How To Make White People Roll Their Eyes.

Bring up the subject of reparations for the descendants of slaves and for Native Americans as Ta-Nehisi Coates recently did in the May edition of The Atlantic and most white people will roll their eyes and sputter, “But that was generations ago! I didn’t have anything to do with slavery or genocide.” Such a response is certainly understandable for Americans of European descent. But it fails to recognize the fact that our nation was built on slavery or that African-Americans and Native Americans have been fighting an uphill battle for generations.

Indeed, those minorities are still being denied the opportunity for economic equality.

Just 3-5 generations removed from the end of the American Civil War and the end of the Indian Wars, entire populations of African-Americans and Native Americans are suffering from our nation’s past sins. If you think reparations are unfair for those who were not directly involved in the crimes, imagine what the victims of those crimes feel! If nothing else, modern America needs to have a sincere and objective discussion of the lasting impacts of slavery and Jim Crow. To think that, after 200 years of slavery and 100 years of discrimination, we could pass the Civil Rights Act and everything would suddenly be okay is absolutely ludicrous.

Consider the fact that, when the slaves were freed following the Civil War, most had no education, no savings, few possessions and no place to go. It’s true that General Sherman issued Special Field Orders No. 15 which called for former slaves to be given 40 acres and a mule. But those orders were quickly suspended. It’s true that the Freedmen’s Bureau collected 800,000 to 900,000 acres of land with the intention of redistributing it to former slaves, but most of that land was eventually returned to the former slave-owners.

In an attempt to help the former slaves, many were given guaranteed contracts for field labor on the plantations which they previously worked. Others were contracted as sharecroppers to farm the land. However, it was the white landowners who determined how the shares would be distributed, resulting in a new form of slavery. Despite all of this, some African-Americans were eventually able to purchase land. By 1910, more than 15 million acres of farm land were owned by African-Americans. But as a result of the Great Depression, predatory practices of whites, and other circumstances, the number of landowners rapidly declined. By 1997, just 2 million acres were owned by blacks. Of course, the number of white farmers declined, too. But not nearly as fast as blacks.

Those African-Americans who chose not to work the fields following the Civil War moved north to large cities in hopes of finding work – mostly as low-paid, unskilled laborers. But they were often taken advantage of by their new employers. As they struggled, the white factory owners thrived. So, too, did the banks and property owners. They were often victimized by white slumlords. And their schools were underfunded, perpetuating the problem for new generations. Many African-Americans were denied the right to vote, either by law or by tricks, and most faced overwhelming discrimination, especially in the South.

Perhaps the most crushing blow came after World War II during which African-Americans and Native Americans fought alongside whites. When the soldiers returned home, they rightfully expected their fortunes to change. But they soon found themselves back in the same circumstances; in neighborhoods that were “red-lined,” meaning that the residents of the area were not eligible for loans from banks. Of course, con artists and predatory lenders were there to take up the slack with contract mortgages that allowed the lender to take the homes with all of the accumulated equity if only one payment was late or missed. This made it nearly impossible for minorities to acquire wealth.

Of course, most white people are quick to point to our African-American president as evidence of racial equality. But the sad fact is we have used and abused our laws to prevent most African-Americans from attaining equality. There are as many African-Americans held in prisons today as there were slaves at the beginning of the Civil War. Studies show that our nation is as segregated today as it was before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Further, many African-Americans are still being taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses. For example, prior to 2008 blacks were targeted by sub-prime lenders and when the mortgage industry imploded, blacks were disproportionately affected by foreclosure. They were also affected more by the Great Recession. Their unemployment rates are higher. And to prevent them from influencing elections, Republicans have recently passed voter ID laws designed to suppress the minority vote. In addition, they are further reducing the number of polling places and cutting back on voting hours in black neighborhoods despite the fact that, in 2012, many black voters were forced to stand in line for six hours or more in order to vote.

Obviously, the United States is far from a post-racist society. In fact, we seem to be trending backwards as evidenced by the rapid growth of white supremicist hate groups and voter suppression laws.

Despite all of this, I don’t believe the US Congress will ever agree to any form of reparations for African-Americans and Native Americans. Nevertheless, I think we should try to find some way to make things right. An objective discussion in a court of public opinion regarding the fallout of slavery, the Indian Wars, and the consequences of our nation’s actions is long overdue. Giving victims the opportunity to enumerate the costs, to express their feelings and to discuss the problems they face could be extremely healthy for everyone.

And it would be highly educational for most whites.

Our Ongoing National Shame.

Teapublicans are fond of saying that racism is no longer an issue. Conservatives on the US Supreme Court have echoed that sentiment in decisions that weakened and overturned affirmative action. Indeed, many conservatives cite affirmative action as a form of reverse racism. And whenever a politician or African-American speaks out against discrimination, conservatives are quick to label them as racists.

Some conservatives, especially those in the media, are simply unabashed racists that will never listen to reason. Unfortunately, even the more thoughtful and open-minded conservatives have fallen into the trap of assuming that racism was ended by Martin Luther King, Jr. What they fail to comprehend is that the US is only 3 to 5 generations removed from emancipation and that slavery has left a lasting legacy.

Following the Civil War, the largely uneducated population of African-American slaves (for most slaves, education was forbidden) was freed to fend for themselves. Many of those given 40 acres and a mule had their property stolen by whites. Many were still abused. Most found low-skilled, low-paying jobs and were herded into ghettos with little opportunity for advancement. Their children were sent to substandard schools. Even those who struggled to excel in school were discriminated against and given few job opportunities. In many states, African-Americans were not even allowed to vote until a generation ago. As a result, most laws have been used to bludgeon African-Americans. Police forces have used drug laws to disproportionately incarcerate African-Americans even though African-Americans use drugs at roughly the same rate as whites. Virtually every African-American has been stopped for driving or walking while black. And we’ve all seen the TV “reality” crime shows that focus almost exclusively on minorities. (A producer for one of the shows admitted that no one wanted to watch a show that focused on police busting young, white men for the same crimes.)

In the 1960’s many white families abandoned our cities for the suburbs to enroll their children in white-dominated schools and leaving African-Americans with the burden of paying for the infrastructure of the central cities, for police and fire protection, for luxurious sports venues, and for the freeways used almost exclusively by suburbanites. Cities redistricted their schools along racial and economic lines. So today, on the 60th anniversary of the US Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education which ordered the desegregation of schools, many of our schools are more segregated than they were at the time of the ruling.

Moreover, a Center for American Progress study found that, nationally, we spend $334 less for the education of each black student than for each white student! We may be unwilling to pay for the education of African-Americans. But we sure don’t mind spending millions more to send them to prison. According to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, there are now as many African-Americans in some stage of our “justice” system as there were African-American slaves at the beginning of the Civil War!

Yet the GOP somehow believes that the playing field has been leveled…that the problems faced by many African-Americans are simply the result of laziness, broken families and a culture of welfare dependency. Some, like Cliven Bundy, even suggest that “the Negro” would be better off as slaves.

Here’s an idea: Why don’t the Teapublicans who believe this nonsense trade places with those they so demean? Let’s see how Rep. Paul Ryan would fare in a ghetto with few prospects for anything beyond a minimum wage job. Let’s see how he fares in landing a job in a suburb with no car and no public transportation to get to that job. Let’s see how Justice Roberts’ children would fare in a school with significantly fewer resources than their peers. Let’s see how white Teapublican suburbanites like standing in line for hours to vote. Let’s see how Cliven Bundy would fare at picking cotton.

Vote For SB 1062? Who Me?

Since the bill legalizing discrimination on religious grounds passed the Arizona Senate, three of the Teapublicans who voted for the bill are now calling for our finger-wagging governor to veto it. They claim that they really didn’t understand all of the bill’s implications in their rush to vote it into law. But now that the state has, once again, become a laughing stock, they have changed their minds.

That presumes, of course, that they had minds to begin with.

You see, the Tea Party brand of hate is so strong in Arizona, it seems that our legislators are always in a hurry to embarrass the state. No time to listen to Democrats. No time to seek advice from leaders in the business community. No time to seek the advice of mainstream religious leaders. No time to listen to reason. If it will harm minorities, including Democrats, they must act fast.

And this isn’t the first time. Last year, the Teapublican-led legislature passed a bill making sweeping changes to the state’s election laws that would make it more difficult for non-Republican candidates to get on the ballot and to raise campaign funds. When Democrats, Libertarians, and other parties collected more than enough signitures to place the issue on the ballot, this year’s Teapublican-led legislature repealed the law. They’re now in the process of trying to sneak the law past the electorate one piece at a time.

In other words, they haven’t changed their minds. They’ve merely changed their tactics.

And now that the public outcry against SB 1062 has made it difficult to institutionalize discrimination in the state, they’ll look for new ways to demean and diminish the rights of minorities. After all, this is the state that refused to accept Martin Luther King Day until it cost Arizona the opportunity to host a Super Bowl. It’s the same state that passed SB 1070 making it illegal to have brown skin and speak Spanish, then spent tens of millions trying to defend its racist agenda in court.

Make no mistake. SB 1062 certainly won’t be the end of discriminatory and mean-spirited laws in Arizona. As long as Teapublicans control the legislature, it will always be in a hurry to embarrass the state.

Hallelujah! Pass The Hate And Ammunition!

While perusing my local newspaper, I ran across a curious item. There was an ad for a gun show at a local community church. That’s right, a gun show in a church! Doesn’t everyone know that Jesus Christ and AR-15s go together like wine and crackers; blood and flesh? After all, guns and ammo will help tens of thousands of Americans meet their maker sooner than later.

More seriously, this represents a disturbing trend. More and more religions have aligned themselves with the military. Churches praise those who died in battle. One church I visited even placed a monument to fallen soldiers in the courtyard leading to the sanctuary so the congregation would be reminded of the glory of war every time they go to church.

I long ago rejected organized religion, but I still remember my childhood church praying for peace. The congregation would never have considered allowing its facilities to be used to sell weapons. There were no monuments to violence. My, how things have changed!

Even more disturbing is the tie between some religions and racism, and the tie between racism and guns. The Ku Klux Klan was born out of white “Christian” churches. Today, many Aryan supremacy groups still use the Bible to justify their hatred for others. Further, a new study published in the science journal Plos One has linked racism to gun ownership. A research team led by Dr. Kerry O’Brien measured levels of symbolic racism in relationship to gun ownership. The team reported, “For each 1 point increase in symbolic racism, there was a 50% greater odds of having a gun in the home, and there was a 28% increase in the odds of supporting permits to carry concealed handguns.”

According to the team, the results were “consistent with other US data showing that white males display the most opposition to gun control, and greater support for liberalisation of gun laws.” The team also found that “higher education levels were associated with lower odds of having a gun in the home.”

Maybe someone will conduct a similar study exploring the links between guns and religion, or hatred and religion. I suspect the findings would be both depressing and frightening.

GOP Is Racist? How Racist Of You To Bring It Up!

The right wing megaphone that is Fox News Channel and talk radio is in full throat defending the rodeo clown who appeared wearing an Obama mask. “It was just entertainment.” “The real racists are those who can’t take a joke,” say the wingnuts.

Really? It’s now racism for pointing out obvious racism?

Let’s review. The GOP committed to the Southern Strategy after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The whole idea was to appeal to white voters in the South who were angered by the end of Jim Crow.

Many Republicans have refused to accept that President Obama was born in the United States and claim that he is, therefore, not eligible to hold the office. In 2009, every Tea Party rally displayed racist signs such as “Send Obama Back To Kenya.”

In 2012, signs and bumper stickers were distributed saying “Put The White Back In The White House” and “Don’t Re-N—– in 2012.” During the Republican primaries, presidential candidates offered “self-deportation” as the only viable immigration reform. Some suggested that the border fence be electrified. And, at the RNC national convention, some Republican attendees threw nuts at a black cameraman who was covering the event.

Even worse, Republican-controlled states have passed a variety of new laws aimed at suppressing the votes of minorities and students even though there have been only a handful of documented cases of voter fraud nationally.

Across the country, there have been numerous examples of blatant racism displayed by Republican elected officials, such as Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe who called the rodeo clown “crowd pleasing.” He also tweeted “Why is Holder now soft on crime? Perhaps: blacks = 12%-13% US population, but make up 40.1% (2.1 million) of male inmates in jail or prison!”

Being all too familiar with Thorpe, I can assure you the tweet was intended to demean African-Americans. But, in a way, Bad Bob demonstrates the consequences of racial discrimination by law enforcement and the courts. New York City’s “Stop & Frisk” program is far from unique, as most cities have similar, but unofficial programs. (Ask any African-American how often they have been stopped for “driving while black.”)

If the GOP and its Tea Party parasites want to shed the label of racism, it’s easy. All they have to do is stop doing and saying racist things!

Who Says The Tea Party Is Racist?

Well, actually the Tea Party does.

When President Obama recently visited Arizona, he was met by a demonstration organized, in part, by the Tea Party. In addition to the inevitable “Obama is a Fascist” and “Impeach Obama” signs, the protesters sang “Bye Bye Black Sheep.” They carried signs that read “Impeach the Half-White Muslim” and “47 Percent Negro.” They shouted that our president is “un-American;” that he’s “destroying American values.”

These pathetic morons are cut from the same cloth as the rodeo clown who mocked our president by wearing an Obama mask at the Missouri State Fair.

At least the clown was told he could never work at the fair again. Apparently the same punishment was not meted out to the obnoxious public address announcer who asked how many wanted to see Obama run down by a bull, the clown who played with the mask’s lips, or the rodeo organizers who likely knew about the plans in advance.

It’s nothing new to see detractors protest a president or make fun of a president. But it crosses the line when those detractors veer into racial taunts. Such taunts do more to offend others than the president himself.

It should come as no surprise to the old white men controlling the Tea Party that African-Americans and other minorities identify with President Obama; that they view him as a role model; that his success is a source of great pride to young African-Americans and for whites who stood alongside blacks during their fight for civil rights.

Here’s some free advice for the Republican Party and your Tea Party parasites. Your racist slogans and taunts will not harm President Obama. They will not change his policies. They will not cause him to be impeached or leave office early. Your behavior simply galvanizes minorities (soon to become the majority) against you.

Therefore, your offensive, demeaning and divisive behavior will only ensure your future failure at the polls. It will only result in future presidents who oppose your so-called values. And those presidents may not be as inclusive and as tolerant as President Obama.

Playing The Race Card!

On Friday, President Obama held an unannounced press conference during which he spoke personally and sensitively about race in hopes of generating an adult conversation about racism in the US. Of course, his remarks were met with derision and anger by many conservatives and their media mouthpieces. (I’m looking at you, Rush Limbaugh and anyone who has ever worked at Fox News Channel!)

Keep in mind that our nation just watched a white adult who had stalked and murdered an unarmed black teenager be acquitted of all charges. Despite the verdict, Trayvon Martin’s parents have handled themselves with class…much more class than the conservative pundits who have pilloried the young man who was murdered.

Not content with accepting the verdict and hoisting George Zimmerman onto their proverbial shoulders, the right wing nitwits have attacked those who took to the streets to protest the verdict. They have also seemed to delight in attacking Martin’s character. “He shouldn’t have been walking through the neighborhood at night. He shouldn’t have been wearing a hoodie. He was smoking pot earlier in the day. He called Zimmerman a cracker during his phone conversation with a friend. He shouldn’t have defended himself against Zimmerman. Etc., etc., etc.”

These are the very same people who have glorified the Tea Party parasites who carry signs with racist depictions of our president. The same people who have questioned the president’s birthplace and eligibility to be president. The same people who applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act that protected minority votes. The same people who applaud legislative bills that would suppress African-American and Latino votes then accuse those who object of “playing the race card.”

Following the Zimmerman verdict, the president was not only justified in raising the subject of race. He was obligated to do so.

Anyone with dark skin, or anyone with a friend or relative who has dark skin, understands the problems. And they absolutely must be addressed! I have personally seen black people unlawfully beaten by police. I have seen a white cop set fire to an apartment building then blame it on his black neighbors. I have seen a cop chain his dog in a black neighborhood, so that it could attack any unsuspecting man, woman or child who walked down the sidewalk. Every one of my black friends has been repeatedly pulled over by police for driving while black. A young, black male co-worker and close friend was stopped by police, guns drawn, just for walking down the street.

I have seen the statistics showing the disproportionate number of black men and women in prison. I’ve seen how differently black people who become addicted to crack cocaine are treated compared to white people who are addicted to powder cocaine. I’ve seen how the War on Drugs is used to harass and imprison minorities. I’ve listened to conservative politicians call Latinos dirty, stupid and disrespectful of our culture. And I’ve seen young white men parade through the streets with Confederate flags following President Obama’s election.

There are thousands of George Zimmermans out there, some in uniforms, who are armed and assume everyone with dark skin is a criminal or a welfare moocher, living off the hard work of others. That image is perpetuated by loudmouths like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others. And even though race wasn’t mentioned, it was most certainly implied by Mitt Romney in his off-the-record comments about the 47 percent.

Certainly, not every right winger is going to act on their misguided beliefs. But a few armed racists will undoubtedly be encouraged to act as vigilantes thanks to the insane Stand Your Ground law that the NRA and ALEC have pushed through legislatures throughout the country – especially in the South.

Yes, President Obama needed to talk about race. Race has been an issue in our country for 3 centuries. It’s long past time for us to learn how to live with each other, treating all of our neighbors with dignity and respect.

The issues facing our nation have never improved by refusing to discuss them.

The New Jim Crow.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, everyone thought that would be the end of Jim Crow laws that mandated segregation throughout the South and prevented African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.

Everyone was wrong!

Within days of the Supreme Court striking down the portion of the law that forced many southern states to seek pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before changing their voting laws, the Republican-dominated legislatures in Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia have introduced laws designed to restrict minority voting. South Carolina and Mississippi are also considering changes designed to marginalize minorities.

Thanks to the conservatives on the Supreme Court, minorities in these states no longer have the protection of the Department of Justice. Their only recourse is to file lawsuits. By the time these lawsuits wend their way through the court system, the damage will have already been done.

In other words, the Supreme Court and the GOP have set the Way Back Machine to 1964!

This is at the heart of the new GOP strategy. Following the Romney defeat last November, Republican strategists realized that the party was unlikely to win if Democrats continued to dominate the growing minority vote. Then the more conservative wing of the GOP stepped forward with an alternative strategy. Instead of pandering to minorities, they intend to institutionalize racism by focusing almost exclusively on white voters – particularly those struggling in the new GOP economy.

After reviewing the demographics of the 2012 presidential vote, GOP strategists discovered that there was a sizable portion of white people who didn’t vote. So the new strategy is to maximize the white vote while suppressing the votes of minorities.

If you’re white, uneducated, religious and poor, the GOP wants you.

Post Racial America?

On the anniversary of the murder of civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, his wife, Myrlie Evers-Williams, was interviewed on Politics Nation with Rev. Al Sharpton. Although acknowledging that much has changed since that day 50 years ago, Myrlie Evers-Williams said, “Jim Crow is still alive and it’s dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit, instead of a white robe.”

I believe that statement to be all too true.

Despite the fact that we have a president of African-American heritage, there are still racist attacks. As pointed out by Evers-Williams, on the night that President Obama was re-elected, there was rioting on the University of Mississippi campus. Across the country, Tea Party rallies have displayed racist representations of President Obama along with the battle flag of the Confederate States of America. Teapublican-dominated legislatures have put in place voter ID laws designed to suppress minority votes. African-Americans are arrested at a rate many times that of white Americans for drug use. As a result, our prisons are over-flowing with minorities. Teapublican politicians are determined to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, which is often the only medical provider in minority neighborhoods. And African-Americans are still arrested for “driving while black” in some cities and neighborhoods.

Post racial? I don’t think so.

Certainly, we have come a very long way since June 12, 1963. But we have a very long way to go until we have ended racism in the United States.