No matter the poll, no matter the year, and no matter the conditions of life in America for people of color, white folks have rarely ever believed racism to be much of a problem. Nothing shocking there, I suppose. Whenever a system works to your benefit, taking that system for granted becomes second nature.We don’t see what others who are harmed by that system see, because we don’t have to.
Most slaveowners never questioned the legitimacy of their system, and most whites — including those who didn’t own slaves — neither joined the abolitionist movement nor supported it. Indeed, most whites have been implacably aligned with white supremacy for the entirety of our nation’s history, only condemning even its most blatant iterations (like slavery and indigenous genocide) many generations after the formal manifestations of those had ended, and when doing so took no more courage than crossing the street.
That may sound harsh. But just because truth isn’t pleasing to one’s ears doesn’t mean it’s any less accurate. And the fact is, most white Americans have never believed that it was necessary for blacks to agitate for their rights and liberties (or their lives) — at least, not at the time that particular agitation was happening. Oh sure, fifty years later, we can look back and view Dr. King as a secular saint and talk about how great the civil rights movement was. But when Dr. King and the movement were actually doing the things for which we remember them, most white folks stood in firm opposition, saw no need for their actions, and believed they were more “divisive” than unifying.
Sounds a lot like what so many of us say now, with regard to Black Lives Matter or NFL players taking a knee to protest racial inequity.
Just to make clear how deluded or disinterested in racial justice most white folks have been, even during times when, in retrospect, racial oppression was obvious, consider the following:
In 1963, a year before the Civil Rights Act was passed, two years before the Voting Rights Act, and five years before the Fair Housing Act, nearly two in three whites told Gallup pollsters that blacks were treated equally in their communities. This, in the same year that Medgar Evers was shot down dead in his driveway in Jackson, Bull Connor plowed tanks through the black community and hosed down children in Birmingham, four young black girls were murdered at the 16th Street Baptist Church there, and George Wallace declared, “segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation ‘fahevah’” — a statement that elicited letters of support from whites all across the nation, and not only in the south.
By 1965, the year in which Selma sheriff Jim Clark and his goons beat civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus bridge, and Los Angeles police brutality towards black folks touched off the Watts uprising, the share of whites who said blacks were treated equally had risen to nearly 70 percent. In other words, most white Americans apparently thought there was no real need for the Civil Rights Movement, as equal treatment had already been achieved, which is to say that most white folks were utterly deluded about the nation in which they lived.
Even before that, in 1962, 85 percent of whites said that black children had just as good a chance to get a good education as white children. This, despite the fact that most school systems still had not moved towards meaningful integration, let alone equalizing of resources, eight years after the decision in Brown v. Board. While the idea of equal educational opportunity in the early ’60s might strike us now as intrinsically absurd, most whites believed it was a reality, suggesting once again that white America had not even the most fleeting familiarity with their country.
And as for the civil rights movement itself? Although today most view it as a heroic struggle against the self-evident evils of Jim Crow, that certainly isn’t how most whites viewed it when it was happening.
So, for instance, in a Gallup Poll in 1961, six in ten of all Americans said they disapproved of the Freedom Riders: civil rights activists who engaged in direct action to desegregate bus lines throughout the south. Considering that black support for these actions was high — 92 percent of blacks said the movement and Dr. King were either moving at the right speed or too slowly in pushing for change — one can assume that white opposition to the Freedom Riders was probably more than 2:1.
In the same poll, most whites expressed opposition to sit-ins or any other form of direct action to break the back of segregation, claiming that such actions would do more harm than good when it came to bringing about change. So although the the American south was an apartheid colony, most white folks opposed the people who were trying to do something about it. That is to say, white people sided, functionally, with white supremacy.
In June of 1963, shortly before the March on Washington, 60 percent of Americans (and no doubt more than 70 percent of whites, given high black support for the movement), said that civil rights demonstrations were more a hindrance to black advancement than a help. In effect this means that most white people believed they knew black folks’ needs better than actual black people did.
In 1964, despite the fact that the Voting Rights Act had yet to be passed and blacks were being kept from voting throughout the south, and despite the persistence of housing discrimination, which would not be addressed in the Fair Housing Act for four more years, three in four Americans, and likely well over 80 percent of whites, said blacks should stop protesting for their rights.In other words, most white folks didn’t apparently care that African Americans were being denied one of the most basic rights of citizenship, voting, and that they could be routinely blocked from living in the neighborhood of their choice. In short, most whites again sided with white supremacy.
In 1966, 85 percent of whites told the Lou Harris polling group that civil rights demonstrations had done more harm than good for blacks, and the majority said that if they were in the same position as blacks, they would not think it justified to protest or demonstrate for their rights or opportunities.This, coming from the descendants of people who lost their shit over taxes on tea.
Another poll that year found that half of whites believed Dr. King was hurting the cause of civil rights, while only a bit more than a third thought he was helping, and in 1967 — before the Fair Housing Act, and when opportunities still were obviously not equal between whites and people of color — nearly 85 percent of all Americans (and likely well over 90 percent of whites) said blacks would be better off just “taking advantage of the opportunities they have already been given” as opposed to protesting.
In other words, whites believed blacks should just work harder and stop complaining, even though housing discrimination was rampant and still legal; even though most school systems still had not moved to truly integrate, let alone equalize resources, and even though the Civil Rights Act had only been in place for three years — hardly long enough, even in theory, to end racial discrimination. In short, and as the evidence clearly suggests — without a single solitary piece of counter-evidence — white folks have always wished black people would stop fighting for their rights, no matter how truncated those rights were at the time.
By 1969, a mere year after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., 44 percent of whites told a Newsweek/Gallup Survey (August 19, 1969) that blacks had a better chance than they did to get a good paying job — twice as many as said they would have a worse chance. In the same poll, eighty percent of whites said blacks had an equal or better chance for a good education than whites did, while only seventeen percent said they would have a worse opportunity.
In other words, even before the 1970s, whites were already convinced that things were equal, or even that we were the real victims of discrimination, enjoying even less opportunity than African Americans did. That is to say, perceptions of white victimhood were already brewing, within the first few years after the fall of formal white supremacy.
What can one say about a group of people so utterly divorced from reality at one of the most blatantly unjust periods in American history? At a time when images of racial injustice were beamed into their living rooms every night? At the height of one of the greatest freedom movements in history? What can be said of a people who can stare at those images, and hear the words spoken by black people fighting for their lives, their rights and their dignity — as those people are beaten and killed and jailed — and turn away, or deny that what they are seeing and hearing is real? What can be said about people who despite being otherwise functional — able to hold down jobs, raise children, remember to wash their hands after using the bathroom, and feed their dogs — were so indelibly incapable of understanding the nature of the system under which they lived?
I know one thing that can be said for certain: we needn’t trust the judgment of such a people as this, on any matter of social importance. And when these same persons’ children and grandchildren, fifty years later manifest the same unwillingness to see, we must reject them too. We must insist that their skills for discernment and their moral calibration are both lacking. Because that denial is a form of white supremacy, handed down intergenerationally no less so than our DNA is handed down.
At every juncture of history, black folks have said “we have a problem,” and they have been right. Meanwhile, most whites have said all was well, and we’ve been wrong. So what, other than a staggering amount of racist hubris, would allow us to think that it was black folks who were suddenly misjudging the problem, and we who had at long last become keen observers of social reality?
By now, this denial has become a genuine character flaw, rather than just a mere annoyance. And unless we in the white community who have learned to listen to people of people of color and actually believe that they know their lives better than we do speak up and challenge those in our community who cling to their innocence like a kidney patient clings to dialysis, the future will be one of ever increasing acrimony.
Because until white lies are confronted — lies about our country’s history and its contemporary reality — black lives will continue to be endangered. And the prospects for multiracial democracy will be grim.
I’ll assume many folks on here probably saw this story, but just in case, check it out:
Once again, as per the above link, the state that conservatives love to hate demonstrates that right wing narratives, both about ACA and California are false: while right-wing states refused to expand Medicaid and/or set up strong state exchanges -- and did everything they could to undermine the law -- California did the opposite and residents there have reaped the benefits. Far from perfect of course for all the reasons progressives understand (it's still a private market rooted in profit and the notion of health care as a commodity rather than human right), CA shows how much better things could have been nationally, were conservatives not so uniformly hostile to anything the previous administration pushed for, and which they perceive as helping too many of the "wrong people" ("undeserving" and "irresponsible" working class folks, especially of color -- remember, Glenn Beck once said, entirely seriously, that the ACA was just Obama's way of getting reparations for slavery).
In any event, this brings to mind a larger matter that has always fascinated me: namely, the way in which right wingers view California and other relatively progressive states. It’s always interesting to hear conservatives bash states like California, Massachusetts and New York as presumed hell-holes where excessive regulation and taxes hamstring economic development, while praising so-called red states like Texas, North Carolina, Georgia or my own state of Tennessee as examples of places where conservative fiscal values predominate, much to the benefit of their respective populations.
First, because it is precisely in those liberal environs where most of the new jobs are being created and where the economy is strong, while the places presided over by the right are, in most instances, literal economic basket-cases. Roughly 40% of all new jobs in the nation in the past few years have been created in California, while Kansas, controlled by tax-cutting, trickle-down Reagan clones is producing nothing but the well-earned derision of every competent economist in America. Indeed, the faulty policy direction of the Brownback administration has created such fiscal misery there that even conservative Republican lawmakers have voted to raise taxes in order to generate sufficient revenue to operate the essential services of the state. And second, because to whatever extent red states are even remotely functional or fiscally solvent, or able to meet even the most basic needs of their citizenry — from school funding, to roads, to the kind of economic stability and wage base needed to attract private insurers to a workable health care market — it is only because of the more progressive parts of those red states: the blue dots in a sea of rural and exurban crimson. Without St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri is on economic life support; so too Louisiana without New Orleans, Tennessee without Nashville and Memphis; North Carolina without the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill research triangle and Charlotte; Georgia without Atlanta; Kentucky without Louisville and Lexington. In short, without the much more liberal, more highly educated, and decidedly less provincial parts of “real America” as some like to call it, that “real America” would be the economic equivalent of an underdeveloped country.
This is not meant to suggest that those rural areas of the nation aren’t important — indeed, to the extent they are areas whence most of the nation’s agricultural production comes they are obviously vital contributors to the country as a whole, in that they literally feed the rest of us. But so too do they benefit from the economic stability produced by a strong tax base, smart and consistently applied regulation, a commitment to public health, education and transportation. For such persons to deride “city folks” in blue states or “coastal elites” while ignoring that virtually everything they take for granted, from cell phones to internet service to entertainment to the national tax base needed to support their retirements, their infrastructure, the health care depended upon by their elderly, and their local economic development comes from those same “liberals” they despise (and the places those liberals live) is the height of irony. Indeed, even immigration, documented and undocumented — which many voters in rural areas would like to halt — has been vital to rural economies and agricultural production, which is to say that if the right got its way, the very places lived in by its staunchest supporters would suffer. Rather than bashing progressives for supporting more humane immigration policies, red state voters, and especially those states in which agriculture provides so much of their economic output should be saying thank you, much as we should thank them for the hard work they do every day in order to provide the food that sustains us all.
In short, a sense of reciprocity is what we often lack as a nation: reciprocity between geographic locales, between political parties, and between each other. This lack of a sense of reciprocity is why some states refused to expand Medicaid after the passage of the ACA -- returning to the initial part of this post -- because to help others is seen as a zero-sum loss by the right, rather than as an investment in the health of their state’s people, vital to the overall well-being of the nation; because atomistic individualism is the coin of the conservative realm, no matter the harm it does the social fabric and even economic health of the country. And when reciprocity would require a commitment to the health, education and well-being of those who are racially or culturally “different” from the dominant norm, it has proved especially hard to come by for some, no matter the collective injury done to the nation as a result of rampant inequality.
So too empathy: when conservatives bash big cities and those who live there, or support “tough-on-crime” policies like the so-called war on drugs — so long as the folks being incarcerated were black and brown — they establish an ethic of unconcern and an aura of ambivalence that cannot but ultimately redound to their detriment, as it is now, with the opioid crisis. And yet they cry out for services, for rehabilitation, for treatment, and most of all for the very understanding and forbearance they saw no need to extend to the urban poor of color, caught up in an earlier opioid crisis in the 70s or the crack epidemic of the 80s. And they deserve the empathy they seek, but only to the extent they are willing to offer it in turn. Reciprocity is not a luxury here but a necessity. And if we had such a thing in greater abundance as an operative mindset, a guiding principle of our politics, many of the problems that presently plague us would be far more manageable.
But we don’t, and so here we are.
So just in case you were wondering, when a white man bellows that America is no longer great, and in fact is akin to a third world country, and that many other countries are better than we are at all kinds of things — and this is why we should elect him, so he can “make America great again,” because right now, we’re sorta suckin’ wind — that is the height of patriotism. The kind of talk we need! The kind of nationalistic endorsement around which all Americans should be willing to rally.
And when this same man says black people aren’t safe from other black people, and they can’t even walk down the street without getting shot by other black people, and that’s why they specifically should vote for him, so he can make their communities safe, that too is to be understood as a laudable commentary, even an ecumenical “outreach” to African Americans. Because black folks naturally love it when white men tell them how utterly degenerate is their daily existence, having spent exactly zero time in actual black communities so as to know what the hell they’re talking about.
However — and here’s where things get tricky — if a black man like 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand for the national anthem because he feels the country hasn’t done right by black folks, and especially with regard to the un-punished killing of far too many by law enforcement, that is to be understood as treasonous, as grounds for his dismissal from his team, and as a justification to insist that he take his exit from the nation he apparently “hates.” Because after all, who would condemn conditions in America who didn’t hate it? (And as you ponder that query feel free to ignore the first two paragraphs above, as the maintenance of cognitive dissonance — big words, Trump fans wouldn’t understand — is incredibly valuable at times like this).
In short, white men (well, at least those on the right) can issue all manner of calumny against the United States. They can condemn its economics and its immigration policies; they can paint a picture of culturally defective black people as some underclass contagion within it; they can condemn it for not being sufficiently Christian, sufficiently militaristic, or sufficiently harsh on refugees. They can suggest that other countries are better at everything from infrastructure investment to trade negotiations, and still be viewed as fundamentally committed to the well-being of the country—indeed as presidential material, by millions.
But black folks cannot so much as open their mouths in criticism without the wrath of white America descending upon their shoulders. When they criticize — and especially if the criticism is about racism and inequality — they must be painted as hateful and petty. They must be told to leave because “there are millions who would gladly take their place,” and they must be made pariahs, symbolic of the lack of gratitude black people have for the country that has “given them” so much.
Of course, one might note (if one were being historically accurate, insightful or even remotely lucid, and I realize this is optional for white conservatives), that the same country has given white people quite a bit more over the centuries than it has blacks: like hundreds of millions of acres of virtually free land under the Homestead Act, hundreds of billions of dollars in housing equity under the FHA and VA loan programs at a time when blacks were barred from them, and job and educational opportunities for generations that it only recently has provided to African Americans, even in theory. As such, one might argue that if anyone’s complaints about America should raise concerns about ingratitude it is likely ours, not those of black folks. One could say that, you know, if honesty was a thing for which one had much regard.
And if one really wanted to wrap things up with a nice tidy bow, one might note (and I surely will now) that for a rich man like Donald Trump to complain about America — a nation that allowed even the mediocre likes of him to succeed by inheriting a couple hundred million dollars worth of assets from his daddy — is especially precious and ironic. Oh, and of course, when Trump complains, despite his supposed “billions” of dollars, the same people who scream that Kaepernick should shut up because he makes $11 million a year, go silent. Because when black people make more than white people, white people get pissy, but when other white people make more than white people, white people admire them. And so it goes.
Naturally, that so many rail against Kaepernick for criticizing the U.S. is hardly shocking. These are the same people who screamed about President Obama for campaigning on a desire to “change” America for the better, because America “doesn’t need to be changed” dammit. Although “Hope and Change” was a far less pessimistic or critical slogan than “Make America Great Again,” those who embrace the latter were in full dudgeon over the former. Likewise, when Rev. Jeremiah Wright simply told the truth about the history of U.S. foreign policy — and he did, every single word — and suggested that perhaps God would not bless America but damn us for our actions, the fact that the Obamas had gone to church at Wright’s house of worship was, in the minds of millions, sufficient grounds for his defeat. Because again, black people are not allowed to condemn the country for its shortcomings.
When Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first black Supreme Court Justice, threw cold water on the nation’s bicentennial celebration for the Constitution back in 1987 — and this, because, as he explained, he didn’t have 200 years to celebrate, given the deep-seated flaws embedded in the document at its inception, including the protection of chattel slavery — he was pilloried in the press. Marshall explained that the Constitution had been “defective” from the start, and only 200 years of struggle (led often and mostly by black folks, in fact) had begun to make real the promises of the founders. That Marshall’s historiography was exactly correct — inarguable even — mattered not to those who found his position intolerable and un-American.
It has always been thus: patriotism is for black people, meaning that it is they (or perhaps other immigrants of color) who are expected to show gratitude, to ignore the nation’s flaws, to sign off on America’s greatness without reservation, because anything less is presumptive evidence of disloyalty. And it makes sense, really. After all, when your nation was built by the deliberate oppression of black and brown peoples, the exploitation of their labor, and the theft of indigenous land — and anyone who would deny this is insufficiently educated to be taken seriously — it is especially vital to police their devotion and fealty to the edifice that marginalized them; to punish them for any deviation. Because to allow them the space to criticize, to condemn, and to castigate, is to allow them the space to organize, to fight, and to transform.
It is to ensure that they may be the ones to make America great. Not again. But for the first time.
And we can’t allow that.
Because to do so would force us to reckon with how much of our previous self-congratulatory back-patting had been unearned. It would force us to gaze upon the steady history of broken promises without sentimentality. And it would force us to make a decision as to where we stand: with our heads turned towards a fictive past or aimed in the direction of a better future.
Sadly, some would prefer to simply wave a flag and pretend that in the act of doing so they had demonstrated their love for the country and the people therein. But in truth, all such persons have ever managed to demonstrate is their own vapid understanding of the principles upon which said country was ostensibly founded.
The National Anthem, like the Pledge of Allegiance, is a symbol of America. But speaking out for justice is the substance of America, and therefore infinitely more valuable.
As we know, many folks have tried to portray Trump’s hardcore base as just a bunch of salt-of-the-Earth working class guys, anxious about trade policy and its effect on factory jobs, or worried about the effects of globalization on long-term employability, or whatever. The idea being that “if we could just reach them with a good progressive message, we could bring them over to our side!” The wishful thinking on display in this argument—and the way in which it sidesteps the obvious centrality of RACIAL resentment in Trump’s movement, and the way race is inextricably bound up in whatever real economic anxiety some of his base might be experiencing—is distressing to say the least.
These are folks who (and now there are studies that have confirmed it, about which others have posted on this site) are motivated by a sense of racial/cultural grievance. They are losing their hegemony, and perceive that loss as oppression, because when you’ve been top dog, having to share a country and the culture and power and opportunity with “the other” (be they racial, religious, etc) is like the end of the world. WEB DuBois talked about the “psychological wage of whiteness” and the way in which it really serves as the transmission belt of what Marx would have called “false consciousness” in the white working class. It basically says, “you might not have much, white folks, but at least you’re not black/Latino/indigenous, etc.”
Until we confront the fact that racism and white nationalism is at the heart of modern right-wing politics (more than fundamentalist religion, and certainly more than conservative economic theory) we will have no chance at really crushing (in political terms) the movement that Trump has tapped into.
I mean, seriously, if you look at the picture above this diary, can you really honestly envision the young man with his middle fingers extended being animated by typical boilerplate conservatism? Or even by some of the non-racial things endorsed by Donald Trump? Or by anything progressive, upon which we might build? If you had to caption the photo, would any of you believe it logical to caption it as follows:
1. “Listen, marginal tax rates are just too high. We need a flatter, simpler tax code!”
2. “Just think about how much better black folks would have it if we unleashed the power of the free market in their communities with things like Enterprise Zones!”
3. “I mean, let’s not TOTALLY privatize Social Security, but maybe we could let people choose to invest a small portion of their retirement savings in the stock market?”
4. “Tort reform and portability of benefits: those are the keys to a workable health care system.”
5. "I’m thinking perhaps an 18% tariff on Chinese imports, just until the American manufacturing sector improves. Are ya with me?"
6. "I'm just anxious about my job but I know it’s not the Mexicans' fault. It’s really just the inevitable outgrowth of late-stage capitalism."
7. "All I’m saying is, I think the Department of Defense wastes a lot of money in the weapons procurement process. We need to get serious about cutting the waste!"
8. “I mean, I think it’s rather obvious by now that the economic stimulus was far too small to spur demand-side growth. We obviously need a new New Deal!"
9. "My main issue is simple: we absolutely MUST restore barriers between commercial and investment banks!"
10. "Personally I love Black Lives Matter. I just disagree with some of their tactics."
11. "I don't dislike Hillary. I'm just worried, like Sean Hannity, about whether she’s really healthy enough for the job."
12. "As per the Laffer Curve, tax cuts generate MORE revenue via economic growth, dummies! Everyone knows that, sheesh!"
13. "Our roads and bridges are in disrepair. We need a huge infrastructure investment bill. That’s why I support Trump, because he proposed one!"
14. “Donald Trump says Hedge Fund managers are parasites and should have their taxes raised. That is TOTALLY what drew me to him! I’ve been saying that for years to my buddies.”
15. "I mean, c'mon, ISIS was the predictable result of a post-Saddam power vacuum. Anyone could have seen that coming! We should never have gone to war with Iraq. That’s why I support Trump, because he understood that!"
16. “If I’ve said this once I’ve said it a million times: PAID PARENTAL LEAVE people! For the love of God, why are we such an embarrassment compared to all the other OECD nations when it comes to our paltry social safety net!”
None of this is to say that we can’t ever reach people who would vote for Trump. I think some people are reachable, and yes, with an economically populist message. But that doesn’t mean his base is truly reachable. I sincerely believe they simply have to be defeated, over and over and over again, and then our movements and candidates have to do everything possible to make life better for them and all working folks, both because it’s the right thing to do, and because perhaps if we do that, their resentments can diminish a bit. Also, to whatever extent we can reach any of them, it will require an honest and forthright conversation about racism and the way that racism has been used to divide and conquer. We can’t work around that issue or act like it’s not the key, or refuse to challenge white folks about racism for fear of them “backlashing” against the analysis. They are already backlashing (one might say “front lashing”) with or without us confronting it. It’s time to push back and demand that we create a new society based on racial equity and multiracial democracy. Folks will ultimately either have to get down with that, or get politically steamrolled. There is no other way.
It is increasingly apparent that white Americans hate the Constitution.
Not all white people and not the entire Constitution of course; but certainly a frightening lot of us and some of the most important parts. We love the Second Amendment — at least in so far as it protects our right to bear arms, even as we aren’t nearly so supportive of black folks trying to exercise theirs — but as for the quaint notions of due process or equal protection? Those are but trifles, orange cones on the highway of law and order, to which we are expected to pay some minor attention, but ultimately forget about in the name of the greater good.
And by greater good, I mean the apparent desire to rationalize virtually anything done to a black body by a blue-uniformed member of the nation’s law enforcement apparatus, usually by making note of the less-than-angelic history of the decedent before the bullets ripped flesh. Because to much of white America, only angels can be true victims and only saints deserve eulogy; and surely no lesser beings are deserving of the Constitutional guarantees referenced above, at least when the dead are black or brown. And so, in the most recent cases of Korryn Gaines and Paul O’Neal, we are instructed not to mourn them, and surely not to make them poster children for the black lives that we insist matter. After all, Gaines pointed a gun at officers and O’Neal stole a car, after which felony he proceeded to lead police on a chase. That both ended up dead is entirely their own fault, we are assured. To think otherwise is to make victims of criminals who brought their demise upon themselves. Surely we will soon hear this refrain again in the wake of yesterday’s shooting of an armed robbery suspect by Milwaukee police, which shooting touched off a night of violence in that city.
Theywerenoangels. Theywerenoangels. Theywerenoangels.
Say it three times in a mirror while spinning around on one leg, and then perhaps the ghost of Antonin Scalia or Andrew Breitbart will visit you and reassure you that all is right with the world. The scary black people are dead and we have to support our police and they do a dangerous job and you don’t want to do it and if your house was being robbed who would you call…a protester?
Of course there are fact patterns even amid this cacophony. And though they won’t matter to most of those who repeat the above formulations as if they were sacred omkara, perhaps it would do us well to remember them.
Like the fact that the police at whom Korryn Gaines pointed her weapon had come to haul her out of her house in the presence of her child for minor vehicle and traffic violations. Because the need for Baltimore County officials to serve arrest warrants on such hardened criminals as this is more important than the need for Gaines to live another day. And yes, perhaps if she doesn’t point that pistol-grip shotgun at officers and threaten them she’s still alive, and so in the proximate sense one can certainly argue that Gaines’s actions made her shooting legally justifiable. Yet the question remains: when Gaines pointed that gun at the officers, was their only recourse to fire upon her? Especially when they knew she had her five year old child huddled close by? Especially if they believed—rightly or wrongly based on previous encounters—that she may be dealing with some form of emotional or mental distress? If they had decided instead to fall back, de-escalate the situation and perhaps try again another time to serve whatever warrant they were trying to serve, what would have been sacrificed by such a choice? Nothing really, except perhaps pride. And ultimately it is that about which the Baltimore County police were most concerned. They could not, would not, allow this black woman to win the day. Even for some minor infractions.
And what of Paul O’Neal? Chicago police fired at his fleeing vehicle, in complete defiance of department policy, common sense and the law, then chased him, and when he exited the car on foot they proceeded to run him down and shoot him in the back as many as fifteen times. He was unarmed, he posed no threat to the officers, and his death was of such little concern to them that even as his body lay warm on the ground they were giving each other high-fives, complaining about the inconvenience of whatever investigation might follow, and checking to make sure their body cameras were turned off. Because to the CPD, a dead black man is less important than whatever vacation days they might lose as punishment for his murder. And after all, he stole a car—a crime for which the punishment is not, I beg to remind, execution.
But for Gaines and O’Neal, police could not let them live even as they figured out another way to uphold their duties. Because to do so would have been to allow Gaines and O’Neal—black people—to show them up, to put one over on them, to wound their fragile and racialized sense of white masculinity. And so they could not in either case extend to these two the same courtesies proffered to an entire gaggle of white men on the Bundy Ranch, who not only pointed guns at law enforcement, but promised to use them—and even to use the women on the ranch as human shields. Just for shits and giggles try and imagine what would have happened if several dozen of Korryn Gaines’s closest black friends had shown up at her house, armed and vowing to defend her against being arrested, all the while pointing guns at police? Now, feel free to locate a thesaurus and insert all the different synonyms for bloodbath here.
No, they couldn’t figure out a way to arrest Gaines or O’Neal without killing them, the way police did with this white man who actually killed an officer during a standoff while barricaded in a house.
Or the way they did with this white guy who killed a Pennsylvania State Trooper and then went on the run for 48 days.
Or this white guy — an Indianapolis police officer — who shot one of his colleagues and then led other officers on a chase until he was finally captured.
Or this white guy who opened fire inside a family restaurant in Louisville.
Or this white guy who stalked Portland, Oregon police for months and was finally arrested while parked outside a precinct station with a car full of guns and ammo.
Or this white guy in Idaho who killed a cop, went on the run, and then refused to come out of his hiding spot when police first cornered him.
Or this white guy who pointed a weapon at three New Orleans officers and told them to “drop your fucking guns.”
Or this white guy who shot up a movie theatre full of people and was arrested outside without a scratch.
Or this white guy who was walking around menacingly downtown in Louisville with an 18-inch knife.
Or this white guy who literally beat the crap out of two police officers before getting away.
Lots of people, as it turns out, fall short on the angelic scale. But some are still carbon-based life forms as I write these words and some are not; and the reasons for this, though not entirely about race, are certainly informed by it.
Ultimately, the search for the perfect victim is as impossible as it is insulting. It is impossible because there are few persons who find themselves attaining adulthood without having done something, often several somethings, about which we’d prefer others not know, and which, if they did, would likely serve to besmirch our character. It is insulting because it suggests that unless one has a relatively spotless record—and certainly unless they are free from any serious criminal activity—one should have no expectation of safety, security or even the luxury of another breath. It is to say that the Constitutional rights of equal protection and due process do not apply to those with criminal histories or who have a penchant for mouthing off to police or questioning their authority. It is to say that once one has done something defined as criminal that said person forfeits from that point forward any right they may have to humane treatment by police; that one’s past will always be one’s present; that there is no redemption, no restoration, no second chance, and no sympathy when things for such a person go sideways. In which case why even have trials? By the logic of such a standard we should simply check to see if people arrested have a record already, and if so, pronounce them guilty on the spot or maybe even put a bullet in their heads, thereby saving the state the expense of incarceration. The outcome would be exactly the same.
That we don’t really mean this of course, and that we only hold out such impossible standards for black people and the poor should be apparent. My guess is that if some member of the NYPD were to open up a clip on any of the Wall Street grifters who helped tank the economy in 2008—not that this would ever happen, but please, just play along—-few would rush to justify the killing on the grounds that the banker in question was “no angel.”
If police were to violently dispatch the lives of corporate executives or bosses who steal their employees’ wages by refusing to pay them for work done, or paying them less than the law requires, or cheating them out of overtime—and indeed, wage theft is a bigger problem, financially, than all the street robberies in this country combined, according to the FBI—it is unlikely FOX News would rush to rationalize the killing, by noting the far-from-angelic business practices in which the recently-deceased had engaged.
And the reason we would treat those kinds of cases differently is because we would know that the executive or the banker was not simply the sum total of their misdeeds. We would understand, intuitively, that their humanity was not defined entirely by the worst things they had ever done. We would not reduce them to an algorithm of pathology. We would not forget that they were somebody’s child, brother, sister, husband, wife, lover, friend, or parent. We would not deem them irredeemable. Would that the same could be said for Korryn Gaines or Paul O’Neal or any of the other names I could list here from the past several months, let alone years, let alone decades, to say nothing of centuries.
But for those latter souls, near perfection is required before compassion can attach. Otherwise they are disposable, only worthy of mention in so far as white folks can use them as examples of black pathology and dysfunction. Because white America dearly loves to use black death to teach a lesson, but never about our culture; rather, and only to teach a much more localized lesson to black people about theirs. And so we feign empathy as we prattle on about so-called “black-on-black” violence: an inherently racist term which suggests there is something about blackness that explains it, but which suggestion we don’t make in the case of the never-so-named “white-on-white violence,” even as it remains about four times more prevalent than its darker counterpart. We cluck our tongues about blacks killing blacks in places like Paul O’Neal’s Chicago, as a way to redirect black people to what we think the realproblem is. But in the face of such entreaties as this, is not the intrinsic absurdity of the “they were no angels” narrative, obvious? After all, surely we must know that most of the black folks killed by other black folks likely had records and were also “no angels” for what that’s worth. Many were rival gang members. So are we supposed to believe that white Americans suddenly care about non-angelic black people when killed by other black people? Of course not. They are just stage props, or perhaps a magician’s trick we use to avoid the larger issue: that we view black life as disposable and have for a very long time.
We send that message in a million different ways. From the justice system to schooling to the labor market to housing opportunities or the lack thereof. That message—and one can say this without any fear of contradiction—was one of the seminal articulations of this nation from its earliest days, and has remained among its most stridently and consistently repackaged communiques ever since. At this late date then, it is more than a bit unbecoming for us to act surprised when those raised on a steady diet of it come to believe it, and act on the basis of it, either in the name of the state or the Gangster Disciples.
Bottom line: there are no real angels in Hell; and a kind of Hell is what we’ve allowed racial inequity to make of this place. Until that ceases to be so, and until we understand that black lives matter—all black lives, and not just the ones that make white people comfortable—we will sadly repeat this ritual over and over again, and likely far sooner than any of us would prefer to imagine.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a pretty big data geek. It comes from my years as a competitive debater and from an almost obsessive desire to be prepared for any possible right-wing argument that comes my way (which, given my job as an anti-racism educator/speaker/author) is pretty often. If anything, I over-rely on data, especially since I know the research from social psychology (still more data), which suggests that facts aren’t actually what persuade people politically. Still, having command of data, even if not that helpful for “converting the heathen” so to speak, still serves a function: it gives one the courage of one’s own convictions, which makes one a more effective educator, organizer, etc. Also, it helps you to chill a bit. When you know you’re right about something, you tend to relax, which is better for your own mental, emotional and even physical health.
I can still remember when I forced myself to read Dinesh D’Souza’s horrific book The End of Racism, because he and I were about to debate at Furman University, back in 1996. Before reading it, I was stressed, because I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if there’s something in there that I don’t know how to rebut?” The stress was debilitating. Then I read it, and, well, let’s just say there wasn’t anything to worry about. Once I knew that, I could exhale and felt instantly better. It didn’t mean I was going to be able to change Dinesh’s mind — if anything it has become even more ideologically deranged in the years since — and didn’t even necessarily mean I would change the minds of a single conservative in the Furman audience (though I did win the debate by show of hands afterward). But at least I felt better, and there’s something to be said for that.
Which then brings me to the second thing my friends know about me: namely, that even when I am confident about the facts surrounding certain issues, I am almost never confident about elections. In 2008 and 2012 I was absolutely convinced that Obama would lose, no matter what the polls said; no matter what Nate Silver said. I’ve simply been white and known white people for too long, I kept thinking to myself. Now, of course, in one way I was right: President Obama did lose white people, and not just white men, but also white women (53-46) and white younger voters (52-48). And not just in the South (though the numbers there certainly skewed the national averages), but even in many states that were overall blue. That said, folks of color turned out in large numbers and that, combined with the changing demographic makeup of the electorate, made the difference.
This time around, I was convinced last August that Trump was a threat, and many if not most of my friends on the left said I was being silly. Once again, I reminded them about the white people thing, and especially that for whites in the “anxious middle” and upper-working class, Trump would connect far better than Mitt Romney. They kept laughing, I kept mumbling something about white people (I do this a lot), and well, here we are. Needless to say, I’ve been in a pretty uptight way, worried about the election.
See, for months I’d been looking at the Real Clear Politics interactive graphic, which allows you to play with the numbers a bit, adjusting the white, black, Latino/a and Asian vote, relative to their 2012 breakdowns. And even though most every reasonable manipulation produced the same result — there was just no way Trump could win — something about it was unsatisfying: namely, it really was only able to project popular vote. Yes, the map in the graphic would change state-by-state with certain manipulations, as if to mimic an electoral college outcome, but I knew it wasn’t precise. After all, projecting Clinton to win 80 percent of the Latino vote nationally, doesn’t mean she would get that same share in every state. Indeed, in 2012, in some important states, Romney did far better with Latinos than he did overall, and those small differences could be critical this time around. Running up big numbers in California or New York won’t change a thing electorally for Clinton.
But what finally made the difference and has me breathing quite a bit easier is a set of numbers provided by the Cook Political Report, which provides some detailed information on a state-by-state basis in terms of projected turnout by demographic sub-group, combined with information on how those sub-groups voted in 2012.
Let’s start with Florida.
In this table, the first column shows the 2012 percentage of the vote for Obama and Romney, by demographic group: College-educated whites (CEW), Non-college whites (XCW), Blacks (BLK), Latino/as (LAT) and Asian Pacific Islanders/Other (APA/O). The second column shows the projected 2016 share of the electorate in Florida for each demo group, according to Cook. The third column represents my own, worst-case scenario projections of how Clinton would do with each demo group. The final column is the percentage of the overall vote received by Clinton from each demo, if these projections are accurate
As you can see, I am projecting that Clinton can hold serve, so to speak, when it comes to college educated whites, and repeat Obama’s numbers from 2012. This seems eminently reasonable to me, given the likely boost HRC will get from white women (who went for Romney last time but will likely split or even go slightly for her this time), and especially college-educated white women. My goal here is to see how she can do, even if she does not build at all on Obama’s share among college-educated whites, which seems to me a worst-case scenario.
Among non-college educated whites, I think it is reasonable to expect Trump to do better with this group than Romney did. In fact, I am projecting a full three point drop here for Clinton relative to Obama, giving Trump 66% of that group, compared to 63% for Romney. That may seem like too small a shift for some of you, given Trump’s polling numbers with such whites nationally. But actually, it is a pretty generous shift that I’m projecting for him — a gain of three points and 5%, roughly, in absolute terms.
Then, among black voters I am being extremely generous to Trump, projecting him to double Romney’s numbers from 4 to 8 percent of the total black vote; and among Latinos and Asians — despite Trump’s horrific anti-immigrant stances and comments — I am being quite favorable to Trump, projecting that he will only lose 4 points relative to how Romney did with these groups. I am giving Trump 35 percent of both Latino/as and Asian Americans here, which strikes me as very generous indeed.
And the fact is, even with these worst-case scenario projections, as you can see in the bottom right hand corner, Clinton wins Florida with about 51 percent of the vote. Not a lot of wiggle room, but likely enough to allow for her to win even if these numbers are off by a bit, and not pessimistic enough.
Although I doubt my vote projections could be much worse for Clinton than these, where things might get a bit sticky is with the projections by Cook about the expected share of the electorate that will be represented by each demo. As they explain on the page linked above, they are making these projections based on two things: 1) 2012 vote shares for each group, and 2) Census changes since 2012, in terms of persons in each group eligible to vote. In other words, they are assuming that turnout among each group will mirror 2012 and that each group’s newly eligible voters will vote at the same rates as those in 2012 did. Neither of these are ironclad guarantees. Black turnout was historically high in 2008 and 2012, at least in part because of Barack Obama; likewise, white turnout was actually lower than normal, and indeed below black turnout in 2012, percentage wise. Neither of those conditions are likely to obtain again. Although black turnout will not drop to pre-Obama levels — after all, there have been significant gains in registration and when people are registered they tend to vote in similar percentages, across racial lines — it will likely fall a bit. Similarly, white excitement over Trump, especially among the non-college educated, might push their share of the overall vote up a bit, relative to what Cook is predicting.
So let’s play with the numbers a bit, making slight tweaks to the projected vote shares of each demo to reflect this possibility. Let’s redo the column for voter percentages by demo, and then look at the total gained by Clinton for each new projection (basically, re-doing just columns 3-5)
Adjusted Florida ProjectionS
TOTAL FOR HRC
Even in this scenario, in which I assume black turnout will drop enough to suppress the share of the vote that is black by nearly a full percentage point from the Cook projections, and that non-college white turnout will spike enough to drive that group’s share up 1.5 points above the Cook projections, Clinton still wins Florida in a squeaker. And again, that assumes Trump doubles his vote share among blacks, only drops a few points among Latinos and Asians and does 3 points better than Romney with non-college whites. In short, there is very little way to see Trump winning Florida, under any reasonable assumptions and no matter how hard the folks in The Villages might wish otherwise.
Now, let’s look at Ohio, combining the projected electorate shares per demo provided by Cook with my own worst-case scenario estimates in terms of Clinton’s vote percentages from each demo.
Here, even if Clinton loses 4 points off Obama’s totals for non-college educated whites (a 10 percent drop in real terms), and even if Trump doubles Romney’s black percentage (from 3 to 6 percent of the total black vote), and even if Trump only does 5 points worse with Latinos than Romney, thereby managing to still capture 37 percent of the Latino/a vote, and only 2 points worse with Asians, she will still win so long as she maintains Obama’s share of college-educated whites. If she were to nudge up slightly with college-educated whites, or simply hold Obama’s numbers with African Americans she would win even more convincingly.
Now, sure enough, if the Cook projections for each demographic (in terms of what share of the state’s electorate they will likely be) are off, things could get dicey here. For instance, if black turnout falls to any appreciable degree from 2012, or if non-college educated white turnout surges, Trump could win the state; but even then, only if every single one of the above worst-case scenario projections play out. It is very hard for me to imagine that happening. It seems reasonable to assume that HRC will win at least 65 percent of the Latino/a vote, and that even if Trump does better with black voters than Romney a doubling isn’t likely. A 50 percent jump (from 3 to 4.5 percent of the total? Sure, but not a doubling). So long as everything doesn’t go to shit in Ohio, it appears very hard for Trump to carry the state.
Now let’s look at Pennsylvania.*
* NOTE: I have made a slight adjustment here in a way favorable to Trump. Cook’s projected demo breakdowns came to slightly more than 100 percent (over by one-tenth of a point). So as to round down to a flat 100 percent I revised the estimated black percentage of the vote from 13.4 to 13.2 and revised non-college whites upward from 33.0 to 33.1 just to solidify the likely “worst-case” scenario nature of this table.
As you can see, even if Clinton collapses among non-college whites by a full 5.5 points from 45.5 down to only 40 percent of this group; and even if Trump doubles the share of black voters voting GOP from 5.5 to 11 percent; and even if Hillary does 2.5 points worse with Latinos than Obama (meaning that Trump actually gains 2.5 points among them, relative to Romney); and even if Clinton basically only holds the Asian vote where it was four years ago, so long as she holds steady with college educated whites she wins PA. Honestly, I cannot fathom Trump doing better than Romney with Latinos there, nor holding steady with Asians, nor doubling the share of blacks. So the above scenario seems absolute worst-case to me. Seriously, if things actually are worse than this for Clinton, then Trump is likely riding some wave to victory nationwide, and we’d best start building our underground bunkers.
You can tease out these scenarios for the other battleground states as well if you’d like, by using the data at the Cook site. I’ve done it, and although I won’t bore you with the details here, suffice it to say that from what I can tell, the worst, worst case scenario is that:
HRC wins Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin;
Trump wins Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina.
In which case, the electoral college vote is 304 to 234.
Even if we give Florida to Trump, which given the above data looks like an unlikely outcome, it would still leave HRC winning 275-263.
Obviously, in the end it’s all about turnout and mobilization, and anything can happen. But given the edge Clinton has in terms of mobilization, GOTV etc., and given Trump’s reliance on his personality and name recognition to somehow drive people to the polls for him even without that kind of machine in place, it seems unlikely that she would falter on that front.
And finally, let me be clear, I do not mean to suggest by this diary that I am in the mood to rejoice. After all, as a leftist, far more committed to defeating Trump(ism) than electing Clinton, I am not breaking out champagne bottles over the prospects of her presidency. But as someone who also understands the principle of harm reduction, I take my victories where I can find them. I will consider this to be one...and then it’s back to work, building the progressive-left-radical movement for change, without illusion or pretense that real and transformative change is possible under the current system.
Possibly the only thing worse than racism itself is the pseudo-intellectual way in which some seek to justify it. For instance, consider the standard conservative response to those of us who argue that the criminal justice system is the site of significant racialized unfairness. Whether the subject is racial profiling, stop-and-frisk rates, arrest rates, rates of incarceration, or the rates at which blacks are shot by police, those on the right are quick to dismiss disparities in these areas by claiming that because rates of criminal offending are higher in black communities, disparities in enforcement of the law are only to be expected.
This line of reasoning has been the default position, for instance, of conservative scholar Heather MacDonald, whose new book, The War On Cops, is but the latest in her years-long attempt to rationalize away any and all disparities in the justice system. According to MacDonald — who previously made this case so as to defend the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies, and who now uses the same logic to justify disproportionate use of force against blacks by police — if rates of arrest, incarceration, and the rates at which blacks experience police force are consistent with rates of criminal offending, there is no evidence of racism.
But there are several problems, both theoretical and concrete, with these arguments.
First, although black arrest and incarceration rates for crimes like murder, aggravated assault, rape and robbery, do roughly mirror the rates at which blacks commit those crimes, arrest and incarceration rates for other offenses (especially drug offenses) suggest a significant disproportionality, above and beyond rates of black offending. In other words, even using the standard of analysis preferred by the right, there is still evidence of bias in the justice system.
As I have explained elsewhere, once one compares the best estimates we have of drug usage rates, with the rates at which whites and blacks are arrested for drug possession, there are roughly 160,000 blacks each year who are arrested, above and beyond what their rates of offending would otherwise justify; and there are 160,000 whites who are not arrested, who would be, if arrest rates mirrored rates of drug possession violations. That is no small degree of disparity. Over a decade, it means 1.6 million more blacks and 1.6 million fewer whites with drug records than would be the case in a system where law enforcement treated all equitably.
But even for more serious crimes, “controlling” for offending rates as a way to debunk the possibility of racial bias is an inherently flawed manner in which to analyze the subject matter. Think for a minute about what is being said when people make this argument. They are saying that if blacks as a group commit x percent of crime in a community or nation, there can be no racial bias operating so long as the share of persons stopped and frisked, arrested, prosecuted or incarcerated for those crimes is equal to x, or below that level. Only if rates of arrest and punishment exceed x by some appreciable amount can we say that racism could be the culprit. But how is this true at the level of actual personal experiences and cases? How does the fact of general offending by blacks at x percent mean that racism can’t be operating in given cases, even many of them, involving not abstract black people but actual black people who may or may not be guilty of anything?
For instance, let’s say that in a given community, 90 percent of the violent crime is committed by black people, perhaps because the community is pretty much all black. And let’s say 90 percent of the people stopped by police in this community, on suspicion of having done something wrong are black, as are 90 percent of the people arrested, prosecuted and sent to jail from that community. According to conservative theory, these aggregate numbers would prove there had been no racism operating. But actually, those numbers could look exactly the same, whether there was no racism or complete racism. How? Simple.
Just for the sake of argument — and to test this hypothesis — imagine that every cop in this neighborhood’s precinct was a bigot who targeted black people randomly for stops and frisks, without much or any reason to do so, based solely on their own bigotry, which they “justified” in their own minds by reference to aggregate data about crime rates. Obviously, at the individual, experiential level, those stops would involve racism. They would involve cops singling people out because they don’t like African Americans and/or perceive them all as interchangeable criminals. And those black people they single out would be innocent in almost every case. So the fact that other black people in the neighborhood were not innocent, would not change the fact that those who were stopped would have experienced a racialized injustice.
In a slightly less blatant fashion, this is roughly what blacks experienced for years under stop-and-frisk in New York. Only six percent of persons stopped ended up being arrested, and less than 1.5 percent were found with drugs or weapons. Overwhelmingly the black people who were stopped — who comprised 52 percent of all persons stopped — had not done anything. But according to MacDonald, to the extent blacks commit a disproportionate share of crime in New York — and over 85 percent of all shootings — there was no racism operating. If anything, blacks were stopped less often than they should have been, given the crime data. But this argument is almost stunning for its logical and factual ignorance.
First, only about 15 percent of stops under stop-and-frisk were made by officers who were investigating violent crime—this, according to the police department’s own records. So the fact that blacks commit a disproportionate share of violent crime — and nearly 9 in 10 shootings — has little bearing on something like stop rates. If I’m not stopping you on suspicion of having committed one of those crimes, what relevance does that data have? None, by definition. Stops were overwhelmingly for subjective causes like “furtive movements,” suspicion of trespassing, or simply because the person stopped was in a “high crime neighborhood,” the last of which justifications could obviously be used to rationalize stopping every single person who lives there, every single day, regardless of actual behavior, let alone criminal guilt. To deny that such a thing as that constitutes racism (and almost by definition), suggests that in the mouth of Heather MacDonald, words have no meaning and language is dead.
Secondly, many of the stops were for suspicion of drug activity, but since whites use drugs at roughly the same rate as blacks (and actually deal them at similar rates as well), as noted previously, disproportionate stops for drugs cannot be justified with reference to rates of infraction.
Getting back to the main point: racism cannot be proved or disproved based solely on aggregate statistical comparisons; but rather, real-world facts involving actual interactions. As a more obvious example, let’s imagine a community where all the violent crime was committed by black people because the entire community was black. Under conservative theory, nothing the police might do in that community to actual black residents could be considered racism. Nothing. Because no matter how many people they stop, frisk, beat, kill, or arrest, the percentage of those who experienced these things and were black could not exceed 100 percent, by definition! So even if there were a group of police in this community who were secretly members of some Neo-Nazi gang (and thus, by anyone’s standards, racists), nothing they proceeded to do to the residents there could qualify as racism to hear Heather MacDonald tell it, at least not so far as data would allow us to see. Even if these cops conspired to single out black people in the community to murder, solely to satisfy their racial animus against blacks as a group, statistical inference would exculpate them of any racist injustice.
So let’s imagine these officers went out and each murdered one black person a week, targeting them and then fabricating evidence that would allow them to claim that the blacks in question had pulled weapons on them, thereby justifying the shootings. And let’s assume that only black people were shot by police in this community. Since 100 percent of the crime had been done by blacks and 100 percent of the people shot were black, everything would be considered fine, presumably. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that this is what happens — that cops just go randomly murder people as some standard practice — but the point is, even if they were, the model of statistical inference upon which the right relies to debunk racism would acquit the police of any wrongdoing, so long as their misdeeds remained undiscovered. Their racism would be obscured by the aggregate data.
By the same token, using conservative logic, virtually nothing Bull Connor’s police might have done to black folks in terms of disparate law enforcement in early 1960s Birmingham would have been racist either. Since neighborhoods were segregated, for instance, it goes without saying that virtually all the crime in black neighborhoods (save, perhaps, Klan bombings) would have been committed by black people, since that’s who lived there. So if Bull Connor’s cops regularly stopped and harassed black people for no reason other than to satiate their bigotry, and framed certain black folks for crimes they didn’t commit — and surely even the Heather MacDonalds of the world can’t deny this might well have been common at the time — data would not indicate anything untoward. After all, 100 percent of the crime in the neighborhood would have been done by blacks, and thus we should “expect” 100 percent of the stops, arrests, beatings, shootings and incarcerations from those neighborhoods to be of blacks as well. The fact that the blacks stopped, arrested, beaten, shot or incarcerated could theoretically have all been innocent, and the victims of racist policing — even as other blacks in the community really were committing those crimes — is unaccounted for and unrecognized by the logic of conservative denialists. To them, in effect, black people are interchangeable — whether innocent or guilty — and so long as the percentage unjustly harassed or mistreated does not exceed the percentage who actually did something wrong, everything is chill.
In short, racism could be operating in every case, theoretically, and the numbers might look the same as if there were no racism operating. I’m not saying that’s the case, but one cannot determine based solely on aggregate data and statistical inference, what is happening on the ground in particular cases. Although the above hypotheticals may seem extreme, to the extent they demonstrate the weakness of relying on aggregate data to rationalize inequality, they torpedo the conservative methodology for debunking racism. But using more realistic possible hypotheticals can make the case just as well.
So, for instance, and putting aside the prospect of Neo-Nazi police gangs for a second, what if police are quicker to presume guilt for a particular suspect because of racial bias — perhaps subconscious and subtle? Or what if prosecutors are? Or what if juries are quicker to presume guilt and discount exculpatory evidence when the defendant is black? In those cases, which certainly seem within the realm of the possible, racism could be implicated in particular arrests, prosecutions or incarcerations, even if the larger data suggested nothing was wrong and even if the crimes in question actually werecommitted by black people.
So too, if half of murders are committed by blacks, and half of arrests for murder are of blacks, this doesn’t disprove racism in any given case. What if police are making these arrests on the basis of weaker evidence than they might require were the suspect white? What if prosecutors are quicker to bring the case to trial than they would be for a white person given the same fact pattern? What if jurors are quicker to presume guilt and convict? In other words, the fact that some black people are committing murder – and are indeed half of all murderers – does not necessarily mean racism is not operating in the given arrest and prosecution of a particular black person, or even all black people.
Theoretically it would be possible for every single black defendant arrested for murder to be innocent, and to have been the target of racist police, and still have the aggregate data look as it does. Although I am not suggesting this is the case, let’s just pretend that police were all so incredibly racist that whenever there was a murder committed by a black person they just went and grabbed random black people off the street, planted evidence on them and called in the D.A. In other words, lets pretend that in every single case involving a black defendant, the actual black person being charged and prosecuted was innocent and was only facing trial because of the bigotry of the cops. At the end of the year, so long as the aggregate number of blacks arrested, tried and incarcerated for murder didn’t exceed 50 percent – even if every single actual black person who was arrested, tried and convicted was innocent and had been racially targeted – people like Heather MacDonald would look at the data and say, no harm, no foul.
The test of racism then, is not whether stop and frisk rates, arrest rates, or incarceration rates mirror offending rates, but whether individual persons stopped, arrested or incarcerated are experiencing those things because of racial bias. And that determination requires quite a bit more nuance and willingness to listen to communities of color than the likes of Heather MacDonald can apparently countenance.
The point is, black people are experiencing policing differently, and in a more hostile way, than whites. Innocent black people who have committed no crime are being stopped, frisked, profiled, and detained, in ways that innocent white people are not. Unarmed black folks are more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white folks — about 3.5 times more likely — even when they are not behaving in such a way as to make the shooting understandable. The fact that other people who look like these innocent black people happen to be guilty of something does not justify what is happening to the innocent. In truth, it often can’t justify even that which is done to the guilty, since due process is still a thing that theoretically disallows extrajudicial execution. And anyone who fails to understand that, or in this case to call that racism, is not worthy of being taken seriously as a scholar or commentator on issues of such great social importance. They are merely hiding behind loaded footnotes to justify systemic injustice. But racism, no matter how highbrow, is still racism.
As many of you know, I got my start in antiracist work in the 1990 and 1991 campaigns against David Duke when he ran for U.S. Senate and Governor of Louisiana. And as you likely also know, we apparently forgot to throw the dirt on top of his body when we defeated him in those elections. As such, he’s back, endorsing Donald Trump and now announcing that he is running again for the Senate.
This being the case, I wanted to take a few seconds to remind everyone who (and what) we’re dealing with in Duke. He is not merely an “ex-Klansman” (the term most media use). He is a Nazi. Not in that, “I-call-everyone-I-disagree-with-a-Nazi” kinda way. Not in that “Oh-won’t-it-be-funny-and-radical-if-I-call-Hillary-“Hitlery,” kinda way. But in the “Hey, let’s have a birthday party for Adolf every April 20th” kinda way (which Duke actually did all throughout the 1980s and may still for all I know).
While some might want to ignore him, convinced he cannot win, a few points are worth remembering, before I share with you some important information about Duke.
1. With only a couple of months before the election, Duke will start out with far more name recognition and built-in popularity than his opponents in this race. He may not have much time to mobilize, but with his name recognition he doesn’t need a huge ground game. Also, the opposition research organization that was critical to defeating him in the past no longer exists, and those who take up the mantle will have the same short time frame to gear up. The short time frame helps Duke if anything.
2. Louisiana elections are a shit-show, tailor made for candidates like Duke. There are no party primaries. Rather, all candidates run in one big cluster, and the top two vote-getters are catapulted to a runoff. This is how Duke was able to get so far in 1990 and 1991, and he could again. All he would need, with several other candidates on the ballot, is perhaps 30 percent of the vote in order to make the runoff.
3. Duke won 60 percent of the white vote in 1990 and 55 percent in 1991. And this was at a time when the nation was not nearly as racially-polarized as we are today. In an age of Trump and the infusion of open white nationalism into mainstream politics, Duke’s chances are better than they were a quarter-century ago. As we said at the time, Duke was beaten but Dukism had won. And we see now how that is true for an entire half of the political spectrum.
So with these things in mind, here is a link to two radio commercials put together in 1991 by the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism (of which I was Associate Director), in which one can hear David Duke’s own voice proclaiming the need for Jews to “go into the ashbin of history,” and the need for a Hitler-style revolution in the U.S. The recordings we released in these commercials were from a 1986 interview, in which Joe Fields (a self-professed Nazi) and Duke were discussing politics and their preferred strategy for bringing the government down and creating an all-white republic. That has always been Duke’s goal, and it is now.
The first link is of the commercials themselves. The second is an analysis of Duke’s current run for office, which I recorded this morning, along with longer excerpts from the same interview used in the commercials. Please spread this around. Everyone needs to be crystal clear who this man is and what he stands for. Take nothing for granted.
At the risk of sounding preposterously trite, I love my daughters. I love them the same way my parents loved me, I suspect, and their parents loved them: unconditionally and forever.
That said, I also see their flaws and shortcomings. They are teenagers after all and human beings, and their membership in both clubs provides ample opportunities for imperfection. But those frailties also provide opportunities for growth, for betterment, for improvement; and those occasions in turn produce some of the most exciting and rewarding moments for parents and kids alike: the ability to see a child move from one place to a better place with some support, and some constructive (if yet critical) feedback.
Importantly, when we admonish our children for true wrongdoing in the hopes of helping them to do better, to be better, no one would accuse us of hating our kids. Indeed a parent who was satisfied that their teenager had reached the pinnacle of moral and behavioral development -- such that they shouldn't be criticized when they make horribly wrong and even destructive choices as they sometimes do -- wouldn't be much of a parent at all. If anything, it would be they who demonstrated a kind of contempt for children; the kind that views them as incapable of better, as if they were too damaged or stunted to grow and to change. Like I said, I love my daughters. They are amazing 15 and (almost) 13-year olds. But if, at 25 and 23 (or even 16 and 14) they are the same people they are right now, then something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
The same is true (and should be recognized as such) when we criticize our country, or (since the nation's attention is focused on issues of police misconduct vis-a-vis people of color), law enforcement. To criticize one's nation or police, even harshly, for wrongdoing, is not to hate that country or its cops. Indeed, such rebuke implies a kind of love, truth be told; a love built on the belief that both can do better; that they can be better. If we didn't believe that, we wouldn't bother. We would just give up. And while some, like Dallas shooter, Micah Johnson, may have decided all cops are the enemy (or at least the white ones are) -- and that they are incapable of responsible interactions in black communities -- almost by definition the activists in the Black Lives Matter movement who have been in the streets demanding police accountability and reform, are not among those people. They are demanding change because their lives depend on it, and because they believe in the potentiality of a different society---a society built on justice, however hard it may be to bring that place into existence.
Even those within the movement -- and I would be one of them -- who believe in the need for substantial de-policing, and the creation of alternative forms of dispute resolution, still insist that whatever law enforcement remains, even in such a society as we desire, can be better than what we have now. We are not the cynical ones here. Cynicism is the voice of Rudy Giuliani. It is the voice of police unions that tell black people they can't expect better from cops until and unless black communities eradicate all vestiges of their own dysfunction, and that to demand otherwise from one's law enforcers is to desire those law enforcers dead. Which makes no more sense than to suggest calling out doctors for malpractice is but the first step towards assassinating surgeons, so blinded by a hatred of physicians must one be to demand that they do their jobs the right way.
To confuse criticism with hatred is to exalt silence and complicity and call it love. It is to counsel nonchalance in the face of incalculable pain, all for the sake of blind patriotism or hero worship. It is to make of citizenship a cult, within which no dissent can be allowed, even when that dissent is itself vital to the functioning of the society in which the citizen resides. It is to ignore the tumor even as it grows and to believe that our casual dismissal of its metastasis will render it benign. It is to believe that deference to authority is a secular sacrament, and that people of color should adopt amnesia as a positive cultural value, taking no notice of the long history within which authority has been precisely the source of their marginalization, their injury, and their death.
I have little regard for patriotism, so readily does it spill over to hyper-nationalism. But if there is any such thing as a positive version of it, then surely it must be the kind that says America can do better than to be a place where unarmed black men are seven times as likely to be killed by police as unarmed white men. If that's the best we can hope for then one is forced to wonder as to whether we deserve a country at all. And if that's the best we can hope for then it remains a very open question as to whether our children -- the ones we claim to love so dearly -- will return our positive regard once they become adults and inherit the mess we have left for them. One thing is for certain: even if we somehow manage to still deserve their love, we will have done very little to earn their respect. They will curse our memories, and we will have most certainly merited their disdain
Perhaps it's too easy.
Indeed, it might even be considered a waste of valuable energy to respond to the childlike ventilations of Tomi Lahren. Oh wait, you've never heard of Tomi Lahren? That's probably because the 23-year old host of her own show on Glenn Beck's Blaze Network is the host of her own show on Glenn Beck's Blaze Network, and as such is about as important to the national political dialogue as Glenn Beck. Which is to say that 2010 called and would like its relevance back.
That said, just because it might be a bit too effortless to address Lahren's most recent rant -- one in which she whitesplained racism to actor and activist Jesse Williams, in response to Williams's brilliant speech at the previous week's BET Awards -- doesn't mean it isn't a worthwhile endeavor. First, Lahren's videos (like the one where she demanded that Beyonce spend less time critiquing police misconduct and more time lecturing her husband, Jay-Z, about his past as a drug dealer) are watched and loved by millions of other white people. So even if you've never heard of her, and even if you find the nonsensical effluent that occasionally sprays from her lips anything but persuasive, rest assured that others have and do. She is an all-too-typical white archetype, given to feeding others exactly that for which they hunger. As such, responding to her insipid ruminations is about far more than Tomi Lahren alone. And besides, let's face it, sometimes, low-hanging fruit is all there is to pick, especially when it comes to white conservatives holding forth on the subject of race.
In any event, Lahren's sophomoric screed (no offense to actual sophomores) was so littered with putrescent bilge that one hardly knows where to begin. First, she took a gratuitous swipe at the BET Awards themselves, noting with a sense of only the most thinly-veiled disgust that they were "very black," and making sure to pose as a courageous truth-teller for having revealed this bombshell. As Lahren put it, conjuring that rare combination of implied victimhood and aspirational toughness that white reactionaries have nearly perfected: "Oh, but can I say that? What with my whiteness and all?" And then, naturally imagining a fascistic No! from the big bad black people who have all but eradicated free speech for whites like herself (putting aside her high-paying gig with Glenn Beck), she answers these imaginary but no doubt scary Afro-totalitarians by saying, in her best martyr voice, "Well, too damned bad.”
In other words, Tomi Lahren wants you to know that she is a real badass who is, a) not afraid to point out the blackness of the BET Awards (as if this divulgence might somehow be alarming to the participants or could perhaps manage to shame them) and, b) prepared to admonish those who would attend or even defend such a thing. Because let's be honest: even though she didn't say it, it is hardly a stretch to visualize the bilious thought bubble forming above her head as she spoke. You know the argument, having likely heard it made by a deranged uncle at Thanksgiving, or perhaps by Stacey Dash: "If we had a white entertainment network, they would call it racist!" Boo-yah! Bet ya never thought of that did you, black people?
Yes, of course, because we are apparently dealing with the world's oldest fifth grader, no offense to actual fifth graders.
Poor Tomi, likely incapable of grasping the obvious: namely, that we do have white entertainment networks; we have several in fact, and she works for one (however relegated to the fever swamps of the right-wing internet it might be). That we don't call them that -- even as they put forward mostly white images and shows that appeal to white people, and feature actors, producers, directors and spokespersons who are overwhelmingly white -- only suggests the power and taken-for-granted normativity of the white narrative. In other words, when your stuff is considered normal, you don't have to designate its racial origin or even comprehend that it has one. White literature isn't white, it's just literature. White art isn't white, it's just art. Only that which deviates from the norm gets racialized in the public imagination, even as the norm is every bit as racialized in reality.
Given her apparent incapacity to comprehend this most basic of truisms, one can only speculate as to the profundity of Tomi Lahren's next eureka moment. Perhaps she will soon regale us with her analysis as to why racial profiling is not racist, and marching around with posters showing President Obama as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose (as happened at many a Tea Party rally), is not racist, and calling most Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers is not racist, but Black History Month is. So too the NAACP, the section in the bookstore for African American history, and that shelf (however small it may be) for black hair care products at the CVS or Walgreens. There is no explicitly white hair care section after all!
After taking her swipe at blackness in the abstract, Lahren then pivoted to her real source of upset: Williams's powerful oration regarding the value of black lives and the need for continued struggle to secure those lives and the rights that make them worth living, And so, Lahren was incredulous at Williams's mentioning of Tamir Rice -- the 12-year old child killed by a Cleveland officer while playing with a toy gun two years earlier. For Lahren, mentioning the killing of Rice, who was shot by an officer previously found to be emotionally unfit for service in another community, proved Williams was "anti-police" (unlike, say, the white guys at the Bundy Ranch who pointed real weapons at law enforcement, lived to breathe another day, and were defended by the entirety of the right-wing) and part of the "war on cops" (which actually isn't happening, as the number of police feloniously killed on the job continues to fall to record lows).
Forget for a moment that Rice was playing with a toy gun just like white boys all over America do, without fearing they might be mistaken for 20-year old adults brandishing actual weapons (as happened in Rice's case).
Forget that Ohio is an open-carry state, in which Rice, had he actually been the 20-year old man police thought him at first to be, would have had every right to possess and display an actual weapon anyway.
Forget for a moment that the officer in question clearly lied about the incident, claiming to have issued multiple warnings to Rice to drop his "gun," before Rice pointed it at him, unaware that video evidence would demonstrate he hadn't the time to issue even one warning before opening fire, let alone several.
To propose that even a shooting as blatantly unjust as this was legitimate suggests that there is virtually nothing an officer could do to a black person and not receive a free pass from Tomi Lahren and her compatriots. Not Rice's killing, and not any of the horrific examples of brutality that preceded it within the same rogue police department. In mocking Williams's comments about unarmed black folks shot by police, she notes that even if their unarmed-ness is "literally accurate" (a concept sometimes referred to simply by its other name: true), it's not for "lack of trying," since some of those cases involve attempts by black men to reach for an officer's gun. How this fact has any relevance for Rice's case, or the others Williams mentioned -- in which no attempts to commandeer a weapon or harm an officer occurred -- Lahren leaves to the imagination. For her, if some black people have assaulted or tried to kill cops, then even those blacks who do no such thing will just have to understand when cops kill them, as will Jesse Williams. And to criticize the killing of black people, even when those black people are posing no threat to the officers (as with Rice, John Crawford III, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Amadou Diallo, Kathryn Johnston and others) means you must hate police. But rationalizing the death of black children, she would like you to know, most assuredly does not mean you hate black people. Just in case you might be so silly as to think it did.
When Williams notes in his speech that black folks will continue to demand their rights, Lahren becomes apoplectic. What rights, she inquires, do blacks not already have? In other words, those battles have been won, and if Jesse Williams and other black folks don't realize that, then they are obviously delusional, lacking the superior insight into the black condition possessed by the likes of Tomi Lahren. That Lahren fails to understand the difference between having rights in theory, and actually enjoying them in practice, speaks to her own lack of imagination as well as a blinkered understanding of history. After all, black folks had the right to equal protection of the law, at least in theory, right after the passage and ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868. Likewise, their right to vote was thought to be secured by the 15th Amendment from 1870 forward. But I suspect that even Lahren will allow that those rights, extant though they supposedly were, were not exactly enjoyed in practice by the nation's African American population. Surely they covered that whole Jim Crow thing, even in her South Dakota high school and at some point during her undergraduate experience at UNLV. Surely she can grasp that the civil rights movement was about getting the government to keep its promises. That she can't fathom the same government falling down on the job again and thus, requiring the continued pressure of activists to do the right thing -- even as she and other conservatives suggest the government is incompetent in virtually every other endeavor -- is stunning. Apparently, Lahren and her ilk would like you to think that the government does a fine job of securing rights for black people, even as it can't manage to do much else right.
As Lahren looks around, she sees a nation that has adequately vouchsafed equal rights and need not bother with doing anything more. The fact that black folks have been disproportionately subjected to unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policies in places like New York (policies that virtually every conservative in America has defended, despite their utter inability to uncover wrongdoing in about 90 percent of cases), fails to move her. Even the Office of the Inspector General of the NYPD now admits that the department's policies known as "broken windows policing" (cracking down on minor violations of the law in the hopes of deterring more serious offenses) not only had little if any impact on crime rates, but was disproportionately used against, and thus, negatively impacted communities of color. In other words, equal protection still isn't. But to Lahren, black folks have no business complaining.
That blacks continue to be arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated disproportionately for drugs, even though whites use, possess and deal illegal narcotics at roughly the same rates as African Americans, does nothing to inspire a rethink from Lahren when it comes to the rights black folks presumptively enjoy. Indeed, as many as 160,000 blacks are arrested each year for drug possession who wouldn't be -- and 160,000 whites are not arrested who would be -- if the nation's drug laws were enforced equally based on mere rates of violations. But to Lahren, such inequalities in enforcement of the law are but a trifle, hardly worthy of critique, let alone indignation.
So too, Lahren is undisturbed by the way in which even the right to vote is being attacked by those of her political persuasion, and in a way that would disproportionately impact people of color. To wit, states imposing photo ID requirements for voting, even though such policies are unnecessary to address an entirely fictional voter fraud problem, as there have only been 31 cases of in-person voter fraud in the last 15 years in the entire country.
Likewise, cutbacks in early voting which are calculated to suppress black turnout, as even many of these schemes' authors have readily conceded. Or literally targeting minority-majority precincts for closure altogether, and for the same vote-suppressing purpose. So even as her own side works diligently to endanger the rights of black people, and rationalizes the suppression of those rights by law enforcement and political officials, she denies that it's happening and accuses Williams (and really the vast majority of black people who agree with his position) of being irrational. Because it wouldn't be at all racist to believe such a thing as that!
Perhaps the most bizarre moment came next, when Lahren responded to Williams's insistence that those without a proven track record of critiquing anti-black oppression should stop criticizing those who are trying to make things better. In other words, don't critique the movement for liberation if you yourself haven't a history of being a part of that movement. As her head nearly rotated on its axis, Lahren reminded Williams that actually whites do have a history of speaking out against the oppression of black people. And then, as her only example she conjured the memory of whites who fought in the civil war to end enslavement. Oh and of course she made a point of noting that the people who fought to maintain slavery were Democrats, because naturally, political parties of the present are exactly the same as their namesakes from a century-and-a-half earlier, and Abraham Lincoln is more relevant to the modern Republican Party than Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, or, ya know, Donald Trump. The hubris of this position, wrapped as it is in irony and enveloped in a fine coat of mendacity is almost more staggering than the mind can take in.
First, Lahren's insistence that "our white ancestors" fought to free the ancestors of black Americans was delivered in such a way as to imply that she is still waiting on a thank you. So, the fact that millions of whites owned slaves or lived in slave-owning families, thereby benefiting from the arrangement, and millions more defended that system for generations doesn't matter in the present, or so white conservatives tell us; and blacks descended from those who were held as chattel are owed nothing. But the fact that some whites ultimately fought in the war that ended slavery matters a great deal, and those descended from said soldiers are owed something: namely the undying gratitude of Jesse Williams, and the right to therefore, by virtue of their ancestors' sacrifice, critique modern-day struggles for racial equity, even if they themselves have done nothing to advance those struggles. Of course, the fact that about ten percent of the Union military was comprised of black soldiers fighting for their own liberation -- and the fact that only a history of slave rebellion, resistance, and the black-led abolitionist movement ultimately forced the confrontation in the first place -- mean nothing to Lahren apparently. Blacks are free in her mind because white people decided to make it so.
Second, Lahren's argument contains the seeds of its own negation. She claims whites fought to end slavery, but by definition (and her own acknowledgment) half of whites did exactly the opposite. Those fighting for the confederacy were fighting to maintain that system, so at best the history of white people standing against black oppression is a decidedly mixed bag. Interestingly, and as a side note, Lahren apparently forgot the modern conservative narrative about the civil war and the Confederacy, which is that neither were really about slavery at all, but rather "state's rights." Which means that if the far-right of which Lahren is a part is correct (they aren't of course, but play along) the Union soldiers weren't fighting to end enslavement after all, and so now her one example of whites standing up against black oppression is out the window altogether. She had one job, and she blew it.
Third, really? When the best and only example you can come up with for whites doing the right thing by black people is over 150 years old, and even then only involves a small portion of white people anyway (those union soldiers who were fighting with the goal of abolition in mind), you might want to rethink the act of talking. If that is what you think constitutes a serious record of critiquing black people's oppression, you might want to look up the definitions of the words, "serious," "record" and "critique." Methinks the lady doth make Williams's point for him, and verily so.
Bottom line: most white people have never spoken up against anti-black racism. Most never raised their voice for abolition, or against segregation. Most never joined any movement for racial equality or justice. Indeed, more than a history of opposing black oppression, most whites have a history of denying that it was even happening. So, for instance, in 1963, far from joining the civil rights struggle, nearly two-thirds of whites told Gallup pollsters that black folks were already treated equally in America in regard to housing, jobs and schooling. And in 1962, nearly nine in ten whites insisted that black children had just as good a chance for a high quality education as white children did. In short, most whites not only failed to critique the oppression of black people; rather, most white people didn't even see that oppression as real and saw no need for the civil rights movement to even exist! In other words, Tomi Lahren is keeping with a long and ignoble tradition of white denial and utter cluelessness when it comes to race. There is no reason to suspect that she is any less deficient in her abilities of discernment than her predecessors.
The cluelessness then veers into the comically vile as Lahren comes to the end of her rant by asking Williams whether he feels like a victim, and whether black people in general do. Apparently, Lahren got Williams confused with white people like Abigail Fisher, the thoroughly mediocre white girl who claimed to have been a victim of "reverse discrimination" at the University of Texas. And this, even though the year she was rejected (supposedly on behalf of less qualified black and brown folks), there were 42 whites with lower grades and scores than her who got in, and only five people of color with lower grades and scores who did; and even though there were 168 black and Latino kids with grades and scores equal to or better than Fisher who also were rejected but didn't decide to sue like whiny-ass entitled brats as a result.
No, it isn't blacks who parade like victims; it's white people. And not just Abby Fisher, but white people more broadly, ignorantly claiming as we so often do to be the victims of dreaded "reverse racism," and taxes for black and brown welfare recipients, and brown-skinned immigrants, and minority scholarships and the Chinese government, and Muslims looking to impose Sharia on us, and Black Lives Matter activists, and President Obama for imposing a tax on tanning salons (obviously racist!) and even the attempt to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, which Rep. Steve King wants you to know is totally racist and victimizes a noble white guy like Andrew Jackson, whose own racism we should overlook of course.
Ultimately, Tomi Lahren is symptomatic of a larger white pathology that has long eaten away at the fabric of America. It is, as Carol Anderson puts it in her recent and brilliant book, the default position of white rage, which has welled up whenever black folks have asserted themselves, demanded equal treatment and justice, suggested that such things were lacking at that moment, and put forward an unapologetic, unbowed, unafraid blackness. How dare they insist that our perceptions are wrong, we proclaim. How dare they remind us of the broken promises and the empty platitudes.
When black folks asserted themselves during Reconstruction and fought for equal rights, white folks insisted everything was fine already: after all, we got rid of that slavery thing, so what more do you want? When black folks moved North in search of opportunity during the great migration, white southerners actively tried to block their exit with violence and legal chicanery, and white northerners attacked them in one after another racial pogrom. How dare they stand up for themselves and suggest that anything was wrong with the opportunity structure as it already existed! When black folks demanded an end to separate and unequal, white folks like my maternal grandmother just couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. After all, "everyone had always gotten along just fine before that Dr. King had to go and stir things up."
My grandmother was ignorant in the purest sense of the word, and while she should have known better, one can at least argue that at the time, her exposure to black reality was heavily circumscribed by limited media and the racial isolation she had always known. But for Tomi Lahren, who lives in the present era and has access to a little thing called Google, there can be no such excuse. Her ignorance is actively groomed and deliberately nurtured, as is the ignorance of large segments of white America. That Jesse Williams, not to mention the Black Lives Matter movement, have quite obviously disturbed their slumber -- our slumber -- is nothing if not necessary.
It is an axiom of modern American politics: whenever someone does something that you really don't like, they are to be immediately analogized to Hitler. Conversely, when someone does something you support quite a bit, you are to proclaim them the modern day incarnation of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Or at least Rosa Parks.
Thus, this week, conservative politicians and media talking heads have insisted that Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses because God, is no less a hero than Parks. She, like Parks, was arrested and thrown in jail for her beliefs, we are told. She, like Parks, is exercising her duty to disobey "unjust laws" (or in this case, an unjust Supreme Court ruling), we are told. She, like Parks, is practicing civil disobedience in the tradition of the civil rights movement. And like the stormtroopers of the SS, those who believe she should be required to treat all seeking a marriage license equally, without prejudice---or else resign if she cannot bring herself to do so---are apparently fascists. Fascists, for believing that discrimination is wrong and shouldn't be allowed on the part of government officials.
Any day now, to hear some like Davis's attorney, it will be Christians marching to the ovens, just like the Jews of Europe in days gone by. Of course. Because holding someone in contempt of court for refusing to comply with a lawful order to treat persons equally is exactly like murdering millions of people because you believe them to be a biological pollutant. At the very least it is surely an obvious precursor to such genocide.
(Follow beneath the no-doubt Satanic croissant for more)...
My reflections on the Thin Blue Lies being told by right wing media and police, to the effect that somehow Black Lives Matter and the larger struggle against police misconduct and violence are to blame when police are killed...lots of links and documentation, along with historical context. Please circulate...it might prove helpful to folks!
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