Just across the county line, the Georgia Peach Oyster Bar has operated as a scandalous open secret. Its website features two Confederate battle flags, the description, “The Original Klan, Klam & Oyster Bar,” and a stunningly virulent collection of racist signs. Patrons are confronted with a selection of crude cartoons and graffiti, and a menu that declares, on the appetizer page, “We cater to hangins’.”
This month is the 50th anniversary of the Moynihan Report. Stephen Steinberg:
A few weeks after Moynihan’s report was leaked to the press, the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles exploded in violence, triggered by an incident with police that rapidly escalated into five days of disorder and left thirty-four people dead. Pundits and politicians seized upon the report to cast blame for the “riot” on the deterioration of “the Negro family.” The report warned, “The family structure of lower class Negroes is highly unstable, and in many urban centers is approaching complete breakdown.”
Critics condemned the report for pathologizing female-headed households and black families in particular. The most trenchant criticism, however, was that the preoccupation with black families shifted blame away from institutionalized inequalities and heaped it on the very groups that were victims of those inequalities. As James Farmer, cofounder and national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, wrote with blunt eloquence, “We are sick unto death of being analyzed, mesmerized, bought, sold, and slobbered over while the same evils that are the ingredients of our oppression go unattended.”
Today, in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore, family dysfunction is again cited by politicians, pundits, and scholars as the root of the problem. Rand Paul publicly twaddles about “the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society.” David Brooks opines in the New York Times, “The real barriers to mobility are matters of social psychology, the quality of relationships in a home and a neighborhood that either encourage or discourage responsibility, future-oriented thinking, and practical ambition.” And sociologist Orlando Patterson asserts that “fundamental change” can come only from “within the black community: a reduction in the number of kids born to single, usually poor, women.”
Steinberg goes on to break down the intellectual sources for the Moynihan Report, particularly Nathan Glazer. Intellectual racism that blames people of color for their own poverty has not diminished in the last half-century. Any number of racist sites refer back to Moynihan today; meanwhile this paragon of institutionalized racism became a respected Democratic senator without ever questioning his blaming of black people for their own poverty and ending his career as a big supporter of slashing welfare. Among other great things in this man’s life was ensuring the UN did nothing to stop the Indonesian slaughter in East Timor when he was UN Ambassador during the Ford administration and opposed the Clinton health care plan.
It’s hard out there for white supremacists now, given that someone actually acted on their words in Charleston and now they are being called out on their racism.
Of course, a lot of people have noting racism in American life for a long time, including in the Kansas legislature. There, Rep. Valdenia Winn called the GOP legislators supporting a bill denying tuition breaks for undocumented immigrants “racist bigots.” Given that the Kansas state government is dominated by open racists and that such a bill is racist, this is sensible. So how has the Kansas GOP responded to this truthful charge?
An African-American lawmaker in Kansas could be expelled from the statehouse for accusing supporters of legislation that eliminated tuition breaks for undocumented immigrants of being racist. State Rep. Valdenia Winn (D) of Kansas City will face a special investigative committee in a hearing June 26 that will weigh possible sanctions against the lawmaker for the remarks.
I wonder if there are any examples of Kansas Republican legislators saying racist things and not facing any reprimand?
“I cannot imagine that the committee would make such a recommendation [of expulsion], but the degree of inconceivable actions by our Kansas legislature and governor have reached such a level,” Irigonegaray said. “It’s just gotten to a point where is there a fog of hate clouding the Capitol building, and I certainly do not understand the total dysfunction that exists.”
Irigonegaray points to past controversial comments made by Republicans in the statehouse that received no such response. In 2011, Rep. Virgil Peck (R) suggested undocumented immigrants should be shot from helicopters like feral pigs, and a 2012 email sent by then House Speaker Mike O’Neal (R) to fellow Republicans said they should use a Bible verse with the phrase “Let his days be few and brief” as a prayer for President Obama.
“Was there a special investigative committee to sanction him? No,” Irigonegaray said.
A friend of mine pointed me toward this 1976 Australian TV documentary about the nation of Rhodesia in its last years of trying to maintain its white nationalist government. Very sadly, this has taken on a new relevance in the last 48 hours. The “best” part comes at the 18-20 minute mark, when Ian Smith insists he is not a racist. Because as we know today, the only real racists are people of color oppressing white rights to dominate said people of color. Amazing stuff.
Ku Klux Klan rally, South Carolina, 1951
Heather Cox Richardson places the Charleston shooting in its proper historical context:
Congress stood against Klan terrorism with an 1871 law making their political intimidation a federal offense, a distinction that enabled President Grant to stop the depredations of the Ku Klux Klan by imposing martial law in parts of the South and by having federal courts, rather than local courts, try offenders. For the next twenty years, white southerners controlled black political voices by finding ways either to work with black voters or to silence them. This was imperative, they insisted, for black voters were only interested in social welfare legislation that would cost tax dollars and thus “corrupt” the American government.
In 1889, the threat of a new Republican administration to mount a federal defense of black voting brought a new construction to the idea of the corruption of government. A new generation of white Democrats worried far less about political than about social issues. They insisted that black men must not vote because if they voted, they would take local political offices. This would give them patronage power, for in the nineteenth century, local positions depended on the goodwill of local politicians. Black men would, for example, become school principals. There, they would use their power to hire teachers to force young innocent white girls to have sex with them in exchange for jobs. This political exchange very quickly turned to the idea that black political power meant widespread rape. By the early twentieth century, lynching black men was almost a civic duty for white citizens: only by purging the government of black voices could the nation be made safe.
When Roof said: “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” he was echoing the fear of black political power laid down in the aftermath of the Civil War, when white American men had to face the reality that this nation is, in fact, made up of far more women and people of color than it is of white men. That fact inspired terror – and terrorism – among white men in the late nineteenth century. It did so again after 1954, when Brown v. Board warned white Americans that they would again have to share their country with African Americans. Then, as in the late nineteenth century, white Americans turned to terrorism against black political voices as, for example, when four Ku Klux Klan members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and murdered four little girls.
South Carolina could at the very least take steps to undermine this white supremacist terrorism. First, it could take down the Confederate flag from the statehouse. Second, it could pass hate crimes legislation. It is highly unlikely to do either because white supremacy is still deeply embedded in the moral compass of much of the state’s population.
A scene from the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, which started when whites stoned a young black man to death for swimming in white-only waters in Lake Michigan
“When pools have been opened on a nonsegregated basis,” noted one legal scholar in 1954, “either under legal compulsion or by voluntary action, disturbances have resulted more frequently than in any other instances of desegregation.” Whites threw nails at the bottom of pools, poured bleach on black bathers, or simply beat them up. In the late 1940s there were major swimming pool riots in St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
And despite civil rights statutes in many states the law did not come to African Americans’ aid. In Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, the chairman of the Charlotte Park and Recreation Commission in 1960 admitted that “all people have a right under law to use all public facilitates including swimming pools.” But he went on to point out that “of all public facilities, swimming pools put the tolerance of the white people to the test.” His conclusion was predictable: “Public order is more important than rights of Negroes to use public facilities and any admission of Negroes must be within the bounds of the willingness of white people to observe order or the ability of police to enforce it.” In practice black swimmers were not admitted to pools if the managers felt “disorder will result.” Disorder and order defined accessibility, not the law.
Only after decades of persistent activism did these barriers begin to fall. But instead of whites and blacks swimming and playing together recreational facilities in American cities have been defunded and apartheid continues to mark the recreational landscape. By the 1970s the virulent racism so common earlier in the century had been replaced by a colorblind discourse suggesting that choices about where to live, work, and play were individual decisions separate from the legacy of racism. But there are moments when one hears the direct echo of those earlier struggles. In 2009, for example, the owner of a private swim club in Philadelphia excluded black children attending a Philadelphia day care center, saying they would change the “complexion” of the club. And now in a wealthy subdivision outside of Dallas police target black teenagers and some in the surrounding community make it clear they – the black children – are not welcome.
Pools have long been fraught with racial tension, as have other swimming sites such as lakes and rivers, which led to the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. Why access to water specifically creates such anxiety over race, I’m not really sure.
The nation is once again focused on police brutality today thanks to the violent attack by a cop on black swimmers in the Dallas suburb of McKinney, Texas. Once again, the video capability of cameras has brought the routine police brutality people of color face in the United States into our sight. But it’s also worth noting why the cops were called to the scene anyway–the racist whites of McKinney.
Neighbors are defending police who chased black teenagers at gunpoint and tackled a girl wearing a bikini after breaking up a party at a community pool over the weekend in McKinney, Texas.
But one homeowner and her daughter say those neighbors confronted some teens when they went outside and began taunting them and their guests with racial slurs before starting a fight.
Tatiana Rose, who lives in the Craig Ranch neighborhood and hosted the party with her siblings, said a woman and man who live in the neighborhood showed up and called their friends “black f*ckers” and told them to return to their Section 8 housing.
The 19-year-old Rose said most of her friends who attended the party live in Craig Ranch — which sits along a golf course.
Rose said one of her younger brother’s friends — a white girl named Grace Stone — scolded the neighbors and told them it wasn’t right to use racial slurs.
“So then they started verbally abusing her, saying that she needs to do better for herself, cursing at her, and I’m saying, no that’s wrong – she’s 14, you should not say things like that to a 14-year-old,” Rose said.
She said the woman, who she identified as Kate, told her to go back to her government-assisted housing and smacked her in the face when she stuck up for the younger girl, and she said another woman also attacked her.
Police brutality isn’t just a police problem. It’s also a symptom of this nation’s endemic racism that reinforces white supremacy each and every day.
This is from last year, but I just saw it so I am going to post about it anyway. Mallory Ortberg really presented the unfortunate issue of suffrage activists using white supremacy to press their case in the most effective way possible. Although given that it’s The Toast, Freddie DeBoer probably thinks it’s another example of feminists doing it wrong. Anyway:
Suffragette: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815-1902 (Social activist, abolitionist, author)
Hooray: “The best protection any woman can have is courage.”
Wait, What: “What will we and our daughters suffer if these degraded black men are allowed to have the rights that would make them even worse than our Saxon fathers?”
Suffragette: Laura Clay, 1849-1940 (Founder of Kentucky’s first suffrage group)
Hooray: “Religious intolerance just now is abroad in the land. It is an evil passion of the heart which dies hard…This campaign is a call to every true American of whatever party to stand firmly for the principle of religious freedom.”
Wait, What: “The white men, reinforced by the educated white women, could ‘snow under’ the Negro vote in every State, and the white race would maintain its supremacy without corrupting or intimidating the Negroes.”
Suffragette: Frances Willard, 1839-1898 (Feminist lecturer, founder of the National Council of Women, anti-child abuse activist)
Hooray: “Politics is the place for woman.”
Wait, What: “Alien illiterates rule our cities today; the saloon is their palace, and the toddy stick their scepter. The colored race multiplies like the locusts of Egypt.”
Suffragette: Carrie Chapman Catt, 1859-1947 (Founder of the League of Women Voters)
Hooray: “”There is one thing mightier than kings and armies”–aye, than Congresses and political parties–“the power of an idea when its time has come to move.” The time for woman suffrage has come. The woman’s hour has struck. If parties prefer to postpone action longer and thus do battle with this idea, they challenge the inevitable. The idea will not perish; the party which opposes it may. Every delay, every trick, every political dishonesty from now on will antagonize the women of the land more and more, and when the party or parties which have so delayed woman suffrage finally let it come, their sincerity will be doubted and their appeal to the new voters will be met with suspicion.”
Wait, What: “White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.”
All of this is pretty well known to historians, but really isn’t stressed that much in public conceptions of the suffrage movement. It’s not unknown, but it needs to be more known. Expressing it in this way, cheering for feminists of the past and then being horrified by the same feminists, is well done.
The University of North Carolina has long had a building named for former KKK leader William Saunders. Public protest has finally moved to renaming the building “Carolina Hall” (which really, could you be more bland?). But the school’s Board of Trustees can’t go all the way and confront the past. UNC law professor Eric Muller:
The Board of Trustees decreed that the new “Carolina” Hall must feature a historical marker that “explains Mr. Saunders’ contributions to UNC and the State of North Carolina,” the circumstances that led an earlier Board of Trustees to name the building for him and the reason why the current board has chosen to remove his name.
What is noteworthy is the decision to perpetuate the celebration of William Saunders. His name comes down, but an explanation of his contributions to the university and the state goes up. Why does Saunders, gone for almost 125 years, continue to command this honor, an honor bestowed on the KKK leader by his grandchildren’s generation at a time when many were celebrating the “lost cause” of the Confederacy and enforcing Jim Crow? Why are we obliged, almost a century later, to perpetuate that generation’s decision to single him out for honor from among all Carolina alumni who had made contributions to the university and the state? Why must we still publicly venerate his “contributions” on the walls of a university building?
The trustees also required the university to adorn the renamed building with a plaque that reads as follows: “We honor and remember all those who have suffered injustices at the hands of those who would deny them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
At first glance, the statement is pleasing in its timeless generality. But therein lies the problem. The society that Saunders lived in, and the society of two generations later that honored him with the naming, did not practice oppression as a generality. Whites oppressed blacks in the service of white supremacy. Why can this not be said? Indeed, why remember generic “injustices” when what we are actually remembering is “racial persecution”?
The statement even lets the oppressors subtly off the hook. It refers to them as people who “would” deny others their rights. The conditional word “would” strips their persecution of its terrible effectiveness. The truth is not that white supremacy merely aimed to deny blacks their rights – and at times their lives. The truth is that white supremacy actually did those things. Why the equivocating use of the conditional verb?
That’s pretty ridiculous. Whether this all means the Board of Trustees is really perfectly happy with the politics of William Saunders is an open question and one that’s especially salient given the current racism of the North Carolina state government and the Moral Mondays movement that has tapped into the state’s civil rights traditions to resist it. In any case, it’s amazing that not naming a building after a Ku Klux Klan leader is still contentious in 2015. But then an open confrontation with slavery, white violence, and Jim Crow could get awful uncomfortable for people who are doing all they can to strip the franchise from as many African-Americans as possible in the present.
Monsanto. Everyone’s favorite chemical corporation. This is the first national advertisement ever placed by Monsanto, a 1939 campaign in Fortune.