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Tag: "racism"

Will the History of White Supremacy Help Stop American Fascism?

[ 65 ] December 14, 2015 |

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It’s hardly surprising that this nation is moving again into a period of racial violence, scaremongering against foreigners, and ethnic and religious tribalism. It’s hardly first time that’s happened in the United States. The 1920s, with the end of immigration, the deportation of radicals, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, is just one of those incidents. Of course, since historians today openly explore the violent and awful corners of American history in order to expose broader truths about the always contested struggle for freedom and the dichotomy between how Americans describe themselves and how they actually act toward others, we know a lot about this. And we can use that information to expose the hypocrisy of people such as the Trump supporters who want Muslims banned from the country. I wonder how many of them are Catholic after all?

“The cowardice of a Roman thug has no parallel in either the human or animal kingdom,” the newspaper frothed in one 1914 edition, calling for “men with red blood in their veins” to defend women and children from Catholics. “If we are compelled to live in this county with Romanists, as our weak-kneed Protestant critics say we are, the Romanists will have to be taught their place in society.”

“OPEN ROME’S PRISON HOUSES IN AMERICA!” blared one headline for a December 1911 story that claimed the church was murdering the babies of nuns and throwing the infant corpses into a pit.

In the same issue, the Menace urged its readers to vote against all Catholic political candidates regardless of party or platform, describing the church as “the most dangerous power that threatens our government today.” It added ominously, “A defeat at the polls today is far better than a defeat at arms tomorrow.”

And while Republicans don’t actually appeal to Jews, fantasy Jews appeal to Republicans so that their beloved apocalypse can come true. So could it matter to them to be reminded of the long history of antisemitism around the world?

Partly out of identification with this newly vulnerable Christ, partly in response to recent Turkish military successes, and partly because an internal reform movement was questioning fundamentals of faith, Christians began to see themselves as threatened, too. In 1084 the pope wrote that Christianity “has fallen under the scorn, not only of the Devil, but of Jews, Saracens, and pagans.” The “Goad of Love,” a retelling of the crucifixion that is considered the first anti-Jewish Passion treatise, was written around 1155-80. It describes Jews as consumed with sadism and blood lust. They were seen as enemies not only of Christ, but also of living Christians; it was at this time that Jews began to be accused of ritually sacrificing Christian children.

Ferocious anti-Jewish rhetoric began to permeate sermons, plays and polemical texts. Jews were labeled demonic and greedy. In one diatribe, the head of the most influential monastery in Christendom thundered at the Jews: “Why are you not called brute animals? Why not beasts?” Images began to portray Jews as hooknosed caricatures of evil.

The first records of large-scale anti-Jewish violence coincide with this rhetorical shift. Although the pope who preached the First Crusade had called only for an “armed pilgrimage” to retake Jerusalem from Muslims, the first victims of the Crusade were not the Turkish rulers of Jerusalem but Jewish residents of the German Rhineland. Contemporary accounts record the crusaders asking why, if they were traveling to a distant land to “kill and to subjugate all those kingdoms that do not believe in the Crucified,” they should not also attack “the Jews, who killed and crucified him?”

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Jews were massacred in towns where they had peacefully resided for generations. At no point did Christian authorities promote or consent to the violence. Christian theology, which applied the Psalm verse “Slay them not” to Jews, and insisted that Jews were not to be killed for their religion, had not changed. Clerics were at a loss to explain the attacks. A churchman from a nearby town attributed the massacres to “some error of mind.”

But not all the Rhineland killers were crazy. The crusaders set out in the Easter season. Both crusade and Easter preaching stirred up rage about the crucifixion and fear of hostile and threatening enemies. It is hardly surprising that armed and belligerent bands turned such rhetoric into anti-Jewish action.

Of course this history won’t matter to American fascists. I never thought I’d live to see the day where a major party presidential front-runner was citing FDR placing Japanese-Americans into concentration camps as a plus, but here we are. Reminding people about how their ancestors were oppressed just goes to prove to them that the Muslims of 2015 are the Protestants of 1914 or something. We can document this all we want to and we should. But I am sadly skeptical that even if fascists see this information that they wouldn’t just distort to their own ends.

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Dilapidated Schools and Race

[ 148 ] December 11, 2015 |

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Kids in Dallas are staging walkouts over the terrible conditions of their schools.

About 250 students at South Oak Cliff High School walked out Monday to protest leaky roofs, unbearably hot or cold classrooms and other problems they say make learning difficult.

“We have been through so much and today we got fed up,” said David Johnson, a 17-year-old senior who helped organize the walkout.

For instance, he said, the heating and cooling systems don’t work properly, and some rooms get so hot and stuffy that teachers and students must hold class in the hallways.

Shortly after 3 p.m., Johnson and other students left the building and gathered on the front lawn as classes continued inside. They marched down one side of Marsalis Avenue and back up the other. They held signs that read “Fix leaks now,” “We need a new school,” and “Help!!! Call code compliance!!!”

Of course, nearly all the students in this school are African-American, another sign of the racism that plagues our education system that never integrated after Brown in the face of whites resisting actually sending their special snowflakes to school with large number of black kids. They justified it and continue to justify it in all sorts of ways. Some are actually racist. Some just benefit from structural racism and have the ability to get their kids out. Some are even parents of color who see no choice but to go along with the system of racism that forces their public schools into these situations and do what they can to get their kids out too.

And as for the many comments in my recent posts on structural racism and education, I am pretty disappointed in how many commenters were unwilling to reckon with or perhaps even understand the realities of structural racism. Just because you choose to send you child to a better and of course whiter school does not mean you are doing the wrong thing. It also means that you are contributing directly to inequality. The two are by no means mutually exclusive. We so often have this vision of racists being the worst people in the world, but that actually causes more problems than it solves because it allows us to point and say “It’s Those People!” because they are waving a Confederate flag. And that’s one part of a racist nation, no question. But as white people, you benefit from white supremacy every day, especially if you are middle or upper class, including in your ability to live where you want and send your children to better schools. And even if you say, I have black neighbors or whatnot today, remember that you as white children also benefited from this racism when you were children and federal housing policy ensured lily-white suburbs with good schools and tax-starved urban districts with all-black schools. Residential segregation and educational segregation are tied together and those inequalities last for generations and are repeated in the present. Admitting this doesn’t make you a bad person per se, even if it means that you are personally playing a tiny role in increasing inequality. It’s complicated, like most everything. I figured this was self-evident and not particularly controversial, but then I forgot about the special snowflake syndrome.

Was the Southern Strategy Effective?

[ 298 ] December 7, 2015 |
Richard M. Nixon, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is seen arriving at the airport in Atlanta, Ga. with his wife, Patricia, on May 31, 1968. A crowd of about 350 people greeted them as Nixon visits the South to meet with delegates from various states. (AP Photo)

Richard M. Nixon, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is seen arriving at the airport in Atlanta, Ga. with his wife, Patricia, on May 31, 1968. A crowd of about 350 people greeted them as Nixon visits the South to meet with delegates from various states. (AP Photo)

I am not in the habit of reviewing older books I read. But I recently read Matthew Lassiter’s 2006 book, The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South. Lassiter strongly questions the effectiveness of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. I mentioned this on Twitter and Thus Blogged Anderson asked me to lay this argument out on the blog. OK.

Lassiter’s book explores the intricacies of suburban politics around public schools and integration in the South, comparing how Atlanta becomes a place that does not integrate and Charlotte does, with busing, urban expansion to take control over the suburbs, and the politics of “moderate” whites revolving around the Chamber of Commerce and business communities playing a huge role in shaping how this plays out. Central to his argument is the development of a suburban politics that keeps most schools functionally segregated through “a bipartisan political language of private property values, individual taxpayer rights, children’s educational privileges, family residential security, and white racial innocence.” (304)

In other words, while the image in our mind of resistance to integration is frothing rural whites killing civil rights workers, Lassiter convincingly shows that politically, the politics of the growing Sunbelt suburbs were far more important. Those suburban peoples may well have supported integration in theory and may well have been totally fine with a few black kids in their schools, but rejected residential integration and the busing that would have brought actual educational equality of opportunity to children, effectively reinforcing racism without having to say they were racist.

Now, we all know the basic story around the Southern Strategy, which is effectively that Lyndon Johnson said when he signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that he had handed the South to the Republicans, that Nixon built on Kevin Phillips’ The Emerging Republican Majority to do so and that through Nixon’s 1972 sweep of the South and then Reagan’s 1980 speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the South was on the road to becoming truly Republican. But Lassiter strongly pushes back against this story because it ignores electoral analysis. Nixon did try to follow Phillips’ strategy in 1970 and race bait his way to Republican victories. But it was a disaster throughout Southern states that had large suburban populations. In other words, George Wallace could race bait his way back into the Alabama governor’s office in 1970. Nixon tried to copy that. And it failed. Democrats moved toward the center in many states, arguing for following the law, moderation, and for general principles of public education. That didn’t mean an outright support of actual school integration. But it made the big suburban populations comfortable. Combined with African-American voters, this was often enough for victory, even in states like South Carolina where Nixon and Thurmond completely flopped in 1970. Dale Bumpers defeated Orval Faubus in the Democratic primary on a law and order platform. This was the election that saw the rise of Jimmy Carter, Lawton Chiles, Reubin Askew and other “new” Democrats that reinvigorated the Democratic Party in the South for a generation, paving the way for people like Bill Clinton. The Nixon/Phillips southern strategy was a completely failure.

By 1972, Nixon had learned this and embraced the more suburban values of law and order and de facto segregation in opposition to busing, turning his back on the politics of massive resistance personified by Wallace. This was not a southern strategy, it was a suburban strategy that played in Atlanta, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Of course, that’s not the only reason southern states did not vote for McGovern, but it showed that the new politics of the post-civil rights movement would promote suburban values of school choice, property values, and personal choices for your children that just so happened to ensure that schools and neighborhoods were nearly lily-white but without any vocal support of segregation. Lassiter goes on to argue that these politics became bipartisan by the late 20th century, especially in the Clinton presidency.

I will also remind readers that the arguments made in 2015 by liberals who choose to move to the suburbs to the schools reinforce this same racist scenario created in the 1960s and 1970s by other suburban whites who made the same arguments about their children. Choosing to move to the suburbs for schools or sending your kids to private schools because the schools are “bad” is a racist act that comes right out of the anti-busing movement. I don’t care if you are a liberal college professor, it’s still a racist act that shows hostility to the Brown decision even today.

One other thing. Since a lot of you are political junkies or you wouldn’t be reading this blog, let me point out that Lassiter’s book is in the outstanding Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America series at Princeton University Press and there are many books in this series well worth your time.

The New Jim Crow

[ 23 ] December 2, 2015 |

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A reminder that the incarceration system operates to ensure the long-term exploitation of prisoners, even when they leave prison. That the majority of them are people of color is no bug to the designers of the prison system.

The $31,690 Johnny Melton received to settle a lawsuit over his mother’s death was going to help him start life anew after prison.

But before he was released, after 15 months in prison for a drug conviction, the Illinois Department of Corrections sued Melton and won nearly $20,000 to cover the cost of his incarceration. When Melton was paroled earlier this year, he was forced to go to a homeless shelter, then was taken in by a cousin. He got food stamps. When he died in June, according to his family, he was destitute.

“He didn’t have a dime,” said one of Melton’s sisters, Denise Melton, of Chicago. “We had to scuffle up money to cremate him.”

The lawsuit against Melton was one of a small but growing number of cases the prisons department brings each year against inmates to recoup the cost of their imprisonment, an effort intended to help fund operations that makes convicted felons feel a financial pinch for their crimes — in addition to the time they do.

The lawsuits, in some cases, target convicted murderers or sex offenders serving lengthy prison terms. Some inmates will never get out; others will be released when they are elderly. But many of the lawsuits target less serious offenders who have earned or come into relatively modest sums of money, whether through an inheritance, a trust fund or, as in Melton’s case, the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit.

In a few cases the lawsuits seem punitive, if not retaliatory, to inmates, and could have a chilling effect on the incarcerated asserting their constitutional rights. After one inmate received $50,000 to settle a lawsuit against the department for failure to properly treat his cancer, the department turned around and sued the inmate for nearly $175,000 — even though the department already had agreed in writing not to try to claw back the settlement money.

Officials acknowledged filing the lawsuit was a mistake and said that, as a rule, they do not try to punish inmates who file lawsuits.

This is pretty in-depth feature and well worth you reading the whole thing.

Today in Reasonable Conservatives

[ 5 ] November 23, 2015 |

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Remember when Mitch Daniels, Reasonable Conservative, was a thing when pundits were talking about Republican presidential candidates? Those were good times. Well, Daniels is now president of Purdue. There have been a lot of racist incidents during his presidency:

Last December, more than 150 Purdue students marched to Daniels’ office in a “Purdue Can’t Breathe” rally. The year before, hundreds of students chanted, “Mitch, let’s face it/It’s time to deal with racists.”

Students of colors have told stories about others on campus hurling racial epithets at them and even physically assaulting them. There were also more high-profile incidents, like when someone scrawled the N-word across a picture of Dr. Cornell Bell, a prominent African American academic and advocate for minority students, or when the words “white supremacy” were written in the Black Cultural Center. Two anonymous Twitter accounts dedicated to mocking Asian students at Purdue also elicited protests. In 2012, the FBI announced that Purdue had reported the second largest number of hate crimes on campus, including five incidents of racial bias in one year.

The 2013 protests demanded the administration take specific actions to improve the culture on campus, including doubling the number of minority faculty and students in the next years, requiring racial sensitivity workshops for faculty, and creating a zero-tolerance policy that results in expulsion for racist acts. The 2014 rally followed up with more demands, saying Daniels was too slow to act.

So his response to the protests at Yale and Missouri? Congratulations on his own great leadership.

With that kind of leadership, maybe Daniels should write a book about how his brand of leaderocity and leadertude can inspire a whole generation of leadership studies students! Because being a university president is nothing but an exercise in self-promotion and justifying your own actions to make yourself look good.

Property Taxes and Unequal Schools

[ 157 ] November 19, 2015 |
Coverage from the May 9, 2011 protest of Rhee/Walker/Corbett at the American Federation for Children policy summit  from Rheefist.com website

Coverage from the May 9, 2011 protest of Rhee/Walker/Corbett at the American Federation for Children policy summit
from Rheefist.com website

I should surprise no readers by noting that racial injustice is so deep in our institutions that it infects nearly every part of American life. The definition of structural racism is that inequality gets replicated without those replicating it even knowing it. Or if they do know it, they can justify it while saying “racism is bad.” This brings me to school funding. Meg O’Leary and Sarah Friedman run a public magnet school targeting Latinos who may be underachieving in Central Falls, Rhode Island. For those of you unfamiliar with the urban geography of Rhode Island, Central Falls is a postage stamp of a town that should not be its own municipality. It’s barely bigger than a neighborhood. It’s also very poor and very heavily Latino, with a quite high percentage of Colombians.

Of course the schools in Central Falls are awful. And then aren’t much better in Pawtucket or Providence. It shouldn’t have to be that way. But it is because so much of the money for the schools come from local property taxes, as O’Leary an Friedman write. That means that rich districts have good schools and poor districts don’t. Basing much of school funding on local property taxes is racist. It also helps lead to citizens who have the financial wherewithal to make choices on where they live to either move to the suburbs or send their children to private schools. These are racist acts. They don’t mean the people who commit them are racist per se. But they are acts that explicitly commit people to fostering long-term inequality. I get why they do it–it’s my child after all!–but then that again is how structural racism works. It operates to incentivize otherwise perhaps well-meaning people to make choices that perpetuate racism. I’m not trying to troll readers here by accusing them of racism. But I am putting the decisions people make for their children’s sake within the spectrum of American structural racism.

The primary way around this problem is to take local property taxes out of it. More useful would be a state-wide property tax that would go exclusively to school funding. All children should receive equal funding. Unequal funding within states should be considered a civil rights violation. A white student in the wealthy coastal town of East Greenwich is not worth more than a Colombian kid in Central Falls. Except that actually in our society they are worth more. Instead the answer is let’s privatize the education for the poor, which serves to also perpetuate structural racism by firing middle-class black teachers and replacing with untrained non-union labor that is usually white and which allows wealthy, usually white, people to profit off of educating the poor, cutting the corners that capitalists will do to make a buck.

Horowitz

[ 55 ] November 19, 2015 |

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David Horowitz is now accusing any university with a Muslim student group of being a fostering ground for terrorists. That my alma mater the University of New Mexico is on his 10 most “terrorist-friendly” university list makes me more proud than you could imagine.

Shorter Chris Christie: “Nits Make Lice”

[ 23 ] November 17, 2015 |

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Above: New Jersey governor Chris Christie

Christ, what an asshole.

Gov. Chris Christie on Monday said the United States should not admit any refugees from the Syrian civil war — not even “orphans under age 5.”

“I do not trust this administration to effectively vet the people who are supposed to be coming in in order to protect the safety and security of the American people, so I would not permit them in,” the Republican presidential candidate said on conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated radio show.

Some 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes due to Syria’s raging civil war, with half of them children, according to the Christian relief charity, WorldVision. More than 4.2 million Syrians have fled for countries like Turkey, Germany, Jordan and Lebanon, according the U.N.

When asked about this on Monday night, Christie at first demurred, saying that “we can come up with 18 different scenarios.”

Then, he said: “The fact is that we need for appropriate vetting, and I don’t think that orphans under 5 should be admitted to the United States at this point.”

“We need to put the safety and security of the American people first,” Christie said.

This immediately reminded me of one John Chivington, who said this when ordering his troops slaughter the Cheyenne and Arapaho at the Sand Creek Massacre.

Some regular army officers protested that to attack the peaceable village would betray the army’s pledge of safety. Chivington ignored them. “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians,” he said. “Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.” He ordered the attack.

Nits make lice. Better keep all the little towelheads out. I think that will be on the Republican platform next year.

….I see Scott beat me to the punch. Great minds and the like.

Gun Rights are White Rights

[ 61 ] November 17, 2015 |

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Another reminder that gun rights are a euphemism for white rights:

A Texas state legislator wants the U.S. to stop allowing Syrian refugees into the country. His reasoning: They might be able to buy guns in his state.

Rep. Tony Dale (R) made this argument in a television interview on Monday and in letters to Texas’ U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz (R) and U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul and John Carter (R).

“While the Paris attackers used suicide vests and grenades,” Dale wrote, “it is clear that firearms also killed a large number of innocent victims. Can you imagine a scenario were [sic] a refugees [sic] is admitted to the United States, is provided with federal cash payments and other assistance, obtains a drivers license and purchases a weapon and executes an attack?” He urged the lawmakers to “do whatever you can to stop the [Syrian refugee] program.”

But Dale is one of the Texas legislature’s most fervent gun-rights advocates. Two weeks ago, he tweeted his National Rifle Association membership renewal. In accepting an “A” rating from the group and the Texas State Rifle Association’s PAC in 2012, he observed: “Perhaps no right is more fundamental than the right to keep and bear arms.” And his campaign website vows his fealty to the Second Amendment, saying it “isn’t just an archaic document,” a “guarantor of all of our other freedoms.” And he and his colleagues in the state legislature have blocked mandatory background checks for all gun purchases.

Of course conservatives like Ronald Reagan were all about Second Amendment restrictions when it was Black Panthers carrying guns into the California statehouse and following cops to stop police brutality. And the National Rife Association was a benign hunters group until it got caught up in the white backlash to civil rights in the 1970s and transformed itself into the fanatical devotee of gun rights it is today. The modern gun rights movement and white rights movement have always been intertwined. These connections need a lot more exploration than the occasional note that some Texas state legislator is freaking out about Muslims buying guns but wants all the whites in his state to be armed to the teeth.

Today in the Rhode Island Democratic Party Dumpster Fire

[ 31 ] November 16, 2015 |

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Above: The Rhode Island Democratic Party

I’ve talked before about how the Rhode Island Democratic Party is an out of control dumpster fire. In a 1-party state, being a Democratic politician means nothing more than “I want power.” That’s how you have the Rhode Island Democratic Party borrowing legislation from Oklahoma banning municipalities from setting their own minimum wages. It’s also how you have an open racist as the Speaker of the House.

One of Rhode Island’s most powerful Democrats doesn’t believe that “white privilege” exists. In a recent interview with the Providence Journal, Nicholas Mattiello, the state’s speaker of the House, said that that racial disparities are simply due to African-Americans’ and other minority groups’ failure to “take advantage” of the opportunities available to them.

Mattiello was invited to discuss racial issues with a panel from The Providence Journal, which is producing an extensive series on race in Rhode Island. He told the panel that, before he was asked that question, he had never thought of the phrase “white privilege.”

Mattiello was responding to an op-ed previously published in The Providence Journal by David R. Carlin, the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader, which argued that racial disparities were the result of “appallingly dysfunctional subculture that is pervasive among the black lower classes.”

This subculture fosters attitudes that lead to astronomical rates of out-of-wedlock births, millions of fathers who give little or no support to their children, high rates of crime and violence, high levels of drug abuse, a poor work ethic and very poor academic achievement. Unless this subculture is eradicated, we may expect that great numbers of blacks will live in misery.

Mattiello said he wasn’t sure about the phrase “subculture,” but seemed to agree with the overall point — namely, that “white privilege” doesn’t exist and that there is a “breakdown” within minority communities that explains racial disparities.

“You have to find ways to get the community to access and to take advantage of [opportunity]. Some people do, but not enough do. And there’s a reason why they don’t, and that’s something that I quite frankly don’t understand, and I need help with that,” Mattiello said.

Mattiello said that education was “the great equalizer” but dismissed criticisms that Rhode Island schools were effectively segregated. “I would say that it’s not segregated, it’s just that it reflects the population that it serves… I don’t know that you start busing people and so forth.”

“I don’t see racism because that’s not how I live my life… But I’ve never seen it because it’s not the way I live. And I’ve never been the victim of it,” Mattiello added.

Well, I guess he at least admits that racism might exist. But of course he’s not racist because no one is racist in 2015 except for people who believe that white privilege might exist or people who voted for Obama and therefore support the war on whites. Meanwhile those black people are just lazy and the state’s significant segregation just happens because white people like to live next to white people and black people choose to live that way.

My disdain for third parties is well-known, but really it’s a different beast on the state level. In Rhode Island, with the Republican Party a non-entity at the local level in most districts and the Democrats who do get elected (not all, but a sizable number including Mattiello) essentially Republicans themselves in Democratic clothing, there really isn’t any reason not to at least try to primary these people. While I remain skeptical that building a state-level third party is a good use of resources because, like on the federal level, the energy that goes into the party-building could be better spent on issue-based campaigning, one can certainly make a much better case for it in Rhode Island than nationally.

Ban the Box

[ 30 ] November 16, 2015 |

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I don’t think anyone mentioned this when it happened two weeks ago, so let me do so here. Obama deciding to “ban the box,” i.e., eliminate the job application question about an applicant’s criminal record for the federal government, is an important step forward for both racial and labor justice. As is common, racial justice is labor justice and labor justice is racial justice. This movement has enough momentum that at least a few Republicans, like Chris Christie, are also supporting it. Hopefully, we can eliminate this discriminatory question from job applications entirely. The question is inherently racist given the racism of the criminal injustice system and it furthers institutionalized racism and poverty for people convicted of nothing more than holding marijuana while black.

Ebola

[ 37 ] November 9, 2015 |

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With all the intensive fear-mongering coverage of Ebola in the weeks before the 2014 midterm elections, you’d think that the World Health Organization declaring Sierra Leone Ebola-free would be big news in the United States. Why, it’s almost like coverage of Ebola in the United States was actually race-baiting to motivate the Republican base to vote against Democrats rather than actual coverage of the news!

Image from this site of rational discussion and reasoned points.

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