemporary United States,” Filindra and Kaplan conclude. But why would that be the case?

Particularly with respect to the modern gun-rights movement that really took off in the ’80s and ’90s, the language “creates this distinction between ‘law-abiding citizens’ and ‘criminals,'” Filindra says. She points to the type of language that’s frequently used by gun rights groups who warn of ever-present threats by “predatory criminals” and a murkily-defined “they” who want to “take your guns away.”

“Juxtapositions of ‘law abiding citizens’ and ‘criminals’ [are] evocative of racialized themes as crime has long been associated with blacks in the white mind,” Filindra and Kaplan write.

Filindra and Kaplan say their research does not imply that all white gun owners are racist, nor that all support for gun control carries racial baggage.

But for a certain subset of white gun-rights supporters, particularly those who are inclined to hold certain prejudicial beliefs, messages about individualism and liberty and rights are understood in a very specific way.

In the mind of this type of gun owner, “I am showing my white nationalist pride in a sort of generic way through gun ownership,” Filindra posits. “This is my way of expressing my ‘more-equal-than-others’ status in a society where egalitarianism is the norm. I can’t say that some people are better and some are worse in terms of racial groups. But I can show it symbolically. I can show I’m a better citizen.”

I’m sure glad I was near my fainting couch when I read this.

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