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Tag: "racism"

Why the Confederate Memorials Matter

[ 52 ] August 17, 2015 |

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Unveiling ceremony of Confederate monument, Salisbury, North Carolina, 1909

Sometimes people wonder why the Confederate monuments matter? As if getting rid of them will end racism! No one argued that, but they matter a lot because there is a war over public memory of the Civil War that is central to race. Despite what a lot of people think, the Confederate memorials were not erected immediately after the Civil War. Largely they went up between the 1890s and 1910s and were central public statements of the triumph of white supremacy over both the ex-slaves and the southern whites who had allied with the Republican Party, which was a lot more people than you think. The civil rights historian Timothy Tyson discusses this in the context of his home state of North Carolina, where the wingnut state legislature has passed a bill that the governor signed called the Mandatory Confederate Monuments Act that would require the state legislature to approve the removal of these statues, which of course in full right-wing extremist North Carolina is not going to happen.

Tyson:

White North Carolinians erected the vast majority of our Confederate monuments – 82 out of 98 – after 1898, decades after the Civil War ended. More importantly, they built the monuments after the white supremacy campaigns had seized power by force and taken the vote from black North Carolinians. The monuments reflected that moment of white supremacist ascendency as much as they did the Confederate legacy.

Take the Confederate monument on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, better known as “Silent Sam.” The speaker at its dedication in 1913, industrialist Julian S. Carr, bragged that he had “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because … she had publicly insulted … a Southern lady.” Carr’s speech heralded the “Anglo-Saxon race in the South” reunited with white supremacy as the glue.

In the 1890s, white Populists and black Republicans forged an interracial “Fusion” alliance in North Carolina that won both houses of the legislature, two U.S. Senate seats and the governorship. These homegrown Fusionists launched the most daring and democratic experiment in Southern political history.

The interracial Fusion coalition never lost at the polls in an honest election. But in the 1898 election, its enemies turned to violence, intimidation and fraud to steal the election outright. Former Confederate Alfred Waddell declared: “If you find the Negro out voting, tell him to leave the polls, and if he refuses, kill him, shoot him down in his tracks.” White mobs in the streets of Wilmington beat and killed black citizens and overthrew the city government at gunpoint. This coup was the capstone of the 1898 “white supremacy campaign.”

Two years later, the white supremacy campaign again resorted to extralegal measures and elected Gov. Charles B. Aycock. Aycock said afterward, “We have ruled by force, we have ruled by fraud, but we want to rule by law.” They passed a constitutional amendment that took the vote away from black North Carolinians. Afterward they built a one-party, whites-only apartheid regime. This was the Jim Crow social order that persisted for six decades, until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s gave birth to a better South.

Tyson goes onto to discuss his own ancestor who avoided the Confederate draft, yet the Confederate heritage group keep festooning his grave with Confederate flags. I’m sure they just assume that someone of his generation supported the Confederacy, but this man was a unionist. That’s part of the battle. North Carolina conservatives are fighting a quiet race war that has many facets that include finding ways to stop black people from voting, creating myths around white solidarity in the past and present, and preserving monuments erected as symbols of white supremacy. Because these people still believe in that white supremacy, they don’t want them taken down today, no matter how offensive.

South Dakota Racism

[ 70 ] July 30, 2015 |

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I’ve long said that the most underrated state in the U.S. in terms of horrible racism is South Dakota.

Such was the case when a group of academic achievers from the Lakota tribe were rewarded for their good work with a trip to a minor league hockey match in Rapid City, South Dakota. The third through eighth grade students from the American Horse School were with their middle school teacher Consuelo Means when she overheard adults in the the executive suite above them asking some of the young girls where they were from. The teacher was understandably concerned about seemingly drunk strangers talking to little girls and asked that the men leave the children alone.

The men didn’t listen, instead, they continued to talk to the children. When the team scored the men told the children they should shout later because they were “from the Rez.” The teacher immediately went to look for security to ask for help. When she returned, beer was dripping on her head. The men were dumping it on the children. She told other chaperones what was happening and they attempted to intervene. That’s when the men allegedly shouted to the group to go back to “The Rez.”

The children were silent on the drive back to the Pine Ridge Indian ​Reservation, one young girl crying.

“I didn’t think it was appropriate for [the men] to be talking to my students,” Consuelo Means, the middle school teacher explained to ThinkProgress. “We’ve been there five years and nothing like that’s ever happened.” While she completed an incident report for the stadium security, law enforcement was never contacted.

That event was back in January. One man is being charged for disorderly conduct but didn’t even bother showing up at the first day of the trial. It’s South Dakota in a nutshell. Also, in all the discussion of race in this country it’s remarkable to me how Native Americans are hardly ever talked about, almost an afterthought at best.

Also, here’s the Facebook page for the cartoonist who produced the above image.

Florida Courthouse

[ 86 ] July 17, 2015 |

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Civil War reenactment, Baker County, Florida

It’s nice that not only does the Baker County, Florida have a courthouse mural heroically portraying the Ku Klux Klan, but that said mural was painted in 2001.

Since we all know our racist past and modern politics are totally unrelated, I’ll just note that Baker County was Mitt Romney’s second strongest showing in the state, winning it 79-20.

Heritage and Hate

[ 34 ] July 7, 2015 |

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The good people of Haralson County, Georgia defend their widespread use of the American swastika with the same tired arguments about heritage. And of course:

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’.”

Indeed they do. As the county’s 1902 lynching of Benjamin Brown after an accusation of attempted rape of a white woman may suggest.

Today in Racist History

[ 76 ] July 2, 2015 |

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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.

The Neo-Confederate Response

[ 49 ] July 1, 2015 |

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The racists have burned 8 black churches in 10 days.

The Greatest Crime One Can Commit in The United States: Calling Racist Whites Racist

[ 167 ] June 20, 2015 |

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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.

Expelled!

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.

Of course.

Rhodesia 1976

[ 64 ] June 19, 2015 |

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.

Charleston: The Latest Example of White Terrorism against African-Americans

[ 54 ] June 18, 2015 |

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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.

The Historical Roots of McKinney

[ 79 ] June 9, 2015 |

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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

Historian Victoria Wolcott:

“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.

Why McKinney Happened

[ 141 ] June 8, 2015 |

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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.

Women’s Suffrage and White Supremacy

[ 33 ] June 7, 2015 |

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Frances Willard

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.

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