Category Archives: racism

The Proximity Problem

So, how can a President of the United States of America spout racist spittle in his Twitter account while pompously announcing he hasn’t a racist bone in his body? And, how could sentient being believe that?

Anyone who isn’t white spots the hypocrisy immediately. Many who are white find his statement compatible with their own feelings.  It doesn’t take too long in life to hear someone white say precisely the same thing and to note the speaker believes it.  The trick, and the proximity problem, is in the word that all too often follows the clause…”but.”

I’m not racist…but they just don’t behave like us. Or, they don’t work like we do, or they don’t raise their children up like we do, or they don’t take care of their property like we do…And so on.  Such tried and tired lines passed from generation to generation create the basis for institutional racism, the foundation for everything from redlining to school segregation.  Library shelves are full of volumes and tomes explaining racism. Kitchen tables are full of conversations and comments which perpetuate it.

Much of the President’s unpalatable rhetoric doesn’t leave a bad aftertaste if the listener is inclined to be uncomfortable in racially or culturally mixed groups.  There’s the key word, “comfort.”  Recall the studies from years back that concluded whites were comfortable in mixed neighborhoods until a minority population started to exceed 10%?  Now, think in terms of a head nodding member of Trump’s audience reacting to a racist comment with an interior “yeah, I don’t have any problems with ‘them’ I just don’t want too many of them in the school, the neighborhood, or my city.”  Translation: I don’t want to be in proximity.

Proximity is challenging.  Segregation allowed generations of white Americans to live with the benefits of non-white work, but without the necessity of contact or proximity.   It’s probably no accident that the gun-sense activists of Parkland made common cause with their cohorts from predominantly minority population neighborhoods.  Proximity is less problematic after a couple of generations of integration?  Proximity is easier when there is a cause greater than personal comfort.

Trump offers comfort to the Discomfited.  Uneasy with an African American President?  How about a white male one? Was that African American President making you feel uncomfortable because he understood The Talk parents have with teenage sons?  The more uncomfortable with members of minority groups, the more comfortable with Trump! To admit he is racist is to admit to one’s own biases.  Racism is white supremacist hood wearing cross burning radicals…but the President isn’t one of those, therefore I’m not racist either?  No, skip the hood, but he certainly makes noises compatible with those unfortunate souls when he uses words like invasion, infestion, and his officials appear on television rewording the plaque on the Statue Of Liberty.

He’s upset at being branded a racist, as would all those who emphatically declare themselves free of racism in all portions of their skeletons.  The solution is simple to say, complex to implement: Get used to the proximity.  A solution made all the more difficult when a significant percentage of the country doesn’t want to live, work, play, or pray near those unlike themselves.  Those uncomfortable with the unfamiliar,  who are fearful of the implications for their status.  We ignore them at our peril, and their residual racism causes the resurgence of our proximity problem for each generation. However, like a disease which refuses to be eradicated, changes and attacks the body politic in each new generation, inoculation is possible.  Acquaintance assists. Proximity helps. Tolerance cures.

 

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Filed under Immigration, Politics, racism

GOP and their Silent Night

Some thoughts on what’s been being shown on my television set recently…

Item: The chatterati are opining about .Republican silence in regard to Trump’s racist commentary.  I’m not so sure this is entirely accurate. True, Republican members of the House and Senate haven’t flocked to the cameras to denounce the egregious tweets, but silence may not be the most accurate characterization either.  Several Republican members have made it very clear, right out in public, they’ve no intention to run for reelection in 2020.

Those announcements might easily be construed to mean that while they don’t wish to incur the wrath of the Tweeter in Chief, they also don’t care to associated with his regime. This isn’t indicative of any great level of intestinal fortitude, but it is a form of statement.

Item: Senate Majority Leader McConnell is bent into pretzelian contortions because of criticism aimed at his refusal to bring election security measures up in the Senate.  Woe, he cries, it’s McCarthyism to suggest his disloyalty! Note to the Majority Leader, hurling epithets doesn’t answer the question — Why will you not bring these bills up for consideration?

Further, he declares, the Democrats are exploiting an issue for partisan advantage.  First, let’s notice that at least one of the bills is a bipartisan product, and secondly be aware that all issues, relating to all legislative matters, may at some point be advantageous for one side or the other. However, we’d be remiss not to observe McConnell’s comments as predictably convenient.  Whenever legislative consideration is sought on matters related to gun regulation reform or election security, the Majority Leader can be counted upon to declare this a matter of partisan exploitation.  This refrain is getting tiresome.

Dear Majority Leader, if you don’t want to be festooned with the hash tag #MoscowMitch, then do something to distance yourself from the Deripaskas of this world…hint: that aluminum plant deal in Kentucky isn’t helping.

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Filed under elections, Politics, racism

It’s Been A Long Time Coming: Trump wasn’t built in a day.

The Mueller Hearing, July 24, 2019, laid bare the current differences between the modern renditions of Republicans and Democrats in a stark flash illuminating what’s been going on since 1964 (at least) and why there are no silver bullets to resolve the Constitutional issues.  The hearings took 7 hours, the problems it highlighted are freighted with 65 years worth of history. Viewed from this perspective, Trump isn’t the disease, he’s the major symptom.

If there’s a handy label for the current political shape of the Republican Party I’m not aware of it, but what we are looking at is an amalgam of revitalized Dixiecrats and long range planning by the National Association of Manufacturers as described in the 1971 memo authored by Lewis Powell.

There are more than enough tomes on both the rise of corporate power, and the insidious spread of racist political foundations, to fill library shelves.  All we need do is see the spectacle of GOP apologists for Russian interference in our elections as another mile marker on an already paved road.

Part of the pavement is composed of the vestiges of those states where the decision in Brown v Board of Education was not well received, and those states where the battle flag went back up when it was discovered that they really were going to have to integrate their schools and public accommodations.  Does anyone believe it’s an accident Senate Majority Leader McConnell is jamming through judicial appointments of those who are hedging on whether Brown was correctly decided?  Does anyone cling to the fiction that the anti-abortion culture war alliances don’t trace back to school desegregation orders? Does anyone doubt the blatant racism of Stephen Miller’s immigration proposals?

Trump hasn’t changed the racist nature of modern Republican political ideology, he’s just said the quiet part out loud.

The other part of the mixture recalls the days when the National Association of  Manufacturers decided to move their headquarters to Wasington DC.  The road map was drafted in Lewis Powell’s 1971 memo, the “American economic system is under broad attack.” Powell advocated a long term, gradual but steady, advance of corporate interests.  It wasn’t too difficult to combine the residual McCarthyism with the call for “less government” to achieve the unlikely scene of so-called populist ultra-conservatives avidly supporting a racist president against the Commies and Socialists in a hearing room; it just took time and patience.

Please give latitude to my cynicism. Impeaching Trump would be a very constructive activity, but it won’t solve the problem. The GOP will simply find another, possibly less boorish, model who will be all the more dangerous for being better able to keep his (And it will be his) thumbs and mouth under control, one who won’t say the quiet part at decibel levels associated with aircraft engines.

The better view may be to take a longer approach, and one which draws from their own playbook. Hit’em where they think they’re strongest. In this instance, hit Trump on the very issue he intends to ride to a 2020 victory…immigration.

He’s already doubled, perhaps tripled, down on the racism embedded in his approach as he angles toward a base turnout election.  When an opponent is digging himself into a hole, hand him a larger shovel.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to brand Trump’s policies as racist, which they patently are. Nor should it be too much effort to clothe him in these soiled philosophical garments. “Yes, the stock market is doing well, but what are we to make of the fact that some children are being detained away from their parents in squalid conditions?”  Some message discipline required, but if Democrats can tag every interview with a brief inquiry about children in cages, US citizens being detained, or why the Republicans won’t discuss DACA recipients, the frog may start to boil?

Then we can add the health care issue. There is no GOP plan to replace the ACA.  Add one measure of immigration attack (Why won’t the GOP listen to Dreamers? Why are children locked away?) to one measure of specifically what is your plan to cover those with pre-existing medical conditions?  What is your plan to provide maternity care? Mental health and addiction abatement care? Why can’t we address gun violence as a question of public health and safety?

As once members of the left avoided the term liberal because the right wing talkers besmeared it, let right wingers know how the racist, heartless, radical label grates?

We could strengthen and broaden the Democratic message, and take an opportunity to begin a longer phased approach to reclaiming the social contract binding citizens to their government.  Patience. Discipline. Progress. It’s possible. A pendulum swings both directions.

 

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Filed under conservatism, family issues, Gun Issues, Health Care, Immigration, Politics, racism

Please don’t mistake what’s left behind after the elephants for the parade.

I’ve been amused at the number of pundits attempting to provide context and analysis in the wake of Trump’s racist spewage this past week. Several appear to have confused the elephant debris with an actual parade.

Let’s begin with two commonly accepted premises. First, Mr. Trump is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, perhaps he’s the quintessential “taco short of a combo plate.” (H/T the great Ann Richards)  Secondly, he’s impulsive and undisciplined.  There have been more than enough whines from the executive office concerning how his tweets send underlings scampering to catch up to drive home that conclusion.  Based on these two notions the following conclusion isn’t too difficult to reach.

There is no strategy. There is no plan. What we are witnessing are staffers, deputies, and media stenographers, attempting to make sense of the obvious nonsense. Uncertain of this? Then consider the usual timeline, and the latest debacle fits into the pattern of obvious nonsense.

Initially, Trump is Trump. Boorish, illiterate, illogical, and racist. Then he lies. He didn’t do it, whatever it was, or someone made him do it, whomever they were. Out come the Explainers. The president really didn’t, actually couldn’t, or  truly was misrepresented by the Evil Press. Unfortunately for the Explainers there is video or a nice screen shot or two. Translation: The elephant has defecated in the street again and the Explainers are deployed with their brooms and dust pans.

Now that the debris is swirling the secondary Explainers launch. What, they pontificate all over my television screen, does this mean?  The easiest thing would be to park at square one and conclude the President is boorish, illogical, not very bright, and a racist. Surely not, the chatterati opine, there must be more. There must be strategy. Tactics? Ramifications? Implications? Proximate and approximate results? Why does there have to be anything?

After all is said, and said, and said it’s not the President who provides all this icing on the inedible cake, it’s the punditry. It’s a brilliant move to fire up his base? A strategy to drive the narrative away from his real agenda and take up air time? A deflection to establish foils in the advance of the Democratic nomination?  Or, how about it was a boorish, stupid, racist thing to say and the President said it. Period.

Combine Trump statements with cable news shows desperately trying to fill air time in the cheapest possible way, adding in more than a dash of polling information of questionable utility, and we get 24 hours of the same 12 hours of the same 15 minutes of what might pass for news.  The remainder is the culmination of the Explainers’ efforts to remove or re-pile the waste.

Enter the Commentators.  They follow the Explainers and shove the story past that “stupid thing to say” point with personal, anecdotal, and if we aren’t lucky, poll driven analysis.  Polls can be informative, but we’re getting altogether too many without seeing the actual questions respondents were being asked, and without notice given that some results have remarkable margins of error.

Commentators can be insightful; however, if people are too willing to allow those analysts to direct their own thinking, then we’re not using our own noodles. Each commentary is pedicated on the analyst’s own premises, previous assertions, or perspectives.  Please let us not confuse how the elephant leavings are stacked or strewn with the parade route.

An endless loop can be manufactured by having the President issue one of his half hearted, half arsed, semi-non-apology-apologies. Off they go again! The pile, the Explainers, the Commentators; a new configuration for the piles, followed immediately by the Explainers and the Commentators.

Let’s do try to simplify matters. It will often come to pass that a stupid, boorish, racist, man will say boorish, racist, things. There’s only one answerable question: Do you agree with him or not?  That sums up the parade.

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Filed under Immigration, Politics, racism, Republicans

Trump: Making Racists Comfortable Since 2015

Okay, there’s not a “racist bone in Trump’s body,” but there appears to be plenty in his muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, and other soft tissue to make up for any deficit.

AND, he’s very good at making other such beings comfortable with their white supremacist perspectives.  The first way garden variety racists make themselves feel comfortable is to define their way out of the category.  How am I a racist if I don’t don the contents of my linen closet, join the circle around a burning cross, and wave my confederate battle flag? See, I’m not a racist…I’m not like those people!

However, it isn’t necessary to jump on the nativist bandwagon in order to hold obviously racist views.  How about dressing up in blackface for a Halloween event? Or, dressing up a youngster in blackface to perform country dance steps? Just good fun? Here’s a hint. If the activity would not be done in front of a predominantly ethnic minority audience of color, then it’s probably racist.

That the white person didn’t mean for the action or comment to be racist isn’t relevant. If it was racist it was racist. It isn’t the “other person’s fault” for “misinterpreting” the action or comment.  The responses range from outright defensiveness to attempts to deflect to the reaction as overblown or hyper-sensitive.  Another hint: It’s okay to apologize.

There are innumerable lists of items we could add to the Things Better Left Unsaid category.  Attach any of the following to the opening “I’m not a racist, but…” tag —

They just don’t fit in with regular people.

They just don’t learn English.

They don’t assimilate.

They drive up to get their food bank stuff in a better car than mine.

They always seem to have money for pizza and beer.

They sit around getting free stuff and services while there are jobs that go begging all over this country.

If they just act more like white people…

If they’d stop having kids they can’t afford…

AND, we could add another thousand variations on these themes, all to the same end.  The point is that the and related sentiments make those harboring racist ideas comfortable with themselves. Those, like the President, who reinforce and reassure the practitioners make the racists feel justified, less guilty, and more socially acceptable.  These are the people Trump feels he can add to his base.  If he can provide rationalization and justification to those who need to suppress their episodic pangs of conscience then his electoral strategy might be successful.

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Filed under Politics, racism

Stop Being Surprised, He’s A Racist

The erstwhile president of the United States of  America managed a good trick. Combine 1950s racism with 1950s white supremacist sentiments.  Not bad for one Twitter storm.

He blended the “Go back to Africa” taunt with “those outside agitators are Commies,” (abetted by his little minion Sen. Lindsey Graham). This harkens back to one of the old Redemptionist themes, “all our darkies were happy until those Yankee abolitionist agitators came along.” The updated version was all our N-words were happy before those outside agitators from the north started meddling in our state’s rights.  The current version generalizes opposition to white supremacist views…those outside agitators are Commies and un-American.  Repetition doesn’t improve the sentiment.

But why does anyone pretend to be shocked? He espoused the blatantly racist birtherism plague. He came down the escalator to tell us about “those” drug dealers and rapists, and said he couldn’t get a fair trial before that Mexican judge (a native of Indiana.)  He said there were some “very fine people” among those chanting the Nazi slogans in Charlottesville.  And to put some icing on the cake, his supporters are whining that it’s racist to call out his racism. (See Brit Hume)

He didn’t so much respond to reporters questions today about his racist tweets, as he talked past them, and over the reporters who pressed on.  His isn’t the most powerful voice on the lawn or in the room as it is the most rude and persistent. There’s a distinction. A distinction lost on him.

Senator Angus King recalled lawyer Robert Welch, “have you no decency…at long last have you no decency.” Perhaps it is telling that Senator McCarthy tried the same interruptive, rude, response during that infamous hearing. It was the beginning of his end.

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Filed under Congress, House of Representatives, Immigration, Politics, racism

The President Can’t Hide From His Words

On June 8. 2014 Las Vegas, Nevada police officers Soldo and Beck went to a pizza diner.  Their meal was interrupted by Jerad and Amanda Miller, two right wing anti-government extremists who had previously participated in the infamous Bundy Ranch stand off. Officers Soldo and Beck paid with their lives for the Millers’ warped minds and itchy trigger fingers.  The Millers and their ilk aren’t typical of American politics, but then that’s exactly what makes them dangerous.

Last November, the Washington Post reported:

“As a Republican, Mitchell Adkins complained of feeling like an outcast at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. “Hardcore liberals” made fun of him, he wrote, and he faced “discrimination on a daily basis.” He soon dropped out and enrolled in trade school.

But his simmering rage led him back to campus one morning in April 2017, when Adkins pulled out a machete in the campus coffee shop, demanded that patrons state their political affiliation and began slashing at Democrats.

“There was never any ambiguity about why he did it,” said Tristan Reynolds, 22, a witness to the attack, which left two women injured.”

Fortunately, the result wasn’t as lethal as in the Las Vegas, Nevada pizza parlor, but the core problem was similar.  Fast forward to October 26, 2018.  Cesar Sayoc sent out 13 pipe bombs to critics or opponents of President Trump.  We were lucky, none exploded either in the mail or at the destinations of the intended targets.

The Washington Post article, which described the increase in right wing violence offered this sobering information :

“Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.”

Might we wonder why?  After Sayoc was arrested the tenor of the White House response left something to be desired:

Speaking at the White House, Trump praised the “incredible job” done by investigators and promised to punish the person responsible. Speaking later at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump won applause from his loyalist supporters for calling for national unity and an end to political violence. But he soon attacked the media, encouraged chants of “CNN sucks” and set the audience up to boo the Democratic House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and reprise “lock her up” chants aimed at Hillary Clinton. [Guardian]

It seems he just can’t help himself.  And now, after the arrest of Christopher Hasson, and the confiscation into evidence of his cache of weapons and ammunition, the President can’t bring himself to acknowledge how his “lock her up,” chants and repeated references to the press as the “Enemy of the People” might play a role in eliciting reactions like those of the Millers’, Sayoc, Adkins, and others.

He called the Hasson incident “a shame.” When asked if his rhetoric might have played a role in igniting Hasson’s rage, the President asserted his words have been “very nice.” [CNN video]  I’m not at all certain the record bears this out — there’s another example, again in Las Vegas, where Trump called out that he’d like very much to punch a heckler in the face.   Trump keeps hauling out the Enemy of the People line to describe the media, most recently three days ago, directly targeting the New York Times.  On February 12, 2019 the Times reported on the assault of a BBC cameraman at Trump’s rally in El Paso, Texas.  The White House keeps announcing that the President condemns violence and doesn’t condone attacks on reporters and opponents, however the list of incidents compiled by ABC news keeps getting longer.  So does the assemblage from Vox.   And these incidents and comments are not without consequences:

“A Kentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.”

If the President’s word choices are determined by what will play well with his base, then he (and his advisers) might do well to consider the distinction between base and debase.  He is now speaking not merely to the deplorables, but to the despicables and the debased.  It’s been noticed.  The ADL reports that as of 2014 about 70% of Americans thought it was necessary for the government to step in to counter Antisemitism, the poll results now show about 80% believing the government should do more to protect against this scourge.

In April 2009 Janet Napolitano warned us about the rising temperature of right wing extremism in this country — and the conservatives prompted hit the fainting couches.

 The American Legion formally requested an apology to veterans. Some in Congress called for me to be fired. Amid the turmoil, my (Daryl Johnson) warning went unheeded by Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security caved to the political pressure: Work related to violent right-wing extremism was halted. Law enforcement training also stopped. My unit was disbanded. And, one-by-one, my team of analysts left for other employment. By 2010, there were no intelligence analysts at DHS working domestic terrorism threats.

What’s happening today? Not much.

“The Trump administration has done little to counter the impression that it is soft on right-wing extremism. Even before Trump took office, his presidential transition team began drawing up plans to redirect national-security resources away from white supremacists to focus solely on Islamic terrorism. The main target of this effort was Countering Violent Extremism, an interagency task force created by Barack Obama in the wake of the Charleston Church shooting to help prevent acts of violence before they happen. In 2016, the Office of Community Partnerships, which housed C.V.E., boasted a full-time staff of 16, about 25 contractors, and a budget of $21 million. But the Trump White House was skeptical of the preventative approach.”  [Vanity Fair 2018]

The situation within the Department of Justice at present describes a CVE program killed for all intents and purposes by a thousand paper cuts.

There are some actions we should consider:

  • Fully fund and restore the CVE efforts within the Department of Justice.
  • Keep records and statistical analyses of right wing terrorist groups and their activities within the United States.
  • Prioritize efforts to combat foreign influences which seek to foment racial and ethnic divisions in the United States.
  • Publicize the sources of funding for right wing extremist groups and their propaganda machines, including Dark Money organizations.

We can do some things individually.  I, for one, don’t find ethnic ‘jokes’ amusing, and I’m not above telling the reciter thereof so. If this makes the “Adkins'” of the world uncomfortable, so be it.  I don’t need to listen to anti-government spiels, unwarranted racial or ethnic diatribes, and I feel no compunction about indicating to those emitting this verbal garbage I’m quite through listening.  “I don’t hate you, I’m just through listening.”  If this drives the cockroaches back into the dark, fine. That’s where they belong.    If a person thinks a two year old Guatemalan girl and her 20-something parents are a “national security threat,” and doesn’t hold the same opinion of  some jerk with a personal arsenal harboring his sexual, political, ideological, whatever, perversions, then the person probably won’t enjoy my company anyway. I certainly won’t be enjoying his.

We DO want affordable health care. We DO want to address climate change issues. We DO want to rationalize and reform our immigration policies.  And, we need to tell our Congressional representatives and Senators we’d like this done in a country that doesn’t have to put up with the rhetoric of derision and division, and the verbal violence that leads to the real thing.

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Filed under anti-immigration, Gun Issues, Immigration, Las Vegas, Politics, racism, White Supremacists

The Grammar and Bigotry of Trump’s America

When I listen to someone say, “I’m not racist, but…,” what I hear is, “I’m a racist who has found a way to rationalize my bigotry.”  It often goes like this: “I’m not racist, but we have a real problem protecting our border.”  Let us parse.

Perhaps some people weren’t paying attention when Sister Rosetta Stone and Sister Mary Elephant explained coordinating conjunctions.  There is certainly evidence the current White House occupants and staff weren’t attuned to grammatical instruction. [NYT] That said, “but” is a coordinating conjunction presenting a contrast or an exception.  It’s the exception part that gives the game away.  The basic construction of the sentence underpins the notion the speaker is granting himself or herself an exception to the general classification of racist to which he or she doesn’t wish to be associated.  In other words, what the person is about to say is generally considered racist, and what comes after the coordinating conjunction will be good old fashioned self preserving rationalization.  Now that we’ve parsed we can move on to that rationalization.

Borders can be both statutory and personal.  We have statutory borders marking territorial jurisdiction.  We have land and maritime boundaries with Canada and Mexico. We have maritime boundaries with the Bahamas, Cuba, and Russia.  The boundaries of personal space appear to give some bigots the most problems.  Witness: The person who called the police when a black man was sighted moving into his new apartment in New York City. [CBS] Three black women were reported as burglars when leaving an Air BnB because a neighbor got nervous. [CNN] A white woman created a scene in Oakland, CA  calling the police because there were people at Lake Merritt barbecuing while black. [Root]  For white bigots there are two invasions.  One occurs when a non-white person seeks to pass a statutory land or maritime boundary, and the other happens when a non-white person seeks to do the normal things normal people do in spaces too close to the hyper-sensitive bigots.

Simple minds conflate the two. “I’m not a racist; nevertheless, I’m experiencing an invasion of my space by people who don’t look like me.” Sister Mary Elephant would inform us “nevertheless” is a conjunctive adverb. Those who aren’t burdened by their own bigotry would inform us a van filled with farm workers doesn’t constitute a host of Midianites at the city walls.  A family seeking asylum doesn’t meet the definition of a horde of Goths at the gates.

However, to a basic bigot the visibility of people who speak Spanish at gas stations, [NBC] or who are  persons who “look Muslim”  doing complex mathematical computations on an airplane, [WaPo] or are two Native American youngsters on a college tour in Colorado, [CNN] who make a white woman “nervous,’ is central to their sense of space.  If only the bigots could exclude the dark skinned, straight or curly haired, Spanish speaking, or quiet, people from getting too close to their spaces they would feel comfortable again.  They could “take their country back.” They could MAGA to their heart’s content.

The increasing possibility that the neighborhood will have more black or Hispanic residents, or that the malls will have more diverse shoppers, or that the parks will have more non-white barbecuers, frightens our bigots.  In some cases it makes them melt down in public, and sometimes we get the belated apology which rings hollow after a racist rant in a Fresh Kitchens restaurant in NYC. [TMZ]

Sadly, this isn’t the worst we can do.  It’s bad enough when people are falsely accused of burglary or shoplifting because a bigot felt nervous. It’s bad enough when an award winning Italian economist is profiled for working on differential equations.  It’s bad enough when people aren’t free to enjoy that All American pastime — grilling meat with home made renditions of Uncle Freddy’s Secret Sauce, the recipe for which he wouldn’t even share with Aunt Hazel. It’s bad enough when two kids on a college tour make a bigot nervous just by looking like the Native Americans they are.  The poor bigot said she was nervous because they didn’t look like they belonged on a college campus.  Question: Madam, are you really telling me YOU don’t think they match YOUR notion of who should be allowed on college campuses?  It’s one easy step from this exclusionary view to the worst possible outcomes. It’s even worse when the bigots are allowed to establish the standards by which we measure the humanity of our fellow human beings. 

One doesn’t have to leap over a gaping chasm to move from “they don’t look like they belong,” to “they’re animals.”  It’s the conflation game.  We’ve already seen the movie. As Maria Hinajosa explained, it was titled Sophie’s Choice.  There is absolutely nothing comforting about seeing the current administration choosing to use its prosecutorial discretion to force the separation of children from their asylum seeking parents.  Further, to use this discretion as a so-called ‘deterrent’ to efforts by future asylum seekers from South and Central American is blatantly exclusionist, and serves no other purpose than to make the bigots more comfortable.  There will be fewer of ‘them,’  even if we are speaking of toddlers.  We’ve heard this before as well.

When the Wagner-Rogers Act was being debated in Congress in 1939,  most labor and religious organizations were in favor of the bill to allow the entry into the US of 20,000 Jewish refugee children in the wake of Kristallnacht in Germany.  American nationalist organizations, such as the DAR and American Legion, opposed it.   Laura D. Houghteling, the wife of the US Immigration Commissioner opined, “20,000 charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.”  She would, without doubt, take some joy hearing the President describe children of refugee parents as “they’re all animals.” [RollingStone] The bill failed.

Since when has it become acceptable in this nation to use children, some mere toddlers, as deterrents to force non-white refugees into a decision not to come to this country, not to escape peril, not to hope for a safer environment for those children?  Why is it acceptable to farm those children out into a foster system or “whatever.”  What’s a “whatever?” A warehouse?  When did we become a nation that punishes children for the hopes and dreams of their parents?

Perhaps it’s when we chose to listen to the carefully inserted coordinating conjunctions in the grammar of bigots.  “I’m not a racist, but I’d be ever so much more comfortable if everyone looked and sounded just like me.”

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Filed under Immigration, Politics, racism

Hopes, Fears, and History: Immigration Policy Redux

Saturday. January 27, 2018. Holocaust Memorial Day.  Please hold this in mind as we look at the administration’s proposed immigration legislation.  Now, please notice the immigration restrictions in the latest White House immigration proposal:

“In addition to the citizenship path that would take up to 12 years, the White House framework includes a $25 billion “trust fund” for a border wall and additional security upgrades on the southwestern and northern U.S. borders. And the president is proposing terminating the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for permanent legal residency “green cards” for parents and siblings, limiting the family visas to spouses and minor children.”[WaPo]

The petitions mentioned in the proposals are meant to reunify families, or in the pejorative “chain immigration.”  Family visas are to be limited to spouses and minor children.

A Trip Down A Dark Memory Alley 

Flashback: We are in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the pogrom in November 1938 in Nazi Germany.  Nazi policy is now obvious, if it wasn’t before.  Unfortunately, so was US immigration policy:

“Anti-Semitism fueled by the Depression and by demagogues like the radio priest Charles Coughlin influenced immigration policy. In 1939 pollsters found that 53 percent of those interviewed agreed with the statement “Jews are different and should be restricted.” Between 1933 and 1945 the United States took in only 132,000 Jewish refugees, only ten percent of the quota allowed by law.

Reflecting a nasty strain of anti-Semitism, Congress in 1939 refused to raise immigration quotas to admit 20,000 Jewish children fleeing Nazi oppression. As the wife of the U.S. Commissioner of Immigration remarked at a cocktail party, “20,000 children would all too soon grow up to be 20,000 ugly adults.”  [GL.org]

The 1939 refugee children’s immigration bill was bi-partisan, sponsored by Senator Robert Wagner (D-NY) and on the House side by Rep. Edith Norse Rogers (R-MA), and it garnered significant support from national leaders.  However, then as now it didn’t have the support of the America First crowd.

“…the opposition struck back with calls to, yes, put America first.

“Protect the youth of America from this foreign invasion,” thundered John Trevor, the head of the American Coalition of Patriotic Societies, a restrictionist organization with a reach of about 2.5 million members. Trevor had built a career for himself by railing against rising immigration and its pernicious effect on America’s national character. He helped shape the 1924 Immigration Act, which established the restrictive quota system that was explicitly designed to curtail Italians and Jews, excluded the Japanese altogether, and stood as U.S. policy for 40 years.” [Slate] (emphasis added)

The bill did manage to get a hearing, but the opposition was active and loud and ultimately successful:

“In April 1939, a joint Senate-House committee held four days of hearings on Wagner-Rogers. Sympathetic witnesses offered moving humanitarian pleas. They also stressed that children would not compete with American citizens for jobs. Nativist opponents presented standard anti-immigration claims as well as innovative assertions such as the claim that the wording of the bill could enable 20,000 Nazi children to come to the U.S. Therefore, they claimed, the effect of the bill would be to tear German families apart. The Senate and House subcommittees both voted unanimously in favor of Wagner-Rogers.” [JVL]

The committee votes weren’t sufficient. By July 1, 1939 the bill was dead, pigeonholed in committee.  The shadow of the 1924 Immigration Act remained a feature of American policy, first expressed in 1790 when the government declared immigration was only acceptable if the applicants for citizenship were “free white persons of good character.” [NYT]  The re-establishment of the KKK, the disillusionment after World War I, the virulent anti-Semitism of Father Coughlin, and the association in the public mind of Jews and the Communist Party (or other efforts for labor organizing) all combined to keep the ugly shadow firmly over American horizons.  The 1930’s were particularly vulgar:

“In the 1930s, even as Americans regularly read news about Jews being attacked on the streets in Nazi Germany, there was no national appetite for increasing immigration. As the waiting lists for U.S. immigration visas swelled, so did anti-Semitism in the United States.  In 1939, Sen. Robert Reynolds of North Carolina (who ran his own anti-Semitic newspaper, the American Vindicator), proposed bills to end all immigration for five years, declaring in a June 1939 speech that the time had come to “save America for Americans.” [The Hill]

Decision Time 

Sound familiar?   Substitute Jewish, Italian, and Eastern European for Mexican and Muslim, and the similarities are obvious. “They” were anarchists (the terrorists of the day), agitators (the labor organizers, protesters, of the day) and worse still some of them were active in Civil Rights organizing (read: improving the status of women and  African Americans).

So, consider for a moment on this Holocaust Memorial Day how the Temple B’nai Israel in Victoria, Texas handed over the keys to its building to the congregation of the Victoria Islamic Center in the wake of an arson attack on the Center, February 2017. [CNN] Or how in that same month a Muslim organization launched a fund raising campaign to help pay for the damage done by anti-Semitic vandals to a Jewish cemetery. [NYDN]

At this point it’s appropriate to ask:  Which voices are we heeding?  The voices of Muslims and Jews in Victoria. Texas? Or the virulent rantings of the hateful vestiges of the short-lived Vindicator?

Are we to exclude family members from dangerous territories because they aren’t “family?” Because they are adult siblings of US residents and citizens? Because we don’t want to allow US residents/citizens to rescue their parents or their grandparents? Because we might be “flooded by the ‘ugly adults'” if we allow the rescue of little nieces and nephews?   Are we hardened against allowing a US citizen from sponsoring a family member who wants to come to this City on a Hill to work hard and follow the American Dream?

We have some choices to make in 2018, not the least of which is whether we are to be that City on the Hill or the stockade of anti-Semitism of years past transformed into an over-sized gated community of anti-immigrant sentiment opposed to allowing anyone not “free white of good character” to share in the creation of the country in the 21st century?

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I’m Watching a Basketball Game (Instead of the DACA drama)

Yes, in the midst of the Soap Opera that is the Federal Government of these United States this political junkie is watching a basketball game I recorded yesterday. Why? Because I received just about all the news I need for the next couple of days in perhaps less than 15 minutes this morning.   The rest will be noise.

Every pundit ever hired by every cable broadcast network will expend altogether too much energy “explaining” what the machinations of the past week “mean.”  Since I’ve come to believe they aren’t significantly better at prognostication than your average ground hog, octopus, or other member of the animal kingdom, I’ll stick to my own interpretation.

The Republicans are eventually going to own the mess they’ve made.  The DACA program was working in September 2017 when the Big Dealer in Chief stuck his foot in it.  Why? I’m going to go with the explanation that it was in support of the rather egregious House version of a Bridge Act introduced on January 12, 2017.  (HR 496 for those keeping score) There is no path to citizenship in the House version, and the bill essentially treats Dreamers as cheap labor, to be exploited by both employers and the federal government in terms of an endless assessment of fees.  It would also cover precious few Dreamers.

In today’s dispatches from delusion-ville, the White House wants an immigration bill that is “good for America.”  I think we can safely assume this means no path to citizenship for young people who’ve known no other country but this one, a “merit-based” immigration plan (which really isn’t similar to Canada’s any more than it’s similar to the Canadian health care system the Republicans were quick to malign), and it eliminates family reconciliation.   A miserable, un-American plan though it may be, I am of the opinion the House “Bridge Act” [text] is what Stephen Miller and the other racists in the West Wing have in mind.  The timing looks a bit suspicious to me, Trump signed the executive order eliminating the DACA program on September 5th, the same day there was a discharge petition in the House — which promptly went nowhere.

And now we do have a major mess.   The Big Dealer in Chief doesn’t have a position on much of anything, much less immigration.  However, that state of affairs doesn’t mean he won’t attach himself to whatever buzzwords and banners will help keep his radical base in line.  Thus we can assume he will order another Diet Coke while twittering on about “immigrants and crime” (a truly faulty proposition) or “immigrants versus citizens” (without bothering to notice the connection between immigrants and their contributions to the American economy — the economy benefiting citizens; and, giving us all to understand that the Norwegians (82.3% white) are preferable to those from those **hole places which send us an in-ordinary number of people with advanced degrees.

So, the herd on Capitol Hill has until February 8, 2018 to clean up.  Senate Majority Leader McConnell is now without one of his more important hostages — CHIP beneficiaries, and Senator McCaskill knocked the legs out from under his Military hostages when she offered an measure to pay members of the Armed Forces and Sen. McConnell objected.  What McConnell did secure was the capacity to put House Speaker Ryan into a soup largely of his own concoction.

Speaker Ryan, has a problem — he has to come up with a DACA fix acceptable to the Senate, a solution not currently available in legislative language on his side of the building.  If the House does move toward a compromise bill his Freedom (for us but not anyone else) Caucus will scream to the heavens.  If the House stays put with its current version, the Senate Democrats can shut down the government funding for round two, and this time on more solid ground.  A compromise bill will likely not please either side of the divide, however the House alternative will cement the reputation of Republicans as the Party of Racists.

Thus, the Party which has promulgated the notion that allowing anyone at any time to march down the road to full citizenship is “amnesty,”  is now fettered with a label they’ve sought to avoid since the sainted Ronald Reagan gave his “state’s rights” speech at the Neshoba County Fair on August 3, 1980 giving voice and heft to the Southern Strategy.

Popcorn anyone?

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