Category Archives: Race Relations

A Brief History of Race and Politics: from the KKK to Donald Trump

If we want to understand how we got to this point in American politics we should remind ourselves of some basic history and not deny the facts.

Yes, it was Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, who freed the slaves. The North won the Civil War and the South still hasn’t gotten over it. From 1864 to 1964 the majority of the White South voted Democrat. Southern Democrats were not liberal in any sense of the term– but they were anti-Republican. Their resentment over the Civil War has lasted more than a hundred years. And their battle cry has always been “the South will rise again”.

The White South’s alliance with the Democratic Party, however, began to shift in 1964. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he turned to Bill Moyers and said, “we may have just signed the South over to the Republican Party for the rest of our lifetimes”. And from 1964 to 1984 – the White South turned Red. Barry Goldwater ran against the Civil Rights Act; Richard Nixon ran his famous “Southern Strategy”; and Ronald Reagan perfected that strategy. By 1984 there were very few White Southern Democrats left– they had all become Republicans.

Today’s Republican Party is not the party of Lincoln; they are the party of anti-Lincoln. They are the party of The South. If you look at a map of the Red States and the Blue States it basically still traces the Mason-Dixon line of the Civil War. There are few exceptions.

This is not to say that all Republicans are racist. But the party has aligned itself with the racially motivated elements of the South – they have accepted them in order to maintain a conservative majority. The Republican Party has, in effect, become a ‘white power’ movement. Republicans in The House of Representatives are 98% white and 95% male. And Fox ‘news’ is already pushing for a “white turnout” in the upcoming presidential election.

“Rapists and Criminals”

The Ku Klux Klan rose up after the Civil War claiming that the newly freed black slaves were criminals who were raping white women. Their stated aim was to protect “Southern Heritage”. Their underlying aim was, of course, racism. They were America’s first and foremost terrorist organization. They are still alive today. They just don’t always were white robes.

Remember Donald Trump’s announcement speech. When he came down that “golden elevator” from on high, the first thing that he said is that Mexicans are “rapists and criminals”. And he was going to “build a wall” to keep them out. Next he went after the Muslims– calling for a ban of all Muslim immigrants to this country. He immediately shot up to number one in the Republican primary.

We have seen this happen before. And not just in our country. We should keep in mind that Adolf Hitler’s campaign slogan was “Make Germany Great Again”. The same thing that Hitler said about “the Jews”– Trump says about Mexicans and Muslims.

This is not to say that all Trump supporters are racist. But all racists are Trump supporters. They have unmasked the most insidious elements of the Republican Party. They are once again speaking out– they hate “politically correct” speech. They want to “make derogatory language great again”.

Racists are fueled by hate, and they wear their emotions on their sleeves. What, in the past, has been “dog-whistle” politics has now become a fog horn. Much of this has been the language of “States’ Rights”.

“States’ Rights” was used before the Civil War to protect slavery. “States’ Rights” was used after the Civil War to protect segregation and suppress voting rights. And “States’ Rights” are being used today to re-suppress voting rights, women’s rights, and the rights of the LGBT community.

In fact, it was the Civil Rights Act which limited the ability of “States’ Rights” to undermine Human Rights. And that is why the South has always hated it.

Trump is galvanizing the South. His rallies are an emotional hotbed, fueled by rage. He has a brand of white ethno-centric nationalism and he is now courting fundamentalist Christians. Sinclair Lewis declared that “when fascism comes to the U.S. it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross”.

Now Donald Trump is running as “the law and order” candidate. This was how Richard Nixon described himself– and look how well that turned out!
The Trump campaign knows that they cannot win-over even a small minority of the Hispanic vote.

The vast majority of African-Americans will never vote for him. Their strategy is thus to get out the white vote and suppress minority voting. Is this the democracy that we really want? To win elections by racial division and voter suppression.

That is where we are headed in American politics. No wonder so many Americans believe that our country is headed in the wrong direction.

As I said before: I am tired of remaining silent on these matters. Though I struggle with feeling that there is nothing I can do about it, I am going to be speaking out more– whether it has the desired effect or not.

 

When Nationalism Takes Hold: Brexit Should Wake Americans Up to the Reality That Trump Could Win

This is what happens when nationalism goes to the polls.

Like many Americans, I paid little attention when the British went to the polls to decide if they should leave the European Union. So what?! What did it mean to me? And, furthermore, what could I do about it? On Friday morning I woke up– Brexit was all over the news. The U.S. stock market had tanked as the Dow dropped over 600 points in one day, and many of us lost money in whatever pension or retirement account we are lucky enough to have.

I now understand what Brexit means to me.  But more importantly, I understand what it means for the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

In order to understand any major political event, we must understand what motivated it. The exit vote in Britain was driven by right-wing nationalism. The white working-class was feeling left behind by globalization, and to those in Britain, globalization had a name — the European Union. In all too familiar a fashion, the British complained that immigrants were taking their jobs. In Britain these people were “Pro-Brexit,” and here in the U.S., these very same people are “Pro-Trump.”

We should take note of who has applauded this exit decision by the British voters. Vladimir Putin, Iran, and ISIS have all loudly proclaimed their support. Right-wing nationalists across Europe were cheering on Brexit, right along with Fox ‘news,’ and of course, Donald. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. But is it really that strange? All of those rejoicing have one thing in common: right-wing nationalism.

We should remember that Hitler’s campaign slogan was “Make Germany Great Again.” Hitler appealed to right-wing working class populism to create a white ethnocentric nationalism which scapegoated the Jews. Trump has simply substituted “Mexican” and “Muslim” for “Jew”– though the rest is the same. Before we dismiss this bigotry, we must remember that there were two world wars fought in Europe which were driven by right-wing nationalism.  This movement is not a joke, it’s a cancer.

Yet we should also be clear that the vote in Britain was very close: only 52 percent voted to exit the European Union, and many of them are already experiencing voter’s remorse. Since Friday there have been over 3 million signatures on a petition for another election. Whether the British citizens will get a “do-over” is unclear. But what is clear is that American voters will not get a “do-over” in our own upcoming presidential election.

Recently The Economist magazine rated a Trump election as one of the top 10 threats to our economy. More importantly, they said it was a larger threat than Britain leaving the European Union.  To repeat, however bad Brexit is going to turn out to be, Trump would be much worse. But of course, Trump voters want to “shake things up.” They want to see a major change in American politics, but given their choice of candidate, it seems that they want change even if it means change for the worse. The hardcore Trump supporters will never reconsider their choice. But moderate and liberal Americans should re-consider this entire election very carefully.

While it is true that 70% of Americans think that our country is headed in the wrong direction (and I am one of them), we should think more deeply about what we really mean when we say this.  Much of the Brexit vote was driven by populism versus the experts. The economic experts were warning that the Brexit vote could trigger a recession. But ‘the people’ thought that they knew better. They were tired of ‘the experts’ telling them what to do.

This is just another instance of the same song and dance which climate change deniers do in the face of scientific consensus. So they, along with the Brexit-ers, Donald Trump, and his supporters are rejecting what ‘the experts’ are saying. As is always the case, however, we reject the wisdom of those who know more than us at our own peril.

Britain may or may not get their do-over, but if Trump wins in November, we certainly won’t, and we will be forced to pay for our complacency for many years to come.

a note: I cannot remain silent any longer. I am greatly concerned with the direction of our country, and I also believe the Trump would be one of the greatest disasters to ever befall our nation. Over the next four months I am going to speak out to anyone who will listen– because we have to do more than merely defeat Trump, we have to discredit (crush) his entire ideology! In order to do this, we have to understand it, and what is driving it.

The “Good” Slave Owner’s Hypocrisy: Betting on Animal Rights

Will there be a day when the rights of animals are taken as seriously as the rights of humans? Maybe. And if this is the case, what does this say about us?

Am I not a man and a brother

Despite going very slowly, it seems undeniable that human kind is moving towards ever expanding concern for others. Yes, there are parts of the world where this isn’t the case, but it nonetheless seems that, on the whole, we are slowly moving forward.

Just in the short history of the U.S., there was a time when only white, property owning men were recognized as full citizens of the nation. People of color, women, and the disabled had to fight long and hard for legal recognition, and unfortunately, the struggle continues for these groups to secure full and equal freedom.

Only very recently has the gay community been widely accepted into general society, though the fight for equality continues.

Struggles for recognition are ongoing, but when we compare America today with America of 200 years ago, there is an obvious expansion of our concern for our fellow human beings.

It is not only people who we are beginning to be concerned with, though. Animal rights have made slow progress, and at this point it is uncontroversial to condemn the suffering of animals. We love our pets, support organizations like the ASPCA, and react violently when we see animal abuse (although legal punishments for such abuse are still usually mere slaps on the wrist).

Continue reading

Why Atheists Cringe when Church and State Collide

According to two U.S. Supreme Court justices, atheism is not protected by the first amendment. For any atheist, this is a very worrying admission.

Antonin Scalia

In both a recent speech and a recent dissenting opinion (joined by Clarence Thomas) Justice Antonin Scalia has said that the first amendment specifically favors religion. In his speech to the Colorado Christian University last week, he said that it is “utterly absurd” that the first amendment protects freedom from religion.

I will not attempt to counter his interpretation of the first amendment – he is a Supreme Court justice, and I am not – but I would like to talk about a recent supreme court case.

In Greece v. Galloway, the court decided that prayers before local council meetings were constitutional as long as the prayer is not meant to convert people or disparage non-Christians.

This is one of those issues in which people often complain that atheists are really complaining about nothing, and are only trying to make life difficult for people of faith.

While I am sympathetic insofar as there are many atheists who really only seem intent on antagonizing Christians, we must recognize that there is actually a very good reason for atheists to be so hard-nosed about governmental displays of religion.

Continue reading

No Justice For John Crawford III

John Crawford III

On August 5th, a 22-year-old black man shopping at Walmart was seemingly gunned down in cold blood by the police. On September 24th, a grand jury said the shooting was justified.

Be warned, but judging from the surveillance video, posted below, this young man was murdered, and the fact that no one is even being tried for his killing is a tragic and disgusting miscarriage of justice.

Continue reading

One Lesson From Obama’s Presidency: America Is Still Racist

It is an unfortunate fact that one legacy President Obama will leave behind is that of reminding us just how prejudiced this country still is.

Presdient Obama

It has become a bit of a joke, but on that November night in 2008, after we had elected our first black president, it really did seem as though racism was dead.

This is not to say that we thought there were no more racists. No, we knew there were plenty of them. Nonetheless, this great accomplishment brought with it the feeling that, while racism was still a problem, it was confined to a very small minority of cross burning skinheads and Klansmen.

Unfortunately, such idealistic dreams have a way of becoming bitterly disappointing. As Ta-Nehisi Coates deftly pointed out, “Barack Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as its president.”

Continue reading