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

“The GOP’s Noticeable Absences In Selma”: Republicans Are Apparently Satisfied With Only Having Its White Base

A wide variety of American political leaders will be in Selma tomorrow to honor the 50th anniversary of the events at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Among the attendees will be President Obama and former President George W. Bush.

Politico reports, however, that the Republican congressional leadership will not be on hand for the event.

Scores of U.S. lawmakers are converging on tiny Selma, Alabama, for a large commemoration of a civil rights anniversary. But their ranks don’t include a single member of House Republican leadership – a point that isn’t lost on congressional black leaders.

None of the top leaders – House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was once thought likely to attend to atone for reports that he once spoke before a white supremacist group – will be in Selma for the three-day event that commemorates the 1965 march and the violence that protesters faced at the hands of white police officers.

It’s not just the House GOP – Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is also skipping the event.

In fairness, it’s important to note that, as of yesterday, 23 congressional Republicans have said they’ll be in Selma for tomorrow’s ceremony, so it’d be an obvious overstatement to suggest a complete GOP no-show. But the Republican leadership – all of which was invited to attend – plays a unique role in representing the party overall. And yet, these leaders declined.

It’s reminiscent of August 2013, when a massive rally was held at the Lincoln Memorial, honoring the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Organizers encouraged the congressional Republican leadership to participate in the event, but GOP leaders declined those invitations, too.

To be clear, each of the Republican leaders who declined the invitations – both to tomorrow’s event in Selma and to the 2013 commemoration – may have a perfectly good excuse for their absence. There’s no evidence to the contrary.

But at a certain point, the party needs to realize that it has, among other things, a problem with appearances. On the one hand, the GOP sincerely seems to want to expand its outreach to minority communities, building the party beyond its overwhelmingly white base.

On the other hand, Republican leaders declined to participate in the Lincoln Memorial event in 2013; they’ve declined invitations to Selma; they had no public concerns after learning Steve Scalise attended a white-supremacist event; they’re slow walking the first African-American woman to ever be nominated as Attorney General; and they’re blocking a proposed bipartisan fix to the Voting Rights Act while their brethren at the state level impose new voting restrictions that disproportionately affect people of color.

It’s not unreasonable to conclude that the Republican Party simply must do better than this.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 6, 2015

March 7, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights Movement, Selma Alabama, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Party Full Of Rodeo Clowns”: GOP Flips The Bird To Racial Justice

Republicans haven’t been truly competitive for the African-American vote since Richard Nixon got a third of black voters in 1960 against John F. Kennedy, who spent most of that campaign hedging his bets on civil rights. After that, the party of Lincoln actively drove black people into the ranks of Democrats. The testimony of black Republicans who were sidelined, excluded and even attacked at the 1964 convention in San Francisco, when the party nominated the anti-civil rights Barry Goldwater, is painful to read.

In the post-Reagan years, however, Republicans became more careful about blatantly spurning the support of African-Americans, mainly because an image of racial tolerance, at least, was deemed essential to gaining the support of white moderates and independents; soccer moms, it was said, didn’t like overt racism. Then-Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman’s 2006 speech to the NAACP repudiating the GOP’s ’60s-era “Southern Strategy” wasn’t designed to seriously challenge the Democrats’ lock on black votes, but to give moderates, and maybe even Latinos, a reason to hope the party was evolving on race.

That’s all behind us. As recently as 2007, I believe, it would have been unthinkable that no major Republican leader would accept an invitation to join Wednesday’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. But that’s what happened this week, even though a delusional Bill O’Reilly claimed last night that “no Republicans and no conservatives were invited” to speak. As usual, O’Reilly is wrong: House Speaker John Boehner was washing his hair; wait, he was visiting Wyoming (the sixth whitest state in the U.S., by the way). Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who traveled to Selma with Rep. John Lewis last year, was likewise otherwise engaged. Both Presidents Bush are recuperating from health troubles. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was invited in his brother and father’s stead, but he had other plans. Sen. John McCain also declined.

“We had a very concerted effort, because this is not a political moment,” said Rep. Leah Daughtry, executive producer of the commemoration. “This was about us coming together as a community, so we wanted to be sure that we had all political representations,” Daughtry said. “We attempted very vigorously to have someone from the GOP participate and unfortunately they were unable to find someone who was able to participate.”

RNC chairman Reince Priebus pointed to the fact that Republicans held their own King commemoration Monday, inviting only blacks who are Republicans. Sounds like a fun time — a separate but equal celebration.

The fact that no leading Republican bothered to attend the 50th anniversary commemoration shows how far to the right they’ve moved on race. It’s not just that they’ve thrown in the towel when it comes to appealing to black voters. They also don’t think it’s worth it to make an extra effort to appeal to white voters who flinch at racism.

Thursday morning’s campaign by some Republicans to make march organizers out to be the real racists, because they didn’t invite South Carolina’s appointed black senator, Tim Scott, represents the usual GOP game of racial tit-for-tat. The fact is, the organizers were reaching out to national GOP leaders, and Scott is not one of them. His hostility to everything the Congressional Black Caucus stands for also makes him an unlikely and provocative choice as speaker.

If Scott asked to speak and was rebuffed, we haven’t heard about it. Nothing stopped him, or any other Republican, from wandering down to the Mall to join the throng. Such a move would have attracted media attention and it would almost certainly have been positive. Reporters are desperate to find signs of moderation and decency in today’s Republican Party.

Unfortunately, Republicans aren’t desperate to display such signs. Right now they’re comfortable with the status quo, in which more than 90 percent of self-described GOP voters are white, in a country that’s barely 60 percent white, and getting less white every day. While MSNBC was broadcasting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 speech in its entirety, former Sen. Jim DeMint of the Heritage Foundation was buffoonishly tweeting: “Would MLK have approved of Obamacare?” DeMint couldn’t be bothered to walk to the Mall and talk to any of King’s actual or political heirs. He’s just another rodeo clown in a party that’s teeming with them.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 29, 2013

August 30, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Martin Luther King Jr | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Out Damn Spot, Just Go Away”: George Zimmerman Is Enjoying His Celebrity Post Acquittal Victory Tour

As Trayvon Martin’s parents headed to Washington for a protest commemorating the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, their son’s killer was touring the factory that produced the gun he used to kill their son, and posing for celebrity photos while he was there. Fittingly, celebrity gossip site TMZ broke the news of George Zimmerman’s visit to the Kel-Tec factory last Thursday. Trayvon Martin’s killer is clearly enjoying his post-acquittal right-wing folk-hero status.

Meanwhile, his brother jumped on the bandwagon of white grievance-mongers playing up the alleged racial angle of the murder of Australian baseball player Chris Lane, who was killed by three young men, two black and one white. “Mainstream media is side stepping the fact that one of the alleged murderers openly professed on social media to ‘hate’ white people,” Robert Zimmerman told the Daily Caller. “Which one of these three teens looks most like Obama’s theoretical son?”

I’m sorry, America, we’re stuck with the Zimmermans. They won’t go away. Rather than recoil from his status as the man who shot an unarmed 17-year-old, George Zimmerman is enjoying his celebrity, while Robert Zimmerman continues to collaborate with the right-wing media-entertainment complex to make his brother out to be the real victim in Sanford, Fla., last year – the victim, first, of “thuggish” Trayvon Martin, and then of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as Martin’s parents.

Somewhat surprisingly, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara released a statement criticizing his client for his gun factory visit in harsh and vivid terms. “We certainly would not have advised him to go to the factory that made the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin through the heart,” Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for attorney Mark O’Mara, told Yahoo News. “That was not part of our public relations plan.”

I don’t recall O’Mara playing up the fact that the 17-year-old Martin was shot, at close range, “through the heart” during the trial, but maybe he thought the dramatic statement might help distance him from what could be his client’s post-acquittal victory tour. (I should note Vincent’s statement to Reuters didn’t include those words.) With Yahoo News, Vincent continued: “We are George’s legal representation, but I don’t think he takes our advice on how he lives his life or what factories he decides to tour. We represented him in court. We got the verdict that we believe is just, and the rest of George’s life is up to George.”

Translation: Don’t blame us for whatever Zimmerman does next.

Part of what made the Zimmerman acquittal hard to take was the shooter’s utter lack of remorse for killing Martin. Even if you believed every word of his self-defense claim, it had to be hard to imagine having no regrets about the death of a teenager. Even Sean Hannity, who normally appears conscience-free, asked Zimmerman if he had “regrets” about getting out of his car and following Martin, which led to their confrontation and the boy’s shooting. “It was all God’s plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it,” Zimmerman told Hannity, his voice trailing off.

That’s the kind of cluelessness that would lead a guy to tour the factory that made the gun he used to kill Martin, and to pose grinning with a star-struck factory worker like he’s Frank Sinatra visiting a local trattoria.

It’s particularly sad that Zimmerman’s visit came on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which was commemorated Saturday by a civil rights convening that included Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents. The issues of racial profiling, stop and frisk and “stand your ground” laws are animating a new movement for racial justice, and Martin has become a symbol of the way young black men are treated at the hands of police as well as vigilantes like Zimmerman. “Trayvon Martin was my son, but he’s not just my son, he’s all of our son, and we have to fight for our children,” Fulton told the crowd.

But to Zimmerman’s defenders, Martin is a symbol of predatory young black men, and Zimmerman is the hero enacting “God’s plan” to fight back. Not surprisingly, his brother defended his gun factory victory tour. “George is a free man and as such is entitled to visit, tour, frequent or patronize any business or locale he wishes,” Robert Zimmerman told Yahoo News. So don’t expect Zimmerman’s victory tour to end any time soon.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Trayvon Martin | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fifty Years Later”: We Appear To Be Re-Segregating, Moving In The Opposite Direction Of Dr. King’s Dream.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I have a gnawing in my gut, an uneasy sense of society and its racial reality.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech keeps ringing in my head, an aching, idyllic, rhetorical masterpiece that envisions a future free of discrimination and filled with harmony and equality. But I wonder whether the day he imagined will ever come and whether many Americans have quietly abandoned King’s dream as a vision that can’t — or shouldn’t — exist in reality.

I’m absolutely convinced that enormous steps have been made in race relations. That’s not debatable. Most laws that explicitly codified discrimination have been stricken from the books. Overt, articulated racial animus has become more socially unacceptable. And diversity has become a cause to be championed in many quarters, even if efforts to achieve it have taken some hits of late.

But my worry is that we have hit a ceiling of sorts. As we get closer to a society where explicit bias is virtually eradicated, we no longer have the stomach to deal with the more sinister issues of implicit biases and of structural and systematic racial inequality.

I worry that centuries of majority privilege and minority disenfranchisement are being overlooked in puddle-deep discussions about race and inequality, personal responsibility and societal inhibitors.

I wonder if we, as a society of increasing diversity but also drastic inequality, even agree on what constitutes equality. When we hear that word, do we think of equal opportunity, or equal treatment under the law, or equal outcomes, or some combination of those factors?

And I worry that there is a distinct and ever-more-vocal weariness — and in some cases, outright hostility — about the continued focus on racial equality.

In this topsy-turvy world, those who even deign to raise the issue of racial inequality can be quickly dismissed as race-baiters or, worse, as actual racists. It’s the willful-ignorance-is-bliss approach to dismissing undesirable discussion.

In this moment, blacks and whites see the racial progress so differently that it feels as if we are living in two separate Americas.

According to a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday, nearly twice as many blacks as whites say that blacks are treated less fairly by the police. More than twice as many blacks as whites say that blacks are treated less fairly by the courts. And about three times as many blacks as whites say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites at work, in stores or restaurants, in public schools and by the health care system.

In fact, a 2011 study by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard Business School found, “Whites believe that they have replaced blacks as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America.”

And in these divergent realities, we appear to be resegregating — moving in the opposite direction of King’s dream.

The Great Migration — in which millions of African-Americans in the 20th century, in two waves, left the rural South for big cities in the North, Midwest and West Coast — seems to have become a failed experiment, with many blacks reversing those migratory patterns and either moving back to the South or out of the cities.

As USA Today reported in 2011:

“2010 census data released so far this year show that 20 of the 25 cities that have at least 250,000 people and a 20 percent black population either lost more blacks or gained fewer in the past decade than during the 1990s. The declines happened in some traditional black strongholds: Chicago, Oakland, Atlanta, Cleveland and St. Louis.”

In addition, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released this month found that “about 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of nonwhite Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race.”

Furthermore, there is some evidence that our schools are becoming more segregated, not less. A study this year by Dana Thompson Dorsey of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that “students are more racially segregated in schools today than they were in the late 1960s and prior to the enforcement of court-ordered desegregation in school districts across the country.”

I want to celebrate our progress, but I’m too disturbed by the setbacks.

I had hoped to write a hopeful, uplifting column to mark this anniversary. I wanted to be happily lost in The Dream. Instead, I must face this dawning reality.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 23, 2013

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Unraveling Of A Dream”: The Decisions Of The Past Quarter Century Have Severely Weakened Civil Rights Laws

The sign I carried at the March on Washington said: “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” I had just graduated from the University of Minnesota and was an intern at the State Department. A half century has not dulled the memory of that hot, muggy, August day. The civil rights movement had become a mighty river, and the vast, peaceful, exuberant crowd seemed to signify a new chapter in the American story. I did not know then that I would spend the next half century working on the dreams described that day, and that most of the time, it would be in the face of strong resistance.

Racial change was accelerating rapidly for the first time in the twentieth century. Before his assassination, President Kennedy had called for the most substantial civil rights law in 90 years. After, President Johnson embraced the cause and masterfully moved the Civil Rights Act through Congress. It was a time of immense possibilities and great accomplishments. But the people who spoke that August at the Lincoln Memorial were veterans of hard, long fights for racial justice and knew that no march or speech or even the laws that followed in the next years could eradicate all the institutions, practices, beliefs and fears that sustained inequality.

In the months and years that followed, urban riots, the black power movement’s repudiation of King’s dream, the corrosive impact of the Vietnam War on the Democratic coalition, and the Republican surge in midterm elections showed that change was going to be very tough. Politics were shifting from expansion of civil rights to rhetoric promising harsh action against “crime in the streets.”

Five years after the exuberant March, Martin Luther King was dead, and President Johnson, whose civil rights record was unequalled, had lost his own party’s support. His opponent in the 1968 election, Richard Nixon, shifted the party of Lincoln to embrace a “southern strategy” which opposed urban school desegregation, called for limiting voting rights regulation, promised to stop “activist” courts, and began to remake the GOP into a party whose strongest base would be in the resistant white South.

For civil rights workers, there were some amazing accomplishments as many pillars of the Southern system of state-supported apartheid fell and groups of historically excluded voters became part of a more democratic society. But there were also deep disappointments as the agenda of the Southern segregationist movement began to influence national politics, civil rights reform faltered in the north, the jobs agenda was not addressed, and the courts and agencies charged with implementing change were turned over to skeptics and opponents. There would not be another progressive appointed to the Supreme Court for 25 years, and the Court, reconstructed by conservative appointments, became an enemy of racial progress.

The last major civil rights act was passed 45 years ago. The growth of civil rights in the courts ended nearly four decades ago, and serious reversals began in the late 1980s. Whites now see a black president and some people of color living in white suburbs and assume that civil rights reforms are no longer necessary. The obvious inequalities that clearly still exist in poverty, incarceration, educational attainment, wealth and other major aspects of society are seen by most not as discrimination that justifies more civil rights change, but as problems that can be blamed on minority communities for failing to take advantage of opportunities, and on the teachers and others who work with communities of color.

The reality is that in a number of very critical dimensions of civil rights there are large and growing gaps that have often been perpetuated or even deepened by the conservative policies that were supposed to work in what they defined as a post-racial society. School segregation has now been increasing for almost a quarter century. Access to college degrees has become significantly more unequal, at a time when those degrees have become even more critical in shaping the destiny of young people. Incarceration of young men of color has soared and investment in giving them a real second chance has shriveled. Wealth, long extremely unequal, has become more so, in part as a result of the housing crisis that was worst for families of color. Mobility is declining as the public sector and major industry, which were more favorable to minorities, have declined. We have gone through the most dreadful economic reversal in 80 years with no large vision of social and economic change.

In celebrating the March on Washington we usually communicate exactly the wrong lessons. Students recite the “I Have a Dream” speech as if the speech solved the problem of discrimination and made the nation fair. The truth is that the March didn’t win any rights. Decades of civil rights struggles and political battles broke the back of Southern apartheid, but there never was any similar sweeping victory against the northern and western forms of discrimination. Government has been in control of opponents of King’s dream most of the time since his assassination. We celebrate Brown and the great civil rights decisions, but the public knows virtually nothing about the major decisions of the past quarter century that have severely weakened civil rights laws, authorizing a return to segregated schools and discriminatory local election restrictions. We don’t talk about the disappearance of the war on poverty, the federal jobs program, and most of the programs meant to fix and rejuvenate our cities. There is no serious national discussion about the incredible gaps by race or the truly devastating impact of imprisonment jobless young men. There is no serious discussion about how to help collapsing central cities which have now often been left to poor black and Latino families where government intervenes only to protect bondholders as city institutions collapse.

We have to get serious about facing the realities of our time, as the marchers who came to Washington did a half century ago. We need a new dream for this century, a new social movement, and new tools to transform a polarized and divided society into an equitable multiracial community.


By: Gary Orfield , The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Published in Moyers and Company, July 24 July

July 28, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: