Archive for Race


Fight or flight?

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Eric Garner: selling loose cigarettes
John Crawford: shopping at Walmart
Tamir Rice: playing in a park
Walter Scott: burned out brake light
Freddie Gray: running from police
Sandra Bland: failure to signal lane change
Sam Dubose: not displaying a front license tag

The first three were on foot. Police stopped Freddie Gray for running when he saw them. Police stopped the other three for minor traffic violations. All African American and all dead after the encounters.

In 45 years of driving while white, I recall being pulled over for something as trivial as failure to signal a lane change exactly once. How many times had Sandra Bland at age 28 been stopped for minor offenses before being dragged from her car on July 10, 2015?

In the case of Sam Dubose, a grand jury this week indicted Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing for murder over the July 19 shooting. The (ironically named) Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters called the shooting “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make, totally unwarranted.”

Watching the body-cam video, it seems that Dubose wanted to get away when the white officer asked him to step out of the car. Imagine that.

Imagine you are an African American stopped for a traffic violation as trivial as a missing front license plate and, based on recent events, consider the possibility that in moments you might die. What does raw instinct demand? Fight or flight?

Except choosing either (as if instinct is a choice) is proof for the warrior cop of something much more threatening than an expired tag. Fleeing imminent death becomes proof of malice, the way drowning once proved an accused witch innocent.

According to Deters, Sam Dubose died over “chicken crap stuff” and Tensing “never should have been a police officer.” One wonders how many others fall into that category.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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It’s only racist to point it out

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It is not clear as I’m writing this exactly what went down in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon:

The streets of Cleveland turned ugly on Sunday following the first national Black Lives Matter conference, where activists convened to discuss the use of deadly force between police and African Americans.

Witnesses told local ABC affiliate Newsnet5 that a 14-year-old who was thought to have been intoxicated was slammed to the ground after transit police confronted him about an open container by a bus stop.

Think Progress has more:

After this arrest, protesters rallied near the scene, and one video of the protest shows them linking arms in an apparent effort to prevent police from breaking up the protest. According to reporting by Jonathan Walsh, a reporter with the ABC affiliate, that’s when a white officer began to pepper spray the crowd.

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Changing lanes [while black]

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Sandra Bland (via Facebook)

Sandra Bland (via Facebook)

Sandra Bland’s name featured prominently in the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) shutdown of the Netroots-Phoenix town hall on Saturday. Like the other black women mentioned, Bland died in police custody, in her case just a week earlier. Why? And how? The Los Angeles Times (emphasis mine):

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Bland failed to signal that she was changing lanes so a trooper pulled her over. The trooper was going to give her a written warning but Bland became argumentative and uncooperative, officials say.

The Chicago Tribune provides additional details:

Trooper Erik Burse, a department spokesman, said last week that Bland was going to be left off with a warning for a minor traffic violation, but was charged with assault on a public servant after she kicked the officer.

The trooper who stopped Bland has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the FBI and Texas Rangers for allegedly violating the department’s “courtesy policy.”

The stop escalated over a cigarette, according to the family’s lawyer, Cannon Lambert:

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How is this still a thing?

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In Texas, they still think the Obama is planning to invade. Jade Helm 15 is coming. In Bastrop, Texas, some fear martial law and a white apocalypse. Using a variant of Fox News’ “some say” the county GOP chair tells the New York Times, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.” Former mayor Terry Orr explains:

“People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy,” Orr said.

The current Bastrop mayor, Kenneth Kesselus, who also supports Jade Helm, agrees. Kesselus said the distrust is due in part to a sense that “things aren’t as good as they used to be,” especially economically. “The middle class is getting squeezed and they’ve got to take it out on somebody, and Obama is a great target.”

Others in town see the paranoia as “the logical outcome” (if the word even applies) of a political climate where “the state’s Republican leaders have eagerly stoked distrust of the federal government, and especially of Obama.”

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How should we then rule?

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For a sub-sect of Christians, it is an attack on “religious liberty” when they can no longer tell equally free Americans how they can and cannot live. As Yul Brynner said, playing Moses, their god “IS God.” The Big G, the top dog, the Big Kahuna. Freedom of religion in America is fine, and all, so long as other, lesser faiths understand whose god IS God.

Fear of losing that top-dog status is behind the insistence by conservative Christians that America was founded as a Christian nation. White fear of having to share power with former slaves was behind decades of Jim Crow and KKK terror. Thus, it is “erasing white history and white culture” to take down a flag flown as a constant reminder of just whose race is boss.

“Religious liberty” has become the catchphrase for people who find their ability to lord it over their neighbors eroded by America extending freedoms they enjoy to “lesser thans” whom they fear. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges to extend the blessings of legal recognition of marriage to same-sex couples has them freaking out. The American Spectator calls the ruling “the Dred Scotting of religious liberty.”

It’s as peculiar a conception of liberty as it is a peculiar definition of persecution. Especially for a group so flush with cash and influence. Talking Points Memo reports on the Hobby Lobby Bible museum planned for just off the Mall in Washington. Among other things, it will be there as a staging area for lobbying efforts and marches by the Christian right:

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Categories : Labor, National, Race, Religion
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Them boys ain’t goin’ gentle into that good Knight

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You knew it was coming as soon as calls to remove Confederate battle flags caught fire across the South starting in Columbia, SC:

The Ku Klux Klan has been approved to hold a protest rally at the Statehouse next month against removing the Confederate battle flag, with the group calling accused mass murderer Dylann Roof a “young warrior.”

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan applied for the permit last week to hold a rally for 100 to 200 people on July 18 on the north side of the Statehouse.

If you are holding your breath for Fox News’ Griff Jenkins to cover the Klan rally live just to remind us all that racism is dead and only racists and race baiters say otherwise, don’t.

Actually, this Klan group hails from North Carolina:

Calling itself the “Largest Klan in America,” the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are based in Pelham, N.C., according to the group’s website.

A man identifying himself as the “great titan” of the N.C. chapter of the Loyal White Knights left a message with The State saying his group is holding the demonstration because “to us they are erasing white history and white culture right out of the history books. That’s why they want to take that flag down.”

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Great balls of jello

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Frank Rich takes aim at the gutlessness of the GOP’s 2016 presidential hopefuls:

Say this about the Old Confederacy: At least its leaders had the courage of their own bad convictions. Today’s neo-Confederate GOP politicians, vying for primary votes in Dixie 150 years after Appomattox, proved themselves to be laughable cowards. Confronted with the simplest of questions – should a state capitol display a flag that stands for slavery, racism, and treason? – they hedged (all of them), spouted gibberish (Ted Cruz), or went into hiding (Rand Paul). If they’d been the Rebel generals in the Civil War, it would have been over in a week.

This was, Rich writes, “the second time in three months we’ve seen GOP presidential contenders unwilling to stand up to the unreconstructed bigots still infesting their party’s base.” In April, they had caved or hedged over “religious freedom” bills passed to sanction discrimination against gay families. They then retreated faster than Lee at Gettysburg after civil rights groups and the NCAA condemned Indiana’s version, and influential CEOs objected to the states dissing their customers.

Seems like only yesterday that Gov. Bobby Jindal and his legislative tigers were lying down like the Siegfried and Roy cats before the once enfant terrible, Grover Norquist. They wrote asking his and Americans for Tax Reform’s permission to sorta kinda raise state taxes after Republican economic dogma had driven Louisiana’s balance sheet (like Kansas’ before it) deep into the red.*

But boy howdy, whichever of these bowls of jello survives being a debate contestant on the RNC’s “Who Wants To Be The Next War President,” you can be sure we will be treated to months of tough-sounding ads telling us that only he (it will be a he) has the balls to protect Uh-murca from the jihadis’ long, curved knives.

* Meanwhile in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton’s Democratic leadership led the state to the top of CNBC’s list of best states for business in 2015.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Hearts still need to be opened

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In “the land of the free,” the fight for equality is far from over.

In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges  that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in all 50 states. We won’t dwell this morning on the particulars of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority decision, nor on Justice Antonin Scalia’s bitter dissent, but rather on what comes next.

Marriage equality victory rally last night in Asheville, NC. 

At the victory rally in Asheville, NC last night, social justice activists addressed the crowd:

“It’s extraordinary,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “There are people who have been waiting their whole lives to marry the person they love, and now they are equal under the law. Think about the families racing to the courthouse in Mississippi right now. I’m overwhelmed by the emotion and historical significance of this. It took decades and decades of work to get to this moment.”

Now, about Mississippi …

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Old ways there are not forgotten

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It’s been hard trying to find respite from news of the Charleston church slayings this morning. Halfway around the world in the Sydney Morning Herald is a story of a woman who awoke from a nightmare and recognized nothing in the bedroom. She stumbled out of bed, down a foreign hallway to a bathroom, and gazed into the mirror horrified:

“I grabbed my face and screamed, ‘No! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god … I’m OLD!'”

Ms Jacobs was 32, but she had lost 17 years of her life to a rare amnesia. As far as she was concerned, she was 15.

How often have we wondered what it would be like to go back and relive our teens and twenties knowing what we know now. Naomi Jacobs experienced a part of that:

As her sister cautiously explained “adult” Naomi’s life, “teen” Naomi could not understand how, despite all the dreams she’d had for her future, she had become a single mother in a two-bedroom council flat.

There was so much to catch up on: Ms Jacobs spent hours online watching piano-playing cats, kids drugged up after dentist visits, crop circles and conspiracy theories. She sobbed over the 9/11 attacks and the “War on Terror”.

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An overactive sense of history

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We were told during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s that some of the ethnic hatreds there dated back centuries. People in the Balkans were re-fighting battles lost 600 years earlier.

One knock against Americans is, it is said we have no sense of history. But during the Bosnian genocide, it struck me that the flip side to having no sense of history was having an overactive one.

Here in the South, there are some people with overactive senses of their own history. Specifically, a history symbolized by flying flags of the Confederacy from lawns, from pickup trucks, and in South Carolina, on the state capitol grounds. That particular flag flies on a pole from which, by law, it cannot be removed.


Americans with no sense of history will not appreciate how in the South the loss of the Civil War is, a mere 150 years after the fact, still the source of a gnawing, grinding anger for a minority with an overactive one. The myths of the Lost Cause, the Bloody Shirt, “heritage not hate,” “states’ rights,” “Forget, Hell!” and all the other post hoc rationale for whitewashing slavery, treason, Jim Crow, and decades of lynchings and other domestic terrorism are still alive, if only in small pockets. But they won’t let it go. Call it pride. Call it Scots-Irish stubbornness. (And a lingering inferiority complex.) But it is toxic. The defeat went down hard, and the memory of a defeated people runs deep. Ask the Serbs.


After the mass shooting in Charleston this week, one South Carolina state legislator, a Republican, proposes removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds once and for all:

South Carolina state Rep. Norman “Doug” Brannon announced on Friday night that he would introduce a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol, citing the death of Sen. Clementa Pinckney during the terrorist attack in Charleston earlier this week.

“I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than he was a black man,” Brannon, a Republican, told MSNBC host Chris Hayes in a phone interview. “Senator Pinckney was an incredible human being. I don’t want to talk politics, but I’m gonna introduce the bill for that reason.”

He showed more integrity than many of his cohorts this week.

John Fugelsang has one of the best (and upbeat) takedowns of Confederate flag-waving and why the South ought to let it go:

Of all the periods of your history, why do you want to celebrate those four years? … You are better than them! You are better than your ancestors who quit America because they wanted to keep people as pets.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : History, National, Race
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