White Resentment and Whites-Only Representation

A University of Maryland professor reported seeing white nationalist posters, like the one pictured above, in the Chemistry Building (Photo courtesy of Osvaldo Gutierrez); Featured background image: ​A flag for sale outside a Trump rally in Texas last year (Photo: Eric Thayer for The New York Times​).

White resentment put Donald Trump in the White House.  And there is every indication that it will keep him there, especially as he continues to transform that seething, irrational fear about an increasingly diverse America into policies that feed his supporters’ worst racial anxieties.

If there is one consistent thread through Trump’s political career, it is his overt connection to white resentment and white nationalism. Trump’s fixation on Barack Obama’s birth certificate gave him the white nationalist street cred that no other Republican candidate could match, and that credibility has sustained him in office — no amount of scandal or evidence of incompetence will undermine his followers’ belief that he, and he alone, could Make America White Again.

The guiding principle in Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration. No wonder that, even while his White House sinks deeper into chaos, scandal and legislative mismanagement, Trump’s approval rating among whites (and only whites) has remained unnaturally high.* Washington may obsess over Obamacare repeal, Russian sanctions and the debt ceiling, but Trump’s base sees something different — and, to them, inspiring.

Like on Christmas morning, every day brings his supporters presents: travel bans against Muslims, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Hispanic communities and brutal, family-gutting deportations, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, an Election Integrity Commission stacked with notorious vote suppressors, announcements of a ban on transgender personnel in the military, approval of police brutality against “thugs,” a denial of citizenship to immigrants who serve in the armed forces and a renewed war on drugs that, if it is anything like the last one, will single out African-Americans and Latinos although they are not the primary drug users in this country. Last week,  Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions put the latest package under the tree: a staffing call for a case on reverse discrimination in college admissions, likely the first step in a federal assault on affirmative action and a determination to hunt for colleges and universities that discriminate against white applicants.

That so many of these policies are based on perception and lies rather than reality is nothing new. White resentment has long thrived on the fantasy of being under siege and having to fight back, as the mass lynchings and destruction of thriving, politically active black communities in Colfax, La. (1873), Wilmington, N.C. (1898), Ocoee, Fla. (1920), and Tulsa, Okla. (1921), attest. White resentment needs the boogeyman of job-taking, maiden-ravaging, tax-evading, criminally inclined others to justify the policies that thwart the upward mobility and success of people of color.

The last half-century hasn’t changed that. The war on drugs, for example,  branded  African-Americans and Latinos as felons, which stripped them of voting rights and access to housing and education just when the civil rights movement had pushed open the doors to those opportunities in the United States.

Similarly, the intensified war on immigrants comes, not coincidentally, at the moment when Latinos have gained visible political power, asserted their place in American society and achieved greater access to schools and colleges. The ICE raids have terrorized these communities, led to attendance drop-offs in schools and silenced many from even seeking their legal rights when abused.

The so-called Election Integrity Commission falls in the same category. It is a direct response to the election of Mr. Obama as president. Despite the howls from Mr. Trump and the Republicans, there was no widespread voter fraud then or now. Instead, what happened was that millions of new voters, overwhelmingly African-American, Hispanic and Asian, cast the ballots that put a black man in the White House. The punishment for participating in democracy has been a rash of voter ID laws, the purging of names from the voter rolls, redrawn district boundaries and closed and moved polling places.

Affirmative action is no different. It, too, requires a narrative of white legitimate grievance, a sense of being wronged by the presence of blacks, Latinos and Asians in positions that had once been whites only. Lawsuit after lawsuit, most recently Abigail Fisher’s suit against the University of Texas, feed the myth of unqualified minorities taking a valuable resource — a college education — away from deserving whites.

In order to make that plausible, Ms. Fisher and her lawyers had to ignore the large number of whites who were admitted to the university with scores lower than hers. And they had to ignore the sizable number of blacks and Latinos who were denied admission although their SAT scores and grade point averages were higher than hers. They also had to ignore Texas’ unsavory racial history and its impact. The Brown decision came down in 1954, yet the Dallas public school system remained under a federal desegregation order from 1971 to 2003.

The university was slow to end its whites-only admissions policy, and its practice of automatically admitting the top 10 percent of each Texas public high school’s graduating class has actually led to an overrepresentation of whites. Meanwhile, African-Americans represent only 4 percent of the University of Texas student body, despite making up about 14 percent of the state’s graduating high school students.

Although you will never hear this from Jeff Sessions, men are the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action in college admissions: Their combination of test scores, grades and achievements is simply no match for that of women, whose academic profiles are much stronger. Yet to provide some semblance of gender balance on campuses, admissions directors have to dig down deep into the applicant pool to cobble together enough males to form an incoming class.

Part of what has been essential in this narrative of affirmative action as theft of white resources — my college acceptance, my job — is the notion of “merit,” where whites have it but others don’t. When California banned affirmative action in college admissions and relied solely on standardized test scores and grades as the definition of “qualified,” black and Latino enrollments plummeted. Whites, however, were not the beneficiaries of this “merit-based” system. Instead, Asian enrollments soared and with that came white resentment at both “the hordes of Asians” at places like the University of California, Los Angeles, and an admissions process that stressed grades over other criteria.

That white resentment simply found a new target for its ire is no coincidence; white identity is often defined by its sense of being ever under attack, with the system stacked against it. That’s why Trump’s policies are not aimed at ameliorating white resentment, but deepening it. His agenda is not, fundamentally, about creating jobs or protecting programs that benefit everyone, including whites; it’s about creating purported enemies and then attacking them.

In the end, white resentment is so myopic and selfish that it cannot see that when the larger nation is thriving, whites are, too. Instead, it favors policies and politicians that may make America white again, but also hobbled and weakened, a nation that has squandered its greatest assets — its people and its democracy.

Source: The Policies of White Resentment -By Carol Anderson | The New York Times

Carol Anderson is a professor of African-American studies at Emory University and the author of “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.”

*Update: More recent polls show that Trump’s approval rate among non-college educated whites is starting to plummet. Quinnipiac University released a poll on Aug. 2 that showed Trump reaching a new low point in his approval numbers, with 61 percent of Americans disapproving of the job he is doing compared to 33 percent approving. That is down from Quinnipiac’s June 29 survey, which showed the president with 55 percent disapproval and 40 percent approval. The organization said that the latest numbers marked Trump’s “lowest approval and highest disapproval number since he was inaugurated.” The new poll also showed a drop in the approval rating among groups that form the president’s base — Republicans and whites who are not college graduates. Republicans’ approval of Trump is still high at 76 percent in the latest numbers but that is down from 81 percent in January. Similarly, among non-college whites, the president’s approval rating fell from 52 percent in January to 43 percent this month. Source: ABC News. Additional sources below.


Recommended…
✻​ Economic Anxiety Didn’t Make People Vote Trump, Racism Did -By Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel | The Nation
✻​ Let’s Not Be Shy About Why Trump is President -By Leonard Pitts, Jr. | The Washington Post
✻​ We Have Entered Trump’s Era Of Deep, Racist, American Tribalism -By P.L. Thomas | Huffington Post
✻​ ‘Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President-Elect -By Daniel Lombroso and Yoni Applebaum | The Atlantic
✻​ Inside the Secret, Strange Origins of Steve Bannon’s Nationalist Fantasia -By Joshua Green | Vanity Fair
✻​ A White Nationalist & Anti-Semite in the Oval Office: Trump Taps Breitbart’s Bannon as Top Aide | Democracy Now! (Video)
✻​ Trump Is on Track to Insult 650 People, Places and Things on Twitter by the End of His First Term | Upshot | The New York Time
My Party is in Denial About Donald Trump -By Jeff Flake | Politico
✻​ Trump, Party of One – Donald Trump Defenders’ Rationalizing Failure -By Jonah Goldberg | The National Review
Trump Hits New Low With White Non-College Voters -By Danielle Kurtzleben | NPR
Trump’s Support Among White Voters Plummeted and His Approval Rating Sunk -By Tim Marcin | Newsweek
✻​ Coretta Scott King’s Letter Judiciary Committee re the Nomination of Jefferson B. Session for U.S. Judge, Southern District of Alabama Jeff Sessions, 19 March 1986 | Coretta Scott King

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Venezuela in Crisis

A woman with her face painted in the colors of Venezuela’s national flag takes part in the blockade of a highway in Caracas on April 24, 2017. (Photo: Fernando Llano/ AP); Background image: A demonstrator against President Nicolas Maduro’s government during a protest on the east side of Caracas on April 19, 2017. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty)

Introduction
Venezuela is in the midst of an unprecedented economic and political crisis marked by severe food and medicine shortages, soaring crime rates, and an increasingly authoritarian executive. Critics of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, say Venezuela’s economic woes are the fruit of years of economic mismanagement; Maduro’s supporters blame falling oil prices and the country’s “corrupt” business elites.

In January 2016, opposition lawmakers took a majority in the legislature—the National Assembly—for the first time in nearly two decades. However, the Maduro government has taken steps since to consolidate his power, including usurping some of the legislature’s powers. Maduro’s actions have been met with massive protests and international condemnation, including threats of expulsion from the Organization of American States.

I. Chavez’s ‘Bolivarian Revolution’

Chavez, a former military officer who launched an ill-fated coup in 1992, was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 on a populist platform. As a candidate, he railed against the country’s elites for widespread corruption, and pledged to use Venezuela’s vast oil wealth to reduce poverty and inequality. During his presidency, which lasted until his death in 2013, Chavez expropriated millions of acres of land and nationalized hundreds of private businesses and foreign-owned assets, including oil projects run by ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips.

Chavez, whose rhetoric often drew inspiration from Simon Bolivar, the Venezuela-born revolutionary of the nineteenth century, aimed to align Latin American countries against the United States. He led the formation of ALBA, a bloc of socialist and leftist Latin American governments, and established the Petrocaribe alliance, in which Venezuela agreed to export petroleum at discounted rates to eighteen Central American and Caribbean states.

Chavez also greatly expanded the powers of the presidency. Shortly after he took office, voters approved a new constitution that allowed him to run for another term, removed one chamber of Congress, and reduced civilian control over the military. In 2004, two years after he was briefly removed from office in a coup, Chavez effectively took control of the Supreme Court by expanding its size and appointing twelve justices. In 2009, he led a successful referendum ending presidential term limits.

Chavez remained popular among the country’s poor throughout his presidency, expanding social services including food and housing subsidies, health care, and educational programs. The country’s poverty rate fell from roughly 50 percent in 1998, the year before he was elected, to 30 percent in 2012, the year before his death.

Maduro, who narrowly won the presidency in 2013, pledged to continue his former boss’s socialist revolution. “I am ensuring the legacy of my commander, Chavez, the eternal father,” he said after the vote.

In Pictures – Crisis in Venezuela
Click on images to enlarge and read caption.

II. An Oil-Based Economy
Venezuela is highly vulnerable to external shocks due to its heavy dependence on oil revenues. Oil accounts for about 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings and 25 percent of its GDP, according to figures from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The state-run petroleum company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), controls all the country’s oil exploration, production, and exportation. Critics say PDVSA is grossly mismanaged and suffers from cronyism, a bloated payroll, underinvestment in infrastructure, and a lack of budgetary oversight.

As global oil prices fell from $111 per barrel in 2014 to a low of $27 per barrel in 2016, Venezuela’s already shaky economy went into free fall. That year, GDP dropped 12 percent while inflation soared to 800 percent. By early 2017, the country owed $140 billion to foreign creditors while it held only $10 billion in reserves, raising fears of a default.

Many critics fault the Chavez government for squandering years of record oil income. “Chavez did not use the massive oil price boom between 2004 and 2013 to put money aside for a rainy day,” wrote Harvard University economist Ricardo Hausmann in 2016. Instead, he “used the boom to expropriate large swaths of the economy, impose draconian foreign currency and price controls, and to subsidize imports. All this weakened the economy and made the country more dependent on imports, which Venezuelans can no longer afford.”

III. Price Controls and Shortages
Venezuela’s economic crisis is marked by soaring inflation and shortages of food, medical supplies, and staples like toilet paper and soap. Experts say the government’s strict price controls, which were meant to keep basic goods affordable for the country’s poor, are partly to blame. Many manufacturers in the country cut production because of the limits on what they could charge for their goods.

Another policy contributing to the country’s economic problems, many experts say, are currency controls, which were first introduced by Chavez in 2003 to curb capital flight. By selling U.S. dollars at different rates, the government effectively created a black market and increased opportunities for corruption. For instance, a business that is authorized to buy dollars at preferential rates in order to purchase priority goods like food or medicine could instead sell those dollars for a significant profit to third parties. In April 2017, the official exchange rate was ten bolivars to the dollar, while the black market rate was more than four thousand bolivars to the dollar.

Imports reportedly fell to $18 billion in 2016, down from $66 billion in 2012, as foreign-made goods became increasingly expensive. Many consumers are faced with the choice of waiting for hours in line for basic goods or paying exorbitant prices to so-called bachaqueros, or black market traffickers.

Experts say widespread expropriations have further diminished productivity. Transparency International, which ranks Venezuela 166 out of 176 on its perceived corruption index, reports that the government controls more than five hundred companies, most of which are operating at a loss. (By comparison, Brazil, which is more than six times as populous as Venezuela, has 130 state-run companies.)

IV. A Humanitarian Crisis

Observers have characterized the situation in Venezuela as a humanitarian crisis. In 2016, the head of the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation estimated that 85 percent of basic medicines were unavailable or difficult to obtain. Hospitals reportedly lack supplies like antibiotics, gauze, and soap. Infant mortality rates reportedly reached 18.1 per 1,000 live births in early 2016, up from 11.6 in 2011, while maternal mortality reached 130 per 100,000, more than twice the 2008 rate. Diseases like diphtheria and malaria, which had been previously eliminated from the country, have reemerged.

Poverty has also spiked. In 2016, a local university study found that more than 87 percent of the population said it did not have enough money to buy necessary food. Another study by a local nutrition organization found that 30 percent of school-aged children were malnourished. According to a 2016 report from Human Rights Watch, the Maduro administration “has vehemently denied the extent of the need for help and has blocked an effort by the opposition-led National Assembly to seek international assistance.”

Poverty and lack of opportunity are exacerbating Venezuela’s high rates of violence. Long one of the world’s most violent countries, in 2016 Venezuela experienced its highest-ever number of homicides: 28,479, or roughly 91.8 homicides per 100,000 residents, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, an independent monitoring group. (The U.S. rate, by comparison, is 5 per 100,000.) Maduro’s administration has deployed the military to combat street crime, but rights groups and foreign media have reported widespread abuses, including extrajudicial killings.

The humanitarian crisis has spilled across Venezuela’s borders, with thousands of desperate people crossing into neighboring Brazil and Colombia; others have left by boat to the nearby island of Curaçao. By some estimates, as many as 150,000 Venezuelans left the country in 2016 alone.

V. Political Turmoil

Amid the crisis, the Maduro administration has become increasingly autocratic. Opposition lawmakers, under the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, won a majority in the National Assembly in 2015 for the first time in sixteen years, but Maduro has taken several steps to undermine them. In September 2016, Venezuela’s electoral authority, which is considered loyal to Maduro, ordered the opposition to suspend a campaign to recall the president, sparking protests and international condemnation. The following month, the Supreme Court stripped the National Assembly of powers to oversee the economy and annulled a law that would have freed eighty political prisoners, including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. The president and the opposition subsequently entered into Vatican-brokered reconciliation talks, but those were declared “frozen” in November after Maduro administration officials stopped attending meetings. Maduro said he plans to stay in office until his term ends in 2019.

In March 2017, the judicial branch briefly dissolved the National Assembly. The court revised its order days later following an international outcry, but kept the legislature in contempt, effectively preventing lawmakers from passing laws. A week later the government barred opposition politician Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost to Maduro in the 2013 presidential election, from running for office for fifteen years, citing Capriles’s failure to secure proper approval for budgets and contracts.

Government security forces have attacked journalists, and several foreign reporters have been detained and, in some cases, expelled, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In 2017, Freedom House rated Venezuela as “not free,” making it one of two countries in the Western Hemisphere, along with Cuba, with the democracy watchdog’s lowest ranking.

VI. The Region Reacts
Mercosur, an economic and political bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela, suspended Venezuela in 2016. In March 2017, the secretary-general of the Organization of the American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, recommended suspending Venezuela from the bloc unless the Maduro administration moved quickly to hold elections. The last time OAS suspended a member country was 2009, when it did so to Honduras following a military coup.

U.S. policy under Donald J. Trump appears to follow that of former President Barack Obama, writes CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Matthew Taylor. In February 2017, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Vice President Tareck El Aissami for his alleged involvement in international drug trafficking. Later that month Trump met with Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, and called for his release. In April 2017, as protests continued in Caracas, the U.S. State Department issued a statement voicing concern over government actions against Capriles and demonstrators.

On May 19, The Trump administration sanctioned eight members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, including the court’s president, Maikel Moreno, the U.S. Treasury Department announced. U.S. officials said the sanctions were a direct response to an incident in March in which the Supreme Court annulled the nation’s democratically elected National Assembly, which is controlled by Venezuela’s opposition party. At the time, the Supreme Court, which remains loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, justified the takeover by claiming that the National Assembly was in contempt of its rulings. The court ultimately sought to authorize Maduro’s oil joint ventures by bypassing congressional approval. Despite tensions between Washington and Caracas, the United States remains Venezuela’s largest trading partner.

Meanwhile, the Maduro administration retains the support of allies in Bolivia, Ecuador, and several Caribbean nations. China has lent Venezuela more than $60 billion since 2001, and is the South American country’s largest creditor. Meanwhile, Venezuela has sought significant ties with Russia. Before oil prices fell in 2014, Venezuela was set to become the largest importer of Russian military equipment by 2025. In February 2017, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reaffirmed Moscow’s support for the Maduro government, saying bilateral relations “are on the rise.”

Reprint (w/ relevant updates added by blogger): Venezuela in Crisis -By by Danielle Renwick and Brianna Lee | Council on Foreign Relations

Recommended…
✻​ Venezuela Is Falling Apart – By Moisés Naím & Francisco Toro | The Atlantic
✻​ Internal Splits, Immolations, and Burning Houses: Venezuela Gets Worse -By Emily Tamkin | Foreign Policy
✻​ Venezuela’s Crisis | Human Rights Watch
✻​ Thousands Protest Human Rights Crisis in Venezuela -By Tamara Taraciuk Broner | HRW
✻ ​Crisis Upon Crisis in Venezuela | New York Times Editorial Board
✻​ U.S. Sanctions Venezuela’s Supreme Court -By Aria Bendix | The Atlantic

Charles Blow: War as Political Weapon

Injured boys at a field hospital after airstrikes on the rebel held areas of Aleppo, Syria November 18, 2016 (Photo by Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters/TPX IMAGES). Background image: The Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, pictured above in a 2014 photo, has been described as a “living hell” and “the “worst place on Earth.” (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has turned his back on pretty much everything he has ever said about United States military involvement in Syria and launched nearly 60 missiles at an air base in the country.

Trump’s official statement claimed that the strikes were in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s monstrous chemical weapons attack against his own people. But the statement also went further into the fiction of fear often touted to buttress humanitarian missions: “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

This has echoes of the George W. Bush warning about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” a lie that led us into a near decade-long war.

Not to be indelicate here, but atrocities happen in the world all the time (and have happened on an even larger scale before in Syria). Humans are capable of unimaginable cruelty. Sometimes the victims die quickly and are made visible by media for the world to see. Other times, they die in slow motion, out of sight and out of mind. Sometimes banned weapons are used; sometimes conventional weapons; sometimes, neglect, isolation and starvation.

And the world in general, and America in particular, has a way of being wishy-washy about which atrocities deserve responses and which ones don’t. These decisions can be capricious at best and calculated camouflages for ulterior motives at worst. Indeed, the motivations for military action needn’t be singular at all, but are often multiple, tucked one inside the other like nesting dolls.

Acts of war can themselves be used as political weapons. They can distract attention, quell acrimony, increase appetite for military spending and give a boost to sagging approval ratings. This “rally-around-the-flag” (or “rally”) effect is well documented by pollsters.

As Gallup wrote in 2001 after the attack of 9/11: “In the wake of the terrorist attacks Tuesday, American approval of the way President George W. Bush is handling his job has surged to 86 percent, the fourth highest approval rating ever measured by Gallup in the six decades it has been asking Americans to make that evaluation. Only Presidents George H. W. Bush and Harry Truman received higher ratings — the elder Bush twice during the Gulf War, with 89 percent (the highest ever) and 87 percent ratings, and Truman with 87 percent just after the Germans surrendered in World War II.”

It’s easy to sell the heroism of a humanitarian mission or the fear of terror or the two in tandem, as Trump attempted in this case.

The temptation to unleash America’s massive war machine is seductive and also addictive. Put that power in the hands of a man like Trump, who operates more on impulse and intuition than intellect, and the world should shiver.

The problem comes when the initial glow dims and darkness descends. We punch holes in some place on the other side of the world and the war hawks — many beholden to the military-industrial complex — squawk and parade about with chests swollen. But, feeding the beast of war only amplifies its appetite. Market Watch reported last week, “It could cost about $60 million to replace the cruise missiles that the U.S. military rained on Syrian targets Thursday night,” but Fortune reported that shares of weapons manufacturers, as soon as they began trading Friday, were “collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value.”

War is a business, a lucrative one.

Americans, who rightly are appalled by the images of dead children, applaud. They feel proud to slap the hand of a villain without risking American bodies. But now American might is irrevocably engaged. Our thumb is on the scale, and our reputation on the line.

Often, action begets more action, as unintended consequences sprout like weeds. In the most extreme cases, we take down a bad leader in some poor country. In theory, this helps the citizens of that country. But in the complex reality that we have had to keep learning over and over in recent history, it often creates a vacuum where one bad man can be replaced by even worse men.

We are then already in waist-deep. We have to make an impossible choice: stay and try to fix what we broke or abandon it and watch our nightmares multiply. Nobility of the crusade is consumed by the quagmire.

This is why we would all do well to temper the self-congratulatory war speeches and thrusting of pom-poms of our politicians and pundits, some of whom hypocritically opposed the use of military force by President Obama following an even worse chemical attack in Syria in 2013.

As righteous as we may feel about punishing Assad, Syria is a hornet’s nest of forces hostile to America: Assad, Russia, and Iran on one flank and ISIS on another. You can’t afflict one faction without assisting the other. In this way, Syria is a nearly unwinnable state.

We’ve been down this road before. Just over the horizon is a hill: Steep and greased with political motives, military ambitions, American blood and squandered treasury.

Being weary here isn’t a sign of weakness; to the contrary, it’s a display of hard-won wisdom.

Source: War as Political Weapon -By Charles M. Blow | The New York Times


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Donald Trump’s Syrian Civil War Paradox -By Owen Matthews and Sophia Slater | Newsweek
Obama Was Right to Abandon ‘Red Line’ on Syria’s Chemical Weapons -By Christopher Dickey | The Daily Beast
The Real Targets of Trump’s Strike Were His Domestic Critics -By Greg Grandin | The Nation
18 Times Donald Trump Said the U.S. Shouldn’t Bomb Syria -By Ashley Hoffman | TIME

The NMAAHC Explores the Beauty and Brutality of African-American History

shackles-worn-by-childrenSlave shackles used to chain children (Credit: All Artifacts from the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in December 2003. The museum’s building, designed by David Adjaye, is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. at 14th Street and Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001. Historian Lonnie Bunch is the museum’s founding director; Jacquelyn Serwer is its chief curator.

Early efforts to establish a federally owned museum featuring African-American history and culture can be traced to 1915, although the modern push for such an organization did not begin until the 1970s. After years of little success, a much more serious legislative push began in 1988 that led to authorization of the museum in 2003. A site was selected in 2006. The museum opened September 24, 2016, in a ceremony led by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The museum confronts head-on America’s history of slavery and racial oppression. Yet, while memorializing suffering, the museum wants even the bleakest artifacts to have a positive message. As visitors face an auction block where slaves stood to be bought and sold, they can also imagine the strength slaves summoned to survive.

Unusually, the museum had to start from scratch without a collection. It ran an “Antiques Roadshow”- style project in 15 cities that encouraged people to give heirlooms from their closets and attics, and yielded some of the 40,000 objects the museum now holds. About 3,500 artifacts will be on display in the opening exhibitions, many of them treasures donated by ordinary people.

Click the images above to enlarge or read the caption.

The museum tells its story in part chronologically rather than thematically. This decision is written into the architecture itself, as visitors descend 70 feet below ground to begin the historical journey centuries ago with the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The museum displays the original coffin of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old savagely killed in Mississippi in 1955; Ku Klux Klan hoods; and a piece of rope used in a lynching. The museum tells a history that continues to evolve. It documents the presidency of Barack Obama, but artifacts reflecting events like Black Lives Matter protests underscore persistent inequality and police brutality.

Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the history sections below.

Some exhibitions depict the diverse experiences of African-Americans in regions across the nation, from the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx, for example, to life in the South Carolina rice fields. Though here, too, the exhibitions refer to the oppression and discrimination that African-Americans experienced and highlight their fight to overcome segregation and bring about social change.

From the building’s upper levels, visitors can view the Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, the White House and the National Mall — a symbolic reminder, officials say, that the museum is a lens on the broader American experience.

Visitors are able to leave their own thoughts at public video booths. After such powerful displays, they can also sit in a space called the Contemplative Court to come to terms with what they have witnessed.

Appropriately for a public museum at the heart of Washington’s cultural landscape, the museum’s creators did not want to build a space for a black audience alone, but for all Americans. In the spirit of Langston Hughes’s poem “I, Too, Sing America,” the museum and all of the artifacts within it make a powerful declaration: The African-American story is an American story, as central to the country’s narrative as any other, and understanding black history and culture is essential to understanding American history and culture.


The National Museum of African American History and Culture
I, Too, Sing America | The National Museum of African American History and Culture | New York Times (Interactive)

Court After Court Refuses to Reinstate Donald Trump’s Travel Ban

Featured image: Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, after earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Countries included in the ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which are all Muslim-majority nations. (Photo: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

On January 27, Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that banned immigrants from seven Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) from entering the United States for the next 90 days. New refugee admissions are suspended for 120 days. The Syrian refugee resettlement program was suspended indefinitely. Trump’s ill-conceived and illegal order has, predictably, thrown thousands of lives into chaos. Immigrants and refugees with visas are either being prevented from entering the country or are being detained when they arrive.

On February 1, I posted a blog titled “18 Ways to Help Immigrants & Refugees Impacted by Donald Trump’s Executive Order“. The post was my “reply all” to the many people who have reached out to me, asking how they can help. Consider this an update of sorts. This post chronicles the foreseeable journey of Trump’s  executive order through America’s co-equal branch of government: the judiciary. Spoiler alert: It hasn’t gone well for the Trump administration. Predictably, Trump  attacked the judges, cursed the rule of law, and blamed the media  for the many problems he created. I’ll continue to update this post as major events happen on this topic, but please keep one thing in mind as you read the content below: This is Not Normal!


February 4
United States District Senior Judge James Robart for the Western District of Washington State issued a nationwide restraining order blocking the travel ban put in place by Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order.

Washington became the first state to sue Trump over his controversial executive order on immigration, with a number of states, including New York, joining the effort this week.  The Seattle decision comes after other federal judges in Boston, Virginia and New York granted restraining orders preventing the government from deporting people affected by Trump’s travel ban.

In issuing his decision, Robart was siding with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed a suit to block key provisions of Trump’s executive order, including the travel ban and sections that bars Syrian refugees from entering the country.

Judge Robart suggested in court that Trump’s 90-day entry ban on people from the countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen was not “rationally based,” since no one from any those countries had been arrested in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. Additionally, Judge Robart’s order argues Trump’s executive action “adversely” affects “areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel.” Reversing the action, the suit concluded, is thereby in the public interest: “These harms are significant and ongoing,” the order states.

Naturally, Mr. Trump to lashed out at Judge Robart  throughout the day, prompting criticism that Trump failed to respect the judicial branch and its power to check on his authority.  In a Twitter post on Saturday, Mr. Trump wrote, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

The Justice Department filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The DOJ’s appellate brief asked the 9th Circuit to stay Judge Robart’s order pending the appeal, arguing Trump has an “unreviewable” constitutional authority to suspend the entry of any class of foreigners into the United States. The DOJ further argued that any judicial ruling contrary to Trump’s executive order “second-guesses the president’s national security judgment.”

The Ninth Circuit court moved quickly to reject the administration’s appeal, a measure of the urgency and intense interest in the case.

free-attorneyPro bono lawyers and protesters at Los Angeles International Airport on January 29, 2017, rally against the Muslim immigration ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump. (Photo: Amanda Edwards / Getty).

February 9
A federal appeals panel has maintained the freeze on Trump’s controversial immigration order, meaning previously barred refugees and citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries can continue entering the United States.

In a unanimous 29-page opinion, three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit flatly rejected the government’s argument that suspension of the order should be lifted immediately for national security reasons, and they forcefully asserted their ability to serve as a check on the president’s power.

The judges wrote that any suggestion that they could not “runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

Trump reacted angrily on social media. He posted a Tweet just minutes after the ruling, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

Hillary Clinton, who lost the presidency to Trump in November, posted on Twitter simply, “3-0.”

The Justice Department could now ask the Supreme Court — which often defers to the president on matters of immigration and national security — to intervene. The Supreme Court, though, remains one justice short, and many see it as ideologically split 4 to 4. A tie would keep in place whatever the appeals court decides. The Justice Department could also ask the full 9th Circuit to consider the matter.

The appeals court opinion was written by Judge Michelle T. Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama; Judge Richard R. Clifton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush; and Judge William C. Canby, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter. It was detailed, but it does not represent a final judgment on Trump’s immigration ban.

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart granted the states of Washington and Minnesota a temporary restraining order on the ban. The appeals court judges noted their ruling was a “preliminary one,” and they were deciding only whether the government had “made a strong showing of its likely success” in getting the restraining order thrown out.

Federal courts in New York, California and elsewhere already had blocked aspects of the ban from being implemented, although one federal judge in Massachusetts declared that he did not think that challengers had demonstrated that they had a high likelihood of success. The case before the 9th Circuit, though, was much broader than the others, because it stemmed from a federal judge’s outright halting of the ban.

The court ruling did not affect one part of the executive order: the cap of 50,000 refugees to be admitted in the 2017 fiscal year. That is down from the 110,000 ceiling put in place under President Barack Obama. The order also directed the secretary of state and the secretary of homeland security to prioritize refugee claims made by persecuted members of religious minorities.

As of February 9, that means the United States will be allowed to accept only about 16,000 more refugees this fiscal year. Since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, 33,929 refugees have been admitted, 5,179 of them Syrians.

sarah-assaliSarah Assali, 19, left, who just arrived from Syria, is embraced by her brother Tawfik Assali, 21, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, upon her and other family members’ arrival from Syria at Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on February 6, 2017. Attorneys said Dr. Assali’s brothers, their wives and their two teenage children returned to Syria after they were denied entrance to the United States on January 28 although they had visas in hand after a 13-year effort. (Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP).

February 13
A federal judge in Virginia just handed down one of the biggest defeats yet to Donald Trump’s travel ban. Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the ban in Virginia until it can be fully argued out in court. That means it could be weeks or months before overseas travelers are again blocked from coming into the country via Virginia’s international airports.

The case pitted the federal government, represented by lawyers from the Justice Department’s Civil Division, against the Commonwealth of Virginia, represented by State Solicitor General Stuart Raphael and Attorney General Mark Herring.

Unlike temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions can become permanent. Some legal experts say the fact that Brinkema has issued this injunction means the Virginia case could potentially reach the Supreme Court before the Washington case—a possibility that reporters brought up to Herring when he held a press conference after the last round of oral arguments in that case on Feb. 10.

In her ruling, Brinkema wrote that it’s likely Virginia will successfully argue that Trump’s travel ban violates the First Amendment. The ruling cited Trump’s interview with Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, where he said his administration would prioritize the asylum claims of Christian refugees over refugees of other religions.

“The ‘Muslim ban’ was a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign for months,” she wrote, “and the press release calling for it was still available on his website as of the day this Memorandum Opinion is being entered.” And she wrote that just because the travel ban doesn’t impact all Muslims doesn’t mean it isn’t discriminatory.

“[T]he Supreme Court has never reduced its Establishment Clause jurisprudence to a mathematical exercise,” she wrote. “It is a discriminatory purpose that matters, no matter how inefficient the execution.”

Trump Travel Ban AtlantaA demonstrator holds a sign at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport during a demonstration on January 29, 2017, in Atlanta. (Photo: Branden Camp/AP)

February 16
Donald Trump said Thursday that he will issue a new executive order on immigration by next week, and Justice Department lawyers asked a federal appeals court to hold off on taking action in the legal battle over his initial travel ban until that new order is in place.

In a news conference at the White House, Trump said the new order would “comprehensively protect our country,” and he hinted that it might contain new vetting measures for travelers. Trump’s first order temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from entering the United States, ostensibly so officials could review and tighten screening procedures.

“Extreme vetting will be put in place, and it already is in place in many places,” Trump said. He said the administration “had to go quicker than we thought” because a federal appeals court refused to lift the suspension on his travel ban.

Trump’s comments and the Justice Department’s request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit mean that the administration – at least for now – is pumping the brakes on the furious court battle to restore the travel ban. Instead, the administration indicated in its filing that it expects that a revamped executive order will eliminate judges’ concerns, even those the Justice Department views as unfounded.

Sources: Virginia Judge Blocks Trump’s Travel Ban—Maybe Forever -By Betsy Woodruff | The Daily Beast

Federal Appeals Court Rules 3 to 0 Against Trump on Travel Ban – By Matt Zapotosky | Washington Post

Appeals Court Rejects Request to Immediately Restore Travel Ban -By Mark Lander | New York Times

Trump Promises New Immigration Order as DOJ Holds Off Appeals Court -By Laura Jarrett, Allie Malloy and Dan Merica | CNN


Recommended…
Syrian Family Forced To Return To Middle East After Arriving In Philadelphia | All Things Considered | NPR

Trump’s Executive Order On Immigration, Annotated | NPR

How Trump’s Travel Ban broke from the Normal Executive Order Process -By Kim Soffen and Darla Cameron | Washington Post

Trump’s Immigration Ban: Who Is Barred and Who Is Not -By Anjali Singhvi and Alicia Parlapiano | New York Times

 

Vice President Joe Biden Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom🏅

President Obama surprised Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday by bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on him, calling Mr. Biden “my brother” in a tearful goodbye in the East Room of the White House.

Having called Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, to the White House for a private farewell, the president instead brought him into a room filled with his friends, family and colleagues to present him with the honor, the nation’s highest.

For the first time, President Obama awarded the medal with distinction, an added level of veneration that previous presidents had reserved for recipients like Pope John Paul II and Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state.

Moments later, as the president called up a military aide to read the proclamation, Mr. Biden appeared to break down, turning his back to the audience to compose himself. After Obama hung the medal around his neck, the vice president cried openly.

The citation with the medal noted Mr. Biden’s “charm, candor, unabashed optimism and deep and abiding patriotism,” as well as his “strength and grace to overcome great personal adversity.” It called him one of the most “consequential vice presidents in American history.”

Addressing President Obama, who stood to his side, Mr. Biden said that he had never met anyone who had “the integrity and the decency and the sense of other people’s needs like you do.” The ceremony was an emotional conclusion to an improbable partnership that began in 2008 when Obama asked his former presidential rival to be his running mate. The two men became close during eight years in the White House.

While paying tribute to Biden during the ceremony, Obama said, “To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self regard and to live life fully. As one of his longtime colleagues in the Senate said — who happened to be a Republican — if you can’t admire Joe Biden, you have a problem.”

President Obama spoke emotionally about the relationship between his own family and the extended Biden clan, many of whom had gathered for the ceremony. “My family is so proud to call ourselves honorary Bidens,” he said. Mr. Biden sought to return the compliment. He noted that the Constitution did not grant the vice president any inherent powers — “for good reason,” he said. But he said that Obama had made good on a pledge to make sure that Mr. Biden had a job that mattered.

“You have more than kept your commitment to me by saying you wanted me to help govern,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he hoped the history books would record that he was an asterisk in Obama’s historic presidency.

“I can say I was part of a journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country,” Mr. Biden said.

Click here to read the full transcript of the event.


Background image: President Barack Obama surprises Vice President Joe Biden with a special send-off. In a White House ceremony honoring his Vice President, President Obama surprised an emotional Joe Biden by presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on January 12, 2017. (Photo: Yuri Gripas/ Reuters)

The Death Penalty, America, and the Rest of the World

Candle

Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty would have likely been abolished in America. Slavery became a haven for the death penalty. -Angela Davis

On December 19, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a worldwide “moratorium on the use of the death penalty”—the sixth that the U.N. has approved in the past decade. Each one has gained the support of more of the organization’s members. The latest vote was a hundred and seventeen countries in favor to forty against. (Thirty-one abstained, and five did not vote.) In addition to a call for a halt to executions worldwide, the resolution urges countries that maintain the death penalty to increasingly restrict its imposition and to apply international laws that protect the rights of those facing the penalty. The rights include that a death sentence may be imposed only for the “most serious crimes,” defined as intentional crimes that have “lethal or other extremely grave consequences,” and that execution be carried out only after “a final judgment rendered by a competent court,” following a legal process that insures a fair trial and that provides access to appeal to a higher court and the opportunity to seek a pardon or a commutation of the sentence.

At the General Assembly, the United States cast one of the nay votes. Stefanie Amadeo, the deputy representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, explained the country’s position, which is basically unchanged since the U.S. opposed the first resolution against the death penalty, in 2007: “The ultimate decision regarding these issues must be addressed through the domestic democratic processes of individual Member States and be consistent with their obligations under international law,” which does not prohibit capital punishment. The position reflects the American reality of supporting the death penalty in principle, but increasingly outlawing it in practice. As Jeffrey Toobin reported recently, the U.S. maintains the death penalty under federal and military law and under the laws of thirty-one states—even though only five states conducted executions in 2016 and executed only twenty people in total, the lowest number in twenty-five years.

The U.S. stresses the importance of observing global norms. “Just as the United States is committed to complying with its international obligations,” Amadeo said, “we strongly urge other countries that employ the death penalty to do so only in full compliance with their international obligations.” Meanwhile, in the past forty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has increasingly sought to restrict the application of the death penalty to the worst of the worst offenders—first, to people who commit the most heinous murders and, then, only to adults who commit them, excluding youth under the age of eighteen. In addition, it generally takes a decade or more for a state to carry out an execution because of challenges to a death sentence allowed under due process of law.

Among the states with the death penalty, twelve have not carried out an execution for a decade or more, and another five have not executed anyone for at least five years. In California, where the last execution was in 2006, there were seven hundred and fifty people on death row as of December 2nd. Rather than being executed (the state has executed only thirteen people since 1978) it is much more likely that a death-row inmate will die as a result of natural causes or suicide.

Roger Hood, an emeritus professor at Oxford, and Carolyn Hoyle, who directs Oxford’s Centre for Criminology, last year published the fifth edition of “The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective.” Their book documents the many ways that people are sentenced to death in violation of international law—for drug-trafficking, for example, rather than for “the most serious crimes,” in unfair proceedings and with no opportunity to ask for clemency, and while imprisoned in terrible conditions. These and other realities, they write, are moving “the debate about capital punishment beyond the view that each nation has, if it wishes, the sovereign right to retain the death penalty” to persuading “countries that retain the death penalty that it inevitably, and however administered, violates universally accepted human rights.” Countries that employ the death penalty and insist that they are abiding by international law, including the U.S., decline to join in making the most important international commitment about the penalty, which is to reject it as a violation of human rights.

There has long been a gap between the idealism that the U.S. expresses when boasting of its dedication to the rule of law, especially the protection of individual rights, and the reality of its persistent refusal to abide by major international human-rights commitments. The U.S. was a leader in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.N. adopted in 1948, but stopped supporting the international system to carry it out because, among other reasons, Jim Crow laws directly violated the declaration. There is a sizable list of human-rights treaties—on the Rights of the Child, for example, and on the International Criminal Court—that the U.S. has signed but not ratified. Even when the U.S. ratifies treaties, the government often adds a caveat that excludes protection of some basic rights.

As a result, the U.S. has ended up in some rough company, particularly when it comes to the death penalty. In the past generation, the number of countries that have stopping using the death penalty has doubled, from about fifty to about a hundred. Of the fifty-seven member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and of the thirty-five member states of the Organization of American States, only the U.S. carried out executions last year. The countries that executed the most offenders were, in order, China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. China executed thousands of people, though its secrecy about its use of capital punishment makes it impossible to know exactly how many. Excluding China, Iran (with close to a thousand or more), Pakistan (three hundred and twenty-six), and Saudi Arabia (a hundred and fifty-eight) executed almost nine out of ten people put to death worldwide—“often after grossly unfair trials,” according to Amnesty International, and “for crimes—including drug trafficking, corruption, ‘adultery,’ and ‘blasphemy’—that do not meet the international legal standards for the use of the death penalty.” In 2015, according to Amnesty International, at least a thousand six hundred and thirty-four people were executed, an increase of more than fifty per cent from the year before and the highest number in a quarter of a century. (The organization expects to release figures for 2016 in the spring.)

The United States, in other words, ranks with countries that conspicuously are not in full compliance with their international obligations. And its responsibility is sometimes worse than guilt by association. As Maya Foa, the director of the death-penalty team at Reprieve, an international human-rights organization, told me, “The U.S. clearly leads and influences global death-penalty practice. Our partners, who are lawyers and human-rights defenders in jurisdictions that retain the penalty, tell us that the use of the death penalty by the U.S., a ‘developed’ nation, is used to justify the death-penalty practice in the jurisdictions they work in.” Reprieve is providing legal and investigative assistance to people facing execution in eleven countries, in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, and in the U.S.

In August at a rally in Istanbul, after the failed coup attempt in Turkey, the BBC reported, the country’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said, “They say there is no death penalty in the E.U. … Well, the U.S. has it; Japan has it; China has it; most of the world has it. So they are allowed to have it. We used to have it until 1984. Sovereignty belongs to the people, so if the people make this decision I am sure the political parties will comply.” He said that the Turkish people might want to restore the death penalty to punish those responsible for killing hundreds of citizens during the attempted coup. That has not happened yet, but, if it does, its purpose, Erdogan suggested, will be a display of cold-blooded power.

The influence of the U.S. on the death penalty worldwide has sometimes been constructive. In 1976, for example, when the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for a state to make the death penalty mandatory for any crime, it marked the beginning of the decline of mandatory death sentences around the world. “The fundamental respect for humanity underlying the Eighth Amendment,” the Court said, “requires consideration of the character and record of the individual offender and the circumstances of the particular offense.”

The Indian Supreme Court employed this logic when it struck down the mandatory death sentence in the country’s penal code, in 1983. The legislature, it held, could not compel judges “to shut their eyes to mitigating circumstances and inflict upon them the dubious and unconscionable duty of imposing a preordained sentence of death.” More recently, the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide reports, eighteen other countries have followed suit and struck down the mandatory death penalty, including almost every Caribbean nation and Uganda, Malawi, and Kenya.

In their latest edition of “The Death Penalty,” Hood and Hoyle write optimistically about the U.S. example: “Those who campaign for abolition worldwide can hope that it will not be many years before the U.S. Supreme Court will be able to find that the majority of states, in line with a majority of countries worldwide, does not support the death penalty for anyone.” Donald Trump has said that he will replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia—the Court’s most vehement defender of the death penalty for almost thirty years—with someone in his mold. But, even when that happens, there will be a possibility that Justice Anthony Kennedy will join the Court’s moderate liberals in striking down the death penalty, for reasons Justice Stephen Breyer articulated in 2015: “The Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would” insure the fairness of the capital-punishment system, he wrote. “Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed.” If the Court continues to uphold the death penalty, on the other hand, the gap between the U.S. and a large and growing majority of the rest of the world will continue to increase.

Source: The Growing Gap Between the U.S. and the International Anti-Death Penalty Consensus -By Lincoln Caplan | The New Yorker


Recommended…
General Assembly Adopts 50 Third Committee Resolutions, as Diverging Views on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Animate Voting | UN General Assembly (Dec 16, 2016)

General Assembly Adopts Landmark Text Calling for Moratorium on Death Penalty | UN General Assembly (Dec 18, 2007)

Death Penalty | Equal Justice Institute (EJI)

U.S. Death Penalty Facts | Amnesty International

✿ The Guilty Plea Problem Campaign | The Innocence Project

The Death Penalty, Nearing Its End -By Editorial Board | New York Times

The Strange Case of the American Death Penalty -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

Why Are So Many Veterans on Death Row? -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

A Strong Case Against the Death Penalty -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

The Decline of Democracy and Rise of Fascism in Turkey

erdogan_reutersTurkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: Reuters/ Files).

One year has passed since 1,128 academics raised their voices for an end to the violence against the Kurdish population in Turkey, demanding an international, independent investigation of the occurrences during the 24-hour curfews declared in Kurdish towns and districts from August 2015 onward. The now well-known ‘peace petition’ had been a reaction to the violence, an outcry against the unbearable way in which the military had taken over towns and districts in the predominantly Kurdish south-eastern provinces of the Turkish state. Children and elderly people had been assassinated on the streets and in their homes, bodies left on the streets, the injured denied medical treatment. Despite the decisive and clear wording accusing the state of committing a massacre and refusing to be party to this crime, the petition was nevertheless a modest form of protest, because all other forms of democratic contestation had already been radically impeded since a suicide bomb attack on a previous attempt to demand peace with a large demonstration on October 10, 2015 in Ankara. A hundred demonstrators from various political factions were killed, hundreds injured and scarred.

Government’s Reaction
However, even this comparably simple form of critique was not tolerated by the government. The reaction was a concerted mass smear campaign triggered by the words of the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan leading to arrests, police investigations and ongoing dismissals of scholars. Denouncing the signatories as traitors, as ‘pseudo academics’ who were enemies of the nation, the pro-government media took up Erdogan’s discourse, picturing the signatories individually on their web and print outlets, making them perfect targets for goaded Erdogan-supporters. The homes of a number of signatories were raided in the early morning hours; some were taken into custody on campus and the wave of dismissals commenced, starting with those in the most precarious working conditions.

This harsh reaction, however, prompted a wave of solidarity both in Turkey and beyond. Defying the threat of persecution, over another thousand scholars added their names to the petition. Academic and non-academic associations from all over the world expressed their critique of the state’s course of action in open letters to the Turkish government and solidarity messages. However, continuing its politics of spreading fear, the state had four signatories exemplarily arrested on charges of terrorism propaganda. Professors Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kivanc Ersoy and Meral Camci remained detained for over a month, enduring solitary confinement and strip searches. (Meral Camci was in fact in France at the time of the detainment of the other three, but decided to return knowing she could also be imprisoned upon arrival. She was released with the others after the first court hearing, after 23 days in prison.

A year later, the trial is still ongoing. Police investigations have been commenced against all signatories, including those abroad. Nearly 500 signatories have faced disciplinary investigations within their institutions. The number of those dismissed is increasing every month, currently at 182. Others have been forced to resign or retire, have lost administrative positions, are sidelined and excluded from standard academic procedures such as participating in thesis committees, are disinvited from conferences and refused funding for research projects and conference attendance. Dozens have had to leave the country, while others cannot leave the country due to travel bans and the cancellation of their passports. The most worrying fact, however, is that this repression towards the academics is unfortunately part and parcel of the state’s authoritarian regime to silence all critical voices left.

In the months following the petition, the state further accelerated its war-strategy against the Kurdish population, a strategy which has radically turned its back on the previous more liberal discourses of the government emphasising the brotherhood between Kurds and Turks, and the initial peace talks between state officials and the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which had lasted until February 2015.

The violence reached its preliminary climax when military special forces killed around 170 people who had sought shelter in the two or three basements in Cizre, a small border-town to Syria. For days, critical media had published video messages and telephone calls in which those trapped were calling for help. However, the military officials permitted neither ambulances to access the area nor the wounded to leave, finally burning the building to the ground. The shocking brutality of the state exceeded all expectations. Following this, hardly any people remained in those towns and districts under curfew. Over a million people were forced to leave their homes only to return to a heap of rubble. Whole districts have been razed to the ground; bulldozers carrying away the remains even before the owners were allowed to return, including all personal belongings. Having left for what they thought would be a week, these people now have nothing to return to.

A Concerted Effort Against the Kurdish Movement
This comprehensive strategy is definitely not a limited operation against an armed group. Instead, it aims at destroying the successful politics of the Kurdish movement and the trust and support the population has in it. Since the mid-2000s, the Kurdish movement had particularly focused on empowering civil society with help of the municipalities in the region which are run by the Kurdish party and formed a ‘coalition’ party HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) with other left and marginalised ethnic, faith and LGBT groups. This politics had been very successful receiving strong support for the municipalities and gaining a landslide 13.2% in the national elections of June 2015, which left the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) without a majority. Re-elections were held five months later and the AKP made a decisive shift to the right, becoming increasingly authoritarian by the minute.

The aftermath of the attempted coup six months ago has been a welcome excuse not only to rid the state institutions of anyone in contact with the Gülen Community, held responsible for the attempted coup, but also to imprison mayors of the Kurdish municipalities, council members and municipality employees, as well as currently 12 MPs of the Kurdish-leftwing party HDP. Since the declaration of emergency rule, the elected mayors of over 50 towns and districts have been ousted out of power and replaced by state-assigned ‘trustees’, as they are euphemistically called. The media has been severely intimidated, with around 200 journalists currently in prison and over 177 different newspapers, magazines and TV channels shut down. Self-censorship is at its peak. The parliament has been practically by-passed through emergency decrees, most of them listing pages and pages of individual names of those to be dismissed. Overall, more than 80,000 state employees have been sacked so far, among them military and police personnel, but the highest number interestingly in the field of education.

A constant pledge to national unity, loyalty and militarism is the dominant discourse today, turning all critical voices into traitors and internal and external threats to the nation. The legal system has become a farce; the number of prisons is being increased; torture and deprivation of imprisoned back on the agenda. And as I am writing these lines, the parliament is voting on the end of parliamentary democracy, the concentration of power in the hands of the president alone, lacking the simplest mechanisms of checks and balances; MPs demonstrating their loyalty to the president by overtly waving their voting tokens for everyone to see and the prime minister celebrates the proposed abolishment of his post as an act of heroism adding the words “relax and obey”.

Looking back at this past year in Turkey, we see an increasingly overt development towards a more and more authoritarian society and government. Rudimentarily masked by arguments of counter-terrorism, society has been put into a straitjacket. Critique in any form has become increasingly impossible to voice, let alone make it heard. The few acts of protest remain limited, often with only few participants or even individual. With a mixture of disbelief and fear, people hope for this to be a phase, which is soon to end. However, according to law expert and honorary president of the Turkish Supreme Court Sami Selcuk, if the amendment of the constitution is accepted in the proposed form, the president to come “can become nothing other a dictator”.

Source: Steady Progress Into Fascism? Turkey, a Year After the Peace Petition -By Ulrike Flader | The Wire

Ulrike Flader is research coordinator for social movement studies at DEMOS Research Centre for Peace, Democracy and Alternative Politics, Turkey.


Recommended…
Turkey: Alarming Deterioration of Rights | 2017 World Report | Human Rights Watch

“Dreadful Year” of Attacks in Turkey Capped by 39 Dead in Istanbul Nightclub Attack | Democracy Now!

The End of Democracy in Turkey -By Dexter Filkins | The New Yorker

Erdogan’s Turkey: The End of Democracy? -By Ruadhán Mac Cormaic | The Irish Times

It Is, By Far, The Worst Time to Be a Turkish Journalist -By Berivan Orucoglu | Foreign Policy

Turkey’s Free Press Withers as Erdogan Jails 120 Journalists -By Rod Nordland | New York Times

America’s Original Sin: “Slavery Never Ended, It Just Evolved.”

fabrice-monteiro-maroons-03-1050x600Maroons (Photo: Fabrice Monteiro); Background Image: Slave Whip c.1863, Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute, The National Museum of American History

In America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America, Rev. Jim Wallis — a public theologian, political activist, and founding editor of Sojourners magazine, addresses  the numerous reports of white police officers shooting  black Americans, such as in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. He argues that the events are part of a legacy stretching back to slavery.

Wallis points out that the majority of white Americans see the shootings and violence as isolated incidents, while most African Americans see them as part of their daily day-to-day lives. To make his point, the author includes his personal experience as a young man meeting Butch—a fellow custodian in Detroit. He recalls eating dinner with Butch’s family and hearing about “the Talk” in which African American parents told their children to avoid police officers if they were ever lost. For Wallis, the advice from his parents was the exact opposite. “That difference of perspective told me I had indeed grown up in a different world,” Wallis says. Wallis also contends that this type of white privilege has not gone away, and furthermore, it is a legacy of white supremacy.

Another example in the book comes from the esteemed African American lawyer, author and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson. In his book Just Mercy, Stevenson recalls pulling up in front of his own home in Atlanta after a long day and taking a pause to listen to music before heading inside. He was violently confronted by a police officer who did not believe it was his home. Stevenson avoided arrest, but only after being patted down. As the officer walked away, he said, “You’re lucky this time.” Of course, Wallis has never been violently accosted by the police or asked to prove his residence. His whiteness affords him a level of security unknown to blacks Americans.

In an interview earlier this year with NewsOne Now host Roland Martin, Wallis told Martin that original sin is not just slavery, but the “deliberate dehumanizing and debasing” of African-Americans and the attitude that “Black lives and bodies don’t matter.” He added, “That was one of our founding principles as a nation, that Black lives and Black bodies don’t matter; you see that in all our headlines today. This original sin lingers on, that’s why we got to call it sin and talk about repentance from sin.” Wallis also explained that, “slavery never ended, it just evolved,” saying that “mass incarceration is the current evolution of slavery.” He also noted that the “deliberate disenfranchisement” of prisoners, gerrymandering, and other forms of voter suppression are tactics used to keep certain “demographics from changing America.”

In America’s Original Sin, Wallis offers a prophetic and deeply personal call to action in overcoming the racism so ingrained in American society. He speaks candidly to Christians–particularly white Christians–urging them to cross a new bridge toward racial justice and healing.

Whenever divided cultures and gridlocked power structures fail to end systemic sin, faith communities can help lead the way to grassroots change. Probing yet positive, biblically rooted yet highly practical, this book shows people of faith how they can work together to overcome the embedded racism in America, galvanizing a movement to cross the bridge to a multiracial church and a new America.

Sources
✿ Book: America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America | Jim Wallis

America’s Original Sin: Slavery Never Ended, It Just Evolved | NewsOne

Parables for Understanding A Nation’s Racial ‘Sin’ | All Things Considered | NPR

Jim Wallis on Slavery, Racism, and ‘America’s Original Sin’ -By Ken Chitwood | Publishers Weekly

Also Recommended…
✿ Book: Just Mercy | Bryan Stevenson

✿ Book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness | Michelle Alexander

Do Black Lives Matter to White Christians | Sojourners

How Can We Trust That Black Lives Matter To Our Police? | Sojourners

The Real “Looting”: From Slavery to Policing and Beyond -By Adam Hudson | Truthout


jim-wallisJim Wallis is an author, activist, preacher, teacher, and pastor. He is a best-selling writer, convener of faith-inspired movements for justice and peace both outside and inside politics, public theologian in a secular culture, renowned speaker in the United States and abroad, and international media commentator on ethics and public life. He is the founder and leader of Sojourners, a publishing platform, organization, and global network whose mission is to put faith into action for social justice. Wallis has written more than ten books, including The (Un)Common Good and the New York Times bestsellers God’s Politics and The Great Awakening. He has written for major newspapers, does regular columns for top digital news networks, and appears frequently on a wide variety of television and radio networks. Wallis also teaches at Georgetown University and has taught at Harvard University. He is husband to Joy Carroll, one of the first women to be ordained a priest in the Church of England, father to two teenage boys, Luke and Jack, and a decades-long Little League baseball coach.

10 Commentaries on Racism & Being Black in Donald Trump’s America

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1. Revenge of the White Man -By Jill Filipovic | TIME (Nov 10)
In a stunning result virtually no one predicted, Donald Trump won the vote for president of the United States. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, who would have been our country’s first female president, was supposed to give her victory speech at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center. Instead, she stayed silent through the night, and a dazed political press corps filed out under the building’s still-unbroken glass ceiling.

There is a lot to fear in a Trump presidency—economic chaos, entrenched bigotry and xenophobia, the demise of American international power. But there’s just as much to fear in the American people and, especially, in the white America that elected Trump.

White voters supported Trump overwhelmingly. White men were his strongest backers, although white women also favored him, with older white women, Evangelical white women, and white women without college degrees helping to carry him to victory. “Economic anxiety” was the story of this election. But the economy is good. White men with college degrees voted for Trump while working-class voters of color did not. And there is the simple fact that white Americans just voted in a president who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. That isn’t anxiety about the economy—it’s anxiety about the changing face of power in America. Read more.

2. America Elects a Bigot -By Charles M. Blow | New York Times (Nov 10)
Donald J. Trump is president-elect of the United States. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Mr. Trump will become this country’s 45th president. For me, it is a truly shocking fact, a bitter pill to swallow. I remain convinced that this is one of the worst possible people who could be elected president. I remain convinced that Trump has a fundamentally flawed character and is literally dangerous for world stability and injurious to America’s standing in that world.

There is so much that I can’t fully comprehend. It is hard to know specifically how to position yourself in a country that can elect a man with such staggering ineptitude and open animus. It makes you doubt whatever faith you had in the country itself.

Also, let me be clear: Businessman Donald Trump was a bigot. Candidate Donald Trump was a bigot. Republican nominee Donald Trump was a bigot. And I can only assume that President Donald Trump will be a bigot.

How can I make sense of the fact that the man who will appoint the next attorney general has himself boasted of assaulting women? What will this president’s vaunted “law and order” program for “inner cities” look like in an age where minority communities are already leery of police aggression? How do I make sense of the fact that a man who attacked a federal judge for his “Mexican heritage” will be the man who will nominate the next Supreme Court justice and scores of federal judges?

I can’t make it make sense because it doesn’t. I must sit with the absurdity of it. I must settle this in myself in this way: I respect the presidency; I do not respect this president-elect. I cannot. Count me among the resistance. Read more.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: What It Means to Be Black During a Trump Administration | WashPost (Nov 10)
Nicholas M. Butler, the Nobel Prize-winning American philosopher, once said that optimism is the foundation of courage. Today, African Americans will have to dig pretty deep to find that foundation because there’s not much optimism in sight. Yes, we’re all supposed to come together after an election, let bygones be bygones, and march forward unified as neither Democrats nor Republicans but patriotic Americans celebrating the triumph of the democratic process. But it’s difficult to link arms when the home of the free embraces the leadership of a racist.

Let the other groups denigrated and threatened by Trump speak for themselves. The women, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, the LGBT community and others who now must walk through the streets of their country for the next four years in shame and fear, knowing that their value as human beings has been diminished by their neighbors. I only speak for myself as an African American and I speak with the rage of betrayal.

The white Americans who made up a vast majority of Trump’s supporters were reacting to much more than the economy (which has been steadily strengthening), or Washington gridlock (which Trump has no specific plan or power to change), or fear of terrorism (which his unconstitutional plan of extreme vetting shows no evidence of combating). What some fear most is the changing shade of skin color of America. As the Latino, Asian and black population rises, the white majority will soon disappear. Between 2000 and 2010, whites dropped from 75.1 percent of the population to 63.7 percent. By 2050, whites will be in the minority at 47 percent. Trump represents the last wisp of the rich white plantation owner holding on to the glories of the past. Read more.

 

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4. This Is Who We Are -By Vann R. Newkirk II | The Atlantic (Nov 11)
The election of Donald Trump to the presidency reveals the true character of America. This is who we are. Those words often come to me when I see the ugly things in life now. When the first details about Tamir Rice’s death at the hands of police officers came to me on Twitter, they were a scream in the dark. When people questioned with straight faces if our president was even born in America, they echoed about my ears. When the Department of Justice report revealed that Ferguson, Missouri, was a racial kleptocracy, they were a whisper in the wind.

When a man who was accused of multiple sexual assaults, was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, had characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and has promoted stop and frisk as a national campaign of “law and order” was elected president, they boomed like thunder.

Donald Trump won the thing by appealing to white voters, and running an unabashed campaign of bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and other odds and ends of nastiness. This wasn’t some short-lived populist revolt destined to fizzle out in the summer or disorganized anti-establishment rabble, nor was it a catastrophic rending of the Grand Old Party. It wasn’t soul-searching. This was a juggernaut. It was a repudiation by the American electorate of the grand experiment of diversity of the past few years, as symbolized by Barack Obama. It was the half of America, a half that if not bigoted itself seemed mighty fine with being bigotry-adjacent. This is who we are. Read more.

5. The Illusion Of Allyship: My White Friends Voted For Trump, And I Can’t Make Peace With That -By Keyaira Kelly | Hello Beautiful (Nov 14)
I lived under the impression that I had a strong, rainbow coalition of people on my side, who, despite our differences, respected and cared for the things that I cared for. They were rooting for me and I sure as hell was rooting for them. That reality became blindingly clear as I watched friend after friend proudly proclaim their Trump support, despite his persistent advocacy for hatred against the lives of Black people, immigrants and women. And in this uptick of alt-right support, I questioned if the people I loved and befriended for years of my life ever saw me at all.

Somehow, my friends chose to rationalize their political decisions immersed in so much Whiteness, they actually couldn’t see how this decision harmed and hurt the very people they claim to love. In this dissonance, it is clear the last 8 years cradled us in the farce of progressiveness. Let’s keep it funky. A Black man walked his Black ass and his Black-ass family and Black-ass children into that White House and we thought America’s bloodthirsty diet was changing. But 8 years passed and it was time to feed the beast. And now, in the disillusioned cloud of this election, I fear the beast was sitting hungry next to me all along. Holding hands with me and smiling in my face as we conversed over breakups and grades and our frivolous social lives.

Because ‘Making America Great Again’ in Trump’s dystopian view meant returning to a time when Black protesters were carried out on stretchers and women could be arrested for exercising their right to choose. It meant it was acceptable for Black men and women to be racially profiled in the name of law and order. It meant women were toys you could ‘grab by the pussy’ without repercussions. And 63% of White men and 53% of White women cosigned, endorsed and suckled on this venom, and had the nerve to look up to say ‘it doesn’t taste so bad’ in the name of “change.”

The republican base prides itself on aligning with a candidate who shares their values and traditions. So let’s get one thing straight, Trump is who you are. Voting decisions are personal and you cannot conveniently clear your name from his platform of hatred in the name of politics. You are Pontius Pilate. You cosigned, endorsed and voted for hate, and if that’s what you agree with, I don’t know you. And I never did. Read more.

 

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6. Watching 81% of My White Brothers and Sisters Vote for Trump Has Broken Something In Me -By Yolanda Pierce | Religion Dispatches (Nov 15)
As my election night tweet clearly shows, I am left with a crisis. How do I continue to build bridges across racial divides with those who have demonstrated, in overwhelming numbers, that they will partner with a person endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan? Or with those who affirm someone who continues to insist, after eight years, that our current president is not a citizen and is therefore illegally occupying office?

How do I continue to be in Christian fellowship with those who embrace a man still calling for the deaths of five innocent African-American men acquitted of a crime by DNA? How can I believe that racial justice is possible when dealing with those who are quick to forgive the president-elect’s egregious moral lapses, while simultaneously supporting his contention that black and brown youth are inherently criminals deserving of constant surveillance?

As a descendant of enslaved persons my ancestors have been in the United States longer than almost any other group besides American Indians. I am not going to leave the country my ancestors built with their blood and uncompensated labor. And I am a Christian–a faith that was birthed in an African cradle. I am not going to leave the faith bequeathed to me by my foremothers and forefathers. But I will always speak truth from my lived experience as an African American living in a nation in which the structural sins of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression are clearly evident even in the body of Christ.

Yet I do not know as I write this whether the work to which I have given my career can continue. I do not know if I can continue to pay the cost of being a peacemaker and a bridge-builder with those who refuse to see how their actions have so deeply wounded minority communities. Something has been broken for me; a fragile hope that the work of racial and gender justice will be embraced by the larger church. Read more.

7. Team of Racists: Trump’s Cabinet Looks Just Like His Campaign Sounded -By Jodi Jacobson | Rewire (Nov 21)
One of the first cabinet appointments made by President-elect Donald Trump was of Steve Bannon as his “chief strategist and senior counselor.” Bannon is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a leading white nationalist website known for spreading fake “news” and for pushing racist, Islamophobic, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic tropes. Bannon’s selection drew widespread condemnation from Democratic members of Congress as well as civil rights, reproductive rights, and immigrant rights groups.

Retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) called Bannon a “champion of racial division.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups, noted Bannon’s “long history of bigotry” and his role in making Breitbart the media arm of the racist “alt-right” movement. And several organizations, including MoveOn.org and BoldProgressives, launched “Stop Bannon” campaigns. Leaders of white nationalist groups in the United States, on the other hand, rejoiced at Bannon’s ascension. In fact, I suspect every time Trump and his surrogates have said, “this isn’t a campaign, it’s a movement,” it’s a call-out to the very white nationalists celebrating Trump’s win.

This should be no surprise: Bannon may be the most blatant example of Trump’s true intentions, but he is by far the rule. Trump’s campaign was relentlessly and unapologetically rooted in racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant statements, themes, and proposals, and his cabinet reflects the same. As the saying goes, when someone tells you who they are, believe them. Read more.

 

kkk-flagKKK flag flies during a demonstration at the South Carolina State House Building (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

8. Making America White Again -By Toni Morrison | The New Yorker (Nov 21)
Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.

In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice. Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.

To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets. Surely, shooting a fleeing man in the back hurts the presumption of white strength? The sad plight of grown white men, crouching beneath their (better) selves, to slaughter the innocent during traffic stops, to push black women’s faces into the dirt, to handcuff black children. Only the frightened would do that. Right?

These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status. Read more.

9. Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About -By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | The New Yorker (Dec 2)
The election of Donald Trump has flattened the poetry in America’s founding philosophy: the country born from an idea of freedom is to be governed by an unstable, stubbornly uninformed, authoritarian demagogue. And in response to this there are people living in visceral fear, people anxiously trying to discern policy from bluster, and people kowtowing as though to a new king. Things that were recently pushed to the corners of America’s political space—overt racism, glaring misogyny, anti-intellectualism—are once again creeping to the center.

Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction. The election is not a “simple racism story,” because no racism story is ever a “simple” racism story, in which grinning evil people wearing white burn crosses in yards. A racism story is complicated, but it is still a racism story, and it is worth parsing. Now is not the time to tiptoe around historical references. Recalling Nazism is not extreme; it is the astute response of those who know that history gives both context and warning.

Now is the time to recalibrate the default assumptions of American political discourse. Identity politics is not the sole preserve of minority voters. This election is a reminder that identity politics in America is a white invention: it was the basis of segregation. The denial of civil rights to black Americans had at its core the idea that a black American should not be allowed to vote because that black American was not white. The endless questioning, before the election of Obama, about America’s “readiness” for a black President was a reaction to white identity politics. Yet “identity politics” has come to be associated with minorities, and often with a patronizing undercurrent, as though to refer to nonwhite people motivated by an irrational herd instinct. White Americans have practiced identity politics since the inception of America, but it is now laid bare, impossible to evade. Read more.

10. My President Was a Black Man -By Ta-Nehisi Coates | The Atlantic (Jan-Feb 2017 Issue)

the-obamasBarack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were dismissed by some of his critics as merely symbolic for African Americans. But there is nothing “mere” about symbols. The power embedded in the word nigger is also symbolic. Burning crosses do not literally raise the black poverty rate, and the Confederate flag does not directly expand the wealth gap.

Much as the unbroken ranks of 43 white male presidents communicated that the highest office of government in the country—indeed, the most powerful political offices in the world—was off-limits to black individuals, the election of Barack Obama communicated that the prohibition had been lifted. It communicated much more. Before Obama triumphed in 2008, the most-famous depictions of black success tended to be entertainers or athletes. But Obama had shown that it was “possible to be smart and cool at the same damn time,” as Jesse Williams put it at the BET party. Moreover, he had not embarrassed his people with a string of scandals. Against the specter of black pathology, against the narrow images of welfare moms and deadbeat dads, his time in the White House had been an eight-year showcase of a healthy and successful black family spanning three generations, with two dogs to boot. In short, he became a symbol of black people’s everyday, extraordinary Americanness.

Whiteness in America is a different symbol—a badge of advantage. In a country of professed meritocratic competition, this badge has long ensured an unerring privilege, represented in a 220-year monopoly on the highest office in the land. For some not-insubstantial sector of the country, the elevation of Barack Obama communicated that the power of the badge had diminished. Read more. Photo by Miller Mobley for Parade Magazine.


Read 10 Commentaries on Being a Woman in Donald Trump’s America

Also Recommended…

✿ Donald Trump Is a Racist: Here’s Why Many Americans Don’t See Him That Way -By Daniel Engber | Slate (Nov 11)

✿ Dear White People: An Open Letter on Race to Donald Trump’s Supporters -By Chauncey Devega | Salon (Nov 17)

✿ What Donald Trump Doesn’t Know About Black People -By Dr. Michael Eric Dyson | New York Times (Dec 17)

White Nationalists See Trump as Their Troll in Chief. Is He With Them? Inside the Extremist Movement Seeking to Capitalize on His Victory -By Josh Harkinson | MotherJones (Jan -Feb 2017 Issue)