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“We Must Examine Our Own Prejudices”: Removing The Confederate Flag Is Easy; Fixing Racism Is Hard

Protesters hold a sign during a rally to take down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Columbia, South Carolina.

When the Republican National Committee chose Tampa as the site for the party’s 2012 national convention, it seemed quite fitting—Florida being a red state and all, and one in which evangelical fervor mixed freely with the brand of Tea Party vindictiveness epitomized by Governor Rick Scott.

As I traveled to the city limits, destined for a motel reserved for any C-list, left-wing journalists covering the confab, the taxi I occupied exited the highway on a ramp dominated by perhaps the largest thing of its kind I had ever seen. Hoisted on a 139-foot pole, this Confederate battle flag measures 30 feet high and 60 feet long. That’s a lot of cloth, and the day I viewed it, it whipped violently against the winds stirred up by Hurricane Isaac, who mercifully defied predictions by remaining offshore.

I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sight of the immense flag; whoever had placed it there clearly meant to make a statement, and not one of peace, love, or understanding. When I recaptured my ability to speak, I stammered to the cab driver, who was black, “What on earth is that?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “They put it up a few years ago,” he said. He drove past it pretty much every day, he said.

It was 2008 when the flag first ascended the pole at the junction of I-75 and Interstate 4 on June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the short-lived Confederate States of America, a day observed in many Florida localities as a holiday. In what may or may not have been a coincidence, Barack Obama was closing in on the Democratic presidential nomination. (Hillary Clinton would suspend her campaign four days later.)

The land on which the flag stands was owned at the time by Marion Lambert, a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and who since donated the parcel to the group. According to a June 21 report in the Tampa Bay Times, Lambert called the flag “a catalyst for a mental movement.”

“The reason we put that flag up is to start people thinking,” he told the Times.

He said this as white people across America began debating whether the white murderer Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine black people in a church rooted in the rebellion of enslaved people, is a simple racist or a mentally ill one. In Lambert’s “mental movement,” Roof is, at the very least, an army of one.

Roof’s actions, combined with photographs of him bearing the treasonous battle standard, have touched off a furious cry to rid the land of the symbol of one of America’s original sins (the other being the genocide of the land’s indigenous people). While it would be lovely to never gaze upon such a disgraceful emblem again, the rush to do so is fast becoming a diversion useful to those who seek to continue the nation’s long denial of its own bloody history of race-based oppression, which will do nothing to forestall the growth of racism in its lesser-seen forms.

Yes, it is a big deal when even Republican governors and luminaries—including the party’s last presidential nominee—call for the removal of the flag from state capitols and public buildings, a phenomenon unthinkable a decade ago. But party leaders also know it’s what needs to happen in order for the party to survive, since millennials are not terribly keen on displays of racial hatred.

But allowing the removal of the flag to stand as the sole answer to the Charleston massacre would let the North entirely off the hook for its own brand of racism, often every bit as brutal, if occasionally more subtle, as that displayed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans—or an almost entirely white Republican Party entertaining speech after speech at its Tampa national convention peppered with the Jacksonian language of “makers” and “takers,” and throwing the old welfare-queen card in the face of a black president.

But the white people of the North have plenty to account for, too, in the construction and maintenance of a racist society. I grew up in a New Jersey town that no black person dared to drive through. It was a nearly all-white town; we had one Chinese family, and two or three Latino families. No real estate agent who valued his or her job would show an African American buyer a house there. The cops in the Township of Clark were notorious for pulling over African American drivers seeking to enter the Garden State Parkway from the on-ramp that put our town on the map. And Clark was hardly an outlier among the burgs of the Northeast; it was just crassly obvious in its redlined bigotry.

You can take down all the Confederate flags in the country, and you won’t change a thing in Clark, or the thousands of towns just like it above the Mason-Dixon Line.

Nor should the progressive movement be let off the hook, despite its vociferous and righteous cry against the racist evil channeled by Dylann Roof the day he went on his murderous spree. In organizations not specifically focused on matters of race, it’s rare to see a black person in leadership, just as it’s rare to see women lead progressive organizations that are not specifically feminist. Until that changes, the underpinnings of a racist society remain intact. Until that changes, the false and evil narrative that claims those of African descent to be a lesser race lives on in the recesses of our minds, shaping the nation to its confines.

So, yes, remove the Confederate flag—that standard of dehumanization, treason, and murder—from our sight. But proof of our intention demands great change in the way in which we lead, the way in which we live, the way in which we think; we must be willing to truly open the riches of progressive society and culture to all. To do that, we must—each and every one of us—examine our own prejudice, and be determined to transcend it. Then the real work of a just society can begin.

 

By: Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect, June 24, 2015

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Prejudice, Racism | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The New GOP Confederacy”: The US Civil War Is Playing Out Again

Nearly 150 years after the end of the US civil war, the South and the federal government are poised for a rematch over the voting rights of black Americans, and ultimately over the fundamental rights of all Americans. Once again, the former Confederate states are determined to defend their traditions and way of life, while the Union forces in the North – the federal government – are positioning themselves to defend justice and equality.

But this time, in an ironic twist, two black men – President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder – are leading the charge.

In the 1860s, the fight between the North and the South was about slavery and the right of the Confederate states to maintain a dreaded institution that kept people of African descent in bondage. Unprecedented carnage resulted.

A century later – in light of the 1954 US supreme court decision in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, which ended racial segregation in public schools – the South struggled to maintain a Jim Crow system that kept black people legally and politically impotent, all in the name of states’ rights.

Two hallmarks of the civil rights movement are the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the legislative victories were achieved only through the blood of civil rights workers, both black and white, who were beaten, sprayed with fire hoses, shot, firebombed, bitten by police dogs and lynched.

The purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to apply a nationwide ban against discriminatory election practices such as literacy tests. The existing anti-discrimination laws, Congress concluded, were insufficient to overcome the Southern states’ resistance to the Fifteenth Amendment.

In June 2013, the nation’s high court cut the voting law at its knees in Shelby County v Holder when it eviscerated the key component of the act – the section 4 preclearance requirement – which determined which states must receive approval from a federal court or the Justice Department before making changes to their voting procedures. The act applied to nine states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – and various other localities and counties across the country.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the latest battle centers around southern states with a history of voting rights violations, and currently exhibit the most anti-black, racist sentiment. These states want to employ restrictive and racially discriminatory voter suppression methods such as voter ID. This time, the Republican party has replaced the Dixiecrats as the party of white supremacy and the old Confederacy, of racial discrimination and voter suppression. And Holder has decided to make an example of Texas, firing the first shot at the Lone Star state.

Within 24 hours of the high court decision, five states – Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – decided to move forward with their voter ID laws. They required preclearance under section 4, which no longer exists. Moreover, Holder and a federal court had already blocked the South Carolina and Texas voter ID laws because they violated the Voting Rights Act.

Florida has resumed its purge of Hispanic voters following the supreme court decision, and after a federal court lifted a ban on removing potential non-US citizens from the rolls. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is about to sign into law the nation’s most restrictive voter suppression measure, though, he admits he has not read the provision prohibiting 16- and 17-year-olds from pre-registering to vote. The law also eliminates same-day registration, cuts early voting by a week and requires government-issued ID to vote. According to the North Carolina secretary of state, voter ID laws are having a disproportionate impact on Democratic voters and voters of color.

SB 14, the Texas voter ID law considered the most severe in the US at present, requires Texans to prove their citizenship and state residency in order to vote, using a passport, military ID or birth certificate if they lack a driver’s license, concealed handgun license or photo ID. In 2012, a federal court struck down the Texas law on the grounds that:

The implicit costs of obtaining SB 14-qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty. … We therefore conclude that SB 14 is likely to lead to ‘retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.’

Yet, in light of the Shelby County decision, the Supreme Court discarded the lower court’s Texas voter ID ruling, and threw out a ruling that found Texas’ state redistricting maps were “enacted with discriminatory purpose” and diluted the Latino vote. Although Latinos made up nearly 40% of the Texas population in the 2010 census and accounted for 65% of the growth in the state population, Texas Republicans essentially pretended Texas is a white state. The GOP kept Latinos and black voters out of the redistricting process, added only one minority district, and manipulated an electoral map “that would look Hispanic, but perform for Anglos”.

In addition, the court found that 603,892 to 795,955 Latino voters in Texas lacked voter identification – as Texas Republicans had intended. Student IDs are not adequate identification at the polls, but gun permits are acceptable, reflected a preference for Republican constituents.

Holder announced he would ask a federal court to force the state to continue to receive permission to make changes to its voting laws. The Justice Department has requested that a federal court impose an additional 10 years of preclearance.

Governor Rick Perry said in a statement:

This end run around the supreme court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.

Greg Abbott, the Texas state attorney general, accused Holder of “sowing racial divide” and tweeted “I’ll fight #Obama’s effort to control our elections & I’ll fight against cheating at ballot box.” Conservative proponents of voter ID measures invoke the specter of voter fraud and the need to protect the integrity of elections as justifications for the legislation. However, voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and about as infrequent as death by lightning strikes, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Rather, white southern Republicans enact voter ID laws because they do not want Democratic constituencies to vote, particularly people of color. Rather than embrace the changing demographics in the US and adopt platforms to address the needs and concerns of voters of color, Republicans have chosen to eschew these voters and wage an assault on civil rights, immigration and policies of diversity and inclusion. This is the endgame for the Republican Southern Strategy of race card politics. The GOP was able to win elections on the margins by appealing to the racial insecurities of disaffected working class whites. In the process, southern whites fled the Democratic party, and the GOP became the party of the white South. Now, this marginalized base of angry white voters is all that is left of the Republican strategy and of the GOP as well, so Republicans must remove the segments of the electorate that will not vote for them.

Last year, President Bill Clinton said:

Do you really want to live in a country where one party is so desperate to win the White House that they go around trying to make it harder for people to vote if they’re people of color, poor people or first generation immigrants? … This is not complicated – America is becoming more diverse and younger and more vibrant. We’re younger than Europe, we’re younger than Japan and in 20 years, we’ll be younger than China.

In the South, dramatic Latino population growth has the potential to realign politics. The Obama administration’s decision to attack the war on voting rights, starting with Texas, is a wise move that will energize his diverse coalition of supporters. The Lone Star state – a red state, yet a majority-minority state – represents the future of the US. More than 55% of Texans are minorities, and only 30% of children under 5 in Texas are non-Hispanic whites. Demographic realities will one day betray GOP racial gerrymandering tactics, inevitably making way for a blue state.

Meanwhile, July marked the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The Union army – led by black troops from the 54th Massachusetts regiment – failed to retake the fort, and the Confederate army won the battle.

But ultimately, two years later, the Union army won the war.

 

By: David A. Love, The Guardian, August 2, 2013

August 4, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Election Data Dive”: Now Go Forth And Spout The Facts

Since this may be my last column about the 2012 elections, let’s have some fun. Allow me to arm you with a collection of facts and data about the election results that you can use at your next cocktail party, during your next coffee break or during your next P.T.A. meeting.

First, a comment about the exit polls from which most of these data are drawn: They were conducted only in 30 states. And, unfortunately, the balance of states polled tilted heavily toward those won by President Obama. Of the 25 states Obama won, exit polls were conducted in all but three. Obama also won the District of Columbia, which had no exit polls. Of the 24 states Mitt Romney won, exit polls were conducted only in eight.

(Obama is leading in Florida, which would be a 26th state won by Obama and a state for which there are exit polls. However, The New York Times had not yet called the state at the time of publication.)

With those caveats, let’s dive in:

• My analysis of the 2008 election found that even if every black person in America had stayed home on Election Day, Obama would still have won the presidency. That’s because the white vote and Hispanic vote were strong enough to push him over the needed 270 votes to win the Electoral College.

This year is a different story. This year, his path to victory required a broader coalition.

Without the Democratic black vote joining with that of liberal whites and Hispanics on Tuesday, Obama would likely have lost half the states that he won. This fact may embolden those who say that the president should more directly address issues facing the African-American community.

• There may have been a backlash against voter suppression laws, bringing more minorities to the polls, not fewer. The share of Hispanic voters rose in many states won by Obama. That can be attributed both to the surging Hispanic population in the country and to the Obama campaign’s incredible get-out-the-vote operation. It is less clear why the black vote held steady or grew in many of those states. In Ohio, for example, blacks jumped from being 11 percent of the voters in 2008 to 15 percent this year. Threaten to steal something, and its owner’s grip grows tighter.

• Romney won nine of the 11 states that were once in the Confederacy.

• Romney also won eight of the 10 states with the lowest population density: Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. Obama won New Mexico and Nevada. (Hello. Hello. Hello. Is there an echo in here?)

• Romney’s biggest margin of victory came in Utah, home of the Mormon Church. Utah was one of three states in which Romney won every county. The other two were West Virginia and Oklahoma. Obama won every county in four states: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

• This year was the first presidential election in which there were more Asian-American voters (11 percent) in California than African-American ones (8 percent). In 2008, 6 percent were Asian-American and 10 percent were African-American. In fact, there were more Asian-American voters than African-American voters in Washington and Oregon, the other two Pacific Coast states, this year, too.

• Among the states in which exit polls were conducted, Obama won the lowest percentage of the white vote in the state with the highest percentage of black voters. That state was the ever-reliable Mississippi, where Romney made his famous “I like grits” comment. Thirty-six percent of the voters in Mississippi are black. Obama won a mere 10 percent of the white vote there.

Conversely, Obama won one of his highest percentages of white voters in the state with the fewest minority voters: Maine. Ninety-five percent of Maine’s voters were white, and 57 percent of them voted for Obama. That ties with one other state for the highest percent of whites voting for Obama: Massachusetts, where 86 percent of the voters are white.

In fact, Obama won the white vote only in states with small minority voting populations. The others Obama won were Iowa (93 percent white), New Hampshire (93 percent white), Oregon (88 percent white), Connecticut (79 percent white) and Washington State (76 percent white).

This is quite a curious phenomenon.

• Obama won all four states that begin with “New” (New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York), but he lost all five that begin with a direction (North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia). O.K., I threw that one in for fun.

Now, political junkies, go forth and spout facts!

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 9, 2012

November 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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