Archive for the ‘Race and Racism’ Category

Second thoughts about race and police killings

July 23, 2020

Click to enlarge

Polls as of July 3 estimate that between 15 million and 26 million Americans had participated in the George Floyd protests, making it the largest protest movement in American history.

Ending abuse of power by American police would be a great accomplish.  But if the protestors define the problem as racial prejudice and nothing else, and if they limit their demands to defunding or cutting budgets of police departments, they may wind up accomplishing very little.

“Race reductionism” means reducing everything to a question of race.  In the USA, almost every social problem has a racial angle.  But very few things are about race exclusively.  Almost every social problem also has a money angel.

No reasonable person would shut their eyes to racial prejudice.  But racial prejudice alone does not explain why white Americans are more likely to be killed by police than Europeans of any race.  Or why American states with the smallest black populations have some of the highest rates of police killings.

The first chart shows the annual rate of police killings per million people for young and older black and white Americans.  It demonstrates that progress is possible.

The second chart shows the rate of police killings in different American cities.  It demonstrates that race cannot be the whole story, unless you assume that people in Albuquerque are more than 13 times as racist as people in New York City, or people in Memphis, Tennessee are nearly three times as racist as people in Nashville, Tennessee.

Police killings correlate more closely with poverty than with race.  Black Americans represent 24 percent of the victims of police killings, and 23 percent of the poor.  White Americans comprise 46 percent of the victims of police killings, and 41 percent of the poor.

Click to enlarge.

There are those who would like to drastically cut budgets for police departments and use the money to improve public education, housing and social services.  Not a bad idea.  The problem is that there isn’t enough spare money in police department budgets to make much of an improvement.

There are those who say it doesn’t make sense that someone with a gun and Mace is the one you call on to defuse domestic violence or deal with a mentally ill person who is acting out. Good point.  The problem is that having an array of highly-trained specialists on hand will not come cheap.

The best outcome would be for Black Lives Matter to broaden its demands to include (1) adequate funding of municipal social services, (2) enactment of Bayard Rustin’s Freedom Budget to create full employment and living wages and (3) reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.  Hopefully, this would result in less crime, fewer police killings and a better world for both white and black people.

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More of Adolph Reed Jr.’s greatest hits

July 2, 2020

Adolph Reed, Jr. in the classroom [Credit: Publicbooks.org]

Adolph Reed Jr. is a political scientist who, as much as or more than anybody I know of, cuts through BS and tells things as they are.  I put up some links to his writings and interviews in the previous post.  Here are some more.

I recommend bookmarking both pages and reading his writings whenever you have the time and interest.  I won’t say I completely agree with everything he says even now, but he saw through a number of things that I was fooled by at the time—starting with Barack Obama.

Here’s what he wrote in the Village Voice in 1996, when Obama was just getting started in politics.  I wasn’t able to find a link to the full article.

In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. 

His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program — the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance.

I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics, as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway.  So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We have to do better.

Source: Wikipedia

I think Reed’s analysis is correct.  The thing he does not explain is why his ideas have gotten so little traction.  Reed didn’t think Obama would be elected.  He didn’t foresee that Black Lives Matter activism would sweep the nation (nor did I).

If he is right, then a broad-based coalition, such as the one led by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. would be the key to constructive social change.  Maybe it will.  But, at least for now, it is the race-specific Black Lives Matter than has captured the public’s imagination.

LINKS

Liberals, I Do Despise by Adolph Reed Jr. in The Village Voice (1996)

The Case Against Reparations by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Progressive (2000).

Undone by Neoliberalism, by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Nation (2006)  About New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.

Obama, No by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Progressive (2008)

Race and the New Deal Coalition by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Nation (2009)

Adolph Reed Jr. on Sanders, Coates and Reparations, an interview segment from Doug Henwood’s Behind the News (2016)

How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence by Adolph Reed Jr. for nonsite.org. (2016)

Splendors and Miseries of the Antiracist “Left” by Adolph Reed Jr. for nonsite.org. (2016)

Black Politics After 2016 by Adolph Reed Jr. for nonsite.org (2018)

The Myth of Class Reductionism by Adolph Reed Jr. for The New Republic (2019)

Adolph Reed Jr. on identity politics

July 1, 2020

This Bill Moyers interview with Adolph Reed Jr. was aired in 2014.

Adolph Reed Jr. is a retired professor of political science and a Marxist.  He thinks that what is called identity politics is a way of maintaining structure of inequality.  The purpose of this post is to call attention to his critique of identity politics and provide links to some of this work.

Identity politics is based on an analysis of how dominant groups oppress marginal groups.  Some examples:

  • Whites > Blacks  [racism]
  • Men > Women  [male chauvinism, mysogyny]
  • Native-Born > Immigrants [xenophobia]
  • Anglos > Hispanics [xenophobia]
  • Straights > Gays [homophobia]
  • Cisgendered > Transgendered [transphobia]

These are not made-up problems.  It is a fact that white job applicants or loan applicants get preference over equally-qualified or better-qualified black applicants.  It is a fact that shocking numbers of women are sexually harassed on the job.  No-one should be denied basic rights by reason of race, gender, national origin or LGBTQ identity.

The problem is when disparities between groups are used to distract from the structure of wealth and power in society as a whole.  According to economist Gabriel Zucman, one percent of Americans own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, up from 28 percent in the 1990s.

Reed says that, within the multicultural framework, this would be okay if the upper one percent were 50 percent women, 15 percent black and the appropriate percentages Hispanic, GLBTQ and so on.

Ideas of equity can be used to promote inequality.  Ideas about oppression of minorities can be used to divert attention from exploitation of the majority by the minority.  The ideology of multiculturalism can be used as a technique to divide and rule.

Honoring diversity doesn’t bring about full employment, living wages, debt relief or an end to America’s forever wars

Honoring multiculturalism can leave members of all the different groups divided among themselves and equally exploited, along with straight white cisgender males, by employers, bankers, landlords and corrupt politicians..

LINKS

Public Thinker: Adolph Reed Jr. on Organizing, Race and Bernie Sanders, an interview for Public Books.

An interview with political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. on the New York Times’ 1619 Project on the World Socialist Web Site.

Nothing Left: the long, slow surrender of American liberals by Adolph Reed Jr. for Harper’s Magazine (2014)

Adolph Reed: Identity Politics Exposing Class Division in Democrats, from an interview on the Benjamin Dixon Show (2016)

The Trouble With Uplift by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Baffler (2018)

What Materialist Black Political History Actually Looks Like by Adolph Reed Jr. for nonsite.org.

Why does big business back Black Lives Matter?

June 29, 2020

JP Morgan Chase in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. (Via The Saker)

Why are big corporations so solidly behind the George Floyd protests?

Apple replaced all of the radio stations on its music app with a single stream playing “Fuck the Police” on #BlackOutTuesday to show support for the protests.  Lego pulled advertising for its police-related toys.  Executives of JP Morgan Chase were photographed “taking a knee” to show support for the George Floyd protests.

Amazon, General Motors, McDonald’s, Target and other big corporations all issued statements supporting the protests.  The companies that held back are in the minority, and have been called on to explain themselves.

The two big Black Lives Matter organizations – the Black Lives Matter Global Network (not to be confused with the Black Lives Matter Foundation) and the Movement for Black Lives – have been pulling in millions of dollars in foundation grants for years.

In 2015, Borealis Philanthropy, established the Black-led Movement Fund to attract gifts from major philanthropists, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. In 2016, the Ford Foundation, announced a $40 million donation to the Movement for Black Lives for “capacity strengthening.

Last summer Ford and Borealis announced “a six-year  pooled donor campaign aimed at raising $100 million for the Movement for Black Lives coalition,” to which BLM is a central part, to support organizing efforts.f

I wasn’t able to find out exactly how much money Black Lives Matter groups have received from foundations and corporate donors, nor how much they received from grass-roots small donors.  Whatever the exact amounts, the two top groups seem to be well-funded.  The Movement for Black Lives itself announced $6.5 million in grants to local BLM organizers.

Again: Why do big corporations and wealthy philanthropists give such support for this particular cause?

The most obvious answer is: Because it is right and just.  Abuse of poor and black people by police is real, it has been going on for a long time, and it is time to end it.

Another answer is: Because it is popular.  Public opinion polls show this.  Support for the protests improves their reputations.

But there is more to it than that.  Another reason is that the Black Lives Matter movement, unlike, say, the labor movement, is no threat to cooperate revenues, profits or dividends nor to CEO salaries and bonuses.

The current anti-racism movement is not an attack on what used to be called the power structure.  Its representatives see think the source of evil is the racism of white people in general.  Its solution is to change the attitudes of white people, and to silence those it can’t change.

The movement seeks to suppress not only actively racist white people, but white people who are unwilling to be affirmatively anti-racist or who inadvertently say or do things that are perceived as racist.

This attitude is, in my opinion, a threat to basic freedoms, and also counter-productive.  If you can’t frankly discuss issues, how can you address them? It also distracts attention from the real racists.  But it is not a threat to corporate power and profit.

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The old radicalism and the cultural revolution

June 24, 2020

The old-time left-wing radicalism, which sought economic change, is being replaced by a new radicalism, which seeks cultural change.

The old radicals thought the basic problem is that a tiny elite monopolizes wealth and power.  The new radicals think the basic problem is that dominant groups, such as whites and males, oppress marginalized groups, such as blacks and women.

The George Floyd protests show how the new radicalism has taken hold.  They are bigger and involve more people than anything in my adult lifetime, including the late 1960s and early 1970s.

A real and great evil, the abuse of black people by police, is opposed not only by black people, but by middle-class white people and, nominally at least, by corporate America as well.

Ross Douthat wrote a great column in the New York Times about Bernie Sanders as the last representative of the old-time radicalism and his eclipse by the new radicalism.

Here are some highlights:

[It was argued that a] left that recovered the language of class struggle, that disentangled liberal politics from faculty-lounge elitism and neoliberal economics, could rally a silent majority against plutocracy and win.  The 2016 Sanders primary campaign, which won white, working-class voters who had been drifting from the Democrats, seemed to vindicate this argument.

The 2020 Sanders campaign, however, made it look more dubious, by illustrating the core challenge facing a socialist revolution: Its most passionate supporters — highly educated, economically disappointed urbanites — aren’t natural coalition partners for a Rust Belt populism, and the more they tugged Sanders toward the cultural left, the easier it was for Joe Biden to win blue-collar votes, leaving Sanders leading an ideological faction rather than a broader working-class insurgency.

Now, under these strange coronavirus conditions, we’re watching a different sort of insurgency challenge or change liberalism, one founded on an intersectional vision of left-wing politics that never came naturally to Sanders.  Rather than Medicare for All and taxing plutocrats, the rallying cry is racial justice and defunding the police.  Instead of finding its nemeses in corporate suites, the intersectional revolution finds them on antique pedestals and atop the cultural establishment.

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Police reforms that won’t change much

June 18, 2020

In size and scope, the Black Lives Matter protests against police killings are like nothing else in my adult lifetime.

Unjustified police killings are just an extreme example of the routine abuse experienced by poor and black people at the hands of police, which in turn is just of the ways in which poor and black Americans are abused.  Protesting police killings is just a start, but it’s a good place to start.

Public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans of all races are fed up with the way police treat poor and black people.  Yet, at the same time, only a minority want to get rid of policing all together.  The majority, including a majority of black people, just wants police to do their jobs.  But is this even possible?

Click to enlarge.  Source: 8can’twait

Click to enlarge. Source: Campaign Zero.

Very few people in any occupation want activities to be scrutinized by outsiders.  Physicians and lawyers hardly ever report malpractice by other physicians and lawyers.  We newspaper reporters do not react well to ombudsmen scrutinizing our writings.

We feel that nobody understands what we do except each other.  When we see one of our own kind make a big mistake, our reaction is, “There but for the grace of God go I!”  But the police are a special case.

The sociologist Max Weber defined the state as the institution that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.  Two institutions are given the legal power to use deadly force—the military externally, the police internally.

Power corrupts.  The power to order people around, and the authorization to use deadly force, are a temptation that a lot of people cannot resist.  It stands to reason that police work will attract the wrong kind of person.

Statistics indicate that the rate of spousal abuse is four times as high among police officers as among the general public.  Maybe potential abusers are attracted to police work; maybe the strain of police work leads men to become abusers.  But it stands to reason that someone who is abusive at home will be abusive on the street.

Police typically consider themselves a warrior brotherhood.  They think they are misunderstood and abused by the voting public and their elected representatives, and do not feel compelled to obey.  In local politics, they are the nearest equivalent to the military-industrial complex and secret intelligence agencies—the so-called “deep state”—on the national scene.

The issue is not rules they should follow.  The issue is how to get them to follow rules.

This is not just a problem of African-Americans and other minorities.  Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.  But a non-Hispanic white American is 26 times more likely to be killed by police gunfire than a German is in Germany.  Police killings are numerous in Montana, West Virginia and Wyoming, where victims are almost always white.  The Black Lives Matter protest movement may be saving white lives as well as black lives.

I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations about police.  I don’t have either the personal experience or the research work to do that.  I am sure there are many police officers who quietly do their jobs without abusing anybody.  But the response of police departments to high-profile abuse cases, past and present, shows the strength of resistance to change.

In other words, changing the rules is not enough.

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Is there an alternative to defunding the police?

June 13, 2020

Source: Gallup Poll via Freethink.

Note that the figures in the last line of the HuffPost/YouGov poll are reversed.  The correct figure is that 57 percent oppose defunding the police and 27 percent favor it.  Among black people, the figure is 49 percent opposed, 29 percent in favor; among whites, 60 percent opposed, 29 percent in favor.

HuffPost also found that most people take “defund the police” to mean drastic reductions in police budgets rather than complete abolition.

Law-abiding people who live in poor, majority-black neighborhoods complain about being harassed by police.  At the same time, they complain about getting less police protection than people in affluent, majority-white neighborhoods.  They don’t want the police to stay away.  They just want them to stop behaving like an occupying army.

My question is whether the worst police departments are reformable.  There are those who think they can’t be.

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This time it really is different

June 12, 2020

I didn’t see this coming.

I never expected the George Floyd protests to be so large and to have such an impact.

They haven’t won yet.  The tide could yet recede.  Rogue police departments are strongly entrenched.

But they’re closer to changing policing in the USA than I would have thought possible just a couple of months ago.

They demonstrate that positive change is possible, even when the two major U.S. political parties offer only a choice of evils.

The protests are remarkable for their size and scope, for the fact that they continue day after day and for the fact that the powers that be are afraid of them.

The protests are remarkable for the interracial character in all aspects, good and bad.  The first person arrested for setting fire to a Minneapolis police station was white.

I think that police abuse of power is a great evil, and I applaud those who are doing something about it.

Still, when you consider that the USA is failing to respond adequately to the coronavirus pandemic, to the economic recession and to catastrophic storms, floods and fires caused by climate change, it is surprising that police killings are the issue that sparked protests.  I write this as an observation, not a criticism.

I think the reason is the great change in white Americans’ attitude toward race and racism that has taken place in just the past five or ten years.  The writer Matthew Yglesias calls this The Great Awokening.

This change did not come out of nowhere.  Anti-racism activists in colleges, liberal churches and the major newspapers and broadcasters have been working to change the attitudes of white people toward race, and they have succeeded.

A majority of white Americans recognize that racism is a problem, and a majority of liberal white Democrats are more hard-line on racial issues than average black people are.

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Is the word ‘thug’ a racial slur?

June 11, 2020

In a group discussion the other night, I was surprised to be told that the word “thug” is a racial slur.

To me, “thug” meant a brutal, violent person, regardless of race.  I think of police who beat handcuffed prisoners as thugs.

My dictionary backs me up.  Its definition of thug is: (a) a violent person, usually a criminal; (b) a member of a religious organization of robbers and assassins in India.

The rapper Young Thug

But when I did a Google Image search on the world “thug,” nine out of the first 10 hits were images of black people, including a rapper known as Young Thug.

The linguist John McWhorter also said that “thug” is a racially-charged word.  It once was a race-neutral term, he said, but its meaning has changed.

I see I need to be careful about how I use the word.  I don’t think I am bowing to “political correctness.”  I just want to be sure to avoid language that causes people to misunderstand my meaning.

Sometime back, I had conversations with teachers who loved the book, “Little Black Sambo,” as children and felt put upon because they could not teach it.

They had good intentions.  But students and teachers who heard the word “Sambo” would not have understood their good intentions..

I worked for 40 years on newspapers, and one thing I learned was that it is the responsibility of writers to make themselves understood, not the reader’s to guess my meaning.

If a reader misunderstood what I wrote, that showed that I failed to make myself clear.  Saying the reader should have understood was not an option.

What I need now is a substitute race-neutral term that means brutal, violent person.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, liberals and progressives said the words “law and order” were code words for racism.  No doubt many white people who complained about crime were prejudiced against black people.

But violent crime and property crime in that era were increasing rapidly.  In this case, the policing of language shut down conversation about a serious problem.

I understand the argument that street crime, if it is committed by a poor black person, is a lesser crime than financial crime typically committed by a rich white person.

I agree that a looter who steals the stock of a small business does less harm than a financial speculator who destroys a thousand small businesses.

If you think that this is an excuse for the looter, go ahead and make that argument.  But don’t shut down discussion by objecting to my language.

It is one thing to object to the assumption that young black men as a group are brutal and violent.  It is another to excuse brutality and violence by forbidding language that refers to it.

George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four wrote about a world in which language was manipulated in such a way that certain ideas could not be expressed.

I worry about this.  But I will no longer use of the word “thug.”

Racism and immigration in today’s Russia

June 8, 2020

Sweeping attacks on migrant workers in Russia amid COVID-19 pandemic by Andrea Peters for the World Socialist Web Site.

The riots: Some complicated truths

June 2, 2020

The following is from the Moon of Alabama blog.

It’s true that people engaged in peaceful protests.

It’s true that people engaged in lawless looting.

It’s true that provocateurs have committed acts of vandalism and sometimes carry umbrellas.

It’s true that Antifa exists and that they don’t advocate gently placing flowers in the gaping hole of a long gun.  [snip]

It’s true looters come in all shades and sizes.

It’s true some desperate people are taking things they need.

It’s true some opportunistic people are taking things they want.

It’s true opportunistic government thugs suddenly shifted the Covid-19 rationale for using contract tracing to a catch-them-rioters rationale for using contract tracing.

It’s true the policy infrastructure for enacting martial law has been a long-term, bi-partisan project.

It’s true that now is the time to realize what’s at stake, but instead of acting collectively for our mutual benefit, the cognitive challenge of accepting that all these things can be true at the same time will keep us tied to one of these things to the exclusion of all the others.

Source: Moon of Alabama

Here are my additions to the list of complicated truths.

Policing is necessary.  Policing is stressful.  Some police officers risk their lives in order to avoid killing.  Some police killings are justified and unavoidable.  Not all victims of unjustified killings are black.  Not all unjustified killings are done by whites.

American police have become increasingly militarized during the past few decades.  This has been promoted by the federal government under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

If you are a middle-class white person living in a suburb, chances are the police will serve and protect you.  If you are a poor black person living in a big city, chances are the police will harass you on a daily basis.

There is great variation in the number of police killings in big American cities.  Professional standards and training in good practice is correlated with fewer killings.  Lack of personal accountability is correlated with more killings.  Diversity training, as it is now, makes little difference.

During the current riots, it was safer to be a vandal or looter than it was to be a peaceful protester or journalist.

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The mysterious Minneapolis ‘man in black’

May 31, 2020

The man in black

I wondered whether this black-clad man was a police provocateur or a radical leftist provocateur.  There is a third possibility that I overlooked—that he is a right-wing provocateur.  [Added 6/4/2020]

A mysterious black-clad man, clad in black, with a respirator or gas mask, was walking around breaking windows in Minneapolis during the protest and riot there.

Some speculate that he was a police infiltrator, which, based on the history of protest, is a natural thing to think.

But by his garb, I think he is probably a member of the “black bloc,” a group of revolutionaries who been around at least since the 1999 riots protesting the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

The “black bloc” is noted for their distinctive black gear.  They join in protests and try to escalate the violence, with the idea of forcing neutrals to take sides between revolution and reaction.

While the “black bloc” movement is international, there is an overlapping American movement called “Antifa” for anti-fascist.  They are street fighters, most of them white, who go after neo-Nazis, white nationalists and sometimes Trump supporters.

Like the neo-Nazis and white nationalists, the aim of the black bloc and Antifa is to eliminate the middle ground.  They seek to bring moderates into the violence and force them to choose between revolution and fascism.

Very often, in a protest, the first ones to initiate violence are police infiltrators and informants. Initial reports identified the man in black as a Minneapolis police officer.  But the Minneapolis police say the alleged culprit was on duty elsewhere at the time the video was shot.

USA Today reported that the man in black in the video was not the only one.

MINNEAPOLIS — Drifting out of the shadows in small groups, dressed in black, carrying shields and wearing knee pads, they head toward the front lines of the protest.  Helmets and gas masks protect and obscure their faces, and they carry bottles of milk to counteract tear gas and pepper spray.

Most of them appear to be white.  They carry no signs and don’t want to speak to reporters. Trailed by designated “medics” with red crosses taped to their clothes, these groups head straight for the front lines of the conflict.

Night after night in this ravaged city, these small groups do battle with police and the National Guard, kicking away tear gas canisters and throwing back foam-rubber projects fired at them.  

Around them, fires break out. Windows are smashed. Parked cars destroyed.

USA TODAY reporters have witnessed the groups on multiple nights, in multiple locations.  Sometimes they threaten those journalists who photograph them destroying property.

Source: USA Today

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How the U.S. mandated racial segregation

April 30, 2020

I am old enough to remember when black people were barred from living in the suburbs of American cities, including those in the North and West.

 I attributed this to the racism of middle-class white Americans.  Although backed up by the real estate industry and sometimes enforced by mob violence, I saw it as the total result of the racist attitudes of many, many separate individuals.

Most of my liberal white friends did the same.  It was not, so we thought, de jure segregation, imposed by government as in the South, but de facto segregation, the result of uncounted individual decisions.

Richard Rothstein, in THE COLOR OF LAW: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, showed this isn’t so.  Segregation was imposed by the government, including the federal government.

Much of this is a product of the  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. As Rothstein depicted the New Dealers, a majority of them were unapologetic white racists, with a minority of white liberals mostly too timid (there were a few exceptions, such as Eleanor Roosevelt) to object.

He described in great detail how the New Deal excluded black people.  Even though such policies no longer exist, at least not in such blatant form,  their impact continues into the present day.

According to Rothstein, these policies were illegal.  They violated the 5th, 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

Therefore, he wrote, the U.S. government owes compensation to the heirs of those whose rights were violated.  Just how you do this is a hard question, for which I don’t think Rothstein has a good answer.  This said, even though I was brought up to admire FDR, I can’t deny the justice of his indictment.

Rothstein’s focus is on housing policy.  President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal made home ownership a new reality for millions of Americans, but U.S. subsidies for homebuilders and home buyers were conditional on racial segregation.

The government, backed by the real estate industry, insisted on racially restrictive covenants, barring black people from better neighborhoods.  Black people could not get Federal Housing Administration loans to buy houses outside all-black neighborhoods.

The Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) was created in 1933 to rescue homeowners in danger of defaulting on their mortgages.  It purchased existing mortgages and refinanced them so that homeowners could afford the payments.

Payments also amortized the mortgages so that the homeowners built up equity in their homes.  If they sold their homes, they’d have something to keep.

In order to assess the risk. the HOLC hired real estate appraisers to assess risk of default of mortgages.  They created maps covering every city in the U.S., with the safest neighborhoods colored green and the riskiest colored red.  Any neighborhood with an African-American living in it was colored red, even if it was a middle-class family with a good credit rating.

Then in 1934, the Roosevelt administration created the Federal Housing Administration, which insured 80 percent of the amount of bank mortgages.  But for a homeowner to be eligible for a mortgage, the home had to be in a non-risky neighborhood.

Not only that.  The FHA would not insure any mortgage for a non-white homeowner in a white neighborhood.

During World War Two, the federal government subsidized public housing projects for war workers.  But the projects were racially segregated, with African-Americans getting proportionately few and less desirable places.

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U.S. history from the viewpoint of the Indians

October 21, 2019

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s disturbing An Indigenous People’s History of the United States is, in the author’s words, the investigation of a crime scene.

She told a story of a nation that broke treaty after treaty in order to engage in unprovoked military aggression, ethnic cleansing and genocide in order to gain living space.

Settler militias and government troops burned crops, demolished homes, and paid bounties for the scalps of Indian men, women, and children. The buffalo were deliberately destroyed to deny sustenance to the Plains Indians

British General Jeffrey Amherst practiced germ warfare against the Pontiacs in colonial times.  US army personnel skinned Indian victims to make bridles for their horses.  The buffalo were deliberately destroyed in order to deny sustenance for the Plains Indians.

General William T. Sherman, who headed the War Department under the Grant administration, famously said that the only good Indians he ever saw were dead.

I see an obvious analogy.

What happened to the Indians was not happenstance, Dunbar-Ortiz wrote.  It was a result of both government policy and the core values not only of American culture, but of European civilization as a whole.

These policies and values shaped U.S. military tradition and its way of waging war today, she wrote.  U.S. troops still call occupied territories “indian county.”

I kind-of, sort-of, in-a-way vaguely knew much of the contents of the book, but it never fully registered on me until I read it.  Having all these facts concentrated into one 236-page indictment has an impact I can’t forget.

∞∞∞

When Columbus sailed in 1492, there was a flourishing native American civilization.  Dunbar-Ortiz said it was wiped out not only by the unplanned spread of European diseases, but also as deliberate policy.  European and native American civilizations were incompatible.

Europeans believed in the “doctrine of discovery,” which is that Christians have the right to claim territory they discover for their own, regardless of the non-Christian inhabitants.  This is still part of U.S. law, she noted.

The Puritan settlers of New England were Calvinists, like the Boers in South Africa.  They believed that they, like the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament, had made a covenant with God that entitled them to the land they settled and that the existing inhabitants were to be killed, subjugated or driven out, like the Canaanites.

In the South, the economy was based on plantation agriculture worked by forced labor, which poor whites couldn’t compete with.  They became frontiersmen instead.

The settlers’ goal was to own land individually, to exploit or sell as they saw fit.  The Indian nations could never accept this.   The varied Indian cultures all believed that land was a common inheritance that could not be alienated.

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An interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

October 21, 2019

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is the author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, published in 2014.  She gave an interview about the book to the Real News Network.

In the first part of the interview, she told of her childhood as a poor sharecropper’s daughter in Oklahoma and how she became a scholar and Indian rights’ activist.

In the second part, she talked about the colonial origins and foundational myths of the United States and Andrew Jackson, the great Indian fighter.

In the third part, she talked about how James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln and other writers and statesmen created the ground for ethnic cleansing of the Indians.

Lessons of The Killing Floor

October 13, 2019

I saw a great movie Friday night – a remastered version of the 1984 movie, The Killing Floor, which is about the fight of slaughterhouse workers in Chicago in the 1910s to establish a union and how they were divided and defeated by racial conflict.

It is a reminder of a history we Americans shouldn’t forget and carries lessons for labor and social justice struggles today.

All the characters are based on real people, who supposedly did approximately the same things that the movie shows.

The viewpoint character is Frank Custer, an illiterate sharecropper from Mississippi, who at first is grateful just to find work and doesn’t want to get involved in what he sees as a conflict between white people.

But when Bill Bremer, a German-American union leader, sticks up for him, Custer begins to realize that people of a different race and heritage are not necessarily his enemies.

The union local reflects the culture of the immigrants from central and eastern Europe who make up the majority of its members.  Speeches by union leaders are translated into Polish, and union meetings are following by polka dances.

The white ethnic leaders welcome Custer into their midst, and rely on him and a handful of other black organizers to bring African-American workers into the union.  He becomes a respected member of the leadership.

This was a huge, huge thing for white people to do in the 1910s, when extreme racism was the norm not only in the United States, but throughout the Western world.

But the white leaders do not do what Custer did—get out of their comfort zone and make contact with people who are culturally different from themselves.

Instead they depend on him to represent the union to the black workers, and to represent black workers to the union leadership.  In the end, this proves to be too much to expect.

Custer’s best friend meanwhile goes off to serve in World War One, and comes home to scorn any idea of alliance with white people.  He trusts only his fists and his revolver.

Another black worker, Heavy Williams, resents Custer for the power and prestige he has gained by allying himself with white people.  He helps to sabotage the union’s fragile racial amity.

Following the end of World War One, the United States was torn with race riots—not race riots like today, which consist of black people going on rampages, mainly through their own neighborhoods.

The race riots of the “red summer” of 1919 consisted of armed white gangs shooting up black neighborhoods and wrecking property, while police looked the other way.

A race riot in Chicago was touched off by the stoning to death of a black man for trespassing on a white beach area.  White gangs in blackface set fire to Polish and Lithuanian homes.  Black Chicago neighborhoods are terrorized.

The meat packers used the end of wartime prosperity and the need to create jobs for returning veterans as an excuse to lay off union workers.  Many white union members saw African-Americans as a threat to their jobs.  Many African-Americans saw working as strikebreakers as the only way to get jobs.

The union was defeated temporarily, but gained recognition and a contract in the 1930s.

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An interview with Paul Coates, Ta-Nehisi’s father

October 3, 2019

Paul Coates, the father of the famous writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a remarkable person in his own right.

Paul Coates

He was the leader of the Black Panther chapter in Baltimore in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when that carried a high risk of being killed or going to prison for a long time.

Later he founded a prison literacy program, opened a bookstore that doubled as a community center and founded Black Classic Press, to disseminate the works of contemporary and classic black authors.

In an interview with Wil S. Hylton for HuffPost Highline, the elder Coates described his experiences growing up in poverty and serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, told how the Black Panther Party self-destructed, explained why black nationalists appreciate the self-help philosophy of Booker T. Washington and much else.

The interview is well worth reading.  HuffPost Highline seems like a good resource.

LINK

Now We’re Talking: The Extraordinary Life of Paul Coates by Wil S. Hylton for HuffPost Highline.

Banking while black: the same old story

October 3, 2019

Arizona State University once sent out testers to test for racial bias in hiring.  Some were black, some were white, some supposedly had criminal records, some did not.  Otherwise they were evenly matched.

Sure enough, the whites with criminal records had better acceptance than the blacks with clean records.

Rutgers Business School more recently sent out black and white testers to test for racial bias in small-business lending.  They were matched in every way except that the black applicants had slightly better qualifications than the white applicants.

Sure enough, the bank loan officers made the black applicants jump through a lot more hoops on average than the white applicants.

Among other things, the blacks were asked whether they were married, and whether their spouses were married, much more often than the white applicants.

They also on average had to provide more detailed financial information, got fewer offers of future appointments, got less offers of help in filling out forms and were thanked for coming in less frequently.

Despite all the very real progress since the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, African-Americans still do not compete on a level playing field.

LINKS

New Report Finds Racial Bias in Small Business Lending by Yusuf Ismail for Patch news in Newark, N.J.

Shaping Small-Business Lending Policy Through Matched-Pair Mystery Shoppers by Sterling A. Bone, Glenn L. Christensen, Jerome D. Williams, Stella Adams, Annalise Lederer and Paul C. Lubin for the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.

A black woman in ‘a world made for whiteness’

October 2, 2019

Austin Channing Brown was a beneficiary of the civil rights movement.  But she never reached the point where she was judged on the content of her character instead of the color of her skin.

She grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when overt racial prejudice had ceased to be socially acceptable.  She attended a good majority-white private Christian school and good majority-white colleges.  She had a career in majority-white religious non-profit institutions, all of which paid lip service to diversity and inclusiveness.

She now is a writer, lecturer, workshop coordinator and producer of a new TV program, The Next Question, which will air starting Oct. 6.  Few if any of these things would have been possible before the civil rights era.

But, in her memoir, I’M STILL HERE: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, she wrote that she still feels like an outsider in a white world, and for good reason.

Her response is to immerse herself in what she calls Blackness (with a capital B) and take an oppositional stance toward what she sees as a monolithic entity called whiteness (all lower  case)

I have reservations about that.  The value of the book for me is its account of what even well-off black people have to put up, even when they’re with supposedly nice liberal white people.

Her parents named her ‘Austin Channing’ because they hoped that, when she sent in job applications, the potential employer would mistake her for a white man and invite her in for an interview.

Her parents were realistic.  Studies have shown that job applicants and loan applicants with characteristically black names get turned down at a higher rate than identical people with characteristically white upper-crust names.

And her own experience was that, in fact, interviewers were discombobulated when she came in the door and they saw who she was.

Another lesson from her dad: Never put her hands in her pockets or in her purse when in a store.  Because she was black, somebody might think she stole something.

When problems arose with white co-workers, Brown wrote, her mentors would invariably assume that she herself was the problem.  They would say they knew the co-workers and knew that they could never be racist.

There was a lot of racial prejudice, she wrote, underlying apparent concern and kindness.  Possibly she saw prejudice when it wasn’t there.

But that is the problem that black people face.  They never can know for sure whether a white person’s behavior toward them is a response to them as individuals or to their race.

Added to this is the problem of not fitting in, of not sharing the background, interests, tastes and assumptions common to her white co-workers.  This isn’t malice, it isn’t racial prejudice, but it is a real problem.

In my own case, I always felt a little uncomfortable when I was the only white person in the room.  I did not completely understand what was being said or done, and I was a little afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.

I am socially awkward generally, so somebody else might not have felt the way I did..  But I think I did get a glimpse of the stress that many black people must feel when they are in this kind of situation every day.

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White nationalists aren’t the only mass shooters

August 8, 2019

I deplore the way President Trump inflames racial antagonism, and I think it would be a good idea to restrict the sale of rapid-firing rifles that use large ammunition clips and magazines.  But I don’t think either of these things is a root cause of the mass shootings that plague the U.S.A.

The root cause of mass shootings is deeper than any particular ideology, whether that be white nationalism, Islamic jihadism or something else.  The fact that it is not just due to white nationalism is shown by the racial diversity of the shooters.

And no, we don’t need a renewed “war on terror,” this one aimed at white nationalists.   [Added 8/9/2019]

LINKS

The War on White Supremacist Terror by C.J. Hopkins for The Consent Factory.  [Added 8/9/2019]  Good article.

Mass shootings aren’t growing more common—and evidence contradicts common stereotypes about the killers by Charles J. Ferguson for The Conversation.

Five things to know about mass shootings in America by Frederic Lemieux for The Conversation.

Why Do We Have Mass Killers? by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative [Added 8/9/2019]

A handy list of black mass murderers who were taken alive (for people who think that being taken alive for mass murder is a ‘white privilege’) by Will Shetterly for it’s all one thing.  [Added 8/11/2019]

I added the text, changed the headline and added links the morning after I posted the chart.

Considering the case for white nationalism

August 1, 2019

Click to enlarge

I read The White Nationalist Manifesto by Greg Johnson partly because I am annoyed at the casual way the word “racist” is thrown around, and I thought it would be interesting to discuss the ideas of an actual unapologetic racist.

I read it partly because I can remember when white racist ideas such as his were acceptable, and I see nothing in the nature of things to prevent them from becoming acceptable again.

And I read it partly because, as John Stuart Mill once said, “he who knows only his own side of a case knows little of that.”  If I believe in equal rights for all, I should be willing to confront the strongest arguments of someone who believes the opposite.

I take Greg Johnson’s arguments seriously and will respond to them in a civil manner.  I hope nobody accuses me of being an apologist for white nationalism because I do not use abusive language..  An insult is not an argument..

Greg Johnson starts out with the assumption that there is a genetic difference between white and non-white people that is so fundamental that they cannot live together in peace.  He then goes on to point out two facts.

  • The birth rate in majority-white countries, including the USA, is below the replacement rate (an average of 2.1 per woman).
  • All the countries in which the birth rate is above the replacement rate are non-white.  These are the countries that would be the predominant sources of immigration.

If non-white immigration and the declining birth rate continue indefinitely, white people will in time become minorities in their homelands and possibly be replaced altogether.  That’s a matter of logic.  Johnson calls this “white genocide.”

He mentioned the recent rise in “deaths of despair”  (suicide, drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease) among the American white population, which he attributed to the stress of living in a multi-racial society.

He believes that two things are necessary to prevent this:

  • White women of child-bearing age must have at least three children.  To ensure this happens, feminism must be rejected, abortion and birth control outlawed and LGBT persons not tolerated—at least among white people.  Men should be protectors and providers, women should be wives and mothers.
  • Immigration from non-white countries must cease and, over time, non-white immigrants and their children be returned to their homelands.  Jews should be sent to Israel.  In majority-white countries outside Europe, separate territories should be provided for indigenous peoples and “perhaps” for descendants of non-white slaves.  Aside from this, the long-range goal is to get rid of the non-white people.

Johnson distinguished white nationalism from white supremacy.  He did not advocate that white people subjugate and rule people of color, as in the pre-Civil War American South or apartheid South Africa.  He rather wants to exclude people of color as much as possible.

He also distinguished white nationalism from German Naziism and Italian Fascism, but here he had to tread carefully because neo-Nazis are part of his constituency.  He praised the Nazis and Fascists, whom he calls the Old Right, for their racism and anti-semitism, but added that white nationalism does not require a totalitarian police state or wars of extermination.

But while while nationalism is not totalitarian, neither is it a philosophy of individual freedom.  Johnson wrote:

White nationalism by its very nature is statist rather than libertarian, collectivist rather than individualist, illiberal rather than liberal.  We believe there is a common good—the survival and flourishing of our people—which can only be promoted by government policy, and we believe that whenever private interests conflict with the common good, the common good should win out.

Johnson endorsed the basic idea of identity politics as he sees it—that you should stick up for members of your own ethnic and racial group, regardless of merit or the facts of the individual case..  White nationalism is identity politics for white people.

The last thing he wants is a colorblind society, in which African-Americans, Hispanics and other non-whites assimilate and intermarry with the majority population.

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Once again Trump commands the headlines

July 17, 2019

Donald Trump has a superpower—the ability to keep the attention of the public and the press on himself and his tweets rather than on issues he doesn’t want discussed.

He manifested this superpower in his tweet about whether certain Democratic congresswomen shouldn’t just “go back and fix the crime infested places from which they came.”

Last week Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Presley traveled to the southern border and exposed the terrible conditions under which asylum seekers were forced to live—children forced to sleep on concrete floors under bright lights, ICE staff joking about women having to drink out of toilets.

Press coverage was about these bad conditions, and whether they should be called “concentration camps” or not.

AOC and Trump. CNNNews

All this was wiped off the blackboard.  Now press coverage is once again focused on President Trump’s tweets and whether they are acceptable or not.

Trump wins again, despite the House of Representatives vote condemning him.  He has kept the focus on himself and diverted attention from what is going on in the world.

The kryptonite for Trump’s superpower is for the press and the opposition to not take it more seriously than it deserves.  Respond to tweets with other tweets – not with press conferences and congressional resolutions.

Ocasio-Cortez  and her three friends are not under attack because they are women of color.  This is a red herring.

They are under attack because they threaten the system by which corporate and wealthy donors dominate the legislative process.

Some time ago Ocasio-Cortez said that the reason she as a freshman representative has been able to make an impact is that she has time to do her job because she does not follow the guideline of spending three hours a day on the phone to raise money.

That was a powerful statement.  It was threatening to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats and Republicans.  Their power depends on fund-raising from powerful interests.

If an Ocasio-Cortez or a Bernie Sanders shows you can win power in defiance of those interests, this threatens the careers and even the livelihoods of those who depend on the donor class.

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Rev. Dr. Thandeka on white privilege

June 24, 2019

In colonial Virginia, there was a law that white indentured servants could not be stripped naked and whipped.  They could be whipped while fully clothed, but only black servants and slaves could be whipped naked.  So the white servants enjoyed “white privilege.”

Rev. Dr. Thandeka

The Rev. Dr. Thandeka, a Unitarian Universalist theologian, says this is an example of how the idea of “white privilege” is used to persuade white people to accept being exploited and abused.

She wrote a series of posts (linked below) on her web log about how the idea of white privilege has been used through American history to divide poor black and white people and maintain the status quo.

She questioned the value of mainstream Christian churches trying to promote racial equality by means of instilling white guilt.  As an alternative, she proposed certain spiritual practices to help people of all colors better understand their common humanity.

I think she’s basically right.  Her analysis is considerably oversimplified, but when you’re stating your case in just a few paragraphs, you can’t always make fine distinctions.   I think her main points are important and true, and deserve to be more widely discussed.

The name Thandeka, which means “beloved” in the Xhosa language, was given her by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa in 1984.

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From white supremacy to white nationalism

June 17, 2019

This interview with Kathleen Belew was aired July 24, 2018.

***************************************************************

I learned two important things from reading BRING THE WAR HOME: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew (2018).

One is how the Ku Klux Klan and other white racist organizations changed in the late 1970s and early 1980s from vigilantes upholding a racist order to revolutionaries and secessionists trying to overthrow an anti-racist order.

The other is that so much of what I thought of as isolated incidents, ranging from the murder of talk show host Alan Berg in 1984 to Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, were in fact planned by a revolutionary movement.

Belew began her account with the story of a Klansman named Louis Beam who served in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner.  He regarded U.S. defeat in Vietnam as a betrayal engineered by Jews and Communists.  He and his like-minded friends regarded themselves as soldiers.  They regarded the war against Communism as the same thing as the war against racial integration and racial equality.

They obtained and stockpiled military ordnance, organized private militias and military training camps and enlisted as mercenaries in support of anti-Communist fighters in Africa and Central America.   The South African and Rhodesian governments made use of them, and so did the Central Intelligence Agency.

They saw no difference between killing Communists in Vietnam or Nicaragua and killing Communists in the USA.  Klansmen and Nazis joined forces in the shooting of Communist anti-Klan demonstrators in Greensboro, N.C., in 1979, resulting in the deaths of five white men and one black woman.

But at some point, they came to regard the U.S. government as hopelessly compromised.  The annual Aryan Nations World Conference at Hayden Lake, Idaho, announced a new organization called the Order, which would coordinate the Klan, Nazis and other white racist organizations, such as the Mountain Church, the White Patriot Party and the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA).

Their new goal was to establish a separate white enclave and eventually to break up the United States and forcibly move whites, blacks and maybe other racial groups into separate areas, while deporting Jews to Israel.  Beam commented that carrying out this program might make the Third Reich seem mild in comparison.

Their idea was that African-Americans, being members of an inferior race, could not have more their civil rights on their own.  They thought that black people must have been aided by the Jews, whom they regarded as super-smart but evil.

Members of the Order swore to carry out “a sacred duty to do whatever is necessary to deliver our people from the Jew and bring total victory to the Aryan race.”

The Order’s plans included (1) paramilitary training, (2) robbery and counterfeiting to raise money, (3) purchase of military-grade weapons, (4) distribution of money and weapons to white power groups, (5) assassinations of enemies and informers and (6) a cell-type organization so that rank-and-file members only knew the names of members of their own group.

Beam’s vision was a “leaderless resistance,” in which there was no top-down chain of command, but a network of cells linked by Liberty Net, a computer network.  This was prior to the Internet, a time when computer networks were a novelty.

They got a lot of their ideas from U.S. Army training manuals on insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare, and their system of organization resembled the Communist fighters in Vietnam and the radical Muslim jihadists of a later era.

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The facts behind the black-white IQ gap

June 10, 2019

In case this ever comes up in conversation.

Here’s Why the Black-White IQ Gap Is Almost Certainly Environmental by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones