A Century Late … 4,743 Lives

The first federal anti-lynching bill was introduced by Representative George Henry White of North Carolina in 1900.  It never made it to the House floor for a vote. In the years since, more than 200 similar bills have been filed, none of which have passed through both chambers of Congress. Until yesterday.

Lynching was a favorite tool of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups in the years after the Civil War, terrorizing black communities out of political activism and into silence for fear of their lives.  For decades, white southerners used lynching, Jim Crow laws, and voter suppression to maintain white supremacy. After World War I, increased European immigration, fears of communism, and the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to major industrial cities in the North and Midwest led to increased instances of lynching.

Between 1882 and 1968, nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress, and seven U.S. presidents between 1890 and 1952 asked Congress to pass a federal anti-lynching law.  Probably the most famous anti-lynching proposal was the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, first introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Missouri Republican Leonidas C. Dyer on April 8, 1918. Several bills were introduced in the 1920s, then again in the 1930s and 1940s, passed several times by the House of Representatives, but never actually coming to a vote in the United States Senate.

For decades, white people treated lynchings as an entertainment venue, bringing picnic lunches and their children with them to watch a Black man (or woman) dangle at the end of a rope.  Professional photographers were hired to take pictures from which postcards were created, sent to family and friends.

Postcard of the 1920 Duluth, Minnesota lynchings. Two of the Black victims are still hanging while the third is on the ground. Postcards of lynchings were popular souvenirs in the U.S.

The last known lynching in the U.S. was on March 21, 1981 when several Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members beat and killed Michael Donald, a 19-year-old African-American, and hung his body from a tree. Some will say that since there have been no lynchings (that we know of) for the past four decades, the bill was unnecessary.  Even so, the bill that passed yesterday and that is due to be signed by President Biden will create a law that is way past due.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said …

“Hallelujah — it is long overdue. That it took so long is a stain, a bitter stain on America.”

The bill, aptly named after Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy who was brutally tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955, passed in the House of Representatives last month and in the Senate yesterday.  In the House, only three representatives, all predictably Republicans from southern states, voted against the bill – Representatives Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Chip Roy of Texas.

A mural in Chicago of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old who was lynched in 1955. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, said that as a boy, seeing a photo of Emmett’s battered body “shaped my consciousness as a Black man in America.”Credit…Scott Olson/Getty Images

This bill has been bouncing around in Congress since it was first introduced in 2018 by Senators Cory Booker, Tim Scott, and then-Senator Kamala Harris.  In 2020, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul objected, starting a fight in the Senate and effectively killing the bill for the time being.  This time, however, he supported the bill, saying …

“I’m pleased to have worked with Senators Booker and Scott to strengthen the final product and ensure the language of this bill defines lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is.”

I shall bite my tongue regarding Mr. Paul’s hypocrisy.  The long-overdue bill makes lynching a federal hate crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison.  A day late and a dollar short, as they say, but still … better late than never.  It won’t bring back the lives of Emmett Till and the other 4,742 people who have been lynched by white supremacists for no reason other than the colour of their skin, but it may prevent a resurgence of lynching in this day when racism is on the rise.

Understanding Our Past — CRT: Part I

Okay, folks … it seems that there is much confusion surrounding the concept of Critical Race Theory or CRT.  The confusion is twofold:  genuine confusion by people who truly do not understand the theory, and fake outrage by racists and Republicans (largely one and the same) who are trying to make a point to their mostly white base.

Today’s post, the first in a two-maybe-three-part series, looks at what Critical Race Theory is … and what it isn’t, and the evidence to support it.  Then, I hope to deconstruct the outright lies that are being told by the politicians and the likes of Fox News that are creating a furor in this nation … mainly among racists and bigots, but also among those who simply don’t understand what it is and why the theory is accurate.  This is by no means intended to be an academic work, but merely a layman’s view of what CRT is and how it is affecting this nation today.

Let’s start with a simple explanation of Critical Race Theory.

The simplest explanation is that racism has been a part of this nation since its founding, and today, even in the 21st century is systemic, meaning it is built into our institutions such as law enforcement, schools, the courts, etc. in an attempt to maintain the dominance of white people in society.  Sometimes it is blatant, but since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, more often it is subtle or implied, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

CRT does not, as some would have you believe, posit that all white people are racists, but rather that this nation’s history of racism lives on in many today, even though some may not realize it, and that it is imbedded in our laws, our society, our system.  Think about it … from the earliest days of white people coming to these shores, racism has been cruelly executed.  Think about what the white European settlers did to the indigenous people who had been here for thousands of years before the white people showed up and literally imprisoned them and kicked them off their land … killed them.  Read Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation by John Ehle.

And then, in 1619, the first slaves were imported from the African continent to do the hard work.  White men owned those dark-skinned men and women … owned them like they might own a painting or a cow.

More than 200 years later, at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect and declared enslaved people in the Confederacy free—on the condition that the Union won the war.  Still, slavery remained constant until the war was won by the Union troops and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1865 …

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

President Lincoln did not live to see final ratification: Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, and the necessary number of states did not ratify the 13th Amendment until December 6th of that year.

Then came the Black Codes1, Jim Crow laws2, and … the Ku Klux Klan3 (KKK).

  1. Black Codes were strict local and state laws that detailed when, where and how formerly enslaved people could work, and for how much compensation. The codes appeared throughout the South as a legal way to put Black citizens into indentured servitude, to take voting rights away, to control where they lived and how they traveled and to seize children for labour purposes.
  2. Jim Crow laws existed for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968. They were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence and death.
  3. The Ku Klux Klan was born in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, as a private club for Confederate veterans. The KKK grew into a secret society terrorizing Black communities and seeping through white Southern culture, with members at the highest levels of government and in the lowest echelons of criminal back alleys.

Under Jim Crow, segregated waiting rooms in bus and train stations were required, as well as water fountains, restrooms, building entrances, elevators, cemeteries, even amusement-park cashier windows. Laws forbade African Americans from living in white neighborhoods. Segregation was enforced for public pools, phone booths, hospitals, asylums, jails, and residential homes for the elderly and handicapped. Some states even required separate textbooks for Black and white students. New Orleans mandated the segregation of prostitutes according to race. In Atlanta, African Americans in court were given a different Bible from white people to swear on. Marriage and cohabitation between white and Black people was strictly forbidden in most Southern states. It was not uncommon to see signs posted at town and city limits warning African Americans that they were not welcome there.

And no, my friends, this wasn’t hundreds of years ago … Jim Crow laws were still in effect when I was young, and only legally ended in 1968.  Less than fifty years ago.  But … in many ways they are still being practiced, just not quite as openly or blatantly.

And what of the KKK?  A relic of past history?  Guess again.  Some 42 different Klan groups were active in 22 states as of June 2017, a slight increase from early 2016, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League.

Now, sit down for a minute and take a few deep, calming breaths, for this is some disturbing information I’ve just laid on you.  None of it was likely news to you, but … seeing it all in print, realizing that yes, Virginia, racism is alive and well in the United States today, can take the wind out of your sails.  Racism in the U.S. is not a thing of the past, not something we’ve overcome.  Sure, we’ve made some progress, there are anti-discrimination laws on the books to protect minorities from being denied jobs, education, and housing … but that doesn’t mean that people don’t find a way around it.  Racism is, like it or not, part of our past and our present … the goal here is to ensure it is NOT part of our future.

My goal is two-fold:  to clear up some of the misconceptions floating around today, perpetuated by the uneducated or those who have ulterior motives, and to show why and how we, as a nation, can be so much better than we are today.  I will have Part II to this series in the next day or two and will try to tie it all up in Part III by the end of the week.  But folks, don’t let anybody tell you that this is not a racist nation … hell yes, it is.  Many of us are not racist, don’t understand those who are, but sadly the racists are often the ones calling the shots, making the laws, setting the rules, teaching our children – hence, systemic rasicm.

Same Tune They’ve Been Playin’ Forever

Fox ‘News’ has some of the slimiest people in the industry working for them … ol’ Rupert Murdoch sure does know how to pick ‘em.  The only credible journalist at Fox is Chris Wallace, son of the long-esteemed Mike Wallace, and I often wonder why he doesn’t get a job at a more reputable network.  Among the worst of the lot is Tucker Carlson, a man who would argue with a tin can if it were marked “Democrat” or contained lima beans.

Charles M. Blow has written an editorial for the New York Times that I think bears reading if you want to try to understand the current white supremacist movement by the Republican Party to disenfranchise Black, Hispanic, Asian and immigrant voters.  The current push is nothing new, merely an upgrade of what white supremacists have always tried to do.

Tucker Carlson and White Replacement

This racist theory is rooted in white supremacist panic.

Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

On Thursday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson caused an uproar by promoting the racist, anti-Semitic, patriarchal and conspiratorial “white replacement theory.” Also known as the “great replacement theory,” it stands on the premise that nonwhite immigrants are being imported (sometimes the Jewish community is accused of orchestrating this) to replace white people and white voters. The theory is also an inherent chastisement of white women for having a lower birthrate than nonwhite women.

As Carlson put it:

“I know that the left and all the gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters, from the third world. But, they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Carlson continued, “Every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.”

The whole statement is problematic. First, what is the third world? This label originated as a way to categorize countries that didn’t align with Western countries or the former Soviet bloc. It’s now often used to describe poor countries, or developing countries, and by extension, mostly nonwhite majority countries.

When Carlson worries about immigrants from the third world, he is talking about Hispanic, Asian and Black people who he worries will outnumber “current” voters. Current voters, in this formulation, are the white people who make up the majority of the American electorate.

Second, and revealingly, he is admitting that Republicans do not and will not appeal to new citizens who are immigrants.

But although white replacement theory is a conspiracy theory, the fact that the percentage of voters who are white in America is shrinking as a percentage of all voters is not. Neither is the fact that white supremacists are panicked about this.

White supremacists in this country have long worried about being replaced by people, specifically voters, who are not white. In the post-Civil War era, before the current immigrant wave from predominantly nonwhite countries, most of that anxiety in America centered on Black people.

Judge Solomon Calhoon of Mississippi wrote in 1890 of the two decades of Black suffrage following the Civil War, “Negro suffrage is an evil.”

Calhoon worried that white voters had been replaced, or outnumbered, by Black ones, writing: “Shall the ballot remain as now adjusted, the whole country in the meantime taking the chances of the rapid increase of the blacks, and leaving, in the meantime, the whites as they now are in those localities where they are outnumbered?”

Calhoon would go on to become the president of the state’s constitutional convention that year, a convention called with the explicit intention of codifying white supremacy and suppressing the Black vote. States across the South would follow the Mississippi example, calling constitutional conventions of their own, until Jim Crow was the law of the South.

The combination of Jim Crow voter suppression laws and the migration of millions of Black people out of the South during the Great Migration diluted the Black vote, distributing it across more states, and virtually guaranteed that white voters would not be outnumbered by Black ones in any state. The fear of “Black domination” dissipated.

Indeed, as extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was being debated in 1969, The New York Times made note of the fact that Attorney General John Mitchell, a proponent of a competing bill, was well aware that even if all the unregistered Black people in the South were registered, their voting power still couldn’t overcome the “present white conservative tide” in the South. As The Times added, “In fact, Mr. Mitchell is known to believe that Negro registration benefits the Republicans because it drives the Southern whites out of the Democratic Party.”

A reporter at the time asked an aide of a Republican representative, “What has happened to the party of Lincoln?” The aide responded, “It has put on a Confederate uniform.”

But now, in addition to Black voters voting overwhelmingly Democratic, there is a wave of nonwhite immigrants who also lean Democratic. And tremendous energy is being exerted not only by white supremacists in the general population, but also Republican office holders, to attack immigrants, curtail immigration, disenfranchise Black and brown voters and assail abortion rights.

One of the surest ways of preventing a Black person from voting is to prevent them from living. As The Times reported in 1970, Leander Perez, a man who had been a judge and prosecutor and “led the last stand against integration” in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, once famously linked Black birth control to racial dominance, stating: “The best way to hate a [expletive] is to hate him before he’s born.”

I would even argue that the bizarre obsession with trans people is also rooted in part in white anxiety over reproduction.

The architects of whiteness in America drew the definition so narrowly that it rendered it fragile, unsustainable, and in constant need of defense. Replacement of the white majority in this country by a more multiracial, multicultural majority is inevitable. So is white supremacist panic over it.

The States Racing to Copy Georgia

Our friend TokyoSand reminds us that Georgia isn’t the only state that has passed a restrictive voting law this year.  Some 43 states are working on or have already passed voting laws that will strictly restrict voting by minorities, the poor, the elderly and the young.  In other words, they only want fat, old men to vote!  Read Tokyo’s post to learn which states are coming up on Georgia’s heels …

The States Racing to Copy Georgia

I’m happy that the media is covering the travesty that is the new Georgia law that restricts all kinds of voting rights for its citizens. But, that coverage is drowning out other, similarly important stories.

First and foremost, the media barely covered the Iowa governor signing a voter suppression bill a few weeks before the Georgia bill was signed. The Republicans in the state House and state Senate pushed their bill through, using the tired, old GOP talking point that it was all about “guarding against voter fraud,” even as they admitted that “Iowa has no history of election irregularities and that November’s election saw record turnout with no hint of problems in the state.”

Continue reading …The States Racing to Copy Georgia

Republican Party … The Party Of Bigots

I have said for several years now that the Republican Party has become the party of bigotry:  they despise the LGBT community, treat Blacks like second-class citizens, and would, given half a chance, impose the will of the narrow-minded Christian evangelicals on us all.  You just can’t get much more bigoted than all that.  I am not alone in my assessment, for Eugene Robinson’s most recent column in The Washington Post concurs with my thoughts …

The Republican Party is making Jim Crow segregationists proud

Eugene-RobinsonOpinion by 

Eugene Robinson


March 1, 2021 at 5:18 p.m. EST

The Republican Party’s biggest problem is that too many people of color are exercising their right to vote. The party’s solution is a massive push for voter suppression that would make old-time Jim Crow segregationists proud.

The Conservative Political Action Conference circus last week in Orlando showed how bankrupt the GOP is — at least when it comes to ideas, principles and integrity. Some might argue that the party, in buying into the lie that last year’s election was somehow stolen, is simply delusional. I disagree. I think Republican leaders know exactly what they’re doing.

The GOP may have lost the White House and the Senate, but it remains strong in most state capitols. So far this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans in 33 states “have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access.” The thrust of virtually all these measures is to make it more difficult for African Americans and other minorities to vote.

These efforts at disenfranchisement are more numerous, and more discriminatory, in several of the swing states President Biden carried narrowly: Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. That should come as no surprise. GOP officials who had the temerity to follow the law and count the November vote honestly, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have been all but excommunicated by their state Republican Party organizations.

In Georgia — where not only did Donald Trump lose to Biden by 11,779 votes, but also two incumbent GOP senators were defeated by Democratic challengers — Republicans are using their control of the statehouse to try to eliminate all early voting on Sundays. That would put an end to “Souls to the Polls,” a popular Sunday get-out-the-vote initiative in which Black churches help parishioners get to polling places and cast their ballots.

“Souls to the Polls” eliminates barriers to voting that thousands of Black Georgians otherwise might face, such as transportation for the elderly or finding time during the workweek for others. Georgia Republicans want to put those barriers back up — and raise them even higher.

Other proposals being pushed by Georgia GOP state legislators include getting rid of no-excuse absentee voting, which has been allowed for decades; eliminating the use of convenient drop boxes for casting absentee votes; and abolishing automatic voter registration at the Department of Driver Services offices where Georgians go to renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

Trump’s wild and false claims of election fraud aren’t the only things driving these efforts; Republican efforts to restrict voting are hardly new. Republican officials in Georgia know the state’s electorate at a granular level and are capable of performing basic addition and subtraction. They see how the populous suburbs around Atlanta, once GOP strongholds, have been steadily trending Democratic. They may not be able to halt that process. But perhaps they can compensate by suppressing the African American vote in economically disadvantaged areas of Atlanta proper; in the wide “Black Belt” stretching southwest across the state, roughly from Augusta to Columbus; and in the heavily African American area around Savannah.

In strongly Hispanic Arizona, which Biden won by 10,457 votes and where the Brennan Center tallies 19 voter-suppression bills filed since the election, the state Senate has rejected — for now — a Republican measure that would have stricken roughly 200,000 names from a list of voters who automatically receive mail-in ballots. That courtesy is considered the primary reason most Arizonans cast their votes by mail.

But another still-pending measure would require early ballots to be hand-delivered to a polling place rather than returned by mail, negating the benefits of mail voting. And another proposed bill would simply disregard the will of the voters altogether, allowing the GOP-controlled state legislature to appoint its own slate of presidential electors. Democracy, after all, can be so inconvenient.

Elsewhere across the country, Republican legislators are trying to tighten voter-identification laws that are already too restrictive. And they are trying to find ways to disqualify more mail-in ballots — perhaps for future occasions when GOP candidates need to “find” enough favorable votes, or lose enough adverse ones, to deny victory to a Democrat.

It amounts to an outrageous and shameful attempt to establish and perpetuate minority rule in a nation in which the Republican candidate for president has won the popular vote only once in the past eight elections.

At the state level, Democrats must fight these efforts relentlessly. And at the federal level, they should use any means necessary — including eliminating or suspending the Senate filibuster — to pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which would invalidate much of the most anti-democratic legislation the GOP is trying to enact.

And voters of color must resolve not to be deterred. This is not a “Whites only” democracy. Not anymore.

We Cannot Go Back to the Future

Jerry over at On the Fence Voters has put some things into perspective for us today, like “the good ol’ days”. I think you’ll find his analogies to be quite apt. Thanks, Jerry!

On The Fence Voters

When my sons entered their teen years, we had “the talk.” No, not that one. Well, we did have that talk, too. But the talk I refer to now is the one about expensive products generally, and about cars in particular. This was my mantra-like advice to them: “Repairs are cheaper than replacement, and maintenance is cheaper than repairs.” 

Fiscal Prudence Pays

My advice to them continued along these lines: “If you properly maintain a car—and pay for the occasional necessary repairs—you can expect it to get you where you need to go for at least 200,000 miles. And that means that if you drive the average number of miles Americans drive per year—13,500—you can expect to get nearly 15 years out of your car. Then, if your auto loan was for six years, that means you will have nearly nine years of payment-free driving. If you are fiscally responsible…

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“Make America Racist Again” is Trump’s Rallying Cry

When did it become “okay” to be a racist?  I think the date is around 15 June 2015.  That was when Donald J. Trump declared his intention to run for President of the United States with his now iconic speech in which he put down Mexican people, saying “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”  Somehow, at that moment in time, at the point where he said it and Americans cheered rather than jeered, it became “okay” to be a racist and to speak with a forked tongue.

During the little over a year since Trump’s official candidacy announcement, he has yet to give a speech whereby he doesn’t mock or put down some group of people:  Muslims, Hispanics, women, Asians, disabled people, and the list goes on.  And because Donald Trump can stand in front of a crowd of hundreds and spew his racist, bigoted hate-filled speech with little or no consequence, all those closet-racists who have been biting their tongues are now coming out of the woodwork in droves, turning our nation into one where there is no courtesy, no respect, and no tolerance for others.  It is this very attitude that has made it seem “okay” to some that a man running for the U.S. Congress puts up billboards urging citizens to “make America white again.” It is the attitude that has given rise to discrimination in venues across the nation, from workplaces to schools, from state governments to churches.

klan1When did it become “okay” to be a racist?  Let me tell you a little secret … it didn’t.  It has never been okay, it isn’t okay now, and it will never be okay.  It was not okay when we interned American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.  It was not okay when we made black people sit in the back of the bus.  It was not okay when we burned crosses on the yards of African-Americans.  And it is not okay when a pastor contends that “racism, misogyny, homophobia are ‘biblical truths we stand for’.”

Am I blaming Trump for “Making America Racist Again”?  No, obviously we never actually got past racism to start with.  Trump is merely the catalyst that has brought it back out into the open, stirring the dual pots of fear and hatred in the process.  Trump did not create racism and hatred, he simply told Americans that it is “okay” to speak out loudly against those who are different, who are non-Caucasian, who are non-Christian, who are disabled or female or transgender or homosexual.  He merely gave the green light, the thumbs-up, to those who had been stifling their racism and other phobias under the guise of being ‘politically correct’.

rosa pThose who would allow Donald J. Trump to define this nation are not those with whom I have any common ground.  I have made numerous excuses for his supporters, some of whom I call ‘friends’, including they are sleeping, they do not bother to study the issues, they are caught up in the moment and will raise their heads out of the sandpit eventually, or they are simply not hearing the message through all the noise.  I am rather done with that, however, as I now believe that these individuals, whether they will admit it or not, never truly moved on from the days of Jim Crow laws, of lynchings, of cross-burnings and murders by the Klan, of strict segregation.  They never came to understand that their white skin, their European ancestry, and their Christianity does not make them superior, but that their attitudes make them, in fact, inferior.  Attitudes which might have lain fallow for decades longer had not Donald Trump told them that it was “okay” to be a racist.  No, my friends, it is NOT okay.  It never was and it never will be.