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“Yes, There’s A July 4 Terror Threat From The Right”: I Believe It. But I Bet It’s Not From Muslims

Representative Peter King (R-NY) told us on Wednesday that we need to be afraid, no, very afraid, of Muslims over the July 4th weekend. Why? Well, King, in his typical Muslim fear-mongering style, warned, “Because if there is a threat, if there is gonna be something happening, it’s gonna come from the Muslim community.”

Apparently King only sees a threat by Muslims to America. But while ISIS is a threat, how is he blind to the growing right-wing terror threat we see in this country? I have never seen a more alarming level of “chatter” and acts of terror by people on the right as in the last few weeks.

Here are a few recent examples of what I mean:

1. Calls for violence surrounding gay marriage: After the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that gay couples have the same freedom to marry as the rest of us, Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church called for the stoning death of any pastor who would perform a same-sex marriage. He also called for the murder of all LGBT people, stating, “I hate them with a perfect hatred… I count them mine enemies.”

And keep in mind we have heard other Christian pastors in recent times also call for gays to be “put to death” and make statements like “homosexuality is a death worthy crime.” Can we responsibly dismiss these people as “crazies” until someone actually heeds their call and kills gay Americans?

2. Black churches are burning: At least two of the six black churches that caught fire last week are believed to have been cases of arson.

This threat is so serious that the NAACP issued a warning this week urging black church leaders to take “necessary precautions” to protect themselves from other attacks.

3. Right-wing politicians’ alarming rhetoric could radicalize people: After the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage, we heard the shrill cries of victimhood by some conservative politicians. For example, Mike Huckabee remarked that he expects civil disobedience by some Christians in light of the court decision. Let’s be blunt, this is Huckabee’s attempt to inspire civil disobedience. We also heard Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal describe the Court’s ruling as “an all-out assault” against the “rights of Christians.”

The words of political leaders can inspire people to do good and to do bad. We saw that during the civil rights movement, when the inflammatory rhetoric of people like George Wallace validated the views of scared white people that equal rights for blacks was a threat to our nation as well as to them personally. The response to these words, by some, was violence against blacks and even white supporters of the civil rights movement. Similarly, the constant drumbeat we hear today from some conservative politicians that gay marriage is a threat to our nation and an attack on Christianity could possibly incite a person on the far right to violence.

4. We have 784 hate groups on U.S. soil. Per the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), hate groups have grown by 30 percent since 2000. These groups, as the SPLC notes, include the Klan, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, border vigilantes, and others. In fact, the SPLC is so concerned by the threat posed by these homegrown terror groups that last week it sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to hold “hearings on the threat of domestic terrorism.”

Adding to my concerns is that we just witnessed a terrorist attack on our soil on June 22 in Charleston, South Carolina. And yes, I am aware that the U.S. government has not as of yet classified, and may never classify, this incident as “terrorism” under federal law. (How the assassination of a state senator and the execution of eight black people by a man who wanted to start a race war is not considered terrorism is truly mindboggling.) Putting aside the debate over the T-word, the killer, per his own manifesto was radicalized at least in part by the racist words of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a right-wing hate group per the SPLC.

And keep in mind that domestic terrorists have been killing far more Americans than Islamic-related ones over the past 14 years. As The New York Times reported last week, “since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics, and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.” Dr. Charles Kurzman, a terrorism expert, explained in that article: “Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists.” Consequently, we need to be just as concerned when a person posts images associated with white supremacist causes on Facebook as when a person posts images supporting ISIS.

These facts truly deem the government’s warning of a potential terror attack on U.S. soil that much more credible. Let’s hope they are wrong. But if a terrorist attack is committed by a right-wing actor, we can’t claim there were no warning signs.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, July 3, 2015

July 4, 2015 Posted by | 4th of July, Domestic Terrorism, Muslims, Peter King | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Very Real Work That Needs To Be Done”: Republicans, Take Down That Flag — And Stand Up For Voting Rights

The abandonment of the Confederate battle flag by conservative politicians and organizations that previously defended it as a noble symbol of “heritage, not hate” is welcome, if long overdue. And the subsequent move by large corporations to stop selling the flag suggests that we may be experiencing an important cultural shift, that we may be entering a time in which it is no longer deemed acceptable to celebrate nostalgia for an era defined first by slavery and then by racial segregation enforced by officially sanctioned terror.

That kind of cultural change is, of course, a good thing, and the Confederate battle flag’s dramatically declining fortunes feel like a significant moment. Still, doing away with official reverence for the flag is largely a symbolic move that doesn’t come close to addressing the problems surrounding race in America, including disparities in treatment by the criminal justice system and the resurgence of voter suppression laws and other schemes designed to rig the elections in favor of powerful conservative interests. In recent days, the burning of black churches in Southern states, including one that had previously been burned down by the KKK, is a chilling and tragic reminder that violence aimed at the African-American community, violence with a long history, is not confined to a single act in a single city.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to ask the legislature to take the Confederate battle flag from its position on the statehouse grounds came only after the murders at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. It is a sad fact of political life that it often takes a horrific act to galvanize sufficient political will to make necessary change, often after years of work have prepared the ground for what looks from the outside like a sudden shift. Civil rights activists, clergy, and Black lawmakers in South Carolina have been organizing against the official place of honor for the Confederate battle flag for decades, both before and after the flag was moved from the dome of the state capitol and raised over the Confederate memorial on the statehouse grounds in 2000. That activism continued as recently as two months before the Charleston shooting, when a group of African-American clergy taking part in a national gathering of People for the American Way Foundation’s African-American Ministers Leadership Council encircled the flag in protest.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley may be reaping praise for her rising political stock, or for outmaneuvering “the agitators,” in the words of one gloating tweet, but this is not really a story about courageous leadership on her part. It is, rather, a story about the GOP leadership finally coming to terms, at least symbolically, with the Republican Party’s increasingly untenable position, in an increasingly diverse country, of being in partnership with groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens that foster nostalgia for our white supremacist past and deep resentment about the nation’s growing diversity.

In fact, right-wing responses to the Charleston shootings have been a study in political calculation, reflected in the face of RNC chief Reince Priebus looking over Haley’s shoulder last week. The Haley press conference was in part an effort to save floundering GOP presidential candidates from dealing with questions about the Confederate flag without distancing themselves from right-wing base voters or GOP activists in South Carolina, an important early primary state.

Initial right-wing responses to the shootings were mind-boggling and important to look at. Some commentators on Fox News downplayed evidence that the murders were racially motivated. Some sought to blame drug use and anti-religious feelings. Some even blamed the murdered Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator, based on his positions on reproductive choice and gun control.

National conservative leaders denounced the violence but were seemingly unwilling to engage with the violent racism that was at its root and bizarrely did all they could to find another explanation for the shooting. When asked if the shooting in Charleston was racially motivated, Jeb Bush said, “I don’t know.” Lindsey Graham tried to take the focus off race and advance the myth that the shootings were a hate crime targeting Christians.

Remarkably, even after the killer’s manifesto of racial hatred was released, some right-wing pundits continued to push the idea that the murders were an attack on Christianity, a “Satanic act” by someone with “socialist leanings.” That fits the right wing’s political narrative, which is grounded in dishonest claims that progressives are enemies of religious freedom. Republicans are counting on that narrative to help carry them into the White House in 2016, in part by reaching out to evangelical voters of color.

But taking down the flag is not going to change the Republican Party’s devotion to policies that harm people and undermine our democracy. As President Barack Obama said in his eulogy for the slain Rev. Pinckney, taking down the flag would be “one step in an honest accounting of America’s history,” but allowing ourselves to “slip into a comfortable silence” on difficult issues facing the country would be “a betrayal of everything Rev. Pinckney stood for.”

Voting rights advocates from around the country gathered in Roanoke, Virginia, on the day before Rev. Pinckney’s funeral to rally for a renewal of the Voting Rights Act, a centerpiece achievement of the civil rights movement that was gutted by the Supreme Court’s conservative justices to the cheers of many Republican politicians. We must make sure that the continuing conversation around the Confederate battle flag does not become a distraction from the very real work that needs to be done to dismantle the legacy of racism and bigotry that that flag represents. It’s not enough to take down the flag; we have to take down the discriminatory policies and practices that constitute that legacy. If Republican politicians truly want to reject that legacy, let them start by embracing the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way; The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 2, 2015

July 3, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Republicans, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up”: The Weird Racial Politics Of South Carolina

South Carolina, the cradle of the Confederacy, is represented by African-American Sen. Tim Scott, and has an Indian-American governor, Nikki Haley – both conservative Republicans. Yet any idea that the state is progressing on the racial conflicts that have defined much of its history took another hit on Sunday. That’s when the Haley for Governor Grassroots Advisory Committee, her grass-roots political organization, asked for and received the resignation of one of its 164 co-chairs after his statements on racial purity came to light.

Civil-rights groups and Democrats had been pressuring the Haley campaign, which initially stood by Roan Garcia-Quintana, a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens. But his defense of his beliefs didn’t work out so smoothly. In an interview last week with The State explaining his position on the board of directors of the council, Garcia-Quintana denied that he and the group are racist. The council “supports Caucasian heritage,” he said. “Is it racist to be proud of your own heritage?” he asked. “Is it racist to want to keep your own heritage pure?”

It wasn’t exactly a secret that Garcia-Quintana had ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a “white nationalist hate group,” a “linear descendant” of the old White Citizens Councils formed in the 1950s and 1960s to fight school desegregation.

In a 2010 Washington Post article on a NAACP-backed report that accused white nationalist groups of trying to align themselves with the tea party movement, Garcia-Quintana talked about his council activism. “There’s a difference between being proud of where you come from and racism. We should be able to celebrate price as Europeans and Caucasians. What troubles me is it seems like if you’re not some kind of minority, you’re supposed to be ashamed of that. . . . As a tea party organizer, all I’m trying to do is to be a community organizer,” he said.

Garcia-Quintana, a naturalized citizen born in Havana, has referred to himself as a “Confederate Cuban.” He is also executive director of the anti-immigration Americans Have Had Enough Coalition, based in Mauldin, S.C., which says it stands against an “illegal alien invasion.”

A Sunday statement from Haley political adviser Tim Pearson said: “While we appreciate the support Roan has provided, we were previously unaware of some of the statements he had made, statements which do not well represent the views of the governor. There is no place for racially divisive rhetoric in the politics or governance of South Carolina, and Governor Haley has no tolerance for it.”

Haley has tried to turn Garcia-Quintana’s departure into a political advantage. She has characterized the forced, if belated, resignation as a sign that Republicans don’t tolerate intolerance, while challenging Democrats, particularly her former and perhaps future opponent, Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, to disavow Democratic political operatives who have attacked her in racial terms. (Phil Bailey, who is political director of the state Senate’s Democratic Caucus, last year called Haley a “Sikh Jesus.” He was reprimanded at a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting and apologized, but not, says the Haley campaign, to her.) The governor has come in for her share of racially insensitive comments, even from members of her own party during her primary race.

This kind of racially divisive back and forth is par for the course. No, you can’t make this stuff up, and in South Carolina, you don’t have to.

 

By: Mary C. Curtis, The Washington Post, May 28, 2013

May 29, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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