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“A Symbolism Of Pure Hate And Violence”: The Despicable Laura Ingraham Outdoes Herself

We can’t be surprised by the right-wing ignorance about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the politics of the 1963 March on Washington. Today’s conservative leaders are the political descendants of the forces who fought the civil rights movement as a radical, most likely Communist plot. When the movement turned out to be wholesome and all-American, when a quarter of a million marchers descended on the capital without riots or violence 50 years ago, well, then, it had to be co-opted, it had to prove that America was living up to its highest principles, that those noble people were satisfied with what the system gave them — a Civil Rights bill and a Voting Rights bill — and they went home, and marched no more. Dr. King’s assassination five years later made it easier for them to do that.

There are so many ignorant right-wing reactions to this anniversary to talk about, but the award for the most vicious and stupid has to go to radio host Laura Ingraham, who insists that those of us who are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the march this week are trying “to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda.”

Actually, Ingraham is so wrong, she’s sort of right. Liberals did co-opt King’s radical, anti-corporate and antiwar agenda long ago. The King we commemorate today is a friendly shadow of his challenging, radical, visionary self. (Read Harold Meyerson on “The Socialists Who Made the March on Washington,” for a necessary corrective.)

But that’s not what the ignorant and vicious Ingraham was saying. She’s pretending King was some kind of conservative hero whose message of colorblindness – and that wasn’t his message at all – has been co-opted by liberal race-baiters and whiners and malcontents, who just won’t accept that Bobby Jindal is right when he talks about the “end of race,” because a first-generation Indian immigrant’s experience of racism is identical to that of people who were enslaved for hundreds of years, and he gets to decide when racism is over. Ingraham’s co-opting comment was just dumb. Typically dumb. What was unusually vicious, even for the often nasty radio host, was that she decided to interrupt an audio clip of the heroic Rep. John Lewis, the youngest person to speak at the march 50 years ago, speaking on Saturday, with the sound of a crackling gunshot.

A gunshot. After the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, after the gunning down of so many civil rights workers over the years, Ingraham thought it was funny, or clever, or provocative, to “symbolically” cut off Lewis’ speech with the sound of a gun. The civil rights hero, who had his skull fractured on the first 1965 Selma march, falls silent in mid-sentence, as though he’d been hit by a sniper while addressing the crowd. (Listen to it on Media Matters; it’s more disturbing than you can imagine just reading about it.)

Lewis is in mid-speech, talking about the unfinished business of civil rights in America. “We must say to the Congress: fix the Voting Rights Act. We must say to the Congress: Pass comprehensive immigration reform. It doesn’t make sense that millions of our people …”

And then a shot rings out. Ingraham picks up what Lewis was saying. “OK. ‘It doesn’t make sense that millions of our people … are living in the shadows.’ They’re not only not living in the shadows, they’re appearing at the State of the Union speech. They’re actually visiting with the president in the White House. I think we have to drop that ‘living in the shadows’ thing. They might be standing on the street corner, but they’re not living in the shadows.”

Ingraham’s entitled to her opinion on immigration reform – she’s implacably against it, with her nativist buddy Pat Buchanan, who also appeared on the show – but I have to wonder why she chose to silence Lewis, symbolically at least, with a gunshot. It’s no coincidence she’s also an NRA mouthpiece whipping up fear that the government is coming for our guns. All of the white-grievance mongers are getting angrier, and their brew of pro-gun paranoia and white racial resentment is toxic. Ingraham should be ashamed of herself, but she’s just another rodeo clown, and she has no shame.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 27, 2013

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An American ‘Hyphenated’ Idiot”: Bobby Jindal Blames Racial Inequality On Minorities Being Too Proud Of Their Heritages

One day after thousands rallied at the March on Washington 50th anniversary demonstration, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) pitched the Republican civil rights vision…by criticizing minorities for not assimilating into American culture.

In a Politico op-ed Sunday, Jindal lamented that minorities place “undue emphasis” on heritage, and urged Americans to resist “the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl” comprised of proudly ethnic identities.

Jindal insisted that, “while racism still rears its ugly head from time to time” since Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I have a dream” speech, the major race problem facing modern America is that minorities are too focused on their “separateness”:

Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.

Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot.

There is nothing wrong with people being proud of their different heritages. We have a long tradition of folks from all different backgrounds incorporating their traditions into the American experience, but we must resist the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl. E pluribus Unum.

If he had done even cursory research before writing his editorial, Jindal may have discovered some systemic inequities preventing minorities from assimilating to his satisfaction. Though Jindal is right that Americans have made “significant progress” since the March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom, the national black unemployment rate has steadily remained double the white unemployment rate for the past 60 years.

In urban areas like Chicago, the poverty rate and median income for black families is also about the same as it was in 1963.

Even segregation, once vanquished by the civil rights movement, is rebounding aggressively. Since 2001, urban schools and neighborhoods have become increasingly re-segregated through lax integration enforcement and so-called “white flight.” Research shows this resegregation intensifies poverty and violence in minority neighborhoods, trapping black families in an endless cycle. Jindal himself has helped this trend along in New Orleans with his school privatization plan, which has worsened racial inequality in 34 historically segregated public schools and, according to the Justice Department, “reversed much of the progress made toward integration.”

 

By: Aviva Shen, Think Progress, August 25, 2013

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Future Worth Celebrating”: Young Americans Have Challenges, But Race Isn’t One Of Them

After half a century, the March on Washington has moved into the historical record as a courageous but hardly radical event. It is widely remembered for Martin Luther King’s brilliant extemporaneous riffs on “I Have a Dream.” But even a peaceful assembly by “Negroes,” as black Americans were then known, was a dangerous idea in a volatile era.

President John F. Kennedy was dead-set against it, and protest planners were careful about choosing their allies for fear of informants to the Kennedy administration and his Federal Bureau of Investigation. Civil rights leaders formally demoted their best strategist, Bayard Rustin — though he continued to do most of the work — because he was openly gay and a one-time Communist, either of which would have been ammunition for those who wanted to derail the civil rights movement.

The march succeeded, though, perhaps beyond its organizers’ wildest dreams. A solemn demonstration of the power of black Americans’ simple plea for full citizenship, it proved to be one of the pivotal episodes of the civil rights movement. Its success in setting the stage for the Voting Rights Act shaped politics for the next 50 years, helping to propel President Barack Obama into office.

In the current political climate, it’s easy enough to minimize the remarkable progress toward full equality that the nation has made since 1963. It’s true that racism lives on, re-energized by pandering politicians and media demagogues. The criminal justice system is replete with discriminatory practices. Pernicious stereotypes still shadow the lives of black Americans.

Most damning, black workers have come no closer to closing the economic gap than they had in 1963. The Washington Post recently cited figures from the Economic Policy Institute showing that the unemployment rate was 5 percent for whites and 10.9 percent for blacks 50 years ago. The yawning gap remains today, with unemployment at 6.6 percent for whites and 12.6 percent for blacks, according to the Post. Furthermore, over the past 30 years, the average white family has gone from having five times as much wealth as the average black family to 6 1/2 times, the Post said.

Still, it’s disrespectful to those hardy and brave souls who stood on the Mall 50 years ago to suggest that little has changed. The nation has undergone a remarkable transformation in five decades, as the two elections of a black president attest.

Black men and women now hold positions of influence and authority throughout academia, business and the professions. They lead the U.S. armed forces. They are cultural icons, some so popular they are known simply by their first names.

The everyday interactions of Americans from different racial and ethnic groups have changed, as well. Interracial marriage is broadly accepted, and biracial children are a growing part of the population. Schools may not be as well-integrated as King had dreamed, but they are much more diverse than they were 50 years ago. So are churches and civic clubs.

Even the angry backlash by Tea Partiers and other sectors of the far right is a sign of changing times. Much of the hysteria that is lathered up by right-wing talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh is a last surge of protest by an aging demographic: older whites who resent or fear the changes fostered by the civil rights movement. The country is growing browner, and by mid-century, whites will no longer constitute a majority of the population. As a voting bloc and cultural influence, their power is waning. And they know it.

The good news is that younger whites are much more likely to embrace diversity, to accept cultural change, and to support the nation’s civic creed of full equality for all, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. Polling data show they diverge from the views of their parents and grandparents on many social issues.

Of course, younger Americans will have their struggles, too — their bitter disagreements and their political challenges. And they will have to tackle the economic injustices around which King planned his last crusade.

But they seem less likely to forge a future cleaved by color, and that’s worth celebrating.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, August 24, 2013

August 25, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , | 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

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