Tag Archives: racism

Waffles Heller, Heller Waffles

Heller spine poster.jpgThere are non-apology apologies (see Orange Blossom’s clumsy Hostage Video) and then there are non-disavowal disavowals (see Senator Dean ‘Clutching Papa’s Pants Leg’ Heller).

“Heller has been slow to criticize Trump as he looks to defend one of the most coveted GOP Senate seats in the country, and stopped well short of criticizing the president in a statementreleased late Monday afternoon.

“While I am not opposed to a dialogue between the two leaders, I trust our intelligence community’s assessment on Russian interference, not Vladimir Putin’s,” Heller said throu spokeswoman. “He is no friend of the United States and I don’t trust him.”  [RGJ]

Oh please!  I’ve tried to stretch the effect of a limited number of tea bags in a jar of sun tea and come out with less tepid ,,results.  Perhaps if the last line had directly pertained to the Orange Blossom, “He is no friend of the United States, and I don’t trust him,”  I’d have accepted this statement with more enthusiasm?

In the wake of the Charlottesville debacle there was a photo floating about of Senator Dean Heller and Peter Cvjetanovic, one of the Tiki Torch Nazis and a UNR student.  Heller responded in Trumpian fashion on Twitter: “I don’t know this person & condemn the outrageous racism, hatred and violence. It’s unacceptable & shameful. No room for it in this country.” [SacBee]  And Senator Heller said of the Orange Blossom?  Orange Blossom read one of his specially prepared on-paper ‘clarifications’ and promptly went right back off the rails with his Very Fine People.

Senator Heller’s spine made a brief reappearance in mid-June during the height of the Trump manufactured immigrant family crisis.  Thirteen Senators, among them Senator Dean Heller, wrote to the Mis-administration saying, in part:

“We support the administration’s efforts to enforce our immigration laws, but we cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents,” the Republican senators wrote.

“We therefore ask you to halt implementation of the Department’s zero tolerance policy while Congress works out a solution that enables faster processing of individuals who enter our country illegally without requiring the forced, inhumane separation of children from their parents,” the senators continued. [TheHill]

Good. Now insert the following search terms into Google: “Nevada Senator Visits Border.” Who shows up in the search results?  Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV).  During a June fundraiser with the *president, who got the crowd to chant “Build The Wall,” Senator Heller, “by contrast, spoke for under three minutes and didn’t mention immigration or the separation of children from parents at the border.” [LATimes]  Senator Cortez-Masto and Representative Jacky Rosen visited the border, Senator Heller’s spine went missing yet again.

This is the third instance, in a third major issue, in which Senator Heller has demonstrated his reluctance to take a firm stand — and we might note there’s a tendency on his part to take flexible positions on many other issues —  and to stick to it, even when there is an obvious and palpable reason to STAND for a crucial American attribute.  Charlottesville, Immigration, and now the Helsinki Debacle…strike one, strike two, strike three.

This might explain the following tidbit from the RJ? “Since announcing her candidacy in July 2017, Rosen has outraised Heller $8.3 million to $5.3 million.”  Granted Heller has a cash-on-hand advantage, but fundraising is often a measure of enthusiasm, and it’s hard to get enthusiastic about waffles. They are nice, you can serve them for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, put just about anything on them and they’ll soak it up; it’s just hard to get all that thrilled about them.

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It’s Tuesday: Do We Know Where Our Children Are?

I waited around today to see if by quitting time, i.e. 5:00 pm Pacific Time where I’m located, the Mis-administration had managed to locate and begin reuniting families torn apart by its egregious, heinous, unthinkable, incomprehensible, immigration policy.  It’s 5:02 pm and nothing.

As of two hours ago CNN reports the Orange Stink Blossom’s crew fell “short on first family reunification deadline. “Fell short?”  How about failed miserably?  How about only four — that’s four — children under five years of age have been reunified?  They hope they will be able to reunify another 34 by the “end of the day.”   And then, this:

“One child can’t be reunited with family because the government has not known their parent’s location for more than a year, according to the government. That child and his or her parent may be U.S. citizens, according to the filing.

It’s possible that some parents who have been deported may opt not to have their children rejoin them, since some might have a case for asylum or other relief ― or even another family member in the U.S.” [HuffPo] (emphasis added)

As several news outlets and commentators have pointed out, there was no plan to reunite families because the entire point of the pointless exercise in Zero Tolerance (meaning zero tolerance for any more non-lily-white-immigrants) was to create an unwelcoming atmosphere such that people from “sh*thole” countries wouldn’t want to become Americans. [CNN] [NewYorker] [Salon] [NYMag] [Politifact] How many of the 5,140,000 related items (some repeats) retrieved by Google in 0.49 seconds do I have to link before it’s perfectly obvious there was NO PLAN. Why wasn’t there a plan?

Because Orange Stink Blossom uses the language of exterminators when speaking of non-lily-white immigrants who “infest” our country. [NYMag] He conflates immigrants with gang members, asylum seekers with drug and human traffickers, and he tells us they are invading our country. [NYT] Two youngsters attending the Orange Stink Blossom’s rally in Montana observed that Mexicans were coming over here and overpopulating us. [Rawstory] Just for a quick reality check, the city of Great Falls, Montana is 84.9% white, 4.1% Hispanic. [Census]  Hardly sounds like “overpopulation” to my ears.

What it does sound like within my cochlea is good old fashioned racism, xenophobia, and demagoguery.   Children aren’t intrinsically racist or xenophobic, they must be carefully taught.  Unfortunately, there are too many tutors.

There are women who  hit nonagenarians with bricks whilst yelling “Go Back to Mexico.” There are neighbors who call the cops when African Americans go to swimming pools, have barbecues in the park, exit an Air B&B, deliver newspapers, sit at Starbucks, and canvass a neighborhood during an election campaign. There are ignoramuses who shout invective at a lady wearing a Puerto Rican flag decor shirt — unaware Puerto Ricans are American citizens.  The good news is that there are a number of people of good will with cellular phones who upload video of these vile interactions for all the world to see.  Some of the practitioners of hate, racism, and cruelty have discovered their employers wish not to be associated with them — they damage the brand.

It’s 5:45 PM, still nothing.  There was no plan because MAGA only means “great” if by “great” the country was “great” during the long brutal life of the south’s Peculiar Institution. Or “great” when NINA signs appeared in shop keeper’s windows to keep the seanteach folk at bay. . Or “great” when Native American children were “acculture-ized” in boarding schools?  Or “great” when Jim Crow laws allowed white people a comfortable separation from their browner skinned fellows so that they might not have to notice some POC were just as bright, just as hard working, just as religious, just as worthy, just as much children of an Almighty God as themselves?  Sad that, should a person’s self worth be quantified and reassured by skin — an ectodermal tissue so thin it can be cut with a piece of paper.

However, it’s all too easy to transform discomfort into fear, fear into loathing, and loathing into hate.  And, too easy to manipulate that hate into action by giving it permission to indulge its worst elements.   Perhaps it’s time to return to Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address:

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

It’s 6:00 PM. Time to find the children, to reunite them with their mothers and fathers, to ease the strain on their bonds of affection, to give comfort at their hearthstones, and to listen to the better angels of our nature.

 

 

 

 

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The Politics of Whine

I can handle just about any behavior from children from tears to tantrums, and I can tolerate a whine from someone about 34 inches high, from 26 to 28 pounds in weight, who lives in a world of extremely oversized furniture, adults who walk too fast, and often demand too much.  It’s when the person isn’t two years old anymore, is over 5’4″ and weighs 128 or more pounds, I lose all patience.  This is why I was pleased to note the news networks didn’t choose to broadcast the last presidential rally in full.

The presidential speeches are the Politics of Whine.  He’s whining again.  Hillary Clinton, bless her soul, won more popular votes than he did; he’s not forgotten it, and he isn’t going to let the rest of us forget it either.   His Attorney General properly recused himself from an investigation in which he was a witness, the Whiner in Chief hasn’t forgotten this either, and he isn’t going to stop whining about it anytime soon.  No, Buddy, Sissy doesn’t have to give up the coloring book when you want it all to yourself.

The Mexican government isn’t going to pay for his wall.  They’ve been very explicit about this. One of their former Presidents has been brutally honest on the subject. [CNBC] What part of “never, never, never,” did our Whiner in Chief not comprehend? [CBS] There’s a teachable moment when Sissy complains Buddy won’t voluntarily hand over his oatmeal cookie, a lesson the Whiner in Chief appears to have missed along the way.

If people don’t like me then they’re nasty people who have nasty friends!  Or, translated into political whine:  If you don’t like my racist immigration policies then you’re just trying to protect the bad guys.  Brown = Immigrant = MS 13 = Bad.  Most people get past the toddler logic stage: me good, other bad.   Granted we don’t do all that well introducing kids to the relational concept of an equal sign in equations, and the not equal sign doesn’t show up until later in the curricula, but most grown ups understand Brown ≠ Immigrant ≠ MS 13 ≠ Bad.  Unless a person wants something to whine about.

Buddy’s being mean to me!  What’s he doing? He’s making faces.  Or any of the other variations on this theme common to what’s happening in the back seat of the family motor vehicle five minutes after ignition.  She called me a fish face!  If you two continue this the trip to the grocery stops, we go home, and we can always have the brussels sprouts from the freezer for dinner.   (By the way, there’s no cheese.)  At some point being a grown up means letting petty arguments slide, or taking the high ground, or using the moment to make a larger, more important, statement.   It doesn’t mean taking everything personally!   ABC canceled Roseanne’s show, but they never acted when people said things critical of me!  Whine³

Someone far wiser than I once said, “You have to love your kids enough to say ‘no’ to them.”

No, we don’t pre-judge people based on their ethnicity, religion, or gender.

No, we don’t obsess on slights, real and imagined, from others.

No, we don’t demand to get everything we want when we want it.

No, we don’t make everything all about ourselves.

If a person is over 5’4″, weighs more than 128 pounds, and has reached an age we assume to be mature, then failure to successfully cope with these four simple “no’s” is little more than a public demonstration of childish behavior most of us would immediately associate with little Whiners.   Perhaps it’s time to inform the Whiner in Chief the trip stops here, we go home, and face the defrosted brussels sprouts without cheese tonight?

 

 

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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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Conflation, Obfuscation on Immigration

Not much imagination is required to conclude the Trump Campaign is back on the trail with its prime topic for the upcoming elections.  Immigration.  “Make America Great Again,” was never much more than code for “make America white again,” and the persistent reference to immigration policy, combined with vague commentary about who is under discussion, compounded with a conflation of immigrant with “criminal” doesn’t leave much room for conjecture about intent.  Those who advocate for DACA recipients, or who champion comprehensive immigration policy reform, are to be painted with a three inch gesso base-coat brush as protecting the “animals,” and the “criminals.”  Consider the following items from this past week:

As he has in numerous private meetings with his advisers at the White House, Mr. Trump used the session to vent about the nation’s immigration laws, calling them “the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.” He exhorted his administration to “do much better” in keeping out undesirable people, including members of transnational gangs like MS-13.

“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,” Mr. Trump said in the Cabinet Room during an hourlong meeting that reporters were allowed to document. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.” [NYT]

We can drill down a bit more into the nuances, if such there are, into this round of conflation.

SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.  [Vox]

As the article posits, there was a definite lack of specificity in this exchange, and a President who was in no hurry to clarify the matter.  Clarification was left to a question to the Press Secretary on May 17th, who asserted the President was definitely talking about members of MS 13.  This certainly sounds deliberate, and the pretext for the policy becomes subtext for the audience.

“If Trump understands his own administration’s policy, he’s never acknowledged it in public. He sticks to the same rhetorical move every time: refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.”  [Vox]

The problem, of course is that his actual policy doesn’t match his rhetorical flourishes.  A quick look at FY 2017 statistics belies the President’s assertions on who is being deported for what:

“Deportations overall were down during the 2017 fiscal year, most of which was under Trump’s presidency, from the previous year, in part because fewer people were caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. But the number of undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions deported from the interior of the country rose dramatically.

People with no criminal convictions accounted for 17 percent of those deported after getting arrested by ICE within the country ― a sharp increase since former President Barack Obama’s last full year in office, when those without criminal convictions made up 8 percent of interior deportations. In total, nearly 14,000 noncriminals were deported from the interior of the country in the 2017 fiscal year, compared with about 5,000 the year before.”  [HuffPo]  (emphasis added)

One more hammer blow on the nail head — there has been an increase in the number of NON-criminal deportations under the current administration, while the President insists on talking about members of a specific gang.  We can probably safely estimate there are between 8,000 and 10,000 members of MS 13 in the US.  [AzCentral] Insight Crime has a helpful publication, available in pdf, describing the gang and its operations which is well worth the time to read carefully.  One major point to consider from the report is that MS 13 is a transnational gang, not a transnational criminal enterprise.  Secondly, it should be noted that the gang follows traditional migration patterns — it is not pro-actively ‘setting up cells.’  The members, indeed are vicious and violent, however neither their numbers, nor their significance deserves the emphasis placed on them by the administration in its efforts to gin up a good Two Minute Hate.  They certainly do not stand as proxy for all immigrants coming to this country.

The President, as usual, is basely playing to his base.  Nor will it do much good to present facts and figures to the members of that flock.  Their response to immigration policy isn’t rational, if it were they wouldn’t be bleating “Build the Wall.”   What is necessary is a solution to the DACA recipients’ problems — created by the President himself — and a legislative package of comprehensive immigration policy reform legislation, which doesn’t reflect the ideology of the White Nationalists among us.  Given their proclivities, the hardliners in the White House and the Congress would have forbidden the immigration of Dolores Huerta’s grandparents to this country, while being more attuned to the philosophy of the likes of Anders Breivik from Norway?

We can make America great again by doing what we’ve always done. Recognize a problem, analyze it rationally, evaluate possible solutions, and discuss compromise legislative remedies.  None of this can occur during a Two Minute Hate, with Sheep, or in the midst of irrational rhetoric and flights of emotional fancy.  If 40% of the populace wish to be irrational fear-ravaged sheep, they need not take the remaining 60% of us off the cliff with them.

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Distraction to Destruction: The Great Immigration Diversion

If a political party doesn’t want to discuss problems like, say, income inequality? Or, gun violence? Or, vote suppression? Or, Heaven Fore-fend, the interference in our elections by a hostile foreign power? — Then what better diversion than Immigration.  Better still, the issue can be framed such that it appeals to the lesser little devils of our nature like racism, and thus be an “acceptable” way to insert racism into our national political discourse as if it were a legitimate topic of immediate consideration.

“Immigrants today account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.”  [Pew]

Thus much for the Huge Wave of Immigrants. It shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice that the immigrants being vilified are coming to our southern border. Those would be the Mexican immigrants, and those from Central American nations — probably the brown versions of human beings, and therefore not likely to assimilate.

“Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. In 2015, 11.6 million immigrants living in the U.S. were from there, accounting for 27% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (5%) and El Salvador (3%).  By region of birth, immigrants from South and East Asia combined accounted for 27% of all immigrants, a share equal to that of Mexico.”   [Pew]

Oops, there goes another bit of nativist mythology.  Interesting, those crowds bellowing “Build The Wall” aren’t chanting about the 27% of immigrants from South and East Asia.  We can drill down on this a bit more:

“About 1 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year. In 2015, the top country of origin for new immigrants coming into the U.S. was India, with 110,000 people, followed by Mexico (109,000), China (90,000) and Canada (35,000).

By race and ethnicity, more Asian immigrants than Hispanic immigrants have arrived in the U.S. each year since 2010. Immigration from Latin America slowed following the Great Recession, particularly from Mexico, which has seen net losses in U.S. immigration over the past few years.”  [Pew]

The “Build The Wall” Gang seem to have missed this point.  To miss the point is to base one’s perception of immigration on the situation before 2010.  Moreover, the Wall is whatever the audience wants it to be.  It’s a real, physical barrier [ChiTrib] [vox] or a metaphor for making white Americans feel like the government is ‘protecting’ them (and their privileges) from incursions by brown people. [Hill] [VanityFair]

What is generally missing from coverage of the administration’s use of the Build The Wall campaign litany is any factual context.  It seems sufficient to the corporate media to show clips of the incantations of “Build The Wall” during rallies, without offering any information explaining that the pretext is a vision of American immigration which is at least eight years old, and is currently statistically indefensible.

It’s also readily apparent the corporate media would rather not discuss the elephant in the room — the underpinning of this perspective on immigration is partially if not essentially racist.  This shouldn’t be too surprising.  This would be the same press that can barely enunciate the word, and applies a host of euphemisms to describe racist remarks as “racially charged,” “distasteful,” “derogatory,” and “racially tinged.” [HuffPo] Again, this would be the same DC press which keeps labeling Trumpian expressions as “counterfactual,” “factual shortcut,” “stretched truth,” and “misleading statement,” [Week] instead of the more accurate old fashioned term — L.I.E. [NYT]

The current occupant of the Oval Office may be right about one thing — his is a made for TV administration, replete with a continuing fountain of daily (hourly?) emissions which fill what might otherwise be dead air.  It is, “news” from a fire hose.  The problem is that it floods any time which might be spared for context and analysis.  Should even tenuous contextualization, analysis, and evaluation be applied the Occupant screams “fake news,” and the chanting rally crowds applaud Dear Leader.

Caveat Emptor.  The chanters are investing in a distraction to divert them from the destruction of their own economic well being, and sense of community.  Arguing with them doesn’t work; their fact-free bubble of Faux News precludes any analysis in conflict with their fundamental racism.  Better to speak to and for those who advocate for a rational and comprehensive immigration policy, and out-vote the ditto-heads who chant “Build The Wall,” and “Amnesty,” whenever it might be suggested that a rational comprehensive policy would be preferable to emotional, irrational, racism.

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Yerington HS Illustrates The Problem: Racism in Trumpland

Lyon County, Nevada (county seat Yerington) gave 67.36% of its votes to Donald Trump for the presidency in 2016– a deep red vote in an otherwise urban blue state. [SoSNV] It would be nice to speak of Nevada as a tolerant blue state, but while Nevada is about 94.2% urban [ISU.edu] there are large portions (in terms of landscape) which are deeply rural and deeply bigoted.  Witness the reports of bullying non-white students at Yerington High School, as reported in the Reno Gazette Journal.

A Bit of Background

Lyon County is located east of the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, and the largest population in the northern end of the county is located in and in proximity to Fernley (± 20,000)  There are approximately 54,000 residents in Lyon County. [Census] Yerington is home to about 3,071 of the county’s residents, and approximately 80% are white, 18% are Hispanic, about 6% are Native American, and 8% are “other” which includes African American.  [Substat]  “Others” are among those having a hard time in Yerington.

“Photos of a Lyon County sheriff’s deputy’s son holding a gun and wearing a belt with knives were posted on social media. Superimposed over the photos were the words “The red neck god of all gods … we bout to go (racial slur) huntin,” and “Watch out (racial slur).”

It is unclear whether the deputy’s son or friends wrote the comments, but it was enough to scare Taylissa and Jayla as dozens of classmates began forwarding the girls the posts.

Taylissa and Jayla stayed home from school the next day.  They filled out police reports. They worried when they went outside.” [RGJ]

  And then — nothing happened.

The mayor dismissed the social media posts as examples of teenage immaturity.  The chief of police said they were examples of Free Speech.  The principal of the high school says the school needs to have a “unity day.” The county superintendent of schools said school authorities were having a hard time controlling the situation.  Some residents said things were cooling off until “reporters started asking questions and stirring things up.”  If you’re thinking these perspectives could just as easily be associated with the heart of Jim Crow Dixieland, you’d be right.

In beautiful downtown Yerington there seems to be a safe zone for bullies, in spite of state legislation specifically prohibiting such conduct:

     “NRS 388.135Bullying and cyber-bullying prohibited.  A member of the board of trustees of a school district, any employee of the board of trustees, including, without limitation, an administrator, principal, teacher or other staff member, a member of a club or organization which uses the facilities of any public school, regardless of whether the club or organization has any connection to the school, or any pupil shall not engage in bullying or cyber-bullying on the premises of any public school, at an activity sponsored by a public school or on any school bus.”

So, NO the incident wasn’t a matter of “free speech,” the offensive postings were a direct violation of NRS 388.135.   Nor is there much evidence in the reporting that the local police and school district authorities paid much attention to the provisions of NRS 388.1351 in which specific directives are set forth for dealing with bullying and cyber-bulling.

And when a parent did try to meet with school officials, the following is hardly exemplary of compliance with Nevada statutes:

“On one of the occasions Charles Tolliver went to the school to try to meet with administrators, a student standing with a group of girls said to him, “You don’t even know the definition of (racial slur).”

“If you ever call my daughters (racial slurs) …”  he said before stopping himself.

After repeated requests for help had been ignored, Tolliver said, he called the principal a bigot.

School officials have accused Tolliver of being hostile and aggressive. He was given a trespass warning and is only allowed on school grounds with prior permission.

“… you interacted with me as well as Yerington High School students in a hostile, aggressive and threatening manner, resulting in the contacting of law enforcement,” the trespass notice from Principal Mattice said.” [RGJ]

Thus, the step-parent who sought to meet with a principal over repeated instances of bullying is met with surly students, an unhelpful principal, and then becomes the designated villain of the story according to Lyon County school officials.  Quite evidently, Lyon County has done what it must according to State law, it has all the right words on paper (pdf) — it just chooses not to enforce its own policies.  One might want to ask if the principal “investigated” incidents of blocked doorways, jammed doors, hate speech, and racial epithets within one day of a report, as required by school district policy?

There’s no need to be tactful about this situation.  First, the youngsters spouting hateful epithets and blocking doorways didn’t come into this world as little bigots.  They learned it somewhere and that somewhere is nearly always at home.  Secondly, their peers are obviously supportive. Few adolescents will do much which doesn’t comport with peer pressure.  Schools are supposed to have a socializing effect, i.e. negative attitudes and prejudices which come from home and are supported by some peers are to be addressed and rectified if at all possible.  It is not the responsibility of a school to make bigots feel comfortable.  However, this is made more difficult when…

(i) We have a president who says there were very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville, VA when one side was composed of white nationalist supremacist bigots and thugs.

(ii) We have a situation in which the Attorney General of the US who has decimated the capacity of that agency to supervise state and local official interactions with members of minority communities — “it’s a local problem.”

(iii) We have an environment in which local officials are allowed to ignore, dismiss, or diminish incidents of racial bigotry and prejudice without serious consequences.

(iv) We have social norms and values being curtly disdained as “political correctness,” with a slurring of the “s” sound at the end.

In short what we have at Yerington High School is a classic example of what happens when an atmosphere of racial division, with whites on the top of the divide, meets two girls whose parents don’t appreciate having their daughters referred to by the N-word. However, what might we expect in Yerington, in the heart of Nevada’s Trumpland?

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