Tag Archives: racism

Of All the Weekends in the World

The President* picks this one to make derogatory comments about people of color, and the nations from which they might have immigrated…. Unbelievable, except this is what we have come to expect.

What is worse in this situation is the further devolution of the Republican Party.  It’s not that we haven’t known since Ronald Reagan chose to open his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi with a tip of the hat to States’s Rights that the GOP was treading in dangerous racial territory.

We’ve known since “law and order” became code for African American incarceration. We’ve known since “welfare queen” became the code for people of color receiving social benefits when whites receiving welfare assistance were “down on their luck,” while people of color were lazy.

We’ve known since racists couldn’t make up their minds.  Were non-white immigrants “lazy” dolts who game the social safety system, or were they so hard-working they were soaking up all the American jobs?

We’ve known since the Paul family newsletter, in which a marginal ideological publication attracted marginal people [Atl], that Senator Rand Paul would be an apologist for the White House.  We’ve known since Senator Perdue reminded us of the meaning of “imprecation” [Atl] that a person who quotes Psalms 109:8 “let his days be few” about President Obama would be an apologist for this Oval Office.

However, of all the weekends in the world, this is the one to remember Dr. King’s movement wasn’t about making people feel comfortable.  It was about making people feel as though progress was not only desirable but necessary.

Progress is still desirable and ever more necessary.

 

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Contempt for the Great Generality: Hatch, Grassley, and the Great Unwashed

Every once in a while a Republican is caught being honest.  Consider the commentary from Iowa Senator Charles Grassley on the value of eliminating most of the inheritance tax because “they” invest, but the rest of the country…not so much. So, what to do when the comments create a social media fire storm?  Backtrack:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday said his comments that the estate tax rewards those who don’t spend “every darn penny” on “booze or women or movies” were taken out of context, saying he meant that the government shouldn’t punish investment.

“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” Grassley said in a statement.”

Nice try, but the “out of context” excuse has gotten thinner than the roast beef at the deli counter.  Senator Hatch (R-UT) was a bit more subtle when discussing the children’s health insurance funding, but not by much:

“In his speech, Hatch also said he thinks CHIP has done a “terrific job for people who really need the help” and noted that he had advocated for helping those who can’t help themselves throughout his Senate career. But, he continued, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.” He blamed a “liberal philosophy” for creating millions of people “who believe everything they are or ever hope to be depend upon the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.”

There they go again.  Oh, those Undeserving Poors who just Want Stuff, and won’t work for it.   The median household income in Nevada is $52,421, meaning half the families in Nevada have annual income below that figure.   So, what does it cost to get the kid’s tonsils removed?  ($4,153 to $6,381, with an average cost of $5,442)  How about that common childhood injury — the broken arm?  Expect this to carve out some $2,500 from the family budget.   It the youngster has a chronic condition — asthma, heart problems,  diabetes,etc. the price, of course goes up, and up and up.   We’re not talking here about “people who won’t lift a finger.”  we’re discussing families — working families who are hard pressed to find the resources to pay for medical treatment for their children.  And now we come to the place where Hatch and Grassley’s perspectives merge in a miserable view of humanity.

What these members of the US Senate are doing is using the old Reagan Era “Welfare Queen” mythology to camouflage their contempt for their fellow Americans.

“They” just want everything done for them.   “They” won’t lift a finger.  “They” are cheating me out of my money.  It’s never something like the single mother of a six year old who has asthma having to maintain a family budget while keeping up with the costs of inhaler medication.  Nor, do we hear much about the family in which both parents are working two jobs to keep close to that $52,421 number, and who are coping with a youngster with diabetes.  Well, well, sputter the solons, we weren’t speaking of Them.  Of course not.  And, I’m assured they weren’t talking about children suffering with cerebral palsy or other chronic conditions with serious financial implications for the family.  So, who are they talking about?  The hard truth is that they aren’t talking about anyone!

They aren’t talking about real people.  They are talking about that imaginary Great Unwashed, who are Welfare Queens, who are urban — and probably African American.  The subject of the Hatch-Grassley fears are highly generalized, mostly mythological, nearly always racist, ideas about the Undeserving Poor, who don’t “lift a finger.”  People, whose stories would touch our hearts and stir our empathy, are ignored in favor of painting with the broadest spray can nozzle possible a picture of urban, black, moral decay from which white America may safely distance itself.

They can (almost) manage some sympathy for the poor white families in remote areas of  America.  However, mention cities, and the racism kicks in.  It’s a hard and tragic thing to see the loss of employment in mining regions but no such sympathy is extended to the members of minority communities who languish in the Rust Belt.   However, even that small instance of empathy is victim to Republican ideas of virtue.  Those afflicted with opioid addition in those former mining regions may be unemployable because of their addictions, but by Republican lights must be employed in order to qualify for treatment.  In short, they can’t win for losing.

The Republican Party, once the party of progressive legislation, and even later of fiscal conservatism, has devolved into the party of racists, radicals, and unreasonable shills for corporate interests.  It’s a sad state of affairs. And, a sadder commentary on the political discourse of contempt.

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Filed under Health Care, Politics, racism, Republicans

Just Plain Insulting

The President’s performance during the White House ceremony for Navajo Code Talkers is rightly the subject of scorn and derision.   Worse still have been the efforts by GOP surrogates to excuse or minimize the President’s comments and use of a racial slur.  Among the least appealing was the comment that “it was a harmless remark.”  Here’s a clue:  You don’t get to decide if your comments are offensive.

He was “making a joke?” Really, during a ceremony for those few who are still with us, whose contributions in WWII are almost immeasurable?  That’s bad enough, but you, Mr. President, don’t get to decide what’s funny.  However, we were treated to a lovely demonstration of white male privilege mindsets which have informed racial slurs since time out of mind.

The Intention ExcuseHe meant it to be harmless… I don’t care if he meant it as a compliment — the person making the comment isn’t the one who gets to decide if the wording is insulting.  She gets to decide if the wolf whistle is annoying.  He gets to decide if the N-word is offensive when applied to him.  She gets to decide if the word is pejorative, he doesn’t.

They’re just being too politically correct:  BS. Being politically correct is a slur in itself, meaning that being polite is just entirely too difficult for some ageist, sexist, racists and they should be allowed to express themselves freely in polite society.  No.  We don’t tolerate children tossing food around at the dinner table, and never in a restaurant, nor should we tolerate racist comments — in public or private.

The Code Talkers deserve an apology, not apologists for the inept, insensitive, racist President.  They served their country with honor, the same cannot be said for their host.

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Bob Dole, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you?

Whatever happened to the Republican Party which heard Senator Robert Dole accept his nomination, and say:

“But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.”

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Yes, It’s About Race Relations

No matter how much the current president and his supporters want to make #TakeAKnee about “the flag,” and “the military,” it’s not about those two sacrosanct topics — it is all about the tendency of white controlled police departments to shoot first and take questions later when an African American is shot and killed.

In 2017 there have been 721 individuals shot and killed by police officers.  Certainly, not all of these people have been black, and not all have been unarmed.  However, there’s another layer to these numbers: justification.  In several highly publicized incidents (witness Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, Walter Scott) few officers have been held accountable for their actions; Walter Slager’s guilty plea in the Walter Scott case being a notable exception.  Philando Castile, was recorded in his dying moments, and yet the officer was acquitted on all counts.   It appears, and appearances are important in the cases, that all an officer must do is to testify that he or she feared for her safety.  Shoot first, and take questions later.

Police apologists cry “Blue Lives Matter,” and the more radical among them shout “All Lives Matter,” but then that’s the point of “Black Lives Matter;”  the slogan Black Lives Should Matter Just As Much As Any Other Lives is entirely too long to fit on a T-shirt.

And #TakeAKnee is about Black Lives Matter.  There’s an interesting thing about African American protests — by white lights there’s never been an appropriate way for them to protest.  When a crowd is predominantly white the media describes it as a protest as they did during the Women’s March, however when the crowd is predominantly black media contributors seem to be on edge waiting for the first rock or bottle to be thrown.  Some police departments, like the St. Louis PD, helpfully provide photos of the bottles they’ve collected and tweet the number of officers injured — no mention is made of the types of injuries incurred.

When the crowd is predominantly African American if they move then they must be blocking traffic, or impeding commerce.  If they don’t move (such as in a sit-in) then they must be an “unauthorized” gathering.  If they boycott businesses then media commentators often find it necessary to observe they “are hurting themselves.”  Only recently have cable news outlets invited non-white commentators to opine on the activities of black activists.   It’s encouraging to find at least a few broadcasts willing to engage commentators who do more than wag their heads and fingers at protests.

The entire idea of a protest is to gather attention, thus no one should be surprised when NFL players seek to capitalize on TV coverage of #TakeAKnee.  However, the current administration appears to believe that African American players and their allies should only do this on their “own time.”   Worse still is the willingness of the President to politicize and re-imagine the protests into a “counter culture” narrative.  The tweeter-in-chief decided at 3:44 am on September 24th that the #TakeAKnee protests were about “flag and country.”  And some of the commenters duly chimed in.   This technique has a long and rather sordid history.

People who protested Jim Crow laws were derided as Un-American, or as tools of the Communists, those who would desecrate the efforts of the military to defend our freedoms in World War II.  Those who protested the Vietnam War were also disparaged as “unpatriotic,” unworthy of the sacrifices made in the last great War.  The racist technique of choice in contemporary times is to conflate the “anti-racists” with the “anti-military” and the “anti-flag” elements of their imaginations, and first discount and then disparage efforts to improve life in America for all its citizens.

The flag is a very convenient icon, but that’s all it is, an icon.  Yes, it’s flown by those who fought in World War II, Vietnam, and in the Middle East; but it’s not the reason the veterans fought…not to defend The Flag, but to defend American values, their comrades in arms, and not least, the Constitution of the United States.   Perhaps this is the time to remember that President Dwight Eisenhower had another flag flying contingent march into Little Rock, Arkansas, with about a thousand members of the 101st Airborne to put down white inspired riots that Governor Faubus refused to control. Federal marshals assisted in the integration of the University of Mississippi, and the Alabama National Guard was employed by President Kennedy to integrate the University of Alabama.  Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. marched to Montgomery under the protection of federalized National Guard units. [ChiTrib]

Yes, the flag flew over Okinawa and Normandy — but it also flew over Huntsville, Oxford, Little Rock, and Montgomery.  Those attempting to appropriate the flag to promote their own racial and political views would do well to remember the same flag flew to enforce civil rights laws and rulings.  And, racial view are important.

The current occupant of the White House has been quick to condemn any and all attacks by Muslims, both real and fake, however all but silent on the activities of white nationalists.  Remember when he tweeted about the death of Richard Collins III who was stabbed to death in a hate crime in Maryland?  I don’t either.  Recall when Timothy Caughman was killed by a white supremacist in New York City? I don’t remember a tweet-storm after that tragedy.  Then, there was a firebomb tossed into a mosque in Minnesota, a member of the administration described this as a fake attack.   And then there was Charlottesville.

Who on this earth, who sentient enough to recall that World War II was fought against Nazis and white supremacists in Europe, could possibly say there were “some fine people” marching near a Virginia synagogue in a replication of a Nazi torch parade?

So, whatever the Tweeter-In-Chief might have to say, the current #TakeAKnee protests aren’t about the flag — they are about a system that minimizes the accountability for the deaths of African Americans.  They aren’t about the U.S. Military — they are about policing systems and institutions that give every appearance of disparaging the lives and rights of those for whom the flags flew in Huntsville, Oxford, Little Rock, and Montgomery.

We can only hope the Tweeter-in-Chief gets the message from the National Football League this weekend.  However, I’m not holding my breath.

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Filed under media, Politics, racism

Translating Republican Discomfort with Racism

It’s inevitable.  Every time a racial issue highlights problems in American society and politics we can count on Republicans to reach back into their barrel of excuses and rationalizations — by now these are clearly obvious, equally transparent, and hopelessly irrelevant.

There’s the predictable from Rep. Peter King (R-NY):

“It’s not just stunning, it’s really disgraceful,” King responded. “They’re talking about somehow trying to unify the nation, and instead they’re using the most divisive type language, the most hysterical rhetoric, and that’s totally out of bounds—it’s wrong. And politically, I think it hurts them because that alienates the American people.”

Who’s alienated? The Representative surely isn’t speaking about people who have seen their DMV offices shut down in Alabama making it more difficult to get the identification necessary to vote?  Is he talking about those whose districts have been gerrymandered to prevent them from living in a Congressional district that’s competitive? Or, does raising issues such as these make white people uncomfortable?

Meanwhile back in Pennsylvania:

 “…on Thursday morning, the Pa. Dems challenged Mango and Wagner again – this time to denounce President Trump over his widely criticized “both sides” remarks. All of the party’s releases were issued after the President’s Tuesday press conference and resulting backlash.

“The Democrats are simply trying to exploit the events in Charlottesville for political gain. It’s shameful, and everyone involved should be embarrassed,” Wagner said.”

Nothing like loading the language.  I “point to specific examples,” you, on the other hand “exploit.”   I’m not in the least bit convinced that pointing to the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists gathered in Charlottesville as the worst examples of human beings at hand is something which should embarrass anyone, any time.

So, here they go again,

“I would say this about the president’s critics as a whole: If nothing will quiet them, than they don’t have America in their sights,” Faulkner said. “They don’t care about us. They don’t care about Americans. And shame on them. They need to step aside and let justice be done. Because if there is going to be justice, it’s going to take all of us together.”

Oh, “togetherness,” how nice.  Yes, it’s going to take all of us to condemn white supremacy and institutional racism, and if this makes Republicans uncomfortable, so be it.   “They don’t care about Americans.”  White Americans?

White Americans expressed their ‘economic anxiety:’

“Obama set racial relationships in the nation back 100 years with his divisional rhetoric. Being a Southerner, the KKK was always Democrat. So to blame it on Republicans is ridiculous. Did they have the right to march? Absolutely. Did the antifa have the right to stop them? No. That’s how violence begins — the two polar opposites don’t want the other to be heard.”

Really? “Divisional rhetoric?”  What might that have been?  Something about his reaction to the murder of Trayvon Martin?

Apparently President Obama, being African American, was just too much for some Alabama Republicans:

“I think Barack Obama is to blame. I think this country is more divided than it ever has been. I think almost all racism in world history can be tied back to liberalism, socialism, the idea everyone’s supposed to have an equal outcome as opposed to equal opportunity — those are liberal ideas that have been propagated over the past eight years through the administration, with just terrible things going on and the rhetoric w’ehe had coming out of the White House during that time.”

“Speaking while Black” makes some whites nervous.  Notice how the logic doesn’t form a chain in the comment above.  There are fragments placed in a series which logically don’t make a bit of sense, but do make an emotional framework to buttress the feelings of the white apologist.  Racism bad + racism/socialist + Obama/Black + ‘rhetoric’ = I’m Okay, those other people are bad.   It’s hard to move from the Racism is good argument of the Jim Crow era to Racism is bad BUT it’s the other side making me feel uncomfortable position of contemporary politics.   It’s hard to find “divisiveness” in the President’s comment on the Trayvon Martin case:

“…finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching.  There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race.  I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations.  They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.  On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?  Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?  That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.”

Then, there’s downright historical revision:

“I think they’re misled — I understand why they’re doing it; you can’t rewrite history, and so forth. I don’t think Gen. Lee would be disappointed in them moving the statue because I think he would want to preserve the union.  I understand that the guy who drove the car was a Democrat. … You obviously have to be a little crazy to drive a car [like] that. [He says he heard this on Facebook.] Americans need to learn how to resolve issues without violence.”

Someone went to sleep during American History — Lee wanted to ‘preserve the Union?”  That would be no, a resounding, four year NO.  The guy who drove the car was a Democrat? No, he was a Neo-Nazi.  No, you can’t rewrite history, but there seem to be lots of erasures in the history of the Confederacy going on.

Where do we go from here?  If there are people who felt stifled because having an African American president made it socially unacceptable to be an outright racist, and view having a white man in the White House as cover for re-emerging into the public, then it’s time to demonstrate — as the good citizens of Boston surely did — that this is still socially unacceptable.  It would be nice to hear Republicans replicate Bob Dole’s August 1996 speech:

“The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents — The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents many streams of opinion and many points of view.

But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.”

Denying history, rewriting it to fit one’s personal prejudices, playing “what-aboutism,” are counter productive.  The sooner the Republican Party disavows the racists and the bigots the sooner it will be free of the anchors weighing it down in the politics of prejudice.

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Filed under Nativism, Politics, racism

The Projection of All Their Fears: Justice and the Commonwealth

Few things illustrate the issues for all those “economically anxious” Trump supporters quite as well as the chain e-mail forwarded by the President’s lawyer: “You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,” the email reads, “there literally is no difference between the two men.”  To repeat the obvious — yes you can.  You can differentiate between slave owners who created an imperfect Constitution (containing safeguards for slave owners) but who had the intelligence and foresight to establish a framework for freedom which could be perfected — to create a “more perfect union,” — and the slave owners who rebelled against this perfectable union and led an insurrection that sought to enshrine slavery from sea to sea.   The hoary old, and utterly illogical, silly syllogism that if you object to Lee you must then object to Washington requires the believer to reduce everything to whether or not a person practiced chattel slavery — and to ignore all other elements.  The repetition of this canard says more about those who adopt it than it says about any 18th or 19th century slave owner.

It says they are afraid, very afraid of losing their “culture.”  If a person’s “culture” includes the veneration of icons of rebellion, white supremacy, and chattel slavery as a part of one’s “heritage,” then it’s time to rethink that “culture and heritage.” This exercise can be extremely difficult for some “fragile whites.”   One of the most fragile appears to be Virginia Senate Candidate Republican Corey Stewart who commented: “The left isn’t doing this to redecorate some parks. They are going after the Founders next, to undermine the Founding Documents.”   Fragile white people live on a perpetually slippery slope.

To question a person’s racial biases is to “attack,” an attack must be nefarious, the nefarious attack must be from some equally objectionable direction, even if this requires attributing motives which are not in evidence.  Thus Stewart can maintain that questioning his support for white supremacists is an assault from some universal cabal composed of opponents of The Founders and their Founding Documents.  Perhaps those who feel assaulted might want to consider that predicating one’s sense of self on the basis of the coloration of a layer of skin, skin so thin it can be cut with a piece of paper, is a very fragile thing indeed.

That fragility creates its own environment of fear — the fear that a white person might have to compete for a job with a person of color, without giving the paler person an automatic edge.  The fear that a white person may not automatically assume an advantage in commerce, education, and in the judicial system.  The following paragraph summarizes this sentiment:

“They see all of this talk about Black Lives Matter and the importance of diversity, including through policies like affirmative action. They see recent moves to tear down Confederate monuments in the South. And they themselves have likely been accused of racism at some point in their lives, making them defensive and angry.” [Vox]

Skin coloration is an extremely thin basis for self esteem; frustration and anger are an even more fragile basis for a successful political ideology — leading as they do to short term gains with practically guaranteed long term losses.   This perspective is unjust, and as St. Augustine advised: “Where there is no justice there is no commonwealth.”

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Filed under Nativism, Politics, racism, Republicans