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.
The post-racial society once again rears its glorious head, this time in beautiful Orange, Texas:
A Confederate monument featuring 32 flags representing Civil War regiments is nearing completion in an east Texas town, alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is building the $50,000 memorial on private property, has ordered flagpoles to stand alongside 13 columns representing the states that seceded from the United States and fought to preserve slavery.
Granvel Block, an Orange resident who leads the statewide Sons of Confederate Veterans group, said southern states did not fight the Civil War to defend slavery – but instead were simply defending their sovereignty after “our states were invaded by northern troops.”
He said the memorial is intended to correct the “poor skew” of historical teachings about the Civil War and the Confederacy.
Block is a plaintiff in a recent case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide whether Texas was wrong to reject a specialty license plate displaying the Confederate flag.
He insists the location of the memorial along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was not chosen to “stir the pot,” but was simply the cheapest land the group could find in Orange.
Oh yeah, I’m sure that was the reason. Total coincidence. Admitting that racism is dead and that’s why white cops should be able to shoot black men without consequence, I wonder if we look at the bad old days, if there was any racism in the Orange, Texas vicinity? You know, just for random comparison.
Orange, Texas had so many lynchings in the late 19th century that it had a specifically designated hanging tree. Blacks in east Texas counties are between 4 and 34 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites while a local assistant U.S. Attorney wrote this in response to criticism of Stand Your Ground laws:
How are you fixed for Skittles and Arizona watermelon fruitcocktail (and maybe a bottle of Robitussin, too) in your neighborhood? I am fresh out of “purple drank.” So, I may come by for a visit. In a rainstorm. In the middle of the night. In a hoodie. Don’t get upset or anything if you see me looking in your window…kay?”
In 1989, cops shot and killed a suspected drug dealer after he supposedly reached for their guns, leading to NAACP-led protests about police brutality in Orange. An Army reservist in Orange dragged a black woman named Therea Ardoin to death after tying her to his pickup after beating her in the head with a hammer.
Less than 20 miles away, you have Vidor, Texas, which has one of the strongest racist legacies of any town in the United States, including a long history as a sundown town and a 1993 KKK rally after the federal government finally forced local public housing to accept black residents.
All of this is what I found looking for all of 5 minutes.
In other words, racism is dead.
….In comments, Hogan uncovers how Orange talks about the Civil War. On the city’s official website. In 2015.
The War Between the States, which lasted from 1861-1865, had disastrous effects on Orange by taking its toll on lives and property. When hostilities ceased, tragedy continued. A reign of terror marked by extreme lawlessness followed the end of the war, lasting for a decade. Additional hardships ensued in 1865, when one of the worst wind and rainstorms in Orange’s history brought about even more death and destruction
Did I mention that racism was dead?
In order to honor Foreign Language Week, New York’s Pine Bush High School decided to read the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic. You can guess how the good people of Pine Bush responded, if the photo above doesn’t give it away.