Tag Archives: civil rights

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.

 

Voter ID: The New Jim Crow Laws

WHAT HAPPENED

The fight for civil rights must continue. Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are huge victories for civil rights. However, we cannot let the excitement that has come with this victory eclipse the Supreme Court’s ruling on the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. This ruling not only guts the act but is of particular importance in light of the increasing number of Republican controlled statehouses proposing or adopting voter ID laws, which are functioning to disenfranchise poor minority voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

Racial discrimination in the voting process has long persisted in the United States in the form of gerrymandering, poll taxes, and literacy tests which have worked as a means to disenfranchise minority voters. It was the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement – the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – which outlawed such discriminatory voting practices by mandating those states with the worst history of discrimination attain preclearance from the federal government before making any changes in voting procedures. In particular, it is section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which mandates federal preclearance to any changes in voting procedures of those states with the worst history of discrimination; however, section 5 relies on section 4. It is section 4 which sets forth the formula used to determine which jurisdictions will be subject to the federal preclearance conditions.

On Tuesday, in a 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court deemed section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional for the reason that it no longer reflects the current state of affairs in the United States. According to Chief Justice Roberts, since the country has drastically changed since 1965 and the formula espoused in section 4 of the Voting Rights Act bears no logical relationship to present day voting discrimination, section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. The supreme court used the election of President Barack Obama to illustrate how our country has changed since 1965, and questionably claimed that this was evidence that discrimination is no longer present in the voting process.

Continue reading

We Too Will Be Remembered: The Fight for Gay Rights

“The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals….  ‘We’re Americans; we just want to be treated like everybody else.’  That’s a compelling argument.  And to deny that, you’ve got to have a very strong argument on the other side.”  This emphatic statement, on the issue of gay marriage, is all the more powerful coming from the mouth of conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly went on to say that the strongest argument against gay marriage was the procreation argument.  Having already explained why the procreation argument does not make sense in my previous essay “The Evolving Conception of Marriage”, I would instead like to ask you a question: How comfortable are you with gay people?  To put it more bluntly, does it make you uncomfortable when you see two men kissing?  If your answer is yes, then please keep reading.

This does not make you a “bad person”, or a bigot.  We all have emotional responses, and I am not here to cast judgment, for “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).  Instead, I would simply like to point out that, in a democracy founded on equality, this is not an adequate reason to prohibit the marriage of two consenting adults.

Continue reading