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“Sanders’ White Posses”: Bernie Sanders And Racism Lite

In a statement on the Nevada rampage by some of his supporters, Bernie Sanders said a remarkable thing. He said, “Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence.”

Who lives in “high-crime areas”? We all know the answer: dark people. But it wasn’t dark people hurling chairs and death threats at the Nevada Democratic Party convention. It was Sanders’ own white followers. (The YouTube videos make that clear.)

One reason there’s been no violence at Sanders’ rallies is that outsiders aren’t disrupting them. It is Sanders’ white posses that are invading the events of others, be it Democratic Party meetings or Donald Trump rallies.

Now, the Sanders statement did say, “I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.” But then he likened this outrage to shots being fired into his campaign office.

The problem with this attempt at symmetry is that we don’t know who fired into his campaign office. It is my hope that the perpetrator is caught and thrown in jail. But we know exactly who threw chairs. The FBI, meanwhile, should be hot on the tails of the creeps who made death threats against a Nevada Democratic Party official and her family. That’s a federal crime.

Sanders should have made his condemnation of violence short and sweet. In doing so, he could have emphasized that the vast majority of his supporters are good, nonviolent people.

But then he went on, stoking the self-pity that has permeated his campaign. This was not the time to go into his allegedly unfair treatment at the hands of Democratic officials as he’s been doing ad nauseam.

If Sanders’ tying of political violence to “high-crime areas” were his only racially tinged remark, one might give it a pass. But he has a history.

There was his infamous waving-of-the-hand dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s commanding Southern victories, which were powered by African-American voters.

“I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality,” he said.

Whose reality, one might ask. Actually, the overwhelmingly white electorates of Iowa and New Hampshire (where Sanders won big) got to go first. He didn’t have a problem with that.

This is a veiled racism that cannot find cover in Sanders’ staunch pro-civil rights record. Real black people seem to make Sanders uncomfortable (as Larry David captured on his “Saturday Night Live” skits).

Sanders’ idea of a black surrogate has been the academic Cornel West. West has called Barack Obama “a Rockefeller Republican in blackface” and “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs,” among other nasty things. Ordinary African-Americans tend to revere Obama, so where did this crashing insensitivity come from?

It may have come from decades of being holed up in the white radical-left universe. In the 1960s, Sanders abandoned the “high-crime areas” of Brooklyn, his childhood home, and repaired to the whitest state in the nation. (Vermont had become a safe haven for liberals leaving — the word then was “fleeing” — the cities.)

Nuance alert: Sanders has done good work in attracting more white working-class voters to the Democratic side. His emphasis on economic issues is a welcome change from the party’s frequent obsession with identity politics. That is admirable.

Less admirable are the windy justifiable-rage explanations in what should have been a simple censure. And to then link expectations of violence to “high-crime areas” was pretty disgraceful. There should be no white-privilege carve-out for thuggery.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Nevada Caucus, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Bernie Bullies, I’m So Over You

In early August 1968, just weeks after Bobby Kennedy was killed, my father and I took a walk through the fields of my great-grandmother’s house and plotted my career.

We didn’t know that at the time. I was only 11. He was 31, a father of four who had already worked for more than a decade at the local power plant. Those few facts about him make me shake my head at how young he was, how overwhelmed he must have felt so much of the time.

My beloved grandma BeBout’s farmhouse was a half-hour and a world away from our home in small-town Ashtabula, Ohio. I was supposed to spend just two weeks with her, which is why Dad was there. Minutes after his arrival, our collective tears persuaded him to let me stay longer.

For the first time, it occurred to me that my father was capable of missing me. He wasn’t in a hurry to leave, and he asked whether I wanted to go for a walk. We trudged through the cornfield and kept going, Dad jingling the coins in his pants pocket with one hand as we strolled.

I had just finished reading a paperback about Bobby Kennedy’s life. It was one of those quick-press editions sold down the street at a newsstand owned by a woman we all called Aunt Louise even though she was no relation. She often let me sit in the back of the store to read paperbacks free. When the Kennedy book arrived — I think its cover was glossy white with a small black-and-white photo of Bobby at the top — she gave it to me as a gift because she knew how sad I was that he had died.

I don’t recall how I brought up the book to my dad, but I do remember being surprised at how he paid attention as I told him about what I’d read. At one point, I made my announcement. I remember the wording only because he never forgot it.

“I think I’ll go into politics, Dad,” I told him. “Maybe write books about it or something.”

My father didn’t laugh or make fun of me. He just nodded his head and assured me that after I went to college — a nonnegotiable in our family — I’d be able to do anything I want. Politics would be a fine profession, he said, as long as I remained a Democrat.

“Maybe one day,” he said, “you could even be president.”

I’m not sure he believed that, but he wanted me to, and I don’t have any doubt he’d vote for Hillary Clinton if he were alive today. Not because he was a feminist. Lord, no. His affection for strong women began and ended with his three daughters, but our persistence would have gotten him there.

I grew up in a time when a woman who owned her own newsstand was famous because she was so rare. Aunt Louise was unmarried, which the grown-ups tirelessly pointed out as the reason she could do such a thing. What else did she have to live for?

I share this story from my childhood to illustrate just how long I’ve been waiting for something I could imagine at such a young age. There are so many women like me. We were born in a time when most of the country believed that white women should be sequestered at home, but we dared to believe we would grow up to be evidence to the contrary. I emphasize the privilege of our race because so many women of color never had the option to stay home.

Plenty of good people support Bernie Sanders, but his bullies are out of control. I am so over them. I no longer care when they accuse me of voting my gender. How interesting that they think there’s something wrong with so many women who want, for the first time in history, to see themselves reflected in the most powerful person in the world.

I support Clinton for a long list of reasons. The Sanders bullies say that makes me part of the “establishment.” I wish my working-class parents had lived long enough to hear that. How they would have howled.

There was a time when I got worked up over those voices of superiority telling me who I am because I don’t want what they do. I couldn’t care less now. My roots are my legacy, and I don’t owe anyone an apology or explanation for who I am.

When I was 11 years old, my dad told me a little girl could grow up to be president.

Forty-eight years later, I believe him.

 

By: Connie Schultz, The National Memo, May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Those Who Can’t Afford To Forget”: We Cannot Sleepwalk Through Life; We Cannot Be Ignorant Of History

Recently I linked to an important article by Charles Pierce titled: When We Forget.

The 2016 presidential campaign—and the success of Donald Trump on the Republican side—has been a triumph of how easily memory can lose the struggle against forgetting and, therefore, how easily society can lose the struggle against power. There is so much that we have forgotten in this country. We’ve forgotten, over and over again, how easily we can be stampeded into action that is contrary to the national interest and to our own individual self-interest…

A country that remembers, a country with an empowered memory that acts as a check on the dangerous excesses of power itself, does not produce a Donald Trump.

While that spoke powerfully to what we are witnessing in the current Republican presidential primary, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something missing. This morning while I was writing about President Obama’s commencement address at Howard University, I finally figure out what that was about. Here is a part of what he said when talking about the unique role of African American leadership:

…even as we each embrace our own beautiful, unique, and valid versions of our blackness, remember the tie that does bind us as African Americans — and that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle. That means we cannot sleepwalk through life. We cannot be ignorant of history.

Think about that for a moment…why can’t African Americans be ignorant of history? It is because any attempt to understand their place in this country today has to be informed by our collective past. For example, African Americans can’t tackle BlackLivesMatter without some understanding of the fact that – throughout our history – they haven’t. White people have the privilege of being able to forget that story…Black people don’t.

Remembering isn’t simply about knowing the history of how things used to be. It is also about remembering the people who fought the battles of the past and the strategies they used in the struggle. That’s what President Obama’s speech at Howard was all about – the Black theory of change.

But it isn’t just African Americans who can’t afford to forget. Finding authenticity as a woman means understanding the history of patriarchy. Native Americans must remember the genocide that nearly obliterated their culture. Asian Americans can never forget the straightjacket foisted upon them by being the “model minority.” LGBT Americans remember everything from Stonewall to Matthew Shepard. And Mexican Americans remember that many of their people were here prior to this country’s settlement by European Americans – who now assume they are the “immigrants.”

I know I’m glossing over centuries of history, but I’m doing so to make the point that there are those who can’t afford to forget because, as Faulkner wrote, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 9, 2016

May 10, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, American History, Donald Trump | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Politics, Power, And Change”: Here’s What You Need To Understand About How Hillary Clinton Views Race

This afternoon, Hillary Clinton will deliver a speech on race in Harlem. There’s a political context here, of course, which is that African American voters are central to both the Feb. 27 South Carolina Democratic primary and the entire campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But when Clinton speaks about race, something important happens: we get a revealing view not just of what she thinks is important, but of how she understands politics, power, and change.

According to guidance distributed by the Clinton campaign, today’s speech is going to cover a lot of policy ground, including criminal justice, education, housing, and economic opportunity. Clinton will also be discussing “systemic racism,” which is a key phrase to keep in mind to understand how she sees race, and how it differs from the way Barack Obama has dealt with racial issues over the past eight years.”

The idea of systemic racism has symbolic weight, but it’s primarily practical. It does speak to the fundamental truth that black people understand and that some whites resist, that racism exists in a thousand places at once, both those we can see and those we overlook. Saying you understand systemic racism is a way of saying that you see the problem as deep, wide, and historically grounded.

But it’s also a way of saying: This is a problem we, and the president him or herself, can actually do something about. If the racism that imposes itself on people’s lives is to be found in systems, then the way you attack it is to change the way those systems operate, through changes in law and policy.

In short — and if you’ll allow me to oversimplify things a bit — when it comes to race, unlike Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton doesn’t care how you feel.

Well of course she cares, but it’s not her primary concern. This is both her weakness and her strength.

Let me start this story in March 2008, when Obama delivered his much-praised speech in Philadelphia on race, after his former pastor Jeremiah Wright became controversial. In the speech you can see the stark difference between Clinton and him, or at least the candidate he was then. While Obama mentions in passing some of the ways racism has been embedded in institutions, most of the speech, and certainly the part people focused on after, was about different people’s perspectives on race. He talked about his white grandparents, noting that even the loving grandmother who largely raised him expressed fear of young black men. He talked about how white people who feel they never benefited from racial privilege can grow resentful of things like affirmative action. He talked about the anger of black people who continue to feel the sting of prejudice.

Like so many of Obama’s speeches in that campaign, it was extraordinarily eloquent and inspiring. It made you feel like no matter who you were, he understood you. Rereading it one can’t help but remember why many Americans went nuts for this guy.

As president, Obama has been extraordinarily cautious talking about racial issues. He obviously understands the way that his political opponents have cultivated racial resentments and used him as the symbol of everything anyone might fear about a time when white privilege is being challenged (regular listeners of conservative talk radio know, for instance, that Obama’s domestic policies are regularly described as “reparations,” wherein white people’s money is being stolen and then showered upon indolent, undeserving minorities). And though you could certainly point to any number of policy initiatives his administration has undertaken that address racial prejudice and its consequences, in his rare public statements on the topic Obama is far more likely to talk about people and their feelings, both black and white, than about the details of policy. It’s clear that he still believes that empathy and understanding are central to bridging the racial divides that his presidency has been unable to improve.

Clinton’s previous remarks on race, on the other hand, are essentially the inverse of Obama’s: some brief mention of values and feelings, quickly giving way to lengthy discussion of policy changes that can be made to address ongoing racial problems. You can see that in a major speech she gave in April about criminal justice reform. Early in the speech she articulated statements of values that link policy with ideas like justice and fairness: “There is something profoundly wrong when African American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.” She then talked about her own work as a young lawyer with the Children’s Defense Fund, but what stands out for me is that her discussion is about power and institutions. “I saw repeatedly how our legal system can be and all too often is stacked against those who have the least power, who are the most vulnerable,” she says, which is a statement about justice but also a way of saying, I understand this system. The speech is heavy with facts and figures, and while there are a few lines about hopes and dreams, it doesn’t address anyone’s feelings about race. Instead, it’s mostly about policy.

Or consider an even more vivid illustration, a fascinating spontaneous discussion she had with some Black Lives Matter activists in August. It may be the single clearest statement you can find illustrating Clinton’s perspective on social and political change as you’ll ever see.

The activists essentially argue to Clinton that symbolism, rhetoric, beliefs, and policy are all intertwined. At one point, Julius Jones says to her, “America’s first drug is free black labor and turning black bodies into profit, and the mass incarceration system mirrors an awful lot like the prison plantation system. It’s a similar thread, right? And until someone takes that message and speaks that truth to white people in this country, so that we can actually take on anti-blackness as a founding problem in this country, I don’t believe that there is going to be a solution.” He also wants to know what’s in Clinton’s heart, and how she feels about the mistakes of the 1990s. “What in you,” he asks, “not your platform, not what you’re supposed to say — like, how do you actually feel that’s different than you did before? Like, what were the mistakes? And how can those mistakes that you made be lessons for all of America for a moment of reflection on how we treat black people in this country?”

Clinton’s response, though she doesn’t put it these terms, is essentially that it’s not about what she feels. Again and again, she comes back to the idea that you need a program, an agenda of specific things government should do:

So, all I’m saying is, your analysis is totally fair. It’s historically fair. It’s psychologically fair. It’s economically fair. But you’re going to have to come together as a movement and say, “Here’s what we want done about it,” because you can get lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it, who are going to say, “Oh, we get it. We get it. We’re going to be nicer.” Okay? That’s not enough, at least in my book. That’s not how I see politics. So, the consciousness raising, the advocacy, the passion, the youth of your movement is so critical. But now all I’m suggesting is, even for us sinners, find some common ground on agendas that can make a difference right here and now in people’s lives. And that’s what I would love to, you know, have your thoughts about, because that’s what I’m trying to figure out how to do.

Then Clinton and Jones begin talking quicker, and when at one point Jones characterizes her position as being that “what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do to change white hearts is to come up with a policy change,” Clinton jumps in with this:

No, I’m not talking about — look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them to live up to their own God-given potential, to live safely without fear of violence in their own communities, to have a decent school, to have a decent house, to have a decent future. So, we can do it one of many ways. You know, you can keep the movement going, which you have started, and through it you may actually change some hearts. But if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation.

If I could put her point in terms that are a little more blunt, Clinton is basically saying that symbolism and feelings are all well and good, but they’re really not her concern. What she cares about is institutional power: who it belongs to, how it’s used, and what effects it has. Movement-building and consciousness-raising are not her job. They’re a part of the larger picture and can make her job easier, but her job is to make change within the institutions through which power flows.

You may or may not like this view of what a president does and how a president makes change. You may thirst for someone who can work the levers of power but can also inspire people, make them see things in a new way, offer a transformative vision of the future. But for better or worse, that’s not who Hillary Clinton is.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 16, 2015

February 17, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Hillary Clinton, System Racism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Justice Is Supposed To Be Blind”: The Oregon Standoff And America’s Double Standards On Race And Religion

What do you think the response would be if a bunch of black people, filled with rage and armed to the teeth, took over a federal government installation and defied officials to kick them out? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be wait-and-see.

Probably more like point-and-shoot.

Or what if the occupiers were Mexican American? They wouldn’t be described with the semi-legitimizing term “militia,” harking to the days of the patriots. And if the gun-toting citizens happened to be Muslim, heaven forbid, there would be wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the “terrorist assault.” I can hear Donald Trump braying for blood.

Not to worry, however, because the extremists who seized the remote Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon on Saturday are white. As such, they are permitted to engage in a “standoff” with authorities who keep their distance lest there be needless loss of life.

Such courtesy was not extended to Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was playing with a toy gun in a park on Nov. 22, 2014. Within seconds of arriving on the scene, police officer Timothy Loehmann shot the boy, who died the next day. Prosecutors led a grand jury investigation and announced last month that Loehmann would face no charges. A “perfect storm of human error” was blamed, and apparently storms cannot be held accountable.

Such courtesy, in fact, is routinely denied to unarmed black men and boys who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. You know the litany of names — Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray. And you know how these stories end. Just weeks ago, a Baltimore jury failed to reach a verdict in the trial of the first of six officers charged with Gray’s death. Another perfect storm, I guess.

I probably sound cynical, but in truth I’m just weary. And worried.

Justice is supposed to be blind. Race, ethnicity and religion are not supposed to matter. Yet we’re constantly reminded that these factors can make the difference between justifiable and unjustifiable killing — and between life and death.

The yahoos in Oregon are protesting the Bureau of Land Management’s policies, hardly a red-button issue for most Americans. The federal building they seized is in a wildlife refuge, which means that by definition it’s in the middle of nowhere; the nearest sizable city is Boise, Idaho, about 200 miles away. The protesters’ guns pose more of a threat to bears than people.

So no, I don’t think authorities have any immediate reason to blast their way into the woods with a column of armored vehicles. But I would argue there was no good reason to do so on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., either. Is the salient difference that the Oregon protesters are believed to be heavily armed? If so, what message does that send? Does somebody need to found a Minority Rifle Association so that communities of color are given similar deference?

The organization’s name would have to be changed in a few decades, anyway, when whites in the United States cease to constitute a racial majority. This inexorable demographic shift, I believe, helps explain why the world of politics seems to have gone insane of late.

What I want is that African Americans, Latino Americans, Muslim Americans and other “outsiders” be seen as the Americans we are. What I want is acknowledgment that we, too, have a stake in our democracy and its future course. What I want is the recognition that no one can “take back” the country — which happens to be led by its first African American president — because it belongs to me as much as to you.

These are not the sentiments we’re hearing in the presidential campaign, though — at least, not on the Republican side. Following Trump’s lead, candidates are competing to sound angrier and more embittered. That’s why I am so worried.

You’d think there might be at least a few prominent voices on the right expressing horror and outrage at the wrongful killing of a 12-year-old boy. You’d think that Republicans running for president might find the time to condemn the armed takeover of federal property by zealots. Yet all we hear is crickets chirping.

The GOP candidates have apparently concluded that voicing hope, embracing change and broadening our concept of the American mainstream constitute a losing strategy. They see Trump’s success and mimic him in fostering a sense of “beleaguered” us vs. “menacing” them. This may be an effective way to pursue the nomination, but it’s a terrible disservice to the country.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 4, 2016

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Domestic Terrorism, Equal Justice, Oregon Militiamen | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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