John Lewis left an essay to be published as an opinion piece on the day of his funeral. It is a stirring encapsulation of the forces that motivated the young boy to become the great man that he did, and a call to arms to this generation. May we rise to the challenge that Congressman Lewis now puts before us and carry on the work that he began. New York Times: While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity. That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on. Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars. Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain. Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself. Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting […]
We lost John Lewis (D-Ga) tonight. I have no words to describe my sorrow or the loss we suffered. So this article will be short. Lewis passed after a short but intense battle with pancreatic cancer. He stepped up to join other civil rights leaders in 1961, when he was one of the first Freedom Riders. In 1963, he spoke at the March on Washington. In 1965, he was savagely beaten by racists during a march in Selma, Alabama. His SNCC colleague, Courtland Cox, said of Rep. Lewis: In the face of what John considered the evils of segregation, he was fearless. He served in Congress for decades, consistently fighting for the rights of African-Americans and for democracy as a whole. He fought for right and justice for every human being everywhere. He was among the best America has to offer. I lack the heart to write more. Let some of our best speak instead. Speaker Pelosi: "All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing. May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make 'good trouble, necessary trouble.'" — Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 18, 2020 I simply have no words to express the magnitude of this loss. This is just too much. Rest in peace and power #JohnLewis. pic.twitter.com/Jrp0JX005w — Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) July 18, 2020 John Lewis was an American treasure. He gave a voice to the voiceless, and he reminded each of us that the most powerful nonviolent tool is the vote. Our hearts feel empty without our friend, but we find comfort knowing that he is free at last. — Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) July 18, 2020 We learned from civil rights giant Congressman John Lewis that we have “a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate, to speak up, speak out and get in good trouble.” In honor of his legacy, we will continue on this path of good trouble. Rest in power, Congressman. — Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) July 18, 2020 From 2015: .@RepJohnLewis never stops. Arrested for a Freedom Ride in 1961. Arrested for immigration reform in 2013. #Selma50 pic.twitter.com/EKtztTzwsf — Gabe Ortíz (@TUSK81) March 7, 2015 And from Rep. Lewis himself: Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. #goodtrouble — John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 27, 2018 Godspeed, sir. You have all the love in our hearts and your family and friends have our prayers and our well wishes.
Many whites, particularly those who grew up in the 30’s through the 50’s and beyond, grew up in communities of families, neighbors and friends who signaled the perceived inferiority of all African Americans to their young children and friends who shared their views. We would not have characterized ourselves as racist. In fact, we would have vehemently denied it. In my upbringing, and that of many others, there were no hateful statements about blacks, but the tone of white superiority was in the community. Signals and innuendos were there. Racist jokes were frequent and passed on to other whites, none of whom were deeply offended by such derogatory attempts at humor. Even an intended complement to a black person betrayed racism. “I had trouble with my car today and this great guy helped me–and he was a black guy,” implying the exceptional nature of a black man being a good person. Interracial marriage was discouraged. You didn’t want your son or daughter to marry a black person. This is what we white children were fed with some regularity. We didn’t have black friends because they didn’t live near us. We did recognize our common values with neighbors who weren’t like us in their appearance, customs, cultures and native languages. We were all poor and working class. My family and those of our neighbors came from countries like Italy, Ireland, Lebanon, Armenia and others. Each of our immigrant groups suffered prejudice, yet we lived together as friends and good neighbors to one another. Despite hateful prejudice, immigrant groups ultimately assimilated into a common American culture. Those families of immigrants were not systematically segregated like those of black Americans, whose ancestors have been in this country centuries before the immigrant families I grew up with. If black families had been our neighbors, they would have been our friends. We would have known them as people and recognized that their values and goals were the same as ours, growing up in struggling working class neighborhoods. The direct and more subtle white supremacy indoctrination did not take with many of us. Some of us had the good fortune of getting an education, reading history and exercising our own judgment. Others did not need the gift of education to become people of character and connect with the human rights of all of us. As BLM leaders have explained to us whites, it is not enough that you are not a racist, you must be anti-racism. You must stand up and be counted. At a minimum, make your vote count. It is an imperative. Many of the white population I describe did not grow up in the same areas as blacks. We didn’t know black Americans because we didn’t encounter blacks to any significant degree. Segregation is responsible for that. Systemic racism has existed throughout American history. White supremacy has been enforced in many ways. Outright, legalized segregation, with the blessing of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1895, made “separate but equal” the law of the land. Even after the Supreme Court, in 1954, overruled that disgraceful low point in Supreme Court history, American law and banking practice established red-lined communities that have successfully perpetuated segregation of blacks from white neighborhoods. LeBron James commented that he never met a white kid until, as a teenager, he played organized basketball. […]
Racists sense the sea change working its way through American society, and they are striking back in their usual stupid, brutish, half-sensate way. We could write stories two or three times daily of some white guy screaming about wearing a mask in Costco, or some white couple berating a black man for writing “Black Lives Matter” on his own property, or some pissed-off white guy going on a racial tantrum and taking a bike chain to a young black man, or a crazed racist pulling a gun on a black family (after apparently hitting one of them with her car), or so many others. They know the near-limitless amount of privilege they enjoy as white Americans is slowly being dismantled around them, piece by tiny piece. And they don’t like it. So, like any other fear-driven, hate-maddened gaggle of idiots, they are reacting with violence. Like this one in Stonington, Connecticut, where two of them tried to kill a black hotel clerk because…wait for it…their hot water didn’t work. Here’s why this is important, aside from the bleak fact that two white people attacked a lone black woman for no reason. In days passed — like, say, January — they would have felt warm and protected inside their iron shield of white privilege. So they would have felt perfectly free to storm the hotel desk, call her racial slurs, demand their money back, whatever they felt like doing, because it’s how they felt free to act every single day of their lives. I am thoroughly convinced that the Karens and Kyles of our society go out to eat, or go shopping, or whatever, with only one eye on buying that cute new set of deck chairs or chowing down on the shrimp ceviche at the local ethnic eatery, and the other eye on finding an opportunity to belittle and berate someone of lower class stature. Double points if the waitress you’re trying to make cry is black or brown. Triple word score if the employee you’re spitting on doesn’t speak English very well. Then came the COVID-19 virus and suddenly they were facing weeks or months of self-isolation. Few to no opportunities to find and tongue-lash a Keisha or a Carlos. What fun is life without a daily affirmation of the white privilege which, let’s face it, makes their lives worth living? Then comes the George Floyd murder, and all of those other people took to the streets, daring to protest because one of the sacred enforcers of white privilege actually used his privilege to kill one of the serfs. Who did they think they are? After that, things started falling apart. Videos went viral. Behavior that would have been applauded at the weekly luncheons celebrating the shared privilege of the Chosen People were suddenly causing Their People to lose their jobs and sometimes even face criminal charges. It went further. They started having statures honoring Their People pulled down. The flag they co-opted from the sad sacks of the Confederacy to honor the real “Lost Cause” — limitless white domination — was being taken down all over the country, from NASCAR refusing to allow them to be flown in the stands to having it removed from the Mississippi State Flag. Not that the Chosen People of, say, Massachusetts, Colorado or California ever actually wanted […]
The game show host in the White House gave a Hollywood style shout out to the late Frederick Douglass in 2017, implying that he was alive, and it was risibly and typically Trump. CNN: “I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things,” Trump said. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” – Trump added: “Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.” This is the level of comprehension with which Trump is able to deal with the history of systemic racism, as we saw at Mt. Rushmore, when he somnambulantly read the same names from a teleprompter, with all the gravity and empathy that one would use to intone the ingredients in a cake recipe, or something else they found equally trivial. When Trump’s not at a rally, exclusively, he’s going through the motions of governing. He hates it probably as much as we hate seeing him do it. – Here are five descendants of Frederick Douglass, reading his speech before the Abolitionist Society in 1852, after he escaped slavery. It was quite a piece of work then and it resonates particularly now, through these young people who are his descendants, and part of his legacy. – 6:58 in length If you want to read the full text, here’s a link. I’ll bet many people, if not most of us, never thought of it from this perspective before.
There comes a point when something can no longer be called a “coincidence” or a “blunder.” We’ve hit that point — passed it, really — with the Trump administration and the campaign (they are one and the same, of course). The Nazis created the “Nazi Eagle,” or the “Iron Eagle,” in the 1920s, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Of course, like other Nazi images, it is now popular with American white supremacists, neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates — the rock-solid core of Trump’s electoral base. So, when we see the logo of the Trump 2020 campaign, should we be surprised? Trumps new logo for 2020 is eerily familiar, where have I seen this before? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/m8czrkYasN — YS (@NYinLA2121) July 1, 2020 So far this new logo is sold on T-shits that you can get for a cool $30 from the Trump campaign site, which I will not link to because you don’t want the shirt unless you want to give the Trump campaign $30 for the privilege of ceremonially burning it. I wouldn’t bother. As you might imagine, American Jews — or Jews anywhere, I would imagine — are not happy with this. Trump & Pence are proudly displaying a Nazi-inspired shirt on their official campaign website. They are promoting genocidal imagery yet again — just days after President Trump retweeted a video of a supporter chanting “white power.” Link: https://t.co/U57Hfx6jwy pic.twitter.com/bt9N7Hb8Zb — Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) July 1, 2020 Bend the Arc: Jewish Action wrote: It’s not an accident. Bigotry is their entire brand. If some right-wing bootlicker wants to try the “it’s a coincidence” or whatever argument, just respond with this, and don’t forget to punch a Nazi: They look nothing alike pic.twitter.com/cZJ8qjD1hx — Lyndsay 🎮 (@LyndzLP) July 2, 2020 But the campaign isn’t calling it a mistake. Of course, they’re doubling down on it, claiming that the problem is with the perception and not the reality of the symbol. Trump 2020 communications director Josef Goebbels, er, Tim Murtaugh, said: “In Democrats’ America, Mount Rushmore glorifies white supremacy and the bald eagle with an American flag is a Nazi symbol. They have lost their minds.” Apparently criticism of the logo is “moronic,” in Murtaugh’s words. The “America First” slogan, another key element of the logo, also has a deep, and ugly, history. pic.twitter.com/sotB7DXtIk — usurper (@usurper19) July 2, 2020 Early in his campaign, Trump said: I’m not isolationist, but I am “America First.” So I like the expression. I’m “America First.” Steven Miller and Steve Bannon co-wrote that March 2016 campaign speech. Both Miller and Bannon are neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and were brought into the Trump campaign because, not in spite of, their stances. (Don’t forget, Trump’s first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is an unrepentant white supremacist and neo-Confederate.) The America First Committee (AFC) was founded in 1940, and initially focused on its opposition of the US entering the war on either side. Its members included socialists, conservatives, and Americans from prominent and wealthy families. Future US President Gerald Ford was a member, as was future Vice-Presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, future Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, and others. But, anti-Semitism and an increasing pro-Nazi slant began to define it, Less than eight weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack, AFC spokesperson Charles Lindbergh delivered a wildly anti-Semitic speech on […]
I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, that the onslaught of dreadful and deadly news of late has served, inadvertently one hopes, to shove Black Lives Matter news and stories to one side. Understandable on one level—the daily news grows worse every day. Bounties on the heads of our serving men and women in Afghanistan; Coronavirus upticks that are starting to look like the Black Plague had nothing on it, never mind the most famous of the early plagues we all know about occurred in the 14th century; jobs reports being touted, with “falling” unemployment numbers that economists are declaring to be not credible—that is, not 11.1% (which is let’s face it still really awful), but rather closer to 14%; and those infection number upticks showing a growth pattern that may make us think a 20% unemployment number is good news. But there’s this: You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument The black people I come from were owned and raped by the white people I come from. Who dares to tell me to celebrate them. This article, an opinion piece, by Caroline Randall Williams, appeared in the New York Times on June 28. Williams is the daughter of author Alice Randall. But of more import to our shared history: Williams is the great-great granddaughter of Edmund Pettis, Confederate general, and after whom the infamous Selma Bloody Sunday Bridge is named, The Pettus Bridge. Upon which bridge, on March 7th, 1965, peaceful marchers were trapped at the foot of the bridge, attacked, beaten, and tear gassed. Including currently serving Congressman John Lewis. Take a few minutes to read her article. And you’ll see why Black Lives Matters and all related offshoots of this umbrella movement must not be allowed to disappear from our attention. And further, the removal of monuments and statues makes such good sense, not from merely a dry historical place, but as a way of honoring all those folks of color whose bodies are, as Williams says, Confederate Monuments.
As you get older, and there’s less on your plate every day, you have more time to think. And when you have a whole life to think back on, who knows what will come to you unbidden? And so it was that, recently, while thinking of the incredible events surrounding the national change of mood regarding confederate monuments, and the confederate flag, and believe it or not, I found striking similarities to another massive social and political shift that occurred during my life. It will take a bit to get there, but believe me, it all comes together in the end. My heart soared when I saw and heard that the state of Mississippi had finally lifted itself out of the muck and became the last state to remove the confederate flag as a component of it’s state flag. This is s work in progress, but it is progress. Following the Mother Emmanuel massacre, South Carolina lowered the confederate flag for the last time from the state capitol. Confederate monuments and statues are coming down all over the country, and even NASCAR, the granddaddy of southern sports, has barred confederate flags from their events and properties. But there is an underlying social movement involved in this that I don’t think people really realize right now, and it has to do with the psychology of racism, or any other socially questionable behavior. Let me explain. I was a long time smoker, I started smoking when I was 16, and didn’t stop until I was 58, when I switched to vaping. And I was a serious smoker, committed to my right to poison my lungs. But being an avowed smoker during that time frame, I had front row seats to the social upheaval that finally turned the tide of the acceptability of smoking. When I started smoking, it was socially acceptable, it was done everywhere. But somewhere along the line, people who didn’t smoke got tired of having their clothes smell like an ashtray, and getting diseases common to smokers, even though they didn’t smoke. And then they got some solid scientific evidence on their sides, and it was off to the races. It started slowly, but once it got rolling, it was unstoppable. In rapid succession, smokers could no longer smoke in restaurants, in bars, on airplanes or theaters, at indoor sporting events, and finally, even at outdoor sporting events. And the ultimate psychological effect was that it tended to isolate smokers from each other, and to minimize the places where fellow huffers could congregate and feel comfortable among other true believers. Every time you lit up a Marlboro, you felt less and less like The Outlaw Waylon Jennings, and more and more like The Outlaw Josie Wales. Are you seeing the connection? It’s easy for a good ole boy to take great pride in grabbing his confederate flag on a short pole, jamming that pole into a holder on the back of his redneck Cadillac, and zooming off to a NASCAR event, there the same flag flies from a pole, there is confederate paraphernalia on sale at the race, and some of the cars in the race have the confederate flag decals on their cars. It’s much easier for a racist to feel self confident in his beliefs, and to say to his […]
Tom Cotton is not only a Trump supporter but an acolyte of the MAGA cult, aspiring to be High Priest. Trump was never going to be around more than eight years in any event, and now it looks like he’ll bite the dust sooner, but that doesn’t mean that his dogma won’t live on. After all, the GOP paved the way for forty years so that a creature like Trump could appear and Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and a few others are in line to assume the mantle. However, they might do well to consider whether it’s a dying religion and Cotton may be on a fool’s errand. Cotton spoke in front of the Senate on the topic of whether Washington, D.C. should become a state. He said things like, “Would you trust Mayor Bowser to keep Washington safe?” As opposed to Trump? Personally, I would trust Rin Tin Tin to keep Washington safe, above Trump, and we’ve already seen why. In all events, Cotton’s speech was a coded racist screed for the ages. As Esquire’s Charlie Pierce put it, “What the fck is this? I mean, besides the obvious dogwhistles that can be heard beyond the orbit of Neptune.” Esquire: Cotton blew through the customary bargain-bin of historical references—Jacobins! The Philadelphia Mutiny!—and he trotted out the name of Marion Barry, of whom I had not thought in a decade, as a demonstration that DC can’t be a state because the residents can’t be trusted to govern themselves. (Dips into bargain-bin of historical references and comes up with a small box labelled, “Redeemers.”) There was some lengthy mendacity on the subject of, if Washington can be a state, why can’t Jacksonville or New York? And, of course, the cat peeped from the bag; this is all about two additional Democratic senators elected by a population to whom the Republicans would rather not appeal. But just as one’s interest began to flag, Cotton let the pigeons loose. “Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and ten times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded working-class state. A new state of Washington would not be…What vital industries would the new state of Washington represent? Lobbying? Bureaucracy? Give me a break. By far, the largest group of workers in the city are bureaucrats and other white-collar professionals. This state would be nothing more than an appendage of the federal government.” Interesting that he would tout Wyoming, the most insanely over-represented deeo red Republican state in the union. The population of the entire state is 578,000, which is roughly the size of Glendale, Pasadena and Burbank put together and nobody wants to give the San Fernando Valley statehood and two more senators, I’ll warrant that. Now I find it fascinating that hardhat trades like mining and logging and manufacturing are considered more valuable pursuits than what goes on in the cities, and so does Charlie Pierce. He marvels that in Cotton’s mind, the aforementioned trades “count for more as ‘workers’ than do street-cleaners, and hotel maids, and cops, and cabbies, and sanitation workers, and bodega clerks who make Washington a better place for Tom Cotton to live than back home in Bugtussle is.” So read this as the […]
I live in Wilmington, NC. Nice beaches just a few minutes’ drive away, warm weather, college town ambience in some areas. And lots and lots of racism, both overt and (barely) under the surface. And, like so many other cities, towns and rural districts across this great country of ours (TM), our police departments and sheriff’s offices are…problematic. Some of the officers are as bluntly and callously racist as you can get. Others are good and dedicated people. I know, I’ve worked with them when I was in the educational system. This story is about both sets. [Trigger alert: I am not going to use bleeps or asterisks to sanitize the words spoken by the racists in this story. Be warned.] The Wilmington Police Department, which has a distinctly checkered history in race relations, has a new police chief, Donny Williams. Williams is black. That’s notable. One of Williams’s first actions as chief was to fire three particularly bestial racists on the force. Name them and shame them: Michael “Kevin” Piner, James “Brian” Gilmore, and Jessie E. Moore II, all white, all veterans of the police force. The firings come after a routine review of dashcam footage that accidentally recorded two phone conversations between the officers. Williams used the “extraordinary circumstances” exclusion in North Carolina law to allow him to report the details of the firings. A lawyer for the officers attempted to prevent Williams from doing just that. In a press conference by Williams and some — not all — members of the City Council, Williams said: Why are we releasing this information this way and at this time? Because it is the right thing to do. Normally, personnel laws allow only a very small amount of information to be made public. However, in exceptional cases, when it is essential to maintain public confidence in the administration of the City and the Police Department, more information may be released. This is the most exceptional and difficult case I have encountered in my career. We must establish new reforms for policing here at home and throughout this country. He added: When I first learned of these conversations, I was shocked, saddened and disgusted. There is no place for this behavior in our agency or our city and it will not be tolerated. Mayor Bill Saffo added, “I can honestly say that I was sickened by the vile and destructive language used by these officers.” Williams will release the video footage if he can secure the approval of a judge. The June 4, 2020 conversations were recorded from Piner’s car. The first recording to draw the attention of the police supervisor was a conversation between Piner and Gilmore, who pulled up alongside Piner in his car. When the conversations turned to the George Floyd protests, the talk quicly turned ugly. Piner told Gilmore that the WPD was only interested in “kneeling down with the black folks.” Gilmore replied that he had seen a YouTube video of white people bowing down on their knees and “worshipping blacks.” Bad enough, right? It gets worse. The three then began badmouthing some of their black colleagues. One was characterized as “bad news” and a “piece of shit.” Piner said of the black officer, “Let’s see how his boys take care of him when shit gets rough, […]