The Conversation We Need to Have on Race

Luther King Marches Like the post on war, this is a post I don’t write with joy. I write because sadly, it still needs to be said. But here I do not write in the anguish that I might hurt people I care about. I frankly don’t give a damn. For if you are hurt by what I say, then you damn well need to hurt because this shit has gone on quite long enough.

I don’t speak from some high mountain of arrogance, for I was raised in a racist environment where such things were taken for granted. I cast racial slurs as a child, mimicking the adults around me. No black face walked the halls of my high school or walked my neighborhoods let alone lived within it.

I was a child of the Civil Rights Movement, but surely not old enough to realize its importance at the time. Common sense, much touted as of late by a number of uneducated and thus defensive people I know, was not enough to show me or my friends and family that separating people by something so silly as skin color was stupid. It was not until I moved into the world and interacted with people of color that I realized the insanity of discrimination.

Later, I spent better than twenty years, living among, working with, loving, and befriending hundreds of people of color and  I saw all the more clearly how warped we become when we use such elements as divisions rather than celebrations of diversity.

We, in our days of college, when we sipped of the vine of how the world ought to be, and would be under our tutelage,  sincerely believed that all this would be behind us in the next generation, long gone by the 80’s, or at least by the 90’s.

There are a variety of reasons why this did not happen. Those who remained unexposed to integration through much of their adulthood did not move on to that better place. Much of it can be put at the feet of a misunderstanding of the role of truth and how it plays across the spectrum of the human psyche.

Those of us who are rational beings, driven by facts and rational conclusions think evidence, facts, and reasoned argument will carry the day. Truth changes mind we surmise.

But alas, it truly does not for a great portion of individuals. Study after study today shows that people in general, but most especially the conservative mind refuses to accept “facts” once their minds are made up. In fact, they become even more set in their error the more you present them with facts. They come up with all sorts of irrational reasons why they need not accept your data.  It is flawed (without explaining how), usually by being the product of “the liberal press”, a thing that in reality is hard to define, and harder to actually find.

When attacked for their intransigence, the bigot gets predictably defensive. Liberals are accused of “always playing the race card”. Worse, they attempt to adopt MLK as one of their own (he was a Republican they shout), but the ONLY phrase they know of all the things he said was the hope that someday little children would be “judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin.” This they fervently insist is what they do. It’s not their fault that most of “those black people” whether they be young black men in low-hanging jeans, or incarcerated young black men, or poor women paying with food-stamps just “happen” to have no good character.

They are blind to the racism they exhibit even honestly, to the degree that they now accuse liberals of being the racists. This comes from the usual cesspool of right-wing media efforts used to gin up their fear while at the same time sanctifying their hate. Suddenly the Democratic Party “uses” blacks for votes while keeping them enslaved. Presumably Democrats and liberals in general aren’t versed in the “tough love” that conservatives know needs be employed to force “these people” to stand up for themselves and take charge of their lives in the white American” way. There are always the black Toms willing to dance to the conservative tune in return for a pretence of acceptance and a moment in the spotlight.

Nobody, it is true, wishes to face their own irrational hatred. Conservatives can be forgiven in some sense for their failures, but that does not mean that we can stop pushing back against the insidious evil of their defenses.

America is still racist. And it may be that it will remain so for a good long time to come, until at least every vestige of “that’s the way those people are” is eradicated from the family conversation. When aunt Carole and grandpa George have finally died and their anecdotes have finally vanished from family memory, maybe we can get beyond this ugly impasse.

The nativism which strangles us today in the guise of a vocal and ugly minority who can’t stop railing against “illegals” will, with the turn of time and the grace of God, be stamped down once again and relegated to the dust bin as it should be. Immigrants, ALL illegals at one time, built this country into what it is today. We cannot escape ourselves no matter how much we run. Meanwhile, millions suffer from the ubiquitous “other” leveled at them in the guise of “illegal” and cantaloupe calves”.

Ferguson shows us white folks what black folks have always known. We are deeply racist, unconsciously and consciously so. We make jokes at the expense of people based solely on their color, though we quickly give excuses as to why it’s about something else. That in itself should alert us that we still are diseased.

The abuses of Ferguson are appalling. They “shock the conscience” as the Supreme Court once announced. Yet they are not news to African-Americans ANYWHERE in America. It is not shocking to many of us whites either, at least those of us who have close ties to minority groups and have experienced first hands the uneven-handedness of law enforcement vis-a-vis black and brown communities.

This racism which is still so rampant has lain dormant in the public mind for decades. In some real sense Obama’s presidency has brought these things to the forefront. The incessant clamor by some members of the hardest of Right wing apologists that Obama is not a “real” American, not like us, not American at all, but Kenyan, not a Christian, thereby raising a religious test the opposite of that which faced John F. Kennedy regarding concerns about his Catholicism, has ironically brought forth exactly what they did not want. People are talking about the elephant in the room again.

So in some sense, the ugly racism expressed by the Tea Party at their rallies with their placards, and the “jokes” discovered in emails of elected Republicans, has served to bring the issue back to the fore. People who from some insane sick place in their minds refer to the President of the United States as the “anti-Christ” and a “monkey” have reaped their own whirlwind.

They have done the fine job of reminding us who have become complacent, that indeed this is not a post-racial world at all.

When I hear people become indignant that this official or that one fails to tout American exceptionalism, I cringe. With a history such as ours, starting with the near genocide of our Native Peoples, where do we get this notion of being exceptional? America started out an amazing dream, yet we had already begun our destruction of Native Peoples before we  began. And we continued it and racism long after, flouting in some real sense the flowery language of Jefferson’s Declaration.  We may forgive Jefferson as a man of his time, for the “all men are created equal” not meaning either women or men of color, but we cannot forgive that that failure proceeded to this very day.

People who have to “blame” some “others” for their own failures in life, must get up the courage to face themselves and their racism. They must admit that they have and do judge people based on a physical reaction to the color of their skin. Judgements are made immediately about their value, their likely occupation, and a whole host of attributes which are then barriers that must be overcome before they consider them in any way, “equal.” And in most cases this equality doesn’t extend to welcoming “them” into their families as relatives, or close friends.

There is no scientific evidence that color has anything to do with intelligence. Racial distinctions are not scientific by any standard, but are political constructions made for reasons of discrimination. 

As much as it may pain you to alter your thinking, you must do it. Justice demands it. And decency demands it. God demands it. Stop the madness. HONOR SELMA!

DC Teaparty rally

DC Teaparty rally

racist-hang-in-there-obama

 

Obama is For Life-I’m for Death

groucho i'm against it So we can start off with the “this is much ado about nothing” which of course begs the question, “why bother?”

Cuz a girl’s gotta write since it’s my passion, and there is always the miniscule hope, (for we all know that it springs eternal) that some poor bastard out there who was “damn the President for dissin’ Christians” will awaken from the fog of dissonance and the clear bell of enlightenment will ring forth: “I was once stupid and now I am not.”

Such is at least my justification for this essay.

I just happened to be tuned in the other morning as the President gave the traditional speech at the National Prayer Meetin’ which is held annually in Washington where all the sinners come to pretend they are doin’ their very best to apply God’s law as they slip another check from Exxon-Mobile and JP Morgan, into their $3000 suits.

The President, as we all know, has pretty much given up on the idea that facts, and good logic will get him anywhere, and as of late has pursued a policy of “screw you, try to stop me” and a general “fuck you” to Congressional Republicans who are fresh off the latest round of “ain’t got no bootstraps with which to pay for healthcare? Well die, you dog, and make room for those who do.”

As every good American knows, there’s the guys in the black hats (bad) and the guys in the white hats (good) always near to the scene. America is built upon this scenario and we have all the cheesy old westerns to prove it. Let us introduce the latest and best entry into the black hats category. A group known as ISIS (not to be confused with an Egyptian god) or ISIL if you have a clue what Levant means.

ISIL is a slipshod group of thugs who claim a perverted understanding of Islam which they use to justify their attempts to take over the world. Since their threat is pretty much everywhere, that means just about everyone else gets to be the guys in the white hats, but Merika of course always has to lead, cuz we are the super, super white hats.

Anyway, if you hadn’t noticed, we have a fair share of Arab Muslims (and Arabs in general) who live in the US, and boy I sure wouldn’t want to be them, since Americans are flighty people who tend to assess blame against whole swaths of people since it’s just easier. We learned that from the movies too, where it’s often best to “shoot first and ask questions later.” Anyway, even the dumbest of President (that would be you Dubya) have realized that it’s really not a good idea to let the great stupid mobs of American whiteness carry on in this manner, and so they are always at pains of ‘splainin’ to the stupid white people that NOT ALL ARABS ARE MUSLIMS AND MORE IMPORTANT NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE KILLERS. In fact the huge majority are not, but are just peace-loving, family-seeking individuals like you and me.

Now Dubya can say nice things about Arab Muslims, and even hold hands with them, and nobody thinks a thing bad about it.  bush-holds-hands-11-9-10 He can even share a short peck and not even be thought particularly gay. Just good old American manners.

And he can say all kinds of nice things about Muslims to remind dumb American white people that it’s never a good idea to paint a brush too broad.

“Ambush-saudierica treasures the relationship we have with our many Muslim friends, and we respect the vibrant faith of Islam which inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality. This year, may Eid also be a time in which we recognize the values of progress, pluralism, and acceptance that bind us together as a Nation and a global community. By working together to advance mutual understanding, we point the way to a brighter future for all.” Presidential Message Eid al-Fitr December 5, 2002

But when President Obama reminds us that there are bad people in all religions historically who have done really bad things

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. . .So this is not unique to one group or one religion.  There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.  In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.

the hue and cry from the extreme right in this country rose like a phoenix, screaming that such utterly evil words had never been spoken in all of our democracy.  Former Governor of Virginia, Jim Gillmore was “outraged” having never heard a more terrible thing from the lips of a President. Santorum and Limbaugh chimed in with their mortification of Christianity today being compared to the unspeakable ISIS killers. And on it went, the rallying cry being “this is not a moral equivalency!!”

And it was not suggested as such either, if you read the text.

It was meant to remind everyone that while the killings by ISIS are horrific, we as humans have been doing horrific things to each other since the inception of so-called civilization, and a good deal of it has been veiled in perverted religious beliefs. People find it most convenient to put on the mask of religion to disguise their blatant lust for power and to express their hatred and fear. It has always been so. ISIS is no different in that respect than all the others. It is no more heinous, no more bloody certainly, and no more representative of the faith it espouses than any of the others were.

A few examples should suffice.

jesse-washington-lot13093-no.38 African-Americans in this country were often burned at the stake during slavery and Jim Crow. If you don’t think it was done in the name of Christianity, then read the words of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens:

[T]he first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society … With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so.

It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws.

The charred body of Jesse Washington pictured above was in 1905 in Waco. The deaths of countless other African-Americans during Jim Crow by lynching, by the KKK (which always has a “Christian” front), occured. George Wallace invoked the name of God dozens of times in his 1963 inaugural  address where he also famously uttered the words, “Segregation now. . .segregation tomorrow. . .segregation forever.” 

The extreme Right-Wingers will tell you that the Crusades were wars of defense. Yet the arguable owners of that land were Palestinians and Jews. Muslims lay claim based on Muhammad. Yet Christians have no real claim certainly any greater than Jews or Muslims. All claim the area as holy.  Yet when the first Crusade ended, the city of Jerusalem was cleared of all non-Christians, and by cleared I mean murdered. Jews who barricaded themselves in their synagogues were burned to death and survivors sold into slavery. All told the Crusades occurred over about 200 years, ending in 1291 or so.

When Saladin recaptured Jerusalem, only then were Jews allowed to return and live in relative freedom.  This was in 1187, nearly a hundred years later.

They claim that the Inquisition was “political” as if that means something.

In fact the Inquisition was instituted by Pope Innocent III and set up by Pope Gregory IX. Confessors to heresy were burned alive. In 1242 the Talmud was condemned and burnings of Jews began in France in 1288. The Inquisition was begun in Spain for fear of “secret Jews” and the Conversos (those that had converted at pain of death in the first place and were suspected of retaining their true Judaic beliefs). In Seville alone more than 700 Jews were burned to death. By the time it ended in 1808, nearly 32,000 died by fire.

And the Inquisition was not just in Spain and France. It spread to Portugal and then to New World colonies and throughout Asia as well. 

We need not but mention the Troubles in Ireland in which religion was the division between sides. Or that of India/Pakistan again, where religion affiliation defined the sides.

It is not that religion perverts human souls, but that some small sick group humans use religion to perpetrate their own evils upon the world.

President Obama, in the hopes of tamping down the ugly nativism that is so beginning to plague this nation with its ugly hate, attempted to remind us that we all have blood upon our hands. ISIS is but the latest in a long line of evil people doing evil things in the name of their perverted version of God.

** Let me recommend Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family which documents the shady and weird folks behind the National Prayer Breakfast.

**Also a great read is Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood which argues that religion has played  a lesser role in most violence historically, however much it may have been the cover story. I’ve not read this but I’ve read others of hers and she is a uniquely qualified religious scholar who is highly respected for her scholarship. She was once a nun herself.

 

 

 

Hold Your Prayers, God is Busy in the Southwest These Days

1913520_ME_MurrietaImmigrants_MJB_See, God is a little bit busy these days. If you hadn’t heard, a lot of children have been making their way to Merika these days, fleeing, you know, violence. Although nobody seems to talk much about that, the violence that is.

A vocal if hopefully small herd of mean people call them “illegals” and scream at the kids, telling them to “go back home”. Some have suggested that a well aimed firearm at the border might do the trick just fine, and no one of course should think they are meaning anything violent by that call to arms.

While not going quite this far, but *nudge nudge, wink wink* maybe they are, a couple of our pious types have ‘splained to us, the spiritually lacking, that this is all part of God’s plan. Brian Fischer, blasphemer-erradicator in charge of American values said thusly:

“Our southern border is there by God’s design. To disregard it, to treat it as if were not there, to regard it as something not worth respecting and defending, is an insult to the God who put it there for our benefit.”

Just forgettabout that “bring the little children unto me”. You missed the damn footnote: “unless they are from another country and *ick* brown or black, and are entering unto me illegally”.
 
Nodding in agreement is Texas *cough* Pastor Robert Jeffress who points out that God wants a fence between them and us, because, God was always clear about boundaries:
 
“Yes, Jesus loved children, but he also respected law. He said, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” Jeffress clarified for the faithful on Fox News. “So, we need to do both. Show compassion, but secure the borders.”
 
Just forgettabout that stuff in the early part of the bible, about welcoming the stranger and hospitality and so forth. All that, we know, is made irrelevant by Jesus, oh except for that little part about not suffering men who lay with men to live. And maybe that part about witches too. That might stay in too.
 
 
Just before leaving office, on Dec. 23, 2008, George W. Bush signed into law the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This bipartisan measure, named for a 19th century British abolitionist, was aimed at extending and beefing up efforts to prevent and prosecute human trafficking and protect the victims of trafficking.  More importantly, it described exactly how unaccompanied children crossing the border must be treated.
 
The crazies on the Right have of course ignored their own complicity in this legislation, and find it more profitable to insinuate that the President has in fact invited these kids from their violence-wracked homelands to America for some nefarious purpose:
 
I have to believe that when you don’t respond in any way that you are either inept or you have some ulterior motive of which you are functioning from,” Perry said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
 
Ricky (I can’t believe these glasses haven’t made me smart yet) Perry actually said that, although what the conspiracy is for or about, is beyond his meager brain power to discern.
 
Meanwhile, the Right continues to live in cognitive dissonance which prompted one comedienne to suggest that the children should paste the name “fetus” on their forehead. That sounds harsh, but these are the same people who are willing to go to extreme lengths, i.e., Hobby Lobby, to protect the rights of a “fertilized egg”. To turn children away who are fleeing violence and possible death in their own country, seems a interesting juxtaposition to say the least. 
 
To say nothing of our sanctimonious lip service paid to all those poor Syrian children who are living in makeshift tent cities all over the Middle East, having fled the murderous bombardments of Bashar Al-Assad. No finer example is John S. McCain and his wringing of hands at the “humanitarian tragedy” that is going on. Yet we hear nothing from the old fart when it comes to protecting these poor children arriving frightened and alone because their families believe that the trek to Merika is far safer than allowing them to remain at home.
 
 
“It would cost us very little to fly them back, as compared with the cost of taking care of them while they were here,” he said.
 
Mostly McCain has whined about not being allowed to take his cell phone with him in viewing the detainment camps in Arizona. His Senatorial rights, he claims trump these kids right to privacy. Change the policy, he bellowed.
 

We in America are again caught in that position we so often find ourselves in–telling the rest of the world how to behave, all the while doing the in-opposite at home. Another shaming moment in the US of A.

 

Whiffs and Tiddles of Flotsum on a Sea of Sandy Dreams

NMFlagWe  began to wonder the other day just exactly what this symbol on the flag of New Mexico stands for. As is often the case, there is a story behind the emblem which is interesting.

One thing leads to another and I became immersed in the history of this state.

As you may or may not know, New Mexico was settled first by Native peoples, mostly Navajo, Apache and Ute. It was claimed as part of the Spanish Empire. It was not named New Mexico after the country of Mexico, but by early Spanish Conquistadors who, coming north from Mexica (the Aztec Empire) thought to find gold there, and called it such meaning the New Aztec Empire. This was back in 1563, long before the English had entered upon the Eastern Coast of North America

Later, it was claimed by the new country of Mexico, in the 1860’s, then a US territory, and finally a state in 1912.

Wheeler_Pk_from_Valle_VidalOur state has the highest percentage of Hispanics of any state in the Union, and the second highest native population.

All of this bears intimately on our flag.

The colors red and yellow are in honor of Queen Isabella of Castile, the colors brought to this continent by the conquistadors. The symbol in the center is a sun symbol, and relates to the Zia pueblo where such insignias were found on pottery by archeologists.

It’s rays reaching out in four directions refer to the four directions on the compass, the four seasons of the year, by the four divisions of the 24-hour day, sunrise, noon, evening, night, and in the four seasons of life,  childhood, youth, adulthood and old age.

The Zia believed that life contained four obligations:

  1. The development of a strong body,
  2. The development of a strong mind.
  3. The development of a pure spirit.
  4. The devotion to family and people.

Rio_Grande_Gorge_BridgeThe pledge to the flag of New Mexico is telling of how we are as a people here:

“I salute the flag of the state of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.”

“Saludo la bandera del estado de Nuevo Mejico, el simbolo zia de amistad perfecta, entre culturas unidas.”

You see, of all of the American Southwest, only New Mexico was not found to be “valuable” from an Anglo point of view. Thus New Mexico escaped much of the animosity and warring that occurred as Anglos sought to take away lands from Hispanics who had held these lands for generations in places like California, Arizona and Texas.

We have always been a place where a melding of cultures has been accepted as being right and proper. While not officially bilingual, the state did adopt the English Plus approach which encourages the teaching of other languages. A Navajo textbook is used in the state. Jurors are not disqualified by speaking Spanish only.

Shiprock.snodgrass3While border problems have not been unknown historically, it is seldom if never that one reads of any problem in the local Las Cruces newspaper or hears about problems on the local news. Being only 40 miles from the border, surely we would be hearing about it if such issues were occurring regularly.

Given that the two cultures are so incredibly intertwined and have been for ever, I think the average New Mexican looks upon all the craziness of places like Alabama and Iowa and their screaming about “border security” with a bit of bemusement and no little anger.

Well, enough of that. This is not a history lesson on the State of New Mexico. It’s just interesting to see how one similarly-placed state sees the whole issue of amnesty and immigration in an entirely different way than do significant portions of the Republican party at least.

I’d sure like to hear about interesting factoids about your state or country. Please do tell.

On the other hand, we’ve decided we are through with most media news. We started with ABC, gave up in disgust, went to NBC, then CBS and then remained with PBS. Now we are through with it too. For some reason journalists think their job is to “give both sides” and leave it at that. No investigation as to undeniable facts, no push back on broad but unsupported allegations, just a nod and on to the next question on the list.

The trouble is, we are living in a time of stark differences. There are not often “two sides” rather there is a side supported by evidence and a side supported by wishful thinking. Some of this permeates both sides of the spectrum of left-right, but more often than not, the wild-eyed incredulous nonsense emanates from one side only.

Fox has successfully ranted about the “liberal” media (which is not supported by facts) and the mainstream media has out of fear of the label, decided the best course is to simply let both sides spout as they wish. Yes the mainstream media is probably composed of more liberals than conservatives, but it remains the case that the overarching ownership of most mainstream media remains in corporate hands who by and large are essentially conservative. The fact is that the journalism (if you can call it that) is not at liberty to do as they wish, but are supervised by larger corporate interests.

So the mainstream has caved to a charge not born out, and is essentially worthless in my opinion. To the vast majority of citizens, giving them both sides is akin to giving them nothing at all. They are not, like myself and those who are passionate, going to investigate and research to find if one side is vastly better in truth-telling than the other. So they do whatever they do in choosing between what they see as two  equal sides. This is what you hear when people claim that the “entire Congress” is useless. They see both sides the same.

So, we have moved to BBC-America, which gives no more than one item on the US and the rest international. Since we don’t get Al Jazeerra in our cable package, this is the best we can do. Frankly both the Contrarian and I read all the national news over the Internet already, so we aren’t missing much.

Oh, and if anybody has forsworn cable in favor of other options, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, please do tell. We lost ABC for 3 weeks over some dispute, picked up our favorite shows online, and with a cable moved them to our TV, so we got the idea we might be able to find almost all of what we watch and save a bundle. Most prices for non-cable are around $80 a year vs. $80/month for a barebones cable package. Weigh in on any info you can offer please.

That’s it for me today. Happy Boo day.

 

 

The End is Not in Sight Yet

blog-march-on-washingtonIt has been a momentous week in Washington. That’s saying something, given the gridlock that is the norm there.

If you are not old enough to remember the March on Washington in 1963, well, there was plenty of history to learn from last weekend onward. I was thirteen at the time, so I was aware, though surely not the way I am now.

PBS did a great job, giving us the “music of the March” followed by a great little history lesson of the organization and the organizers, followed by an informative look at Whitney Young, one of the major players who was neglected by the later power players as a “tom”, although nothing could be further from the truth.

Wednesday of course offered us the original speech and those of many others, along with the President’s.

One should not avoid the other “issues” of the March. Women, many of whom had significant jobs in the March organization, were shoved to the back, kept off podiums, and marginalized. (There is probably a whole psychology that could be explored here.) Bayard Ruskin was a major organizer of the march, yet he was completely marginalized given his avowed Communist beliefs and his open homosexuality.

Yet, given that, it was a monumental undertaking and a phenomenal success. It turned the tide of public opinion, and put politicians in a box from which they could not escape. They tried to, to be sure, but after the Kennedy assassination, it was like a deck of cards had collapsed, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 65, followed quickly.

I wonder how our Republican brothers and sisters viewed the events of the past week. It is unquestioned that they have done all they can to co-opt Martin Luther King, Jr. as their own, calling him a Republican, and announcing or rather pontificating that he would be opposed to much “liberal” legislation.

If I hear, “I believe like MLK did, that you shouldn’t judge a person by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” one more time,  I shall vomit. This is always in connection to some anti-African-American statement. Whether it be to vilify another Black actor for “playing the race card” (speaking up for justice for Blacks in whatever venue it is absent), or vilifying anyone who dares defend the “unfair” practice of affirmative action, a quick reference to MLK seems sufficient to establish one’s bona fides as a “non-racist.”

Of course their take on Dr. King is anything but correct. There is no evidence that King was a Republican, and his words suggest that he was a member of neither party. He considered the 1964 Republican platform to be racist, and actively campaigned against Goldwater. He thought little of Ronald Reagan.

What the uber Right refuses to remember is that King was murdered while in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers. These workers were union men. King spoke out again and again against the economic inequalities that existed and favored redistribution of wealth. He was no fan of capitalism as it existed denying workers reasonable compensation for their work.

At least two of his closest aides had ties to the Communist party. One was an avowed gay man. These are not the signs of a TEA Party wannabe surely. People like Alan Keyes, Allen West, Herman Cain and Clarence Thomas would not have been in his camp, now would he have remained silent to their kowtowing to the white conservative element.

The usual lies about this week were rolled out by the usual players. Billo the Clown O’Reilly blatantly said that Republicans were denied a part in the festivities. This was not even remotely true. Both Bushes were invited, as were Boehner and Cantor. All declined for various reasons.

Such is to be expected of Fox of course, which routinely spouts lies, knowing that a minority of Americans watch them to the exclusion of all else, and will continue in their neighborhoods and blogs, and Facebook walls, to convey the lie to even more unknowing, unthinking individuals. With that Fox’s job is done–the lie will become “truth” to a minority of ignorant-loving TeaBirchers.

Meanwhile, nothing much changes. Fox and other crazy sites will continue to pretend that the Australian athlete who was gunned down, was killed by a couple of “black kids” when in fact there were three, and one was white. They will continue to bellow “why has the President not expressed his outrage?” when of course the two situations (this and the Trayvon Martin case) are in no way linked. Police in Oklahoma have stated again and again that race played no part in the shooting.

But something has indeed changed. John Lewis reminds us that voting rights continue to be a challenge, given that Republican-held state legislatures across the land pass law after law that limits the right to vote–of only those who typically vote Democratic. They are quite blatant in their explanations. There is no racial motivation they proclaim, but only political motives! They thumb their noses at us, claiming that they “have every right to make it hard for their opponents to vote”. Nothing illegal in that.

If voting is our most precious right, then people of color, seniors, students, and all those who threaten to power base of the modern Republican party, will rally to the cause. We will not stand still for this. And the modern NAACP and other battle-savvy warriors in the equality battle will lead us. They are rejuvenated by the behavior of the white power players. As Colin Powell said, this plan will surely backfire on the party. We mean to see that it does.

Dr. King would be proud of not where we are today, for we have much yet to do, but he would be proud of our determination to “let freedom ring”. We will get to the mountain top Dr. King, we will.

Sins of the Fathers

racismMany years ago I was sitting in a college cafeteria at a table with an older woman who I shared a class with. She was German, and a good twenty years my senior. She had come to this country some years after the end of the war.

I asked her what it had been like living in Germany during the war years under Hitler. She responded, “we knew nothing of any of that political stuff. We were merely trying to survive, spending our days looking for food.” She changed the subject.

Little did I know in my naiveté that this was the “answer” all Germans who lived in Germany during the war years would automatically reply with. It was the mantra of “I didn’t know about all that awful stuff done to the Jews. Don’t blame me.”

Why do I bring up this story in a post about racism? Because we are still in our own mantras regarding race in America, at least some of us are.

If you talk to people on the far right,  what was once denoted as the “moral majority”, and today is surely the Tea Party, more or less, you almost invariably get this: “There is no racism in America today. Everyone has equal rights under the law. I have never personally done anything to a black person. That’s behind us. I don’t have any share of what was done ‘back then’. The only reason black people keep bringing it up is because they want to get something for free. I judge a person by the content of their character like King said we should. He was a REPUBLICAN too, or did you forget that? And it was Republicans who freed the slaves. It was the DEMOCRATS who didn’t want civil rights.”

My, such a collection of truths, half-truths and outright lies.

Racism is just not the province of those who did the actual acts that we judge as evil. And that brings us to Germany and what we can learn from a country that has intimately struggled with the evils of Nazism and all that that entailed. Germany has had to come to grips with those that bear the burden of actual guilt–Nazi and Nazi sympathizers–plus the millions who chose to look the other way, and pretend that they “didn’t know.”

Germany has had to work through the difference between actual guilt and responsibility. And it continues, no doubt to struggle. It has passed through the stages of children who must face and confront their parents and elders direct guilt, and how that impacts them as the next generation. The next generation must then confront how well that was attended to, what more and how to structure the country going forward.

Certain elements (the far right) wish to avoid all that. To be sure, it is in large part not motivated by an intellectual determination that “that was not my fault”. It is, I would argue, more motivated by the desire to eliminate all sorts of programs that they imagine costs them tax monies. It certainly motivates their desire to eliminate affirmative action which they see as impinging upon their ability to get the plum jobs that would otherwise come their way were it not for the “less qualified black” that steps in front of them, demanding the job to “atone for the past”.

That is as they see it, or choose to see it. Affirmative action is quite something else, but that’s another story.

There is a certain irony in their argument that guilt dies with the operative generation. Given that most of them are card-carrying members of the fundamentalist religious right as well, it is ironic indeed. If indeed the bible is the ACTUAL word of God, then of course, they seem to have neglected those times when “God” told them that the sins of the fathers would be visited upon up to the third or fourth generation. (If you propose that that all ended with Jesus, who fulfilled the “old testament”, then perchance you can quit citing Leviticus for the proposition that God hates gays!)

Manzanar-Neighborhood_blogThere is in fact a thing called “collective responsibility” and it is something not so easily swept away with cries of “not my problem.”

If we are Americans and that means something, then surely our responsibility for wrongs done in the past that have proven to have a lasting impact on a great number of others, does not end and did not end with those who wielded the whips, raped the house servants, denied the vote, and threw the hangman’s noose over the tree.

And we, or they (the hard right) do think that being American means something. They dare not deny that as they scream about how exceptional we are, and how God is specially favored toward us as that beacon on the hill. No you can’t have it both ways here. In for a penny, in for a pound.

To say that everyone has equal rights, is a nice legalistic phrase, holding almost no truth of course. Not when a Rand Paul, championing his white, right-wing version of libertarianism says he’s not quite sure that the individual business owner doesn’t have the right to serve whom he pleases, meaning that all those diner sit-ins would have been illegal in his world.

What exactly constitutes discharging one’s responsibilities for the past is of course the rub. We can and should argue about that. Germany certainly has. But Germany, lo these many years later, erected the Holocaust memorial, smack dab in the center of the city, reminding every one of what responsibility means.

200px-Holocaust_memorial_treeMore inspiring may be the “Stumbling stones” placed in towns and cities throughout Germany by the artist Gunter Demning. These paving stones, with the names and dates of deportation of Jews, placed in the pavement in front of the places they lived, are stark, and gut-wrenching.

220px-Stolpersteine_Frankfurter_Allee,_BerlinDo we have anything comparable to this in the US to remind us of our past? Toward the slaves? Toward the Native Americans, victimized by white genocide? Toward the Japanese?

Our list might indeed by very long.

Does a watching of the TV-movie mini-series Roots, amount to a proper “confrontation” with our past?

It seems accurate to conclude that we avoid really confronting our past in the ways that might lead to deep reflection, and thus result in actions that might be aimed at insuring that such never happens again.

Philosopher Stanley Clavell tells us:

if we are to acknowledge, and not merely know, the extent of our nation’s crimes, some degree of traumatisation must take place. Facts are insufficient, and numbers often make them worse.

We wish to “move on”. We wish to bury our heads in “it wasn’t me” mentality, because it conflicts with our current agenda. It’s not “productive” we are told. Ironically, the mere mention of race by our very own president, elicits cries of “I hate him because he has divided us by race”.  How acutely warped a remark, let alone the idea that someone actually believes it. It is testimony to the fact that deeply imbedded within the psyche of so many remains such seeded “other” hatred, that a African-American man cannot mention the word race without screams  of “cease and desist” and worse, “he’s only half-black”. What that means is almost too frightening to imagine, and not a single person who has said it that I have confronted has been willing to tell me what they mean by that.

We are and remain a deeply racist society. That discomfort for many, and outright hatred by some extends to all the “not white” among us, whether they be Native American, Hispanic, Black, Asian. It extends to gays, and yes, still women who have the temerity to stand up and demand the right to determine their own physical future. To deny it is merely to announce something ugly within yourself.

0602_teapartywhite historyDo read History and Guilt in Aeon. This site is simply amazing. Some of the best articles I’ve seen in a long while. If you read it you will see how much I drew from this for this post. Read it!

Dismantling My Racist Car, One Rust Spot at a Time

rust-to-dustThat’s how I see my own journey of eradicating racism within myself.

Me? A racist? Me who rails against the bigots of the world, admitting that I too have my racist moments?

Sure I do. We all do. No matter how we deny it, we all do. We are the product of our genes, and our experiences. Nobody is raised by a racist, in a racist environment who isn’t spattered by the mud my friend.

Sure, I’ve wiped off all the mud I can see, but what about that which I can’t? You know, the spot on the back of my knee, or in the small of the back?

That’s why I continue to twist and turn with mirror in hand trying to view my body from all points, searching out but another unexpected spot to furiously remove.

This Trayvon thing has started a dialogue again about race and you can be sure that some awful things are being said. The Right continues to profess that we live in a “post-racial” world and that “everyone has equal opportunity and has for decades.” African-American voices continue to remind us that they are still having “the talk” with their sons about how to get along with white authority to avoid a bullet in the back. There is obviously a bit of disconnect here.

The hard Right is most assuredly wrong. Racism is not a thing of the past. And I’m not sure they even mean that. I think they really mean that as long as the “official” system is not racist in doling out whatever largess it possesses, then that is the end of things. People are going to be people and what they believe is really of no business to anybody. Randy Paul seems to be of this persuasion as he so clearly announced some time ago when he suggested that he wasn’t quite sure that it was right to tell a business owner who he could serve. In other words, the diner sit-ins were wrong, as were a good portion of the civil rights bills of the 60’s.

That seems to be the crux of it for the Tea People types. Institutional racism is wrong, but personal racism is really nobody’s business.

Except that isn’t a very darn good way to move along as a society I don’t think.

Tea Folk amuse me mostly. They are decidedly ignorant to a greater degree than a goodly portion of the rest of the politically aware. I’m not sure they are really against institutional racism at all but they know it’s impolitic to say so. They stand up their cardboard cut out of Martin Luther King and use him as their standard-bearer, “judge not by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character.” Except it seems that most Tea Folk find the character of most Black folk, well, questionable would be a kind word.

“The race-baiting industry saw an opportunity to further the racist careers of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, et al, who then swept down on the Florida community refusing to admit that the 17-year-old dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe Trayvon Martin was at all responsible for his bad decisions and standard modus operendi of always taking the violent route,” wrote Nugent. (Ted Nugent writing in Rare)

Add to this their adherence to the likes of Allen West, Alan Keyes, Herman Cain, E. W. Jackson,  Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson et al. These famous Black Republicans are clung to by the Reactionary Right as their proof positive that they aren’t racist. These fine gentlemen are sure to please for they never play the race card, that euphemistic term for anyone Black who dares to suggest that racial profiling had anything to do with anything.The likes of the above never do that. Instead they nod vigorously that they got where they are by hard work and hard work alone, and that all African-Americans (oops, insert Black, cause the Tea Folk don’t like that term African-American) can too if they just try. All those Black folks for vote Democratic they wisely agree, only do so because they remain “plantation” Negroes, all the while they put on the best show imaginable of the Uncle Tom shuffle.
It’s not just African-Americans of course. Hispanics fall into this wonderful category too. Phyllis Schafly is among the growing number of right-wing nuts who are arguing that there is no point to trying to appeal to the Hispanic crowd because, after all, “they don’t share our American values” anyway.
These are not racist remarks they tell us, but simply facts, as if by so defining them, the statements become the truth they so urgently need them to be. For white people the supposed reward is lower taxes. I guess. I mean they are so adamant that there is NO MORE RACISM, that that can only be the reason, that and the fact that Junior can’t get into Podunk U because of the “quota system that let’s them in when they aren’t even qualified.”
My assumption is that without the qualifier of “racism” the Hard Right can argue more comfortably that people should starve to death, carry their cancer-ridden bodies to the nearest gutter to die in, and live out in tents behind the county dump, because to fund the poor is just “enabling”. It all becomes more easy to suggest that people are just lazy if they aren’t the victim of overt racism right?
“>One might need a panel of psychiatrists to plumb the depths of self-loathing and or selfish opportunism that drives the likes of an Allen West, but we know they are doing “well” in their chosen job of protecting the racism of the Crazy Right. They are no better than the aging Black judge I practiced in front of who calmly and with genteel perfect syntax ordered the young black men who came before her to prison sentences that effectively gutted their lives. “Miss Judge,” they would moan, “I can’t do no fifty years!” She would smile softly through her perfectly lipsticked mouth and utter in a soothing voice, “well, do the best you can” as her deputies hauled away the teenager befuddled by what has befallen him.
Indeed Ted Nugent has similar sage advice to African-Americans:

“racism against blacks was gone by the time I started touring the nation in the late [19]60s” and by the 1970s, “nothing of consequence existed to deter or compromise a black American’s dream if they got an alarm clock, if they set it, if they took good care of themselves, they remained clean and sober, if they spoke clearly, and they demanded excellence of themselves and provided excellence to their employers.”

In other words, ACT WHITE! We expect such drivel from the likes of a Ted Nugent. We expect more from the likes of a Ben Carson.

Those of us who think of ourselves as “not racist” aren’t overtly, yet we are still the product as I said of a life time of experiences. Only those who are from other ethnic groups can tell us when we stray into the area of “assuming that all of them” think or act that way. We bump up against our assumptions about how we think people should behave or think all the time. And we don’t always realize that it is stereotypical at times. How many times have I had the benefit of well-meaning friends who have quietly taken me aside and told me that I’m making an assumption about them that isn’t necessarily true.

And I honestly didn’t know, much as I sometimes hear white folks say things that I now know are racially coded that I’m very sure they don’t.

We’re all on a learning curve.

And therefore it is right and good and essential that African-Americans keep pointing those things out to us at every juncture, when we speak based upon an assumption about them. They aren’t playing a race card, they are helping us to see  the world a bit clearer. If we want to truly eradicate racism in this country and in this world, we have to first be AWARE that what we think or say is objectionable and why.

Trayvon Martin has given us a legacy, one that allows us to see ourselves anew as well as how we relate to the greater world around us. For a young man, he has had a big impact on the world. We can be grateful for that.

You might want to visit this site: www.theracecardproject.com They are doing a thing where they ask people to state their views on race in six words. It’s rather wonderful. Do visit.