mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Bigotry Is A Core Republican Value”: Missing Selma; The Final Death Of GOP Minority Outreach

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday in Selma, and it appears that after withering criticism and embarrassment, the GOP has decided at the last minute that maybe one of their leaders should actually bother to show up.

But the near miss won’t do much to obscure the message: the GOP has essentially abandoned its minority outreach, at least to African-American voters.

Facing demographic reality after their devastating defeat in 2012, Republicans issued a report saying they needed to consider policy changes to court minority voters. That olive branch lasted a few weeks before their base and its mouthpieces on AM radio urgently reminded them that bigotry is a core Republican value and would only be dismissed at the peril of any politician that didn’t toe the Tea Party line.

Now the party finds itself shutting down Homeland Security to protest the President’s mild executive order on immigration and almost ignoring the Selma anniversary entirely. The minority outreach program is not just dead: it’s a public embarrassment and heaping ruin.

That fact underscores certain disturbing realities for the future. Republicans will double down on the white vote, attempting to gain over 75% of it to put their anti-Hillary into the White House. They will continue to try to disempower cities in favor of surrounding suburbs and rural areas.

And they will continue to try to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible–one of the reasons why the Selma memorial is so problematic for them. Republicans are actively trying to remove as many minority voters as possible from the eligible pool, and have no interest in being reminded of Dr. King’s struggle to achieve the end of Jim Crow and true voting rights for African-Americans.

The GOP has made it abundantly clear that things are going to get much uglier before they get better. Their base won’t have it any other way.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 7, 2015

March 8, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Republicans, Selma | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching”: When 237 People Were Murdered In Arkansas

The visits began in the fall of 1918, just as World War I ended. At his office in Little Rock, Arkansas, attorney Ulysses S. Bratton listened as African American sharecroppers from the Delta told stories of theft, exploitation, and endless debt. A man named Carter had tended 90 acres of cotton, only to have his landlord seize the entire crop and his possessions. From the town of Ratio, in Phillips County, Arkansas, a black farmer reported that a plantation manager refused to give sharecroppers an itemized account for their crop. Another sharecropper told of a landlord trying “to starve the people into selling the cotton at his own price. They ain’t allowing us down there room to move our feet except to go to the field.”

No one could know it at the time, but within a year these inauspicious meetings would lead to one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history. Initiated by whites, the violence—by any measure, a massacre—claimed the lives of 237 African Americans, according to a just released report from the Equal Justice Initiative. The death toll was unusually high, but the use of racial violence to subjugate blacks during this time was not uncommon. As the Equal Justice Initiative observes, “Racial terror lynching was a tool used to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation—a tactic for maintaining racial control by victimizing the entire African American community, not merely punishment of an alleged perpetrator for a crime.” This was certainly true of the massacre in Phillips County, Arkansas.

Bratton agreed to represent the cheated sharecroppers, who also joined a new union, the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. Its founder, a black Delta native named Robert Hill, had no prior organizing experience but plenty of ambition. “The union wants to know why it is that the laborers cannot control their just earnings which they work for,” Hill announced as he urged black sharecroppers to each recruit 25 prospective members to form a lodge. Hill was especially successful in Phillips County, where seven lodges were established in 1919.

It took a lot of courage to defy the Arkansas Delta’s white elite. Men such as E.M. “Mort” Allen controlled the local economy, government, law enforcement, and courts. Allen was a latter-day carpetbagger, a Northerner who had come to Arkansas in 1906 to make his fortune. He married well and formed a partnership with a wealthy businessman. Together they developed the town of Elaine, a hub for the thriving lumber industry. Allen and the county’s white landowners understood that their continued prosperity depended on the exploitation of black sharecroppers and laborers. In a county where more than 75 percent of the population was African American, this wasn’t a task to be taken lightly. In February 1919, the planters agreed to reduce the acreage of cotton in cultivation in anticipation of a postwar drop in demand. If they gave their tenants a fair settlement, their profits would shrink further. Allen spoke for the planters when he declared that “the old Southern methods are much the best,” and that the “Southern men can handle the negroes all right and peaceably.”

There was nothing “peaceable” about the methods used to demolish the sharecroppers’ union. Late on the night of September 30, 1919, the planters dispatched three men to break up a union meeting in a rough hewn black church at Hoop Spur, a crossroads three miles north of Elaine. Prepared for trouble, the sharecroppers had assigned six men to patrol outside the church. A verbal confrontation led to gunfire that fatally wounded one of the attackers. The union men dispersed, but not for long. Bracing for reprisals from their landlords, they rousted fellow sharecroppers from bed and formed self-defense forces.

The planters also mobilized. Sheriff Frank Kitchens deputized a massive white posse, even setting up a headquarters at the courthouse in the county seat of Helena to organize his recruits. Hundreds of white veterans, recently returned from military service in France, flocked to the courthouse. Dividing into small groups, the armed white men set out into the countryside to search for the sharecroppers. The posse believed that a black conspiracy to murder white planters had just been begun and that they must do whatever it took to put down the alleged uprising. The result was the killing of 237 African Americans.

None of the perpetrators—participants in mass murder—answered for their crimes. No one was charged, no trials were held, at least not of those who had killed blacks. In the early 20th century, state-sanctioned collective violence targeting African Americans was a common occurrence in the United States. 1919 was an especially bloody year. By September, the nation had already experienced seven major outbreaks of anti-black violence (commonly called “race riots”). Riots had flared in cities as different as Knoxville, Omaha, and Washington, D.C. In Chicago, a lakefront altercation between whites and blacks escalated into a week-long riot that took the lives of 38 men (23 black, 15 white). To restore order, Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden called in thousands of state militia.

The root cause of 1919’s violence was the reassertion of white supremacy after World War I. Disfranchisement, Jim Crow laws, and biased police forces and courts had stripped African Americans of many of their constitutional rights and created deepset economic, social, and political inequities. Blacks who defied the rules and traditions of white supremacy risked personal ruin (being banished from their hometowns was one punishment), bodily harm (beatings and whippings), and death. In just five months in 1919, from January to May, more than 20 lynch mobs murdered two dozen African Americans. One of these victims was a black veteran killed for refusing to stop wearing his Army uniform. Lynchers took pride in their actions, often posing for photographs at the scenes of their crimes; few were ever charged, let alone convicted. Mob violence helped protect the racial status quo.

What made 1919 unique was the armed resistance that black Americans mounted against white mobs trying to keep them “in their place.” During the United States’ brief but transformative involvement in World War I, almost 370,000 black men served in the military, most of them in the Army. On the homefront, African American men and women bought war bonds, volunteered for the Red Cross, and worked in defense factories. They were fighting to make the world safe for democracy, as President Woodrow Wilson defined the war’s purpose, yet they didn’t have equal rights and opportunities at home. When the war ended, African Americans resolved to make America safe for democracy. In May 1919, civil rights activist and prolific writer W.E.B. Du Bois declared, “We return from fighting. We return fighting. Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great Jehovah, we will save it in the United States of America, or know the reason why.”

Whether they had served in the military or not, African Americans answered Du Bois’s clarion call. When a white mob in Longview, Texas, tried to seize a black man named S.L. Jones to lynch him for insulting the honor of a white woman, a self-defense force organized by Jones’s friends opened fire, dispersing the mob and saving Jones’s life. When police in Chicago failed to stop white gangs from attacking blacks, veterans of the 370th Regiment, 93rd  Division (an all-black unit recently returned from France) put on their uniforms, armed themselves, and took to the streets. And when white servicemen and veterans joined with civilians to form mobs in Washington, D.C., hundreds of black Washingtonians lined the streets of Uptown (now called Shaw) to prevent these mobs from marauding in the neighborhood known for its black-owned businesses and theaters.

The Arkansas sharecroppers who stood up against the white planters of Phillips County were a major part of black resistance during 1919. Their courage came with heavy costs. As word of the trouble spread, white vigilantes from Mississippi crossed the river and began attacking blacks. The posse organized by Sheriff Kitchens scoured the canebrakes and fields, firing on blacks. Meanwhile, Arkansas Gov. Charles Brough cabled the War Department to request the deployment of infantry units. Almost 600 white troops and officers soon arrived from Camp Pike. Told that a black uprising was underway, the soldiers rounded up African Americans and, like the Mississippi vigilantes and local posse, killed indiscriminately. A special agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad who led a force of approximately 50 white men later said the Mississippi mob “shot and killed men, women and children without regard to whether they were guilty or innocent of any connection with the killing of anybody, or whether members of the union or not.” One of the county’s richest white men, Gerard Lambert, observed soldiers shoot a black man who had tried to run from a hiding place. Let that “be a lesson,” the troops told blacks who were also present. Vigilantes killed a black woman, pulled her dress over her head, and left her body on a road, another brutal “lesson” of what happened when African Americans forgot their “place.”

The sharecroppers did the best they could to defend themselves and their families and neighbors. A group of sharecroppers and a black veteran in uniform shot back when part of the posse opened fire. Hearing the shots, union member Frank Moore rallied the men with him. “Let’s go help them people out,” he shouted. But the sharecroppers were outgunned and outmanned. By October 3, most had been captured and jailed. Sheriff’s deputies and special agents for the Missouri Pacific Railroad tortured them to extract false confessions to a conspiracy to murder whites. Rigged trials brought swift convictions and death sentences for 12 men whose only crime was their attempt to obtain fair earnings for their labor. Protracted appeals, supported by the NAACP, resulted in a Supreme Court decision (Moore v. Dempsey, 1923) that helped free the men. The ruling also established the federal government’s obligation to ensure that state trial proceedings preserve the Constitution’s guarantee of due process and equal protection of the laws, a standard the Arkansas trials certainly had not met.

This legal victory couldn’t give back the lives of the black residents killed by the posse, vigilantes, and troops in Phillips County. The death toll of 237 reported by the Equal Justice Initiative is a new figure, based on extensive research. In 1919, sources as varied as the NAACP and the Bureau of Investigation (forerunner of the FBI) estimated the number of killed African Americans at 25 to 80. Writer Robert Whitaker, who has identified 22 separate killing sites of African Americans during the massacre, put the death toll at more than 100. NAACP official Walter White, who risked his life in October 1919 to investigate the killings, stated that the “number of Negroes killed during the riot is unknown and probably never will be known.” In contrast, just four whites died, all of them posse members; one or two may have died as a result of friendly fire.

Say the number of African Americans killed in Phillips County in 1919 was 25. Or 80. Or 237. The very fact that, almost one hundred years after the massacre, we are still trying to pinpoint the death toll should lead us to a larger reckoning: coming to terms with one of the most violent years in the nation’s history, bloodshed that resulted from efforts to make America safe for democracy.

 

By: David Krugler, The Daily Beast, February 16, 2015

February 17, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Arkansas, White Supremacy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Makes Rand Paul Strange”: Throwing A Newt’s Eye Of Quack Science Into The Vat

Senator Rand Paul believes that vaccinating children should be up to the parents, an increasingly unpopular view after recent outbreaks of measles, mumps and other diseases. And throwing a newt’s eye of quack science into the vat, the Kentucky Republican promotes the myth that these shots put children at risk.

The political results have been toil and trouble.

It’s not easy being a politician and a principled libertarian. One who believes in the primacy of individual freedom often takes stances far from the mainstream. It is the true libertarian’s lot to be unconventional, to bravely accept unwanted consequences in the name of liberty. By not going that extra philosophical mile — and adding junk science to the mix — Paul comes off as merely weird.

He was already fighting blowback when he ventured into an interview with CNBC’s Kelly Evans.

“Well, I guess being for freedom would be really unusual,” he responded to a question about whether vaccinations should be voluntary. “I don’t understand … why that would be controversial.”

Does he not? Then he again gave credence to crazy talk of healthy children ending up with “profound mental disorders” after being vaccinated.

When the chat moved to taxes and Evans challenged some of his statements, he shushed her as though she were a little girl. “Calm down a bit here, Kelly,” he said.

Clearly, it wasn’t Kelly who needed calming.

By the end, Paul had accused Evans of being argumentative and blamed the media for distorting positions he had left purposely vague. Not his finest hour.

A real libertarian wanting his party’s presidential nomination has only two choices:

1) Come clean and acknowledge the cost side of your beliefs. If you think parents have the right not to vaccinate their children, agree that more Americans might come down with preventable diseases as a result. Provocative, perhaps, but honest.

2) If you don’t want that controversy tied around your neck, say that you have changed your mind on vaccinations and now hold that they should be required. Not totally honest but at least coherent.

Put into practice, libertarianism can make a mess. If parents have the right to endanger others by not getting their children immunized, why can’t individuals decide whether they’re too drunk to drive?

Paul does say that it’s a good idea to have one’s children vaccinated. Yes, and it’s a good idea to drive while sober.

Libertarian purity led Paul to question a key provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act some years ago. He argued that the law interferes with a private business owner’s right to discriminate.

Paul said he abhors racism, and we have no reason to doubt him. But his position, though principled, would have left the disaster of Jim Crow intact.

On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow asked Paul this: “Do you think that a private business has a right to say, ‘We don’t serve black people’?”

His answer meandered along a familiar path. Private individuals have a right to hold hateful views, Paul responded, but he resented the question because it implied that he shares them. Actually, the question could not have been more straightforward.

Paul gets credit for letting the liberal Maddow interview him. And his libertarianism on other issues — for example, his opposition to the war on drugs — serves him well.

But he does himself no good by continually throwing smoke bombs at questioners trying to pin him down — changing the subject and accusing them of mischaracterizing his position. If Paul thinks the price of individual freedom is worth paying, he should concede what that price is.

Otherwise, he ends up where he is, stirring a boiling cauldron of weird politics.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, February 10, 2015

February 11, 2015 Posted by | Measles Outbreak, Rand Paul, Vaccinations | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Racism Is As American As The Fourth Of July”: Despite Progress On Racism, The Uncomfortable Truth Is That Work Remains

President Obama’s observation that racism is “deeply rooted” in U.S. society is an understatement. Racism is as American as the Fourth of July, and ignoring this fact doesn’t make it go away.

These truths, to quote a familiar document, are self-evident. Obama made the remark in an interview with Black Entertainment Television, telling the network’s largely African American audience something it already knew. The president’s prediction that racism “isn’t going to be solved overnight” also came as no surprise.

Right-wing media outlets feigned shock and outrage. But their hearts didn’t seem to be in it. Not after Ferguson and Staten Island. Not after the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland. These recent atrocities prompted Obama’s comments.

“This is something that is deeply rooted in our society. It’s deeply rooted in our history,” the president said, in excerpts of the interview that were released Sunday. “You know, when you’re dealing with something that’s as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society, you’ve got to have vigilance but you have to recognize that it’s going to take some time, and you just have to be steady so that you don’t give up when we don’t get all the way there.”

Patience and persistence are virtues. As Obama well knows, however, we’ve already been at this for nearly 400 years.

The election in 2008 of the first black president was an enormous milestone, something I never dreamed would happen in my lifetime. Obama’s reelection four years later was no less significant — a stinging rebuke to those who labored so hard to limit this aberration to one term.

But no one should have expected Obama to magically eliminate the racial bias that has been baked into this society since the first Africans were brought to Jamestown in 1619. The stirring words of the Declaration of Independence — “all men are created equal” — were not meant to apply to people who look like me. The Constitution specified that each slave would count as three-fifths of a person. African Americans were systematically robbed of their labor — not just before the Civil War but for a century afterward, through Jim Crow laws and other racist arrangements. Blacks were deliberately denied opportunities to obtain education and accumulate wealth.

You knew all of this, of course. I recite it here because there are those who would prefer to forget.

A Bloomberg poll released Sunday found that 53 percent of those surveyed believe race relations have worsened “under the first black president,” while only 9 percent believe they have improved. A 2012 Associated Press poll found that 51 percent of Americans had “explicit anti-black attitudes” — up from 48 percent four years earlier, before Obama took office. All this makes me wonder whether, for many people, Obama’s presidency may be serving as an uncomfortable reminder of the nation’s shameful racial history.

Then again, it may be that having a black family in the White House just drives some people around the bend. Why else would a congressional aide viciously attack the president’s daughters, ages 16 and 13, by telling them via Facebook to “dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar”? The scold apologized and resigned, perhaps without fully knowing why she felt compelled to go there in the first place. For some people, it doesn’t matter what the Obamas do or don’t do. Their very presence is inexcusable. There’s something alien about them; their teenage girls can’t just be seen as teenage girls.

We already know, from painful experience, how our society looks upon black teenage boys.

After reminding the nation that racism exists, Obama went on to express optimism. “As painful as these incidents are, we can’t equate what is happening now to what was happening 50 years ago,” he said. “And if you talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles, they’ll tell you that things are better — not good, in some cases, but better.”

Of course, that’s true. But it would be a betrayal of the brave men and women who fought and died during the civil rights movement to lose our sense of urgency when so much remains to be done.

U.S. neighborhoods and schools remain shockingly segregated. Jobs have abandoned many inner-city communities. The enormous wealth gap between whites and blacks has increased since the onset of the “Great Recession.” Black boys and men wear bull’s-eyes on their backs.

Whatever Obama says about race, or doesn’t say about race, somebody’s going to be angry. He should just speak from the heart — and tell the uncomfortable truth.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 9, 2014

December 10, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, Civil Rights, Racism | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Counting Dollars And Cents”: For Whatever Reason, Jan Brewer Does The Right Thing

The writing was on the wall all week. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer had no choice but to veto SB 1062, which would have let businesses discriminate against gay patrons (and presumably others) on religious grounds. The veto was demanded by businesses: from the NFL, sponsors of the Arizona-bound 2015 Super Bowl, to Apple to American Airlines to JPMorgan Chase. Even GOP lawmakers who voted for the bill began quailing and taking back their votes shortly after casting them.

Brewer, who has shown independence from her Tea Party base before, particularly on accepting Medicaid expansion, proved to be up to this challenge, too.

The Arizona Tea Party governor vetoed the bill, she said, because of its “unexpected and unintended consequences. The legislation seeks to protect businesses,” she wrote, “yet the business community overwhelmingly opposes the proposed law.” The bill, she said, “could create more problems than it purports to solve.”

Indeed. The proposed Arizona law shows how quickly America’s corporate leaders, and even some Republicans, have counted dollars and counted votes and realized that power lies with gay people and their straight allies who can’t stand anti-gay bigotry – and won’t patronize those who are selling it.

Even as Arizona Republican politicians like Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake declared their enduring fealty to the sanctity of man-woman marriage, they could oppose SB 1062 because of the business backlash. This is a stunning turnaround from 10 years ago, when Karl Rove encouraged Republicans to put anti-gay-marriage measures on state ballots to turn out the right and buoy George W. Bush’s reelection against John Kerry in 2004. There was no downside for Rove 10 years ago.

That was the same year that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom became persona non grata even to some Democrats for legalizing gay marriage in San Francisco. From Dianne Feinstein to Barney Frank, Newsom got pummeled for promoting too much gay freedom too soon. But just 10 years later, a far-right governor of a changing but still conservative state thinks she has to veto this gay Jim Crow law that businesses are smart enough to oppose.

Let’s celebrate. But let’s also look plainly at how Democrats have won the culture war but are still fighting a grim conflict over economic populism – including, sometimes, against other Democrats. I look forward to the day when businesses lobby for a hike in the minimum wage and universal preschool and higher tax rates for those at the very top, and Republicans like Jan Brewer face the fact that they have to relent.  It may be a long time coming. But let this victory remind us what a difference even 10 years can make, on an issue that was once a loser for Democrats. May we catch up on issues of poverty, income inequality and economic opportunity just as quickly.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, February 27, 2014

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Arizona, Discrimination, Jan Brewer | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: