Many of you have written in to ask whether racism is dead in America. Keep those cards and letters coming, folks, but the answer is not yet. Not till we see a black man and a white woman in a Cialis ad.
“The Republican Party, I really believe, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from years and years of bullying and taunting. The Republican Party is Jonathan Martin. The Democrat Party and the media are Richie Incognito.”
Well, yeah, maybe. Except for Jonathan Martin being black.
Ted Cruz tells a Heritage Foundation audience we need a hundred more senators like the gratefully dead racist Jesse Helms, whose own hero was the equally dead miscegenist Strom Thurmond. Wonderment at this public display of GOP racism is widely feigned, which is like being surprised every morning when the sun rises. “Oh, my God, Mabel, come look what’s outside. There’s sunlight everywhere!”
Although to be fair there has been a slight change for the better, in the sense that at least Cruz is being honest about it. In the good old days of the Grand Old Party a Republican could risk apologizing for committing racism in public. Here’s former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, after expressing regret that Thurmond hadn’t been elected president on the States’ Rights ticket in 1948:
“A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.”
And here’s my post on December 11 of 2002, which doesn’t seem to me to require any updating:
This is what most of the press referred to as an “apology” from the racist Trent Lott for his most recent embrace of the policies of the past which others have discarded. It is a curious piece of linguistic work, immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with southern politics.
In 1966 Georgia State Senator Jimmy Carter was beaten for the governorship by an Old South racist named Lester Maddox. The moderate Carter had allowed himself to be, as they say in Dixie, out-niggered. He didn’t make that mistake in 1970, when he beat a moderate former governor by opposing bussing and inviting George Wallace to campaign for him.
Safely elected governor, Carter said in his inaugural address, “I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination was over.” Quite frankly, this bears a certain resemblance to Lott’s “apology.” Racial discrimination was fun while it lasted? Huh?
Carter, though, was sort of apologizing for having earlier lied that he was a racist when he wasn’t. Lott is lying that he’s not a racist when he is.
This isn’t just Lott’s lie. It’s the lie of the entire Republican Party, which has built its political success on a bedrock of racism since Richard Nixon adopted the Southern Strategy that Lyndon Johnson had handed him on a platter with the civil rights bills.
After the Vietnam War had driven Johnson from office, Richard Nixon ran for president as a “law and order” man. Both black and white voters understood exactly what he meant by that.
They still knew when Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency in 1980 promising even more law and order. They understood what color his “welfare queens” were, too, and they knew why he opposed affirmative action.
Reagan’s second presidential campaign, against the hapless Walter Mondale, was even more openly racist. And George Herbert Walker Bush’s campaign against Dukakis four years later was worse than that. Even the press noticed, as they hadn’t when racism wore Reagan’s smiling face.
All this time, back in the south, the Republicans were at work creating political ghettos — congressional districts with black majorities where African American voters could be safely quarantined while the Republicans corralled the more populous suburbs.
And now the Republican Party, much of the federal judiciary, the White House and both Houses of Congress are ruled by men of the hard right. They have many things in common — militarism, worship of wealth, contempt for the poor, a taste for repression, a distaste for dissent, on and on.
These men — the Lotts and Armeys, the DeLays and Ashcrofts, the Falwells and the Robertsons, the Rehnquists and the Thomases — share another thing, too. Although they lie about it, as Lott is so unconvincingly doing right now, they are every one of them in the service of racism.
And this is the large, putrescent dead rat on the floor of America’s kitchen that we pretend isn’t there.
Maureen Dowd’s column today deals with what is apparently a big story in the wonderful world of sports: whether a football team in Washington should stop calling itself the Redskins. As a fan of many years’ standing — I attended a game once, and remember Vice President Nixon coming onto the field at half-time — I have strong feelings about the matter. This country was built by old white guys like me, and it’s time we caught a break. How about the Washington Ofays?
… in just six words the GOP’s threats to shut down their own country’s government and destroy its credit rating:
First take a look at the video below, full-screen if you can. Have you seen it before? Probably not. And yet there was a time, some 20 years ago, when a similar video, of the beating of Rodney King, transfixed the entire nation. The only substantial difference between the King tape and the one below is that the Los Angeles police didn’t have Tasers. They had to torture their captive the old-fashioned way, with clubs and fists and boots. Those were primitive days…
It used to be that to torture a prisoner with electricity was a cumbersome process, requiring an electrical connection or a generator. Building on the principle of the cattle prod, however, science soon brought us the miracle of the portable taser, so that today any torturer in blue can deal out agonizing pain or death whenever and wherever the occasion presents itself. (“Death,” you say? Isn’t that going a little far? Not at all. Just this summer, just in Connecticut, police have Tasered two men to death. That brings our total to 13 since 2005.)
Here’s what happened to the Long Beach victim in the video, a 46-year-old man named Porfirio Santos-Lopez:
He underwent surgery at Long Beach Memorial Hospital for injuries sustained in the confrontation. “They broke two bones in his right arm. They collapsed his lung on the left side. He has two cuts on his right leg, a cut on his left, a cut on his head,” Santos-Lopez’ wife, Lee Ann Hernandez, said.
None of the officers involved in the incident have been placed on leave. No charges have been filed against Santos-Lopez.
Another difference between the torture of King and the torture of Lopez is the presence of a crowd in the latter case. The Long Beach police knew they were on camera. Cell phones were everywhere. People were shouting at the cowards to stop their torture. The cowards were indifferent. They knew, this being America, that they would never be punished. We just love our boys in blue all to pieces, as long as they confine their torture to the torturable classes. You’re never going to see John Yoo or Bernie Madoff on the ground, jerking and screaming.
I was there, on that historic day 50 years ago, yes I was. I was a young reporter for the Washington Post covering the March on Washington. Well, part of it anyway. The beginning. It was still dark when I showed up down by the Washington Monument, barely in the same time zone as the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where King and the others would speak.
My assignment was to cover George Lincoln Rockwell and his storm troopers in the American Nazi Party. The assignment of some 200 Washington policemen and National Guard MPs was to make sure that the constitutional right of the Nazis peaceably to assemble and freely to speak would be thoroughly abridged.
But neither the Nazis nor the cops had shown up yet. Only the marchers. Bus after bus was pulling in with out-of-state plates, headlights still on from driving all night. Dazed, sleepy, excited, confused people climbed out, carrying picnic hampers, lunch pails, shopping bags, blankets, umbrellas. Black and white, but mostly black. Negroes, we said then.
This was an amazing thing, this march that was assembling itself. Nothing like it had been seen before. Hatred, fire hoses, dogs, bombs, the bullets and clubs, these things we had seen. And now out of all this was coming courage and love and hope. In the dark I felt like crying, I was so proud of us at last. The next time I was to feel that way about my country was the night we elected Obama.
Back to the Nazis, though. There were 75 of them and my memory is that they wore their little Nazi caps and their little Nazi armbands and uniforms when they appeared at 6 a.m., but they didn’t. The story I resurrected from the Post archives yesterday says that the storm troopers wore mufti, and sneakers instead of jackboots. They were corralled into a space about 50 yards square, and the crowd outside the perimeter mostly ignored them. We were too far away to hear the early speakers, but the deputy commander of the Nazis tried to make a speech of his own at about 11. The police arrested him for speaking without a permit, and the whole bunch of them, my story says, “then trailed off single file across the 14th Street Bridge toward their cars.”
I trailed off myself for the paper, and wrote my story. It was about ten inches long. The headline was “Rockwell Nazis ‘Kaput’ in Counter Move,” which was the sort of failed attempt at cleverness or cuteness or something that was to be expected from the burn-outs on the copy desk.
My own attempt at cleverness had been, “The bridge rang from the shuffle of their sneakers as the storm troopers headed home to Virginia.”
“What the hell is this, Jerry?” the city editor said. “Shuffles don’t ring.”
“Yeah, but…” I started out. “Oh, Christ, Ben, go ahead. Change it any way you want.”
It must have been about that time, across town, that Martin Luther King was having his dream.
On the killing of Trayvon Martin, a couple of random thoughts leading to no useful conclusion:
We had four young children when the U.S. Information Agency sent us to Casablanca in 1966. Before leaving I bought a Saturday night special: a cheap Harrington & Richardson stainless steel snub-nosed, .32-caliber revolver. You never knew what might happen, I figured. Sure enough, next year came the Six Day War and a lot of talk in the papers about mob action against American facilities. But nothing came of it.
From there my family, my revolver, and myself were transferred to Laos, where an actual war was under way. True, it had not touched the capital city since the Kong Le coup in 1960. But still, you never knew. So I strapped on my six-shooter the first time I went hunting for orchids in the jungle outside Vientiane.
The holstered gun felt heavy and awkward on my belt, an annoyance really. Maybe foolish, too. No Pathet Lao patrols had been seen that near Vientiane in years, but then you never knew. What if I did, in fact, run across one? Well, what? Using the gun would surely get me killed. Just having it might. Who hunts orchids with a gun, unless they’re military or CIA? It began to seem wiser to leave my little toy at home, which I did from then on.
Besides, carrying that gun had made me feel like a total asshole, a feeling based on scientific fact. Studies going back centuries have found that carrying a gun around with you is an almost infallible asshole signifier. (Exceptions may be made for military or law enforcement personnel, but only rarely. Never, for big game hunters.)
My second random thought involves the Trayvon Martin jury, which the entire English-speaking world knows was composed entirely of women. Five were white, one Hispanic. They were all racists, of course, because everybody else in the world is racist whether they admit it or not, and why should these six be any different? The question was whether they would be able to set aside their biases, pro or con, under the watchful eye of the blind lady, Justice. Would the fact of being female make them more merciful or more harsh? Toward the victim or toward his killer? And so on.
It occurs to me, though, that the jurors’ decision may have been gender-influenced in an entirely different way. The six women would be unlikely to have much first-hand knowledge of contact sports and street fights. Male jurors might, though, and would have been less inclined to take Zimmerman’s plight seriously. They would know that scalp wounds tend to bleed out of all proportion to their severity — and Zimmerman’s were abrasions that hardly bled at all. They would know that finding yourself on the bottom in a struggle may be undesirable but is seldom fatal. They might feel scorn rather than pity for an older, heavier man who panicked after starting something that he couldn’t finish with a 17-year-old kid. Men might have found it beside the point whether Zimmerman felt his life was being threatened, which is the idiotically low bar set by Florida law. They might have found the more relevant and less moronic consideration to be whether he should have felt his life was in danger.
Basically, male jurors might have asked, didn’t the kid die because Zimmerman was such a pussy?
If you’re reading Bad Attitudes, you already know this. But it can’t be said too often. A major point — perhaps the major point — of our criminal “justice” system is to keep the niggers in their place. It’s criminal, all right, our justice. Since the founding of the nation, the “law” in law and order has been systematically perverted to preserve that old natural “order” so beloved by Chief Justice Roger Taney and spelled out by him in Dred Scott v. Sandford .
I know personally people like doctors, lawyers, elected officials, teachers, architects, and accountants (in addition to the waiters, musicians, bartenders, comedians, and people of leisure) for whom not being high is an extreme rarity. In the broadest sense, I am acquainted with hundreds of users – and probably more people who I don't realize are users.
This bothers me not at all, since I give zero shits about whether people smoke weed. What does strike me as odd, though, is that for all the (predominantly white) people I know who use regularly, I know very few people who get arrested for anything drug related. Perhaps that is because, despite surveys showing that nearly identical percentages of black and white Americans use marijuana, new data shows that blacks are 400% more likely to get arrested for marijuana-related offenses. You're shocked, I know.
Notice that this does not say blacks are four times as likely to use marijuana, or be in possession of it, or sell it, or anything of the sort. They are four times more likely to be arrested and charged. The reason, I submit, is that the entire point of the War on Drugs is to put black males in prison. This isn't a bug; it's a feature…
Sure, the dumbass white kids from the suburbs can spend all of mom and dad's money on blow and bad acid and expensive weed for four years in college, but if there's weed to be found in the crappy black neighborhood they'll move heaven and Earth to find it. Ethan might be selling his mom's Vicodin out of their 4000 square-foot home in Barrington, but the crime is Curtis selling dimebags behind the convenience store.
In the late 1950s I worked for the Washington Daily News, a long defunct afternoon tabloid. Of the three Washington papers, it was the most widely read among the African-American community which then as now was the majority group in the city. This didn’t stop us from identifying black suspects in police stories as “colored,” until one day a delegation of civil rights leaders protested to the publisher, John O’Rourke. So he split the baby in half, and from then on we tagged Caucasians by race, too: “Police charged John Doe, 53, white, of the 1200 block of DeKalb St. NW, with murder in the deadly assault.”
Which is beside my main point, but I just thought I’d throw it in. My main point involves advertising. One day I was down in the composing room, watching them put together an advertising supplement. I asked an ad salesman why all the clothing models were white when so many of our readers weren’t.
“White sells black,” he explained in simple words, as to a child. “Black don’t sell white.”
Nowadays this sort of racism is dead on Madison Avenue, except when it isn’t. Clinical death will occur only when the middle-aged black man in the Cialis ad heads off to the beach for a little bathtub action with his blonde sweetie.
The GOP is continuing its charm offensive among the lesser breeds. Here (h/t to Sister Pat in Ann Arbor) is one Ron Weiser, who was named finance chairman for the Republican National Committee last year:
“There’s no machine to go to the pool halls and the barbershops and put those people on buses and then bus them from precinct to precinct where they vote multiple times,” Weiser says in the video. “And there’s no machine to get ’em to stop playing pool and drinking beer in the pool hall. And it does make a difference.”
He added: “Obama has hired a lot of people to help him get that vote out. But if you’re not from Detroit, the places where those pool halls and barbershops are, you’re not going to be going at 6:30 in November. Not without a side arm.”
It’s kind of endearing, really, the way the vote suppressors of the GOP are coming right out and saying what they really mean. Fom The Columbus Dispatch:
…A study by the Franklin County Board of Elections shows that 48 percent of early, in-person votes in 2008 were cast after hours on weekdays, on weekends or on the Monday before the election — almost none of which is available to 2012 voters.
And those late ballots came predominantly from blacks and Democrats, the research shows. In all, 8 percent of whites cast early in-person ballots, while 13.3 percent of blacks did, said the study, which used census data to estimate the racial breakdown of voters…
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the county Republican Party and elections board member who voted against weekend hours, in an email to The Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
He called claims of unfairness by Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern and others “bullshit. Quote me!”
Go read this interview with Salon’s Joan Walsh. Do it now. It’s the most subtle and informed examination of our class wars that I’ve come across anywhere. Afterwards you can go out and buy her new book, What’s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age that Never Was, as I intend to do.
…from We Are Respectable Negroes:
For all of the talk in 2008 about post racial America, and the promise of a President who happened to be black, many in the public forgot that whoever is elected to the country’s highest office is a cog in a bigger machine. To believe that you could have radical transformational change through institutional politics was a chimera and a joke. The system is designed to be sedentary, slow, and constrained by inertia.
As such, the Age of Obama vs. the Age of Malcolm is a false comparison. The latter was a figure who worked outside of the system (and in fact created little actionable political change); the former is a product of a multicultural, elite class which is deeply invested in maintaining the status quo of the American as a passive consumer-citizen in a market democracy, and of protecting America as an empire.
Many first time, as well as young voters, did not understand this basic fact of American political life. Now, they are disenchanted and less likely to support Obama in the 2012 election. He is not a radical. He is not a “black” president. Obama is quite simply the President of the United States, and a figure who is part of a system which is beholden to certain interests above and beyond all others.
Nevertheless, I remain fascinated by one aspect of Tesler's research:
Even presidential pets were viewed through the same lens. Tesler showed 1,000 YouGov respondents a picture of a Portuguese water dog and asked how favorably they felt toward it. Half saw the dog introduced as Bo Obama, and half as Ted Kennedy’s dog, Splash. (Both political dogs are the same breed, but the picture was of Obama’s.) Those with negative feelings toward blacks thought less of Obama’s dog.
This is from The Twentieth Century by historian Howard Zinn, published 32 years ago. Hardly a word or a number would need to be changed today.
One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled. These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country…
In this uncertain situation of the seventies, going into the eighties, it is very important to the Establishment — that uneasy club of business executives, generals and politicos — to maintain the historic pretension of national unity, in which the government represents all the people, and the common enemy is overseas, not at home, where disasters of economics or war are unfortunate errors or tragic accidents, to be corrected by the members of the same club that brought the disasters. It is important also to make sure this artificial unity of highly privileged and slightly privileged is the only unity — that the 99 percent remain split in countless ways and turn against one another to vent their angers.
How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers.
From Public Policy Polling:
On our Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee Republican polls in addition to looking at the Presidential race we also polled on some of the issues that have been in the news over the last week: Rush Limbaugh and the reemergence of birtherism…Here’s the question they should have asked: “Was Obama born in the United States or Hawaii?”
In Georgia 40% of Republican primary voters think Obama was born in the United States, while 38% do not.
Here’s another (see previous post) of George W. Bush’s adornments to the federal bench:
HELENA — Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Wednesday admitted to sending a racially charged email about President Barack Obama from his courthouse chambers…
The subject line of the email, which Cebull sent from his official courthouse email address at 3:42 p.m. Feb. 20, reads: “A MOM’S MEMORY.”
The forwarded text reads as follows:
“Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.
“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’
“His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’”
Robert Paul Wolff is a Jewish philosopher who taught at Harvard, Columbia and Chicago before becoming head of the Afro-American Studies department at the University of Massachusetts. Now retired in North Carolina, he blogs at The Philosopher’s Stone. The excerpt below is from an essay called “Free, White, and Twenty-one.” In it he takes on the political question of the week: What Can South Carolina Possibly See in Newt?
It was more or less at this time that a new and curious linguistic practice entered the public speech of America. Ordinary White working class families began to be referred to, and increasingly referred to themselves, as “middle class.” Now “middle class” is itself a rather suspicious bastard sociological category. It does not have the historical roots and deeper meaning of “petty bourgeoisie,” which conveys the notion of shopkeepers and small business owners who, although owners of their means of production, are yet not the great geldbesitzeren or haute bourgeois who command the economic heights. But it also does not merely mean “between rich and poor.” It does, in the American context, somewhat correspond to the old distinction between “suits” and “shirts” or “white collar” and “blue collar.” However, in the racially segregated America of the ’50s and ’60s, “middle class” clearly meant suburban, respectable, not living in an inner city ghetto. It meant NOT BLACK.
The Civil Rights Movement challenged the Black Codes, it challenged Jim Crow, it challenged the deeply embedded caste system of American society. And it was successful! I will yield to no one in my outrage at the discriminations that still afflict Black Americans, but I am old enough to recall what this country was like in the ’40s and ’50s, and that change has been dramatic, transformative, and irreversible.
We may celebrate this change as the greatest progressive victory of the twentieth century, but to a large number of Americans, the change has been devastating, incomprehensible, and hateful. No longer can Whites at the bottom of the economic ladder console themselves, in the dark night of their souls, with the secret thought, AT LEAST I AM NOT BLACK.
It was probably not a great idea for Rick Perry to rent a hunting camp once called Niggerhead. Not that Rick minds offending blacks — he questioned President Obama’s patriotism, didn’t he? — it’s just that sensibilities have changed in the past fifty years in ways that the Texas Governor may not have noticed.
He has called Hispanics in his state “Josés,” as in, “The Josés will sue you at the drop of a hat.” He has implied that President Obama, while lacking any true feeling for the country, is also a coward. Likewise he has said that the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Bernanke, is “almost treasonous” if he orders more money to be printed before the election. He has called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. He thinks Medicare is a socialist conspiracy and will bankrupt the country. He says government is the problem and the best place to create jobs is in the private sector. To make his point, he cites the large number of new jobs in Texas during his tenure and doesn’t mention that most of them are government jobs.
Even if this latest blow-up on the tough-talking Texan’s yellow brick road is just another dust devil, does it suggest that in his case the N-word might have a different meaning? Nitwit, perhaps? Do you get the feeling that soon enough we won’t have Rick Perry to kick around any more? The cowboy governor’s campaign is reeling.
Yesterday, it was stammering performances against the likes of Michelle Bachmann, Newt and the Mitten. Today it’s the hunting camp; tomorrow, who knows? Pick your favorite gaff, stumble, screw-up, but whatever the reason, the ‘charismatic’ governor is falling fast in the polls and nowhere more precipitously than among those of a tea-party persuasion.
Apparently the tea partiers are disillusioned with Ricky because he’s started to tone down some of his best attention-getting positions. They liked him better when he was completely irrational, like them. Now he’s beginning to sound more like the other Republican candidates, except they’re better at grammar than he is.
Politicians are forever blathering about how canny the American electorate is: “The American people are too smart to be taken in by empty promises,” they say as they make yet another empty promise. Of course, to be fair, when your choice eventually comes down to two candidates, both of whom are running on a platform constructed entirely of empty promises, what are you supposed to do?
Still, there is little evidence to suggest that ‘smart’ is a good word to describe the American voting public. ‘Smarting’ might be better. ‘Fed up’ is good. But ‘smart?’ We elected George W. Bush, not once but twice. Was that smart? Look where it got us. Thousands dead and maimed and trillions of dollars spent, a huge increase in the national debt, and nobody can say for what. Nobody except, of course, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who chant, “We won. We won.” Won what? What did we win? Halliburton won enormous defense contracts and Cheney and Rumsfeld both won fat book contracts. Maybe that’s what they meant.
So now we’re in for another whole year of political bluster and bombast. A lot of us may be disappointed in Obama’s leadership but we can at least be thankful that we will be spared any serious challenge to his candidacy and all the misstatements, cheap posturing, and flatulence that would entail.
The Republicans will have to carry the burden for most of the year and we can all take comfort in the obvious talents they bring to the party. There are lots more N-words to draw on. Yes, N is for nitwit, but that’s not all. N is also for nothing, nada, nil, not, nonentity, nowhere, nobody home, nausea, numskull, nincompoop, none, no one, and no, no, no.
…in this case from The American Conservative:
…The Sailer analysis is ruthlessly logical. Whites are still the overwhelming majority of voters, and will remain so for many decades to come, so raising your share of the white vote by just a couple of points has much more political impact than huge shifts in the non-white vote. As whites become a smaller and smaller portion of the local population in more and more regions, they will naturally become ripe for political polarization based on appeals to their interests as whites. And if Republicans focus their campaigning on racially charged issues such as immigration and affirmative action, they will promote this polarization, gradually transforming the two national political parties into crude proxies for direct racial interests, effectively becoming the “white party” and the “non-white party.” Since white voters are still close to 80 percent of the national electorate, the “white party” — the Republicans — will end up controlling almost all political power and could enact whatever policies they desired, on both racial and non-racial issues.
More from the ever-interesting Professor Wolff. Fortunately this sort of thinking is now gone from the land:
At every step of the way, there were White historians and public figures who resisted this rewriting of the American story. Here is an excerpt from a speech delivered by our old friend Thomas Bailey in 1967 to the leading association of historians of America, The Organization of American Historians, on the occasion of his inauguration as its President. The topic of Bailey’s address was “the mythmakers of American history,” and after some remarks about that old chestnut, George Washington and the cherry tree [ you remember the one — “I cannot tell a lie.”], he turned to what he called the “newly formed hyphenate group,” African-Americans. Here is what he had to say:“This belated recognition [of the experiences and activities of Negroes], though praiseworthy in some respects, is fraught with danger. Most non-militant Negroes would probably like to think of themselves as dark-skinned Americans, and this self-imposed Jim Crowism can be self-defeating. Pressure-group history of any kind is deplorable, especially when significant white men are bumped out to make room for much less significant black men in the interests of social harmony. If this kind of distortion gets completely out of hand, we can visualize what will happen when the Negroes become the dominant group in all our largest cities, as they already are in Washington, D.C. Coexistence may end, and we may even have hard-backed Negro histories of the United States, with the white man’s achievements relegated to a subsidiary treatment.”
Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone decodes a bit of pol-speak for us, in his ongoing web tutorial on Afro-American studies:
One might imagine that this contrast died with the abolition of slavery, but nothing could be further from the truth. During more than a century after the end of the Civil War, the contrast between bondage and freedom was encoded in the Jim Crow laws that separated the races and condemned people of color to a second class citizenship. When those barriers to freedom fell, a new language was devised to mark the distinction between bondage and freedom. “Ghetto” and “underclass” communicated the same division, and once again, Whites defined themselves by their contrast with people of color, this time by identifying themselves as “Middle Class.”
American political rhetoric these days is obsessed with the needs, the interests, the concerns of “Middle Class Americans.” Now, taken as an economic, or socio-economic, term of art, “Middle Class American” is utterly incoherent. Households making anywhere from forty thousand to four hundred thousand dollars a year are routinely referred to as “middle class.” There is no longer the slightest suggestion that “middle class” identifies people who are, in some measurable sense, “in the middle.”
It takes very little sensitivity to language to grasp that “middle class” now means “not living in the ghetto,” “not living in the inner city,” Not Black. Now that the “strivers”, as Black professionals and entrepreneurs used to be called, have moved from the inner city to the suburbs, it has become acceptable to acknowledge the existence of a Black “middle class,” although the election of a Black President triggered deep-rooted anxieties so powerful as to reveal the continued presence in America of this identification-by-contrast rooted in the nation’s past.
It is worth reflecting for a moment on the real meaning of the outpouring of hysteria prompted by the election of Obama. It was not, in the ordinary sense, an expression of prejudice. Rather, it was a cry of desperation. Since my freedom is defined in contrast to their bondage, if they throw off all the chains of that bondage by appropriating what is ritually conceived as the most elevated position in the nation, then I am no longer free!
From Anthony Summers’ biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Official and Confidential:
In September 1964, when King was due to visit the Vatican, Edgar’s friend Cardinal Spellman was asked by FBI not to grant King an audience. To Edgar’s astonishment, the Pope ignored the advice. Then came news that the civil rights leader was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. King, in the hospital suffering from exhaustion, thought it “the foremost of earthly honors, not for himself but for the movement.” Edgar was beside himself with rage.
“The mores of this country has [sic] sunken to a new low,” he scribbled, overlooking the fact that the Nobel was awarded by foreigners. “He was the last one in the world who should ever have received it,” he said. “I held him in utter contempt…” King, Edgar thought, deserved only the “top alley cat” prize.
Bitterness was compounded by jealousy, for Edgar had long hankered after a Nobel himself. Herbert Jenkins, the longtime police chief of Atlanta, talked with him at this time. “For years and years,” Jenkins later revealed, “Hoover had tried unsuccessfully to win the prize. Many prominent Americans had been asked by Hoover to write the Nobel Committee … but every year Hoover was passed over … Then along comes a Negro southerner who is awarded the prize. It was more than Hoover could stand. It just ate away at him.”
From Chuck Lorre Productions, #269:
I have long believed that part of our problem with resolving race issues in America is our inability to accurately name what we are. Aside from the occasional Johnny and Edgar Winter, there are no white people. Any child with a box of crayons can tell you that white people are, in fact, beige. The sickly ones are gray. Following this crayon logic, one can easily see that there are really no black people. They are brown. Or perhaps raw umber. Or maybe burnt sienna.
Frankly, every time I hear someone comment on America’s first black president, I can’t help thinking, “No, he’s not. He’s more like caramel.” Which is why I think we should all get in the habit of calling each other what we really are. How can you racially slur a man by calling him “beigey” or “umber?” The answer is you can’t. Because that’s exactly what he is. The melanin doesn’t lie. Buy a box of Crayolas and see for yourself. We are all members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Can I hear a kumbaya?
For some reason (denseness?) it hadn’t occurred to me till reading this that the attack on public unions, like so much from the GOP, has its roots in racism:
While Beltway media portray a dual effort by Republicans and Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, the unavoidable question must be asked: Hasn’t a shutdown been the GOP’s goal the entire time? The Nation’s Melissa Harris-Perry agreed with Rachel Maddow on her show last night that many of the programs — and individuals — that have been targeted for funding cuts are beloved in American society; post office employees, teachers, Medicare. But the Republican Party, with little resistance from Democratic leaders, has been able to successfully demonize these figures and programs.
According to Harris-Perry, the GOP has manipulated popular opinion by linking these programs and workers with “less beloved” figures in American society: African-Americans, poor people and immigrant populations.
“The growth of the African-American middle class in the 1970’s was mostly men working at post offices and women working as teachers,” she says. “Republicans have been very successful in linking … even things for example like public schools to populations and communities that are less beloved, more stereotyped, more stigmatized. They’ve been able to lap those onto each other and sort of create these anxieties in populations that actually need and benefit from — on a daily basis — government actions.”
It’s standard to date the underlying racism of Republican politics to Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy.” It’s also wrong. Here’s Richard Hofstadter, writing in 1965:
Goldwater’s departure from the Republican pattern was compounded by his position on civil rights. One of the oldest, through hardly the most efficacious, of the traditions of many conservatives in the North — and even to a degree in the South as well — has been a certain persistent sympathy with the Negro and a disposition to help him in moderate ways to relieve his distress. This tradition goes back to the Federalist party; it was continued by the Whig gentry; it infused the early Republican party.
By adopting the “Southern strategy,” the Goldwater men abandoned this inheritance. They committed themselvels not merely to a drive for a core of Southern states in the electoral college but to a strategic counterpart in the North which required a search for racist votes. They thought they saw a good mass issue in the white backlash, which they could indirectly exploit by talking of violence in the streets, crime, juvenile deliquency, and the dangers faced by our mothers and daughters.
Eisenhower, like Goldwater, had been unmoved by noble visions of progress toward racial justice, but he at least gave lip service to the ideal and found it important to enforce the laws himself and to speak out for public compliance. But Goldwater arrived at the position, far from conservative in its implications, that the decisions of the Supreme Court are “not necessarily” the law of the land.
During a Google search for something else, I just now came across a nativist blog called stoptheinvasionoforegon. It is a particularly repellent specimen of the genre and contains a particularly revolting selection of racist images. If you have the stomach for this kind of thing, Google it for yourselves.
If the internet had existed in the 1830s I imagine that the Cayuse and Klamath tribes would have spread the same sort of welcome mat for the wagon trains of land-hungry settlers just then arriving from Independence, Missouri.
This is from an essay by George Orwell. Reading it I thought of Nixon’s exploitation of the hard hats whose sons and brothers he was sacrificing in Vietnam to get reelected. And of the working class dupes in the red states who turn out on election day every four years, if they turn out at all, to shoot themselves in the foot.
The backbone of the resistance against Franco was the Spanish working class, especially the urban trade union members. In the long run — it is important to remember that it is only in the long run — the working class remains the most reliable enemy of Fascism, simply because the working-class stands to gain most by a decent reconstruction of society. Unlike other classes or categories, it can't be permanently bribed…
Time after time, in country after country, the organized working-class movements have been crushed by open, illegal violence, and their comrades abroad, linked to them in theoretical solidarity, have simply looked on and done nothing; and underneath this, secret cause of many betrayals, has lain the fact that between white and coloured workers there is not even lip-service to solidarity.
CNN’s 360 Degrees gives the third one to a logician from Arizona, State Senator Russell Pearce:
PEARCE: It’s wrong. It’s unconstitutional.
PAUL BEGALA: The 14th Amendment...
ANDERSON COOPER: Paul, go ahead.
PEARCE: Wait. Wait. You ask me why I wanted to change it. Let me tell you why. Let me tell you why.
BEGALA: The 14th Amendment is the Constitution. The 14th Amendment can’t be unconstitutional, Senator. It is the Constitution.
[Ed. note: To be fair, though, the language is pretty ambiguous: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”]
The Associated Press reports from Jerusalem:
Parents of European, or Ashkenazi, descent at a girls’ school in the West Bank settlement of Emanuel don’t want their daughters to study with schoolgirls of Mideast and North African descent, known as Sephardim.
The Ashkenazi parents insist they aren’t racist, but want to keep the classrooms segregated, as they have been for years, arguing that the families of the Sephardi girls aren’t religious enough…
Most of the demonstrators were men wearing the long beards and heavy black clothing typical among ultra-Orthodox Jews. “The Supreme Court is fascist,” said one poster.
Esther Bark, 50, who has seven daughters, said the issue is keeping the girls away from the temptations of the modern world. “To suddenly put them in an open-minded place is not good for them,” she said.
…what’s the matter with the South? It’s worth remembering that Dixie was well on its way out of the toilet before it chose to dive right back in. Badtux the Southern Penguin poses the question in this excerpt. And here’s his answer, which is not likely to surprise you. But plenty of people don’t know the backstory.
Historically, the American South in the period from around 1920 to 1965 was characterized by populism. A series of charismatic progressive governors was elected in most Southern states during this time period who brought their backwards states up to then-modern standards in many ways.
Public education had been crippled for decades by barriers that prevented most poor kids from advancing past the 6th grade, especially the cost of textbooks. Those barriers were removed and poor kids for the first time had the opportunity for a high school education. Public universities were vastly expanded and tuitions cut to zero for poor kids in many cases, allowing access to higher education for many for the first time.
A road network that was primarily rutted dirt roads in 1920 was by 1965 as good as any road network anywhere in the nation. Taxes on the wealthy that basically didn’t exist in 1920 were at national norms by 1965. In 1920 most Southerners had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or telephone service, by 1965 those were at national norms. Manufacturers noted the new infrastructure and the newly-educated work force and flocked to the South in droves. Decrepit cities like Houston and Atlanta started throwing up modern skyscrapers and becoming thriving metropolises.
Yet this burst of modernization basically had slammed to a halt by 1975. Instead of electing progressive governors, the South started electing regressives, people intent upon rolling back the reforms instituted by the progressives. When progressives did get elected, like Edwin Edwards in Louisiana during the late 1970’s, they found themselves fighting holding actions, basically trying to keep government services from being gutted by a populace increasingly hostile to government.
City parks and recreation programs were gutted and closed, city bus services were cut back or eliminated, and the roads and schools started to deteriorate. A few cities fought back and managed to become isolated islands of progressivism and prosperity, but most Southern cities started a long slide to ruin…
In a new study drawing on nearly a half century of data, a team of researchers report that religious adherents in the United States — especially fundamentalist Christians — are more inclined than agnostics to harbor racist attitudes toward blacks and other minorities.
This “religion-racism paradox,” as University of Southern California social psychologist Wendy Wood explains it, is deeply embedded in organized religion which, by its very nature, encourages people to accept one fundamental belief system as superior to all others. The required value judgment creates a kind of us-versus-them conflict, in which members of a religious group develop ethnocentric attitudes toward anyone perceived as different…
Compounding the effect, the study’s authors explain, are similarities in the moral makeup of people drawn to religion and of people who exhibit racist attitudes and behavior. Previous studies have shown that religious adherents are more likely than agnostics and atheists to rate conservative “life values” as the most important principles underlying their belief systems.
Those specific values — social conformity and respect for tradition — also most closely correlate with racism. In short, people are attracted to organized religion for the same reason some people are inclined toward racist thinking: a belief in the sanctity of established divisions in society.
Major League Baseball seems to be paying attention; whoulda thunk it?
A day after protesters rallied against Arizona’s new illegal immigration law outside Wrigley Field in Chicago, Major League Baseball thrust itself into the national debate.
The law permits police officers who have “reasonable suspicion” that a person may be in the United States illegally to demand proof of legal residency.
The baseball players’ union said it opposed the law and raised concerns about how foreign-born players, who make up about a quarter of major league rosters, and their families would be affected.
What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote — and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas…
Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected…
The weapon she used to slice the Arizona voter rolls was a 2004 law, known as “Prop 200,” which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans’ latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party’s desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box.
[By the way, no one elected Brewer. Weirdly, Barack Obama placed her in office last year when, for reasons known only to the Devil and Rahm Emanuel, the President appointed Arizona’s Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to his cabinet, which automatically moved Republican Brewer into the Governor’s office.]
You’ll be glad to hear that the new law mandating racial profiling in Arizona won’t cost the state economically. The governor, who signed the bill while claiming that racial profiling is illegal in Arizona, says
The bottom line is that when I go about meeting with businesses that come into Arizona … they want to know that we have a safe and secure environment into which to move their businesses here… They want to know that their employees are going to have a quality of life that they’ve had in the places where they’re moving from to move here.
Has any reporter asked her to name a business that wants darker-skinned folks subjected to unnecessary and unwarranted stops and checks? Or where these employees are moving from, or what is meant by quality of life?
Supporters say the measure is needed because the federal government has failed to enforce its own immigration laws. In Tucson on Monday, Brewer said she has written to the federal government five times about the issue in the past year and a half.
“[The letters] have been met with complete, total disrespect to the people of Arizona. I mean, we don’t even get an answer back from our letters in regard to securing our border,” Brewer said. “So, given that, I think it was time that Arizonans did step up, and that was one reason why I think that [the new state legislation] was signed.”
Has anyone asked her how many times she wrote during the Bush years and how many during Obama’s time? I’d wager there’s a statistically significant correlation. (Or how she addressed the letters?)
Phil Gordon, Phoenix’s mayor and a Democrat, said his office hopes the City Council will authorize the city to file a lawsuit Tuesday.
“Convention [and] tourist business groups have already gotten dozens of calls. We’re pleading with them not to boycott Phoenix or the state because of [the bill],” Gordon said Monday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “There will be court challenges. I’m confident that the federal courts will enjoin it at least until it is determined [whether it’s] constitutional and how to enforce it so that officers don’t get sued by individuals alleging civil rights violations.”
Which tells us several things. One is there’s a big difference between Phoenix, at least, and most of the state. Another is that Phoenix doesn’t seem to be hearing from a lot of organizations anxious to hold their conventions there now that they can rest assured the folks on the streets look like Americans. This would tend to be a negative comment on the accuracy of the governor’s prediction on the economy, if Phoenix tourism is any guide, but it may not be.
Back when I worked for the United States Information Agency, manning freedom’s ramparts in Casablanca during the Vietnam war, I had a poster in my office that read, “Fuck Communism.” Those were the days, my friend… And in those days, my friend, another popular bumper sticker said, “Fuck Hate.”
This rant from today’s BLCKDGRD is along similar lines:
I remember our time in Deale [Maryland], when we had our friends Henry and Donna to the marina house for a weekend, being told the minute they drove out of the parking lot by four cracker boat owners that if I ever let that nigger and his white skank race traitor bitch back they’d lynch my ass too. I told them to fuck off; my tires were slashed that night.
It’s obvious with my constant cracker this christer that I’m a stone bigot, but I’ve never said I was tolerant. I try to be intolerant to everyone, but I’m not large enough, I’m weak, I haven’t a reservoir of endless hate, I haven’t endless time to hate, I need to focus what hate I can summon on a few select targets — Arcade Fire, Raymond Carver, Terry Fucking Vaughn — that don’t affect the quality of anyone’s life but my own, and on a few large targets that affect the quality of my selfish insignificant life as a happily complicit home-owning, tax-paying, law-abiding, bloody-handed cog in capital’s race to ingest everything, and motherfucking crackers nostalgic for 1920’s Alabama and motherfucking christers jonesing for white jeebus, well, it’s delicious to hate them, it’s delicious to demonize them, it’s delicious to organize to keep them out of our schools, out of our state houses, to keep their hands off our wives’ and daughters’ uteruses, to keep them as marginalized and mocked and furious and ugly as possible.
And yes, I know crackers are funded and encouraged to be ugly to keep rubes like me busy hating them rather than hating what needs hating more, to keep me nostalgic for an America that will never be. I’m working to make my hate more copious, more all encompassing.
It’s been pointed out in comments that it’s difficult to find ways to punish Arizona for instituting an openly racist law.
You can’t boycott Arizona, it doesn’t produce anything you can buy or not buy. Other than copper, its economy is largely tourism and real estate. According to Wikipedia, the state’s largest employer is the state, and the largest private employer is Wal-Mart. This is probably diagnostic in and of itself.
But the discussion suggested the oddity of such a straightforward racial-profiling law in a state where baseball’s many Caribbean and Central and South American players spend spring training. Some of them are probably American citizens, but in crummy jeans might look like illegal immigrants, which as I understand it means the cops must stop them and ask for papers. If a baseball star who’s a citizen has to carry papers or get arrested, it’ll be a national story and a worldwide joke.
Not that a bunch of Wal-Mart workers necessarily care. The polls appear to show about 70% of Arizona in favor of the law. So is there any way to express displeasure beyond not visiting a state that’s way too hot in summer and unbelievably cold in winter, with an enormous amount of desert the year round?
For baseball fans, you could sacrifice spring training. Email the President of the Cactus League, Robert Brinton, at email@example.com, and Catrina Knoebl, Media and Sponsorships, firstname.lastname@example.org. Get in touch with your local team if they train in Arizona and let them know you won’t be coming to see them until the situation changes.
Cactus League teams: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers.
I looked around MLB.com, but a search for the word “fans” fails; they have contact info for customers and business partners. Again, diagnostic.
I don’t recommend angry missives, but aggrieved and saddened letters regretting a beautiful spring that might have been. With my family it’s actually true; we’d been talking about meeting somewhere for a vacation in the next year and spring training came up, as we’re all Cincinnati fans and we wanted to see their new digs. So MLB doesn’t know it, but our threat will certainly be carried out.
Do I think Arizona or MLB cares about institutionalized racism? Of course not. This is by no means the first engagement of either with the heinous and ridiculous. Since the state produces nothing we can boycott, we need a pressure point, and that can be generated through media attention. Baseball is one. And courtesy of Martha Bridegam, so are the members of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.
This is Shelby Steele in The Wall Street Journal, telling it like he thinks it is:
The old fashioned, big government liberalism that Mr. Obama uses to make himself history-making also alienates him in the center-right America of today. It makes him the most divisive president in memory — a president who elicits narcissistic identification on the one hand and an enraged tea party movement on the other. His health-care victory has renewed his narcissistic charge for the moment, but if he continues to be a 1965 liberal it will become more and more impossible for Americans to see themselves in him…
Mr. Obama’s success has always been ephemeral because it was based on an illusion: that if we Americans could transcend race enough to elect a black president, we could transcend all manner of human banalities and be on our way to human perfectibility. A black president would put us in a higher human territory. And yet the poor man we elected to play out this fantasy is now torturing us with his need to reflect our grandiosity back to us.
Many presidents have been historically significant in retrospect, but Mr. Obama had historic significance on his inauguration day. His inauguration told a transcendent American story. Other presidents work forward into their legacy. Mr. Obama is working backwards into his.
Mr. Steele, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is the author most recently of “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win” (Free Press, 2007).
Which last paragraph leads irresistibly to the question: “So Why Should We Be Excited About What Shelby Steele Thinks?” Which in turn leads to the question: “Is Shelby related to Michael?” (No.) Which of course leads to this final question: “Was Michael Steele’s sister once married to Mike Tyson?” (Yes.)
…Race, on the other hand, has been a more successful technology of mystification. In the US, one of the great uses of racism was (and is) to induce poor white people to feel a crucial and entirely specious fellowship with rich white people; one of the great uses of anti-racism is to make poor black people feel a crucial and equally specious fellowship with rich black people.
Furthermore, in the form of the celebration of ‘identity’ and ‘ethnic diversity’, it seeks to create a bond between poor black people and rich white ones. So the African-American woman who cleans my office is supposed to feel not so bad about the fact that I make almost ten times as much money as she does because she can be confident that I’m not racist or sexist and that I respect her culture. And she’s also supposed to feel pride because the dean of our college, who makes much more than ten times what she does, is African-American, like her. And since the chancellor of our university, who makes more than 15 times what she does, is not only African-American but a woman too (the fruits of both anti-racism and anti-sexism!), she can feel doubly good about her.
But, and I acknowledge that this is the thinnest of anecdotal evidence, I somehow doubt she does. If the downside of the politics of anti-discrimination is that it now functions to legitimate the increasing disparities not produced by racism or sexism, the upside is the degree to which it makes visible the fact that the increase in those disparities does indeed have nothing to do with racism or sexism. A social analyst as clear-eyed as a University of Illinois cleaning woman would start from there…
From McClatchy Newspapers, here’s one way to get the job done:
For the two generations of children who have attended integrated public schools, it's hard to fathom South Carolina spent $124 million on buildings and buses from 1951 through 1955 with the express purpose of preventing black and white kids from attending school together. Based on inflation, that would be $1.1 billion in 2010 dollars. The Legislature approved a 3-cent sales tax in 1951 to pay for the work, and the state borrowed against future sales tax revenue to build schools as quickly as possible.And from the late, great Huey Long of Louisiana, here’s another way to get the job done.
Never before and never since has South Carolina spent as much money and energy improving public school facilities in such a short period as it did in the 1950s. But to call that period the golden era of school funding in the state would be using the wrong color. It was all about black and white.
What are we to make of this?
The studies show there’s significantly less racism among people who don’t have strong religious beliefs, while highly devout religious communities exhibit more prejudice against people of other races (with seminaries showing the highest degree of racism). The researchers found barely any difference between the amount of racism among religious fundamentalists and more moderate Christians. “Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant,” they write in their paper.
We have a new entry in the highly competitive race for the most grudging non-apology of 2010. Shown below is Rudolph Andreas “André” Bauer with an adorable Scientologist friend.
[South Carolina’s] Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Monday he regretted comments comparing people who take public assistance to stray animals, but the incident continued to draw fire.
In a phone interview, Bauer said he regretted the remarks “because now it’s being used as an analogy, not a metaphor.
“Do I regret it? Sure I do. I wouldn’t have to be taking this heat otherwise.”
This is from a speech by another of South Carolina’s many statesmen, Republican Lieutenant Governor Rudolph Andreas “André” Bauer. For the full flavor, listen to it all. Bauer is shown below with another college varsity cheerleader, George W. Bush:
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals,” Bauer told a Greenville-area crowd. “You know why? Because they breed.
“You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
I can’t come close to saying anything better than what Bill Doolittle said about his involvement with and participation in the Civil Rights Movement as well as his coverage of the event, but I hope I can add a little something to remember Dr. Martin Luther King today by posting this YouTube Video of another great American announcing the untimely death of Dr. King, who, like Dr. King, was a short time later likewise shot down in his prime by an assassin’s bullet.
Thank you, Bill Doolittle, for what you said and I hope this short post also helps us to continue to remember the life of Dr. King and the great changes that he and others around him helped make become a reality. I was one who witnessed as a child the horrid conditions in the South for blacks and I saw the changes that he helped to make happen as I grew. And the sad chapter in America now referred to as the Jim Crow Era fortunately passed and was put away in the history books. Unfortunately the ending of that era is sadly forgotten or its elimination viewed with anger by too many Americans to this day.
Let us not forget his tragic and unfortunate death, the circumstances of which still trouble Americans to this day. But the Dream truly lives on in so many of us today.
The World Peace Prayer is a paraphrase of a verse from the Upanishads, the most ancient scriptures of Hinduism, and is also prayed daily by the Roman Catholic Benedictine Sisters. It is also said near the end of the service at the UCC church my wife and I attend.
It was dawn as 1,000 quiet Trentonians, bent on demonstrating their deep commitment to civil rights for Blacks in America, waited patiently to board buses for Washington, D.C. Lost in thought or just sleepy, each eased towards a line of buses in downtown Trenton, New Jersey.
We all knew this day we would be part of something bigger than all of us; we would be bearing witness to the struggle for equal rights for all Americans. We knew we were small players in a larger tragedy that had vexed America since its founding. And so hundreds and hundreds of buses roared and coughed their way down Route 22, through the slums of Wilmington and Baltimore. and finally past the magnificent monuments on the Ellipse honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
As always in our flawed land, some whites had expressed fears of violence every time its citizens gathered to bolster the hopes of Black people that they would finally become full citizens.
I was there as a reporter for The Trentonian, a blue collar tabloid newspaper that gave enormous, if uncelebrated, coverage to the civil rights movement that was to reach its emotional crescendo this day, the 28th of August, 1963.
Disembarking into a sea of people, we realized immediately that this was no ordinary demonstration. This was to be a truly peaceful march — families, white and black, fathers with children on their shoulders, mothers cradling their infants.
Though I had covered numerous demonstrations and rallies, some of which turned violent, this was a solemn march of citizens peacefully seeking redress for centuries of discrimination and mistreatment. This march of 250,000 Americans that thronged the park behind the White House was more worship than war, more prayerful than raucous.
Previously I had covered the departure of James Farmer from New York with the Freedom Riders. After the buses left, an Asssociated Press reporter and I were jumped by a group of screaming northeastern racists. We were beaten, but not seriously injured. I was thankful later that I had not been on those buses whose passengers were to endure much worse treatment in Georgia.
On this more peaceful day I made my way to the roped-off foreground of the Lincoln Memorial and tried to enter to interview the celebrities and civil rights leaders milling about under the huge statute of Abraham Lincoln.
No luck until a friend inside shouted , “Bill, come on in !” Gail Buckley, there with her mother Lena Horne, the singer and civil rights activist, talked me through the tight security. Slowly I edged toward the wooden stands erected on the steps of the Memorial, and sat down close to the empty speakers’ podium.
And then I waited and waited and waited — trying to be unobtrusive, as if to imply, “I’m with them,” and blend in with the nation’s civil rights leaders. Slowly the stands filled up and the speakers began. A sea of citizens filled the expansive park, reaching from Washington to Lincoln on the banks of the Reflecting Pool.
Then came Martin Luther King, who delivered his historic speech, his words echoing across the park as they have down through history…
I’ve always had a preference for Ian and Sylvia’s version of this song and I regularly look for their version on Youtube, but until I discovered the version below, I never knew that Paul Robeson sang it. I think I’m going to change my preference even though the Ian and Sylvia version has a quiet beauty that I still find spellbinding.
Coming from Paul Robeson, even though he was not Canadian, I still understand how poignant this song must have been for him, and for all of us who know some of what the United States Government did to him solely for his beliefs. In many ways, Robeson himself was an exile in his own country, for example as stated in his Wikipedia entry
To this day, Paul Robeson’s FBI file is one of the largest of any entertainer ever investigated by the United States Intelligence Community, requiring its own internal index and unique status of health file.
If you’re not familiar with who Paul Robeson was and what he stood for and what the US Government did to him for his beliefs, please go read the rest of his Wikipedia entry linked to above. And then listen to the his remarkable voice singing this wonderful but sad folk song.
Incidentally, I noticed that the song is called Le Canadien Errant on this version but is almost universally referred to elsewhere as Un Canadien Errant. I cannot say whether this has any significance but it is unusual to see the song referred to in that manner. (and sung in English with some verse changes) Perhaps it means nothing and perhaps it has a hidden meaning. Maybe one of our French speaking readers or writers here could offer me a clue as I always look for hidden meanings in small deviations from what is considered normal and I find the name change puzzling and can’t help but wonder if it has a hidden meaning, perhaps signaling that Robeson considered himself an exile in his own country.
Interesting piece by Michelle Goldberg of The American Prospect:
It’s not, after all, as if the Christian right was something completely removed from the old racist right — rather, as Reed acknowledged all those years ago, they were initially deeply intertwined. The Columbia historian Randall Balmer has shown that Christian conservatives were not, contrary to their own mythology, initially mobilized by their outrage at Roe vs. Wade. Rather, what spurred them into action was the IRS’s attempt to revoke the tax-exempt status of whites only Christian schools, schools that had been created specifically to evade desegregation.
The Christian right was always rooted in an older style of reactionary politics. Before he became a political organizer himself, Falwell — who ran one of those Christian segregation academies — attacked Martin Luther King Jr. for his political activism. (“Preachers are not called to be politicians, but to be soul winners,” he said.) Before Tony Perkins was basking in homophobic interracial amity, he paid Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. In 2004, David Barton, then the vice president of the Texas GOP, spoke at an event featuring white preachers and ministry workers dropping to their knees before their black brethren to plead for forgiveness. Thirteen years earlier, Barton had twice been a featured speaker at meetings of the Christian Identity movement, which preaches that blacks are sub-human “mud people.” One could go on and on…