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“GOP Hypocrisy On Public Display”: Garland Nomination Forces GOP To Defend The Indefensible

Apparently, President Barack Obama still believes that congressional Republicans can be shamed.

Apparently, he thinks he can persuade GOP senators to consider his Supreme Court nominee with an implicit threat to expose them as hypocrites, obstructionists and revanchists if they refuse.

Has Obama learned nothing over the past eight years? The GOP Congress is shameless.

Although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear within hours of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia that he would refuse to consider — no hearings, much less a vote — any nominee Obama proposes, the president went ahead and performed the duties assigned to him by the U.S. Constitution: He selected a worthy nominee to fill the vacancy.

And not just a worthy nominee, but also one whose credentials, in a rational political world, would draw broad bipartisan support. That nominee is Judge Merrick Garland.

Chosen for a seat on the D.C. Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton, Garland is a centrist who is highly regarded throughout Washington. He’s a former prosecutor; as a Justice Department lawyer, he oversaw the trial team that prosecuted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice, Terry Nichols. In his 1997 confirmation, he received 32 Republican votes, seven from senators still serving.

Allow me to make a prediction: None of that matters. McConnell will still refuse to hold hearings on Garland’s nomination, no matter how much his party’s hypocrisy is held up to public view. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans believe the Senate should at least hold hearings on Obama’s nominee.

So what? Garland and Obama had barely left the Rose Garden, where the announcement was held, when McConnell reiterated his pledge to stonewall. “The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country,” he said, “so of course the American people should have a say in the court’s direction.”

I have news for the Senate majority leader. The American people had their say in 2012, when they re-elected Obama with 51 percent of the vote, 5 million more votes than Mitt Romney received. And Obama is still the president. There is nothing in the nation’s founding document that suggests the chief executive should forfeit his duties during his final year.

Count me among those who wish that Obama had nominated a black woman, a first for the nation’s highest court. Not only would GOP obstruction in the face of a highly qualified black female jurist have likely motivated an enthusiastic turnout among Democratic voters in the fall, but it would also be an important symbol in a diverse country. Black women are a crucial part of the progressive coalition, and there are plenty among that cohort who would be excellent choices, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch and U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Of course, such a nominee would likely have given up any chance to actually serve on the Supreme Court, since Republicans would have taken the next several months to mount a smear campaign against her. That would have made her toxic, even if Obama’s successor is a Democrat.

The same applies to Garland, who has agreed to take one for the team. He’s smart enough to know the political calculus: Obama picked him to force Republicans to defend their indefensible position.

Already, conservative groups are gearing up to spend millions to make sure no weak-kneed Republicans fall out of lockstep with the marching orders from on high. (If you’re sick of seeing millions spent secretly to dominate the political process, by the way, you should pay attention to the Supreme Court. The Citizens United case, which allows corporations to spend freely on elections, was brought to you by a high court dominated by conservatives.)

If nothing else, this ought to bring to an end to the attempts by some Washington observers to pin the blame for the reckless partisanship that threatens to swamp the ship of state equally on Democrats and Republicans, on Obama and his GOP antagonists. That’s just nonsense.

It ought to be clear by now that the GOP’s one remaining principle is to oppose Obama at every turn — and utterly without shame.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, March 18, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | GOP, Merrick Garland, Mitch Mc Connell, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“White Racism Won’t Just Die Off”: No Utopia Awaits When Retrograde Attitudes Like Donald Sterling And Cliven Bundy’s Are Gone

Plantation metaphors are generally considered an inelegant way to speak about America’s ongoing problems with racial discrimination. Such metaphors seemingly gloss over the long civil rights movement, which provided the center upon which 20th-century politics pivoted. Talk of plantations make it seem as though nothing has changed.

What, then, should we do when it is revealed that the Nevada rancher encroaching on public lands, who has captured the hearts of the GOP, also not so surprisingly believes that cotton picking and the institution of slavery of which it was a central part served black people well — especially black women — by giving us “something to do”?  What should we do when the owner of the L.A. Clippers insists his mixed-race black and Mexican girlfriend not bring black people to his games, even though the majority of players on the team are black?

(After we scratch our heads at the idiocy that would cause the local chapter of the NAACP to give such a man a lifetime achievement award, after clear knowledge of multiple racist incidents in his past, then perhaps we put the choice words of Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg on repeat.)

What should we do when the Supreme Court chooses to enable and perpetuate our national campaign of dishonesty about the continued and pervasive challenge of racial discrimination by upholding Michigan’s ban on affirmative action?

What should we do when all that shit happens to black people in one damn week?

The staggering political and historical amnesia that allowed six justices to co-sign such a policy caused Justice Sonia Sotomayor to both write and read a 58-page dissent before the court. Sotomayor rightfully suggested that those, like Chief Justice John Roberts, who believe racial discrimination will end by restricting the right of race to be a consideration hold a “sentiment out of touch with reality.” Such a view reminds me of my academic colleagues who put the term “race” in scare quotations, and tell themselves that because race is a social construction – a biological fiction – that they no longer have to think about the real material impact that centuries of race-based discourse have had on constructing a racist world.

“Race matters,” Sotomayor wrote. And “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”

The dangerous, backward and wrongheaded thinking of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling represent just two of the most obvious iterations of these kinds of “unfortunate effects.” And we are powerless to advocate for ourselves against systemic expressions of such thinking because the Supreme Court has chosen a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to the problem.

Though the racial views of Bundy/Sterling on one hand and the Supreme Court on the other exist rhetorically at opposite ends of the spectrum, both point to an insidious and unchecked march of continued racism that disadvantages and harms black people, in particular. Bundy/Sterling vocally promote the kind of racial thinking that makes even the most conservative white person cringe, while Chief Justice John Roberts and five other justices promote the kind of colorblind view that seems to represent the highest expression of our national understandings of liberty and justice for all.

However, what Sterling’s and Bundy’s views demonstrate is the extent to which retrograde racial attitudes are alive and well among white men with money, power and control over the livelihoods of black people. And what the Supreme Court’s abdication of responsibility suggests is that the government has no responsibility to remedy the discrimination that clearly still exists in institutions that are run largely by white men who belong to the same generation and school of thought as Bundy and Sterling.

Bundy and Sterling represent a kind of past-in-present form of racism, one that contemporary generations of white youth have largely rejected in favor of a kind of multiracial, post-racial worldview. If we would only wait on time, this view goes, Bundy, Sterling and the likes of them will die off.

In its place, I want to forthrightly suggest, however, that we will not find a cosmopolitan racial future awaiting us; rather we (people of color) will be led to the slaughter by the likes of Paul Ryan, our August Ambassador for Austerity, and his suit-and-tie-wearing goons. At the fore of these colorblind approaches to social problems will be jovial, optimistic youth of all colors who balk at the notion that affirmative action or any affirmative remedies for ameliorating centuries of government-sanctioned inequality are either just or necessary for the functioning of the body politic.

Like Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling, the right has no problem extracting and exploiting the labor of black and brown people for the gain of white people. The right has become more sophisticated at enacting such policies without reference to race, a view that supposedly means these policies are devoid of ill racial intent. Yet to quote Proverbs, “two cannot walk together unless they agree.” And despite Jonathan Chait’s desire to insist that those of us on the left come to conclusions about the racial intentions of those on the right in bad faith far too often, we are left with last week’s right-wing sycophantic spectacle in support of Bundy.

As for Donald Sterling and the NBA, scholars of sport and race have long pointed out how professional sports are set up in a kind of plantation structure, in which mostly black players, are literally bought, sold and traded, and paid a paltry amount in comparison to the owners of the teams for which they work. If we bring NCAA basketball into this picture, the comparisons are even more compelling.

What is most interesting here is the way that black women are maligned in the racial analysis of both Bundy and Sterling. Bundy suggests that since the end of chattel slavery, black women have been left to their own devices where we now engage in a revolving door of pregnancy and abortion. Moreover, he says, “their older women and their children are sitting out on the cement porch without nothing to do. You know, I’m wondering are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were slaves and they was able to have their family structure together and the chickens and a garden and the people have something to do?”

I guess all those histories about how slavery tore black families apart are mere left-wing propaganda.

As if rooting alleged social pathologies like the non-nuclear family within the bodies, moral and sexual choices of black women weren’t enough, Donald Sterling takes up the flip side of Cliven Bundy’s prurient narrative of black women’s bodies in his demands that his girlfriend not associate with black people.

Sterling tells his mixed-race girlfriend that he has a problem with her associating with black people because she’s “supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latina girl.” Uhm, what? First, she is black and Mexican. Second, the way this conversation is constructed black women are intrinsically indelicate, which means in this context unfeminine and unworthy of protection.

And unfortunately even though she seems to understand the fault lines and faulty thinking in Sterling’s comments, his girlfriend V. Stiviano also says, “I wish I could change my skin.” White supremacy breeds just this kind of apologetic self-hatred, such that this woman apologizes for being born in the skin she’s in. I seriously hope that sister gets free. Surely she knows that we are off the plantation, and we can choose not to love racists.

Plantation scripts may be inelegant. But they continue to resonate because they allow us to tell indelicate truths about America’s continually reinscribed and remixed disdain for black life and possibility. They remind us that racism is constituted through a heady mix of individual offense and systemic abdication of responsibility by the powers that be.  They show us the extent to which America still has an illicit love affair with white supremacy. The plantations themselves may be gone, but plantation nostalgia and plantation politics still deeply inform American life.  Plantation politics are supplanted not by individual or collective acts of symbolic protest but by strong leadership that commits to ameliorating racial injustice. What we should do in the face of such staggering steps backward remains to be seen, but it is clear that we must do something, or else it is America’s race politics that will have the sole distinction of being off the chain.

 

By: Brittney Cooper, Salon, April 29, 2014

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Courage Of Invisible Women”: The Consequences Of Forgetting Sybrina Fulton And Mamie Till

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, has been a textbook example of courage in the seventeen months since her youngest son was killed by George Zimmerman. Thrust into the public sphere during a time of great personal tragedy, Fulton has carried her pain with incredible poise. It was no different when she spoke before the National Urban League in Philadelphia this past Friday. She told the audience: “My message to you is please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart to say to yourself, ’We cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child.’ ”

In that moment, she made the connection between herself and Mamie Till, mother of Emmett Till, the teen slain in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a woman, even stronger. Speaking on her decision to have an open casket at his funeral after her son’s face had been so badly beaten and disfigured he was unrecognizable, Mamie said: “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” These mothers of black sons publicly asked us to use their pain to seek justice. However, the way we use that pain cannot diminish the reality of the people who live with it. By which I mean, we have a bad habit of acting as if black women exist only as props in the story about black men and it’s time to stop.

Black women’s pain fuels but then becomes obscured in the popular narrative about the consequences of racism and the fight for racial justice, as it becomes framed through the experiences of black men. All of us who do work around these issues are guilty of this oversight, myself included. In our attempts to address the problem of anti-black racism in the US, we neglect to consider the experiences of black women as part of that story.

While the Congressional Black Caucus convened a meeting to discuss the plight of black men and boys, black women and girls who suffer under the same systems of oppression being discussed as problematic for our boys have been left out of the public discourse. We talk often of the criminalization of black boys, and point to the school-to-prison pipeline as an example, but fail to mention the ways it affects black girls, as Monique W. Morris laid out in her report for African American Policy Forum in March of this year. According to Morris: “Black women and girls continue to be over-represented among those who are in contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Black girls continue to experience some of the highest rates of residential detention. Black girls represent the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice population, and they have experienced the most dramatic rise in middle school suspension rates in recent years.” Yet, the problem continues to be framed as a nearly exclusive to black men and boys.

The same is true of New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy. While it’s true that the policy disproportionately targets black men, black women are also subjected to these supposedly random searches whose constitutionality has been challenged. Additonally, according to The New York Times, “stops of women by male officers can often involve an additional element of embarrassment and perhaps sexual intimidation.”

At times like this, it’s important to remind ourselves of our history. As Danielle L. McGuire expertly documented in her 2010 book At the Dark End of the Street, one of the major catalysts of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s was the dehumanization experienced by black women. The bus boycotts began because of the physical threat and sexual terror heaped upon black women’s bodies, in addition to having to ride in the back. And while a young Martin Luther King  Jr. grabbed the headlines, it was a great number of black women paying the day-to-day price of movement building, organizing and doing field work, only to have their contributions minimized in favor of a “great man” reading of history.

Writing for The Guardian, Jamila Aisha Brown put it this way: “The victimization of young women is subsumed into a general well of black pain that is largely defined by the struggles of African-American men. As a result, any insight about this important intersection of race and gender is lost under the umbrella of a collective sense of persecution.”

The stories of black men are important, but they are not a stand-in for the stories of all black people. We can’t continue using the pain of black women’s lives to explain our existence if we are then going to pretend that pain isn’t worth examining on its own. We dishonor the courage of the Mamies and Sybrinas of the world when we do.

 

By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, August 1, 2013

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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