Tag Archives: racism

Should Professors Stop Opining About Trump?

TrumpFinger
In last Friday’s New York Times, professional critic Stanley Fish criticized a group of history professors who call themselves Historians Against Trump, for speaking out against the presidential candidate Donald Trump. Fish argues that although they have a right to state their opinion as citizens, they have no right to state their opinion as historians.

Maybe Fish should also criticize climate scientists for speaking out about climate change, given the climate change has also become a political issue. Maybe Fish should tell evolutionary biologists to keep quiet about evolution, given this hotly charged political issue. Fish himself is a law professor. Maybe he should tell law professors that they have no right to write opinion pieces about the constitutionality of some of our legal and political practices…

If this sounds like I am making a reducio ad absurdum out of Fish’s opinion piece– I am: because it is an absurd position. Historians not only have a right to speak out, they have a duty to do so.

“Those who do not remember the past [history] are condemned to repeat it”. This is the warning that George Santayana gave us, and it bears repeating. Historians are uniquely positioned to remind us of what happened in the past and when the results were disastrous. Actually, some of the ‘prophets’ in the Old Testament were simply issuing ‘warnings’ about the direction people were heading– “those who do not remember how to get to the water supply are condemned to die of thirst”.

The United States of Amnesia. This was the term Gore Vidal used to warn Americans of the disastrous results of never remembering what happened in the past. Sometimes we all need a little reminding.

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Maybe Stanley Fish ought to tell political scientists that they should not explain to us what fascism is.

In an appropriately titled book, Fascism: Why Not Here?– Brian E. Fogarty “draws parallels between German culture of the early twentieth century and American culture today”. He wrote the book before the rise of the Tea Party. And I had to go back and read it again after the rise of Trump. It is a very scary book. And we ought to heed his warning.

Most Americans are not just forgetful, they are ignorant as to what is really happening. Who can blame them? It takes a great deal of time and effort (and frustration) to understand more deeply what is happening and why. It is just easier to watch Fox ‘news’, and then vote their conscience.

Maybe historians, and other professors, are speaking out now because they are concerned that if Trump wins the presidency they will not have the ability to speak out later. This happened not just in Nazi Germany, but in the United States during World War I. Many prominent university professors were fired from their positions for merely questioning whether the US should get involved in a European war.

In fact the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the tenure system were started after this disastrous fiasco. John Dewey (my intellectual hero) explained that professors were hired as ‘public intellectuals’– they should not be fired for saying what they think. (By the way there is a fine line between knowledge and opinion that would take too long to explain here.)

The Republicans hate the tenure system nearly as much as they hate very educated liberals. They would love to do away with both, so that they can go back to firing people for saying things they don’t like. Trump has already barred reporters he doesn’t like from attending his rallies. This is the first step toward a ‘slippery slope’ (that I don’t think is a fallacy). The right of freedom of the press is extended to academic freedom. And sometimes a duty to speak out.

Most people do not know who Stanley Fish is, but even less know who I am. However, as I said before I am tired of remaining silent. And I will continue to speak out, not just as a concerned citizen but as a college professor of philosophy (with a focus on ethics and political philosophy).

By the way Mr. Fish, if Trump gets elected and the results are disastrous– do we then not have the right to say “we tried to warn you”.

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.

 

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).

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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.”

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