. . . indifference is a militant thing. It batters down the walls and murders the women and children amid the flames and the purloining of altar vessels. When it goes away it leaves smoking ruins, where lie citizens bayonetted through the throat. It is not a children’s pastime like mere highway robbery. ~ Stephen Crane
During Ron Paul’s run for president, Matt Stannard wrote an article that expressed his shock and dismay over the fact that “progressives” were blowing off Paul’s history of, if not racism, then racism enabling. Since this didn’t seem to bother said “progressives,” Stannard proceeded to try to shock them out of their complacency by substituting the word “pedophilia” for the word “racism” in a history of Paul’s political past. Said “progressives” were (excuse the expression) a-Paul-ed. How could he, they asked, compare racism to child rape?!!
Well, you can’t. The word “racism,” like the word “molestation,” or “pedophilia,” is a concept, an abstract, not really a discrete and graphic, concrete action. Molestation/pedophilia can mean anything from lewd suggestions to improper touching over clothing to groping underneath clothing to child rape. Racism also manifests as a wide variety of acts, from name calling, to spitting on a congressman, to refusing to hire someone because of the color of her skin, to torture, lynching and burning alive.
One cannot properly compare an abstract concept like racism to a concrete example of molestation like child rape. That is, in effect, comparing the rotten apples and moldering oranges at the bottom of the barrel of human depravity.
To illustrate the equality of egregiousness of these two evils, one must use parallel construction (Thank your English teacher!) and compare a concrete to a concrete, not an abstract to a concrete. Child rape is a pretty graphic example of a concrete action encompassed by the word “molestation” or the word “pedophilia.” To properly compare the graphic representation of either of those words to racism, we need an unvarnished, concrete example of the word “racism.” Let’s peel off the genteel veneer of abstraction with a few graphic, concrete examples. Yes. Let’s.
Twenty-year-old Mary Turner had the audacity to object to her husband’s lynching. She stepped out of her “place” in the Jim Crow world of 1918 Brooks County, Georgia and publicly threatened to swear out warrants for her husband’s murderers. Local papers deemed those “unwise remarks,” and Mary – and her baby – paid for them with their lives.
On May 19, 1918, an enraged white mob caught Mary, then eight months pregnant, tied her ankles together, and hung her – upside down – from a tree. They doused Mary with gasoline and set her on fire. When her clothes had burned off, one of the “revelers” stepped from the mob and slashed open Mary’s stomach. She was still alive when her baby fell to the ground and was stomped – over and over and over – into a pulp. Then the assembled mob riddled Mary’s body with bullets.
The Tulsa “white riot” of 1921 was an 18 hour massacre of the black citizens of Tulsa’s Greenwood district. Greenwood was home to many black-owned businesses. Many of its people were professionals. Many owned their own homes. There was a hospital, and several movie theaters and banks, all built in the 67 years after emancipation. It was so successful it was known as “Black Wall Street.” But in 1921, Tulsa was also a major Ku Klux Klan center, and whites reacted violently to this success. They formed
“whipping parties” and randomly assaulted blacks almost daily.
Considered the worst race “riot” in U.S. history, the attack was led by deputized white mobs, the Ku Klux Klan and government officials. The usual excuse was trotted out. A white woman’s “virtue” had been violated. However, it seems that Dick Rowland, a black shoeshine boy, was in a busy elevator on the way to the top floor of a building where the only “black” bathroom was located, and most likely stumbled into the white, female elevator operator. He was arrested, and a white mob assembled outside the jail where he was being held.
The black men of Greenwood, some of them WWI vets, armed themselves and went to help the sheriff prevent the mob’s taking Rowland from the jail. As a white man tried to disarm a black man, a shot was fired. Both groups opened fire, and since the blacks were vastly outnumbered, they retreated to Greenwood.
What followed was a foreshadowing of Kristallnacht. In the middle of the night, after several drive-by shootings, whites invaded Greenwood. They broke into and looted homes and stores. The neighborhood was fired-bombed from airplanes and burned to the ground by the torch-bearing mob. Black residents were machine-gunned, and killed in their own homes, as well as in the streets, as they tried to escape. Some of them were thrown back into the flames.
The final act in this “white riot” was a National Guard assault on the Mount Zion Baptist Church. The guardsmen used a heavy machine gun to demolish the building, then rounded up the survivors and kept them like criminals at Convention Hall, reminiscent of Katrina. The survivors were then driven out of town, destitute, as their homes and property were stolen by the white population.
The Red Cross estimated that almost 300 black people died, nearly 1200 businesses and homes were burned to the ground, and another 300 looted. Some 40 city blocks were completely destroyed. No one was ever held responsible for this racist pogrom.
The dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. in 1998 is one of the most reprehensible hate crimes in recent memory. After offering Byrd a ride home, three young white men drove him to a secluded area of town, beat him senseless, spray painted his face black and urinated on him. Then they chained his ankles to the back of their truck and proceeded to drag him for three miles. Byrd was alive and conscious for most of this torture. His skin was ripped off, his elbows shattered and his bones broken. His head ripped off when it hit a culvert. His right arm was also torn off.
The three men dumped what was left of Byrd’s torso in front of a black church for its congregation to discover. Police found pieces of Byrd in 81 places along the route over which the three men had dragged him to death.
In February of 2012, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year old Miami student, was visiting his father in Sanford, Florida. On the night of the 26th, he was watching the NBA All-star game at The Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated community in Sanford. He left to pick up Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles at a nearby 7-Eleven. As he was walking back, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch member patrolling in his SUV, spotted Martin in a place Zimmerman decided he didn’t “belong.”
Zimmerman began following Martin, called 911 and reported him as “a real suspicious guy.” During his four minute and seven second call, Zimmerman tells the dispatcher Martin is “a black male,” “up to no good,” “looking at all the houses.” As Zimmerman was trying to explain where he was, he said “He’s got something in his hand. These assholes always get away. Fucking punks.”
The sounds on the 911 tape indicate that Zimmerman got out of his SUV to pursue Martin. At this point, the dispatcher asks, “Are you following him?” “Yep,” Zimmerman answered. “Okay, we don’t need you to do that.”
Zimmerman disregarded the dispatcher and continued his pursuit. In just a few minutes, according to 911 calls from the neighborhood, Zimmerman and Martin were on the ground, wrestling. One of them was screaming for help. A shot was fired and Martin lay dead. By just walking down the street, Martin, in Zimmerman’s estimation, had, like Mary Turner, stepped out of his “place.” That constituted grounds for Zimmerman to follow and question him in the dark of night, just in case he’d committed a crime – or was thinking about it.
The vast majority of Trayvon-bashing stems from the belief that he was a “thug,” so Zimmerman was right to follow him – and shoot him. But all Zimmerman knew was that Martin was a young black male wearing a hooded shirt, walking where Zimmerman had decided he didn’t “belong.” And when Zimmerman chased him down, he didn’t immediately submit to the stranger following him around the neighborhood in the dark. Who could say Martin didn’t fear for his life? Apparently Martin hand no right to stand his ground.
Another unarmed 17-year-old, Jordan Davis, was executed in the back seat of an SUV in Jacksonville, Florida about eight months after Trayvon Martin was killed. His crime? Playing rap music louder than his assailant, Michael Dunn, thought proper. When Dunn pulled up beside him in the parking lot of a gas station, he punished Davis by shooting him at least eight times.
Dunn plans to use Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law as his defense. In other words, “…having rap music too loud for the guy who drives up beside you in the parking lot is an even worse offense than walking home in the rain with Skittles and iced tea while Black…”
Is it possible that any of these victims of the concrete expression of racism experienced any less horror and pain as they were being tortured or losing their lives than a child who is being raped? How could one be less egregious than the other, since they both lie at the bottom of the barrel of human depravity?
Amid the escalating racial tensions of these first few years of the 21st century, we would do well to recollect that the same virulent and misplaced anger in the first half of the 20th century is well-documented. The photographic evidence is on display in works such as James Allen’s “Without Sanctuary.” Allen’s book, and the website contain, perhaps, a hundred postcards and photographs. (Got there if you think you can stomach the truth.) These present American citizens, mostly minorities, in the process or the aftermath of being lynched by their white, fellow American citizens. The dangling and burned corpses are surrounded by smiling onlookers. And these murders weren’t just murders. They were often sanctioned murders.
On average two African Americans per week were lynched in the U.S. between 1880 and 1920. Newspapers printed advance notices and railroad companies sold tickets to lynchings. It was a time for celebration and family picnics, to which white parents brought their children to watch the torture and the murders. Some white participants posed proudly for pictures with the hanged and burned corpses, which were made into postcards like the ones in Allen’s book. There were also body parts as souvenirs for all. Rarely have we been presented with such an obvious and unambiguous preview of the direction in which we seem to be pushing history, or such a stark opportunity to glimpse our own spectacular indifference not only to civil rights, but the right to life itself. And as Americans’ lives become more and more unequal on either side of the economic abyss, we need to take a closer and closer look into that rearview mirror. And so to excuse the tacit, or overt, condoning of racism as a concept, also condones the concrete actions of the torture and murder of Mary Turner and her baby, the mass murder in Tulsa in 1921, the dragging to death and dismembering of James Byrd, Jr., and the the cold-blooded killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two unarmed 17-year-olds. You do the math.
But Richard Cohen’s Washington Post column of 7/17/13 insists there are perfectly reasonable reasons for such lynchings – and that’s what these were. Cohen wrote:
I don’t like what George Zimmerman did, and I hate that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I can also understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize. I don’t know whether Zimmerman is a racist. But I’m tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that, for recognizing the reality of urban crime in the United States, I am a racist. The hoodie blinds them as much as it did Zimmerman.
Geraldo Rivera, incidentally, thinks “the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”
Alex Parene of Salon writes that
To call a hoodie part of a (universally recognized) uniform of Dangerous Black Thuggishness makes about as much sense as invoking high tops or baseball caps. It is the uniform of youth. But then, to Richard Cohen, youth plus blackness makes probable cause. Throughout much of his column Cohen, play-acting at being a brave speaker of uncomfortable truths, keeps claiming that no one in America is willing to broach the topic of Black Criminals.” Cohen asks “Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? …the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime.
Well, here’s his man:
Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the ‘criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.
That’s from the Ron Paul Survival Report. And, as reported to U.S. law enforcement, 4,737 hate crimes were committed in an attempt to mitigate that threat in 2006. By 2007, the number of hate groups in America had risen to 888, increasing 48% from 2000. And in America in 2012, one Black American was killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes every 28 hours.
What we found is that this practice of extrajudicial killings is very systematic throughout the country. …And…that …overwhelmingly, most of the folks who were killed do not have any weapons. And…the reasoning…offered by the police is that they felt threatened [by unarmed citizens].
. . . if you’re Black in America, you’re suspicious, you’re dangerous, you’re a criminal – and your life is expendable.
In other words, if you’re white in America, you can shoot ’em if ya got ’em.
But racism itself and, in fact, any “-ism,” is a system, a way of organizing society. And even though “progressives” consider racism unjust, their opposition is in name only. However much they might disapprove of it (in private) they go along to get along rather than risk the ordinary comforts of their lives. They swim, unscathed, in the ubiquitous sea of institutionalized racism, disrespect and contempt for their fellow citizens because its effects don’t touch them personally, and because white is the norm against which all others are measured. And when a particularly vivid and ugly example thrusts its way into their consciousness via the corporate-owned media, they’re touchingly reassured by mutli-millionaire “news readers” that a white perpetrator is just a bad apple, a lone gunman, or a deranged individual. It’s not a white thing. This is because whites who commit crimes are still considered individuals, and not emblematic of their entire group. However, black individuals who commit crimes as seen as representative of their whole community.
But what about the crimes that are, in no uncertain terms, committed in wildly disproportionate numbers by white men? Were Wall Street banksters who brought down the world’s economy just a few bad apples, or emblematic of a system of control fraud? And what about the overwhelmingly white male criminals who commit domestic terrorism, serial murder, child rape, sedition, treason and financial fraud? But this doesn’t cast suspicion all of them, consigning them to a criminal class.
The acceptance of racism in others endorses its inevitable violence and murder. It is morally unacceptable and absolutely unforgiveable, an unbleachable stain on one’s character. There is no difference, except cowardice, in covertly espousing another’s racism by hiding behind it, where one can benefit consciously and materially from it, and being a racist one’s self. (In fact, it’s worse.) In the words of R.J. Eskow, “…it is wrong to pretend that an immoral set of actions is moral” or to ignore that such actions are immoral in order to expedite your own agenda.”
Making the decision not to recognize racism is tantamount to saying “Don’t tell me what happens to chickens, pigs and cows as they’re torn apart or boiled – alive – for my food, or I could never eat my wings, bacon and burgers again. Or saying, “I don’t care if the natural gas we’re using is fracked, as long as it’s not fracked here. It’s okay if fracking is done outside my community and poisons someone else’s water for my benefit.” Pretending not to know, deciding not to look at something, feigned ignorance of another’s wrong-doing gives tacit consent and cooperation. In other words, we won’t club the baby seals to death, but we will wear the coat.
Yet after almost 200 attempts to pass a federal anti-lynching law, the United States still doesn’t have one. What we do have is legalized murder under laws like “Stand Your Ground,” developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and distributed to individual states.
But creating the diversion of race is very easy, accomplished by playing on the belief developed over 500 years of slavery that whites are superior to blacks, and that black people are inherently scary and dangerous. It’s used to provoke fear, hatred and anger, and to prevent blacks and whites from uniting to seek out the real tyrants and criminals. What’s being presented to us as the problem is actually only a curtain behind which hides the appropriate target of our anger, the White Wizards of the Oligarchy, their transnational corporations, their lobbyist lackeys and their congressional, judicial and presidential marionettes. In other words, the real threat to our neighborhoods “doesn’t wear a hoodie. It flies a corporate jet” (R.J. Eskow again).
Today, the master-slave relationship of the plantation has been replaced by the business-worker relationship of the transnational corporation. And while slavery is usually thought of in moral terms…it is, in fact, an economic relationship, a very profitable economic relationship.
But the majority of white people enmeshed in this system, like the black designees of subordinate status, were the tools that built the national economy, although the vast majority of the wealth they created flowed upward, to the top of the white social pyramid. The whites left at the bottom were made to understand they’d better be content with their lot, because “at least they weren’t black.” And the white middle class, with their “fear of falling” into the lower classes could, for the most part, reliably be counted on to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. In essence, white people are offered supremacy among the peasants in exchange for their passivity.
Racism persists because it is the most effective tool for preventing the most revolutionary sections of the working class, those who have suffered the most brutal degradation and repression, from uniting with the rest. And as capitalism falls into a deepening crisis, it will use the state in more repressive ways to curtail civil rights. Racism will be used even more aggressively to pit the majority of the working class against the most oppressed of their brothers, and what’s left of the middle class.
But Americans rarely call out racism because so many whites have an interest in denying the permanency of white supremacy lying just under the surface of America like Corexit under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Long after Jim Crow has danced off the minstrel show stage of history, there’s an undertow of racism in all of American society.
And make no mistake, as globalization brings its roadshow back from the “Third” World to the Great White Way, the intent is to establish a long running and, in fact, permanent minstrel show here at home. Black Americans, and any “Other” Americans, are simply the canary in the coal mine. What’s acceptable to be done to them has been prepared for all the rest below the top of the white social pyramid. Soon wages will be low enough to compete with those U.S. transnationals pay in the “Third” World. To paraphrase Russell Means, “Welcome to the plantation, White Man.”
And since racism is still stuck, like dog shit, to the bottom of America’s shoe, our stupefyingly shameless and hateful history exposes to the rest of the world, to an extent unimaginable, whites’ feigned and/or engineered ignorance of white privilege. By not repudiating racism and its fellow travelers, they give up any claim to legitimacy, not to mention taking a serious risk of having blood on their hands. Racism is the carbon monoxide gas of systemic white privilege, with which the conscience is lulled into unconsciousness. It is basic ruling class policy in the USA, and it may be even more damaging to those who “enjoy” its privileges/advantages, than those who are its victims.
. . . whiteness does not exempt people from exploitation, it reconciles them to it. It is for those who have nothing else . . .
In essence, the white race is a private club, its membership privileges conferred by the skin one is born in. Club members are brought up according to club rules, and for the most part they accept its privileges without thinking about who pays the cost of their membership dues. They’re encouraged to ignore the real conditions of their lives and to see their club membership as the most important indicator of their status. The poorest member of the white club is better (but not better off) than anyone who’s not a member.
But racism degrades character, and sets one up to fill the same role as those he is encouraged to feel superior to. This insistence on the social distinction between the poorest member of the oppressor group and any member, however propertied, of the oppressed group is the hallmark of racial oppression (Ted Allen). In fact, the middle class, and representative government itself, are a moat designed to protect the have-everythings from those who have nothing to lose. This is a common strategy in slave societies. Members of the lower classes are divided, group against group, with a middle class buffer between them and the upper class. However, the lower class group with the same skin color as the upper class is assured that they are part of “us” – the upper class – by virtue of their color (at least they’re white) and given some small privilege/token/crumbs, like the New Deal, to buy them off, without actually allowing them to be part of the master class. They simply wear the same uniform and root for the same team, the masters’ team, often at their own expense. And because the masters are the team, the rest of those wearing the uniform are merely cheerleaders for their own exploitation. Most club members’ “privilege” consists merely of wearing the uniform.
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous. ~ Carl Sagan
The club’s leaders are the beneficiaries of the hate generated by the frustration and feelings of betrayal in the members on the lower rungs of the club’s membership – unemployed, impoverished, immiserated, underemployed, despairing, hopeless. They also know that being disposable is not acceptable to those being disposed of, and they rightly fear the rage of their sacrificial scapegoats. But the club’s leaders, as well as their middle class buffer, are engaged in a “progress” that needs sacrificial victims to maintain their privilege.
The fundamental purpose of American politics is upward transfer of wealth,” or as George H.W. Bush put it, “The continuous consolidation of money and power into higher, tighter and righter hands.” He didn’t feel the need to say “whiter.” And the longer we refuse/decide not to look at what’s happening in our corporate-owned state as a vicious class war, the more the hatred and scapegoating will balloon.
And what the upper class fears, most of all, are thoughts that reveal how today’s “arrangement” has given them a free lunch at the expense of the rest of the economy. In other words, there is a free lunch, just not for 99% of us. And racism is its meal ticket.
Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth – more than ruin – more even than death…Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits. ~ Bertrand Russell
Being white allows even openly racist talk radio pundits and reactionary politicians to be taken seriously. It means freedom from accountability for the most hateful statements. Tea Party signs are ignored or explained away and laughed at as silly or irrelevant, as are newsletters and racist emails by presidential candidates and government officials.
In 2010, Dave Bartholomew, chairman of the Virginia Beach Republican Party, spread the following story via his party chair email address: “MY DOG” “I went down this morning to sign up my Dog for welfare. At first the lady said, ‘Dogs are not eligible to draw welfare.’ So I explained to her that my Dog is black, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and has no frigging clue who his Daddy is. So she looked in her policy book to see what it takes to qualify… My Dog gets his first check Friday. Is this a great country, or what?”
We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly rational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers. ~The Ron Paul Survival Report
We don’t think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such. ~The Ron Paul Survival Report
In Milwaukee, in May of 2010, one of those “dangerous” unarmed thirteen-year olds was gunned down in broad daylight in front of his mother in his own back yard – by his neighbor. Armed with a handgun, John Spooner, 76, accused Darius Simmons of breaking into his house and stealing his shotguns. As the boy backed up fearfully, Spooner told his mother he’d teach him not to steal. Then he fired, point blank, into the boy’s chest, killing him. When police arrived, they treated Simmons’ mother as if she were the perp, putting her in a police car for over an hour – while they searched her home for Spooner’s shotguns. They found – nothing. Now Spooner’s defense is claiming he didn’t mean to kill the boy – by shooting him at point blank range. Just one more example of a white man profiling a black child, finding him guilty, sentencing him to execution and carrying out that sentence.
And in reaction to President Obama’s speech about the Zimmerman verdict, Joan Walsh reported, “an unusually crazed, agitated (Bill) O’Reilly declared that the plight of Black America ‘has nothing to do with slavery. It has everything to do with you Hollywood people and you derelict parents. Race hustlers and the grievance industry, he went on, ‘have intimidated the so-called ‘conversation’, turning any valid criticism of African-American culture into charges of racial bias.'”
Walsh continued: “And Limbaugh, like O’Reilly, is fed up with people whining about slavery. ‘It’s preposterous that whites are blamed for slavery when they’ve done more to end slavery than any other race,’ he declared, ‘The radio bully may be hustling for a spot on Sen. Rand Paul’s staff because that’s essentially the point ‘Southern Avenger’ Jack Hunter made about whites and slavery.”
And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, since apparently neither Ron nor Rand Paul is aware that a man is known by the company that he keeps.
In July of this year, Rand Paul’s media staffer and co-author if his 2011 book, Jack Hunter, AKA the “Southern Avenger,” announced he was leaving the senator’s staff “to clear his name and avoid dimming Paul’s rising star.” “Lucky Rand Paul gets to have it both ways. He stood up to those Northern aggressors and refused to fire Hunter, but he will carry less of Hunter’s baggage into the 2016 presidential primary than if his neo-Confederate staffer fought on.” (16)
Hunter’s unpacked baggage includes tracks from a CD he sold on his website during his days as a radio pundit. “He says whites are owed a ‘long overdue’ thank you from African-Americans for ending slavery. ‘If it weren’t for white people, who knows how long slavery would have lasted? The very fact that slavery still exists in African countries like Ghana and Sudan really makes one wonder.'” (What? If blacks are not themselves inherently slavers, to blame for their own enslavement, and whites their saviors?)
Hunter produced his radio show ’til 2012 when Rand Paul hired him full-time. And Hunter didn’t appear from nowhere. He was the Ron Paul campaign’s main blogger.
And in 2009, Rand Paul’s campaign spokesman, Chris Hightower, was forced to resign after a blogger discovered he’d kept up a post on his MySpace page from a fan of his heavy metal band, Commander, – FOR TWO YEARS – wishing people “HAPPY N***ER DAY” on Martin Luther King Day. The post was accompanied by a photo of a lynching. And Ron Paul, commenting on MLK Day, said “Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.”
. . . the extreme to which conservatives are now comfortable telling white people they’re the new victims, in danger of being unfairly prosecuted like George Zimmerman when they should actually be thanked for ending slavery, is unique and brazen and dangerous. ~Joan Walsh
But right-libertarians and appeasing liberal-progressives would have us believe that today, old-fashioned racism is passe. In other words, we have racism without racists.
The message is still “get over it, stop being so sensitive, political correctness is ruining our country.” The bigots who display their racism out loud and proud in your face are not representative of white Americans, just a few bad apples. But if black people had shown up at a Bush speech with side arms, as the Tea Party did at one of Obama’s, they’d be in Gitmo as we speak, or full of holes. As Cornel West said:
I come from Sacramento, California. I remember when the Black Panther Party walked into the Capitol with their guns. Now, you noticed at that moment, all of a sudden people were very much for gun control, even the right wing. Why? Because the Panthers were saying ‘Well, let’s just arm all the black folks to make sure they stand their ground.’
Similarly there was only one fear greater than that of a black slave rebellion in the American colonies – the fear that white bond slaves would join black (chattel and bond) slaves and overthrow the status quo. Before the white race, and thus racism, was invented both black and white slaves were treated equally badly. So there was the possibility that they’d come together, and as a union, remedy their common misery.
. . . the enticement by the ruling class to working class people of European descent to ally with slave owners and the other architects of racial discrimination – the claim that ‘white’ people benefit from racist discrimination against people of African descent – was a flat out lie. . . . In 1676-7 there was a rebellion of English and African descended bond laborers (indentured servants and slaves) against the ruling class of Virginia, known as Bacon’s Rebellion. Few Americans have heard about this momentous event because the ruling class in charge of our education knows that if Americans knew about this event they would understand how racial discrimination is a weapon used by the rich against all working class people regardless of the color of their skin.
So a cross-class alliance between rich English colonists and poor English colonists created the club known as the “white race.” It was designed as a social control structure in which the poor, by accepting the crumbs of slightly less exploitation from the table of the Rich, became the cheerleaders of their oppressors rather than the brothers and sisters of the rest of humanity. The club expanded to include other European ethnicities as Northern industrialists used immigration to power their rise to the top of the financial heap. Thus:
What is most important for white folks to understand is that our interests do not lie with the racial bonding we are being asked to embrace. Indeed, the very concept of the white race was invented by the wealthy so as to trick poor and working class European Americans into accepting an economic system that exploited them, even as it elevated them in relative terms over persons of color. … And to organize on the basis of whiteness is to cast one’s lot with the elite, who desperately wish for working class people to believe their enemies are each other, rather than the bosses who cut their wages, raid their pension funds, and limit their health care coverage. The more that white working people fight working people who are black and brown, the less they’ll be likely to take aim at those who pick their pockets every day they show up for work: paying them only a fraction of the value of the products and services they provide, all in the name of profits which they have no intention of truly sharing with their employees. Whiteness is a trick, but sadly one that has worked for nearly three-and-a-half centuries. Only when white folks wise up, and realize that whiteness itself is our problem, will we ever stand a chance of true liberation. Until then, our whiteness will provide us privileges and advantages, but only in relation to those at the bottom of the racial caste structure. It will provide a psychological wage, as W.E.B. Dubois put it, as an alternative to real wages.
But people are not hostage to their outward identities – we have free will, imagination, morality and principle. “The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth,” writes psychologist Rollo May in Man’s Search for Himself.
No commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions require courage.
Easy decisions take no courage at all. Most of us grow into our identities as easily as acorns do into oaks – rarely questioning, resisting or protesting those events that do not appear to affect us directly. It is the difficult decisions, the ones that have consequences, challenge orthodoxies, bear risk and threaten status, that take real courage.
In the words of Sam Fullwood:
Acting as if racial disparities don’t exist or believing we’re now living in some fantasy world free of racial divisions is nothing more than an excuse to preserve the status quo. It serves to protect the advantages of those who are already employed and comfortable, while keeping racial and ethnic minorities locked out . . .
Characterizing racist beliefs as “embarrassing and ugly nonsense” is an egregious minimization of beliefs that lead straight to murder, mass murder and genocide. The United States was created by stealing land, stealing people and stealing labor. If you are a liberal, you can live with this. If you are a progressive, you cannot. You must, at the very least, SAY something. We are not our intentions, but the consequences of our actions (or inaction), intended or not.
The lynching season is now year-round, and legal, as evidenced by the ALEC-created “Stand Your Ground” laws in 22 states. These lynchings are extrajudicial executions in which the victim has had no trial with a judge and jury, and his executioner is other than the state. A lynching may take the form of a hanging or a shooting, or the victim may be burned alive. In addition to punishing one person, lynching is used as a form of social control. It usually happens more often during times of social and economic tension, and is often used by the elite to oppose those who threaten the status quo. One of the main causes of lynching in the past was attempting, or registering to vote.
In June of 2013, the preclearance procedure of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was struck down by a five-justice majority of the Supreme Court. It is now no longer necessary for states and areas with a history of racial discrimination in regard to voting to notify the Justice Department when they intend to change their voting laws. The Court’s majority maintained that since “black voting in areas under special protection of the VRA was generally equal to or even higher than the percentage of white voters” it was no longer needed. But this meant “that the law was working, not that those areas would not again resort to trickery once preclearance was removed.”
Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes (in voting laws) is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet. ~ Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg
The speed with which these jurisdictions have rushed forward to implement voting changes that were previously thought to be discriminatory, or at least, suspected of being discriminatory, shows the real urgency for Congress acting. ~ Wendy Weiser, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice
And this is because these changes in the voting laws are meant to be discriminatory. In Texas, under the new photo ID-to-vote law, identification cards issued by colleges and employers is not acceptable – but concealed hand gun licenses are. In fact, the Texas law that was implemented within two hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling was, in 2012, blocked by a 3-judge panel in Washington on the ground that it “imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.”
Republican strategist Lee Atwater who advised Ronald Reagan and both Presidents Bush, explained the evolution of the GOP’s Southern Strategy this way:
As to the whole Southern Strategy that Harry S. Dent and others put together in 1968Atwater: , opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964 and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.
Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the (George) Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?
Atwater: You start out in 1964 saying “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” – that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now (that) you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and and a byproduct of them is (that) blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me – because obviously sitting around saying “We want to cut this” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
In this way, along with cloaking itself in the nation’s founding mythology and appealing for ‘states’ rights,’ racism was rebranded. Rather than invoking the Confederacy, racism now wraps itself in the flag of the Revolutionary War.
But as Robert Parry points out, much as the message is “wrapped in the word ‘liberty’…it is the ‘liberty’ of white Americans to reign over – and rein in – non-white Americans . . . It is this fear of real democracy – with its genuine promise of one person, one vote – that…motivated the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority to give America’s neo-Confederates one more shot at reversing the nation’s acceptance of racial equality at the ballot box.” Parry concludes:
. . . notions of colorblindness and a post-racial society, are a convenient obfuscation that allows white Americans to ignore the situational and individual ideologies, practices and policies that cripple any viable notion of justice and democracy.
The tolerance that remains is the tolerance of the white middle class, liberal/progressive buffer, which is itself now circling the bowl. And the longer they sit, refusing to take sides, or to even admit there’s a side to take, the longer they aid and abet what’s being done to minorities, the more explosive the situation gets.
This “progressive,” post-racial collaboration with overt and/or covert racists only enables the acceleration of discrimination, exploitation, impoverishment, police state tactics and the resulting angry backlash which targets, rather than the actual perpetrators of poverty, the scapegoat du jour. In this case it’s blacks, but any other will do. This is the “pecking order,” where the pecked-on may only peck back (inflict pain) at those on a lower rung, never those higher. Pecking order was the first cerebrative mechanism of our reptile predecessors, and it lives on in our triune brain’s most primitive part, the R-complex.
And it’s pecking open America’s ugly wound, not via police dogs, firehoses and nooses on the six o’clock news, but rather disenfranchisement sanctioned by the Supreme Court, New Jim Crow privatized prisons, and ALEC-created laws like “Stand Your Ground,” all targeting the poor, the elderly and minorities, and all in plain sight for those who have eyes to see.
In the 21st century so far these rituals without cause and without conscience are primarily private performances, except for the victim’s relatives or companions. But how long will it take us to return to the days of picnics, souvenir-taking, postcards and the pre-announcement of such performances for a wider audience?
Soon we will be back at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1967 where four little girls were murdered/lynched with 16 dozen sticks of dynamite as a protest against de-segregation laws. – Cynthia Wesley, 14. (Carol) Denise McNair, 11. Carole Robinson, 14. Addie Mae Collins, 14.
Back in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964, where three young men were assassinated/lynched for the crime of helping people register to vote. – James Cheny,21 (B) Andrew Goodman, 20. (W) Michael Schwerner, 24. (W)
Back further in Money, Mississippi in 1955, when 14-year-old Emmett Till , visiting from Chicago, was beaten and shot in the head – lynched – for the crime of speaking to a white woman.
Back to 1931, when the nine “Scottsboro Boys,” aged 13-21, were accused of a rape that didn’t happen, tried five times, sentenced to death, then to life in prison, until finally, in 1950, all charges were dropped.
And we can go even further back, to the 1916 lynching of 17-year-old Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas, where “thousands of spectators, including city officials, gathered to watch the attack, in which Washington was castrated, hung, and dropped in a bonfire. His charred torso was later dragged through the town, other parts of his body were sold as souvenirs. A professional photographer took pictures as the lynching unfolded… Pictures of Washington’s charred body were printed and featured on postcards.” (captioned as “coon cooking”) (32)
The people with whom “progressives” would make common cause to halt aggression and murder as American foreign policy (high on the progressive agenda) are the very regressives who support, however covertly, the same aggression and murder as American domestic policy. And the right to individual freedom has become a license to hurt others for personal gain. There is no right to hurt others for personal gain. Today is “…a time when the Old South reached into the 21st century.” It’s “a sign that the present is much more like the past than anyone would like to admit.”
Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash. Your picture in the paper nor money in the bank, neither. Just refuse to bear them. ~ William Faulkner