Point of View Columns

Statues and Flags and Sanity

When the Trump legacy is written, it may be that the only best thing that was done by Donald Tinyhands was to help make it clear that the notion of America being in a post-racial status has always been a myth. It is useful to recall that when Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, accompanied by post-racial anthems, the skinheads, Klansmen, Aryans and assorted white supremacist mouth breathing Neanderthals were already deeply imbedded in America – everywhere.
Clear evidence of the virulent racism in this country, accompanied by the more insidious passive aggressive dehumanization of black Americans, are the scores of statues, busts and plaques throughout the country that honor the leaders of the Confederate States of America. These celebrations of traitors should not be seen as some kind of limp effort at reconciliation.
The CSA was founded on the principles of slavery as just, white supremacy and black inferiority. Any and every Confederate honoree – Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, etc. – believed absolutely in these principles, principles that were way ahead of more esoteric notions of states’ rights and constitutional interpretations.
This is not a subjective perspective; it is a matter of fact that the first article of the constitution of the Confederate States of America upheld the eternal preservation of slavery. It is a matter of fact that the leadership of the Confederacy was wedded to an unshakeable belief in white superiority and black inferiority. And it is a matter of fact that Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest were absolutely complicit in the unconscionable wholesale slaughter of black Union troops who had the misfortune of surrendering to CSA soldiers.
All of this has been known since the end of the Civil War. Yet white Americans have stood by silently while these villains and war criminals were honored, all in the name of intimidating and bullying black America. The fact that there is even a conversation about depopulating this nation’s public spaces of such obscenities is an obscene, but telling commentary as to the status of black Americans and it is fair to ask – do black lives really matter?
Consider that it is simply against the law to honor Adolf Hitler in Germany. Wearing a swastika or giving the Nazi salute on the streets of Berlin will land you in jail. The same is generally true in France. And consider that these proscriptions on honoring Nazis came about not because of pressure from the Jewish people, the banning of Nazi celebrations came from German and French men and women of good will who understood that the horror of the Nazis not only should never be repeated, it should also not be honored, celebrated or even exist in the public space.
It is 152 years since the end of the Civil War. It is astounding that there is even a conversation about celebrating Southern “heritage”, when that “heritage” encompasses the enslavement and degradation of human beings. It is shameful that there are public officials that refer to some beautiful past that should be celebrated when that past includes the wholesale slaughter, rape and exploitation of black Americans for the better part of two centuries.
It is well past time for conversation or debate. The Confederate statues, flags, busts and plaques are wrong – they have always been wrong – and any American who supports their existence is wrong. The descendants of slaves have endured this ongoing insult for too long and white Americans who accept the humanity of black Americans will understand this. And white Americans who do not accept the humanity of black Americans will not and should be adjudged as racist as the most vile skinhead goose stepping down the street.
When it comes to the Confederacy and its moldering and vile relics, there is simply no middle ground.

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Point of View Columns

The Birth of Trumpageddon

Historians will undoubtedly look at the 2016 presidential campaign as being unique. The looming and tantalizing presence of Trumpageddon will virtually overshadow everything, much the same way as Donald Trump himself sucks up the media oxygen every day of this very bizarre year. But the most astute historians will go back a half century earlier to discover the roots of Trumpageddon, roots that have nothing to do with Donald J. Trump and have everything to do with the intentional reinvention of the Republican Party in 1964.

Prior to 1964 the national Republican party was indisputably more progressive when it came to civil rights for black Americans. After all, the Democratic Party was deeply rooted in the South, roots that went back as far as the end of Reconstruction and the federal occupation of the formerly treasonous Confederacy in 1876.

After all, the Republican Party came into being with the abolition of slavery being a principal plank in its national political platform in 1860. Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation was a Republican. And when the seething South was liberated from federal occupation in 1876, due in large part to the tricknology of Rutherford B. Hayes who swapped the freedom, civil rights and physical safety of Southern black people in exchange for the presidency, southerners embraced the Democratic Party as their own.

The Democratic Party in the South was the party of Jim Crow and lynching. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, invited the first black American to dine at the White House. Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic president, hosted the premier of “Birth of a Nation” in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic president, never supported anti-lynching legislation for fear of alienating his Southern party members. And it was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president, who sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

Prior to his untimely death, Democratic President John F. Kennedy was nowhere near a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Act that was passed posthumously. And in 1960, Richard Nixon, his Republican opponent in that presidential election, had virtually the same amount of support in the national black community as he did.

As late as 1964, the Democratic Party was the home of  blood-soaked and hate drenched racist villains such as Thurmond and Stennis and Faubus and Wallace and Bilbo. And in 1964 every state that had been a part of the Confederate States of America was firmly on the Democratic side of the national political register.

And then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with the urging of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And as if by magic, during the following decade, the Republican Party was ascendant in the South, vacuuming up all the disenchanted white Southerners, supposedly in the name of conservatism and state’s rights, but in reality the transition was fueled by the deep and abiding resentment that black Americans were afforded some measure of citizenship by the Damned Democrats.

Should there any be any doubt regarding the linkage of race and the Republican ascendancy, it should be remembered that Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of Republican conservatism, launched his national presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, less than twenty years after three civil rights workers were lynched within miles of the podium on which he stood. And when Reagan proclaimed that “government was the enemy”, he was referring to that same federal government that was often the only source of protection for black Americans seeking asylum and vindication in their own country. That dog whistle blew loud enough for white ears in the South and throughout the nation.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that the modern Republican Party, reborn in radical response to the advancement of racial civil rights would be the home of the impending Trumpageddon. It certainly should be no surprise that the political party that turned a blind eye to the clear racist and racial efforts to delegitimize the first African American presidency would serve as the incubator for those would seek to delegitimize the entire apparatus of the federal government.

Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell who refused to extinguish the dark magical thinking that claimed that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or “hates America” or is not even a citizen, cannot be surprised that a master manipulator like Donald Trump could harness this malevolent harvest and turn it into a movement. And now, for good historical reason, Trumpageddon is upon us.

The Republicans are reaping what they have sown.

Wallace Ford is the Chairman of the Department of Public Administration at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York. He is the host of The Inclusion Show and the author of two novels, “The Pride” and “What You Sow”

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Point of View Columns

Cuba Si! Finally!

On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War also granted the people of Cuba independence. However, from that day until January 1, 1959, the United States continued to alternatively treat Cuba as a colony, protectorate, playground and private plantation. Ironically, when Cuba achieved true independence; that is when the real conflict between Cuba and the United States began.

When Cuba achieved its true independence, first from Spain and then from the United States, the United States acted like a spoiled child that had been deprived of a favorite toy or plaything. And, despite the fact that this country has a long history of embracing its former enemies, there has something about Cuba that has precluded reconciliation for over a half century.

The British committed war crimes during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Thousands of American men, women and children were murdered, abused and subject to incredible hardship as part of the military policy of the British. Yet Great Britain has become America’s closest ally and it is considered poor taste to reference past crimes.

During the Civil War that was started by the treasonous Confederate States of America. Over one million people died in that war – which represented 3 per cent of the country’s population at that time (that number would be over nine million today). At the conclusion of the war, even though a supporter of the CSA killed the President of the United States, even though the CSA was clearly guilty of war crimes like the death camp in Andersonville and the slaughter of black troops at Fort Pillow, despite all of these offenses (and many more) there were no mass war crime trials.

Despite all the justification for retribution there was Reconstruction instead. Despite the horrific results of the Civil War the former CSA states are allowed to fly their flag of rebellion and celebrate their treason without fear of punishment.

Total American casualties in World War II exceed one million with over 400,000 members of the military killed. Yet, within a few years of the cessation of hostilities the United States helped to rebuild Japan and Germany, their defeated foes. Within 15 years Americans were buying Toyotas and Volkswagens and all was forgiven.

Over 200,000 members of the American military were killed or wounded in the Vietnam War. Today members of the American military wear clothing made in Vietnam and American tourists travel to Vietnam for holidays on a daily basis.

The People’s Republic of China is unapologetically communist. With a population of over one billion people it is clearly, and obviously, the largest communist country in the world. Yet China is also one of America’s largest trading partners and an embargo against that country would be unthinkable.

Although the current Cuban government has never attacked the United States (although the U.S. has attacked Cuba, i.e. The Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961) an embargo has been in place for over 50 years. The level of American governmental hostility and animosity directed against Cuba has the feel of a David and Goliath scenario except that this David has neither stone nor slingshot and this Goliath possesses nuclear weapons and the largest economy in the history of the planet.

There are so many reasons why the characterization of Cuba as an enemy of the United States is wrong and illogical. And that is why it is a sign of long overdue progress that, due to the leadership of President Obama, the commencement of diplomatic relations and the resumption of trade with Cuba has begun.

Progress long overdue is still progress.

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Point of View Columns

“Twelve Years a Slave”

It is rare that a book, a song or a movie can change an entire country, but “Twelve Years a Slave” may just be that rare movie. Recounting in painstaking detail the horrors of racial slavery in America, “Twelve Years a Slave” is relevant not only for its historical narrative but also because it provides understanding as to where the United States is in terms of racial relations today – and why.

From “Birth of a Nation” to “Gone with the Wind” to “Roots” to “Mandingo” to “Django Unchained”, there have been a number of movies that have endeavored to convey elements of the American slave era, this country’s Original Sin. “Birth of a Nation” justified slavery. “Gone with the Wind” contextualized and sanitized slavery”. “Roots” recognized slavery. “Mandingo” exploited slavery”. “Django Unchained” caricaturized slavery.

“Twelve Years a Slave” demolishes the comforting myths and soothing lies regarding slavery. By telling the story of slavery absolutely and clearly through the eyes (and heart) of a slave, “Twelve Years” permits every viewer to step over a blood soaked and tear stained threshold into the horrible hell of American racial slavery.

Every viewer, regardless of race, will leave the movie theater having a very real idea of what it must have felt like to be a slave – to be property, to be the subject of indifferent cruelty and cruel indifference. Every viewer of this movie will walk to the edge of an ocean of pain, with wave after wave of assaults on one’s very humanity crashing upon the shore of their consciousness – and subconscious.

Insofar as motion pictures are concerned, it is has been said that “Schindler’s List” has provided the most vivid – and painful – understanding of what it must have been to be a Jewish victim of the Holocaust. In that same vein, “Twelve Years as a Slave” provides the most gut-wrenching, spirit-devouring rendition of what it must have been like to be a victim of American racial slavery. If only to understand the real history of these United States of America “Twelve Years” must be seen by every American who would prefer to live with the truth instead of a myth.

“Twelve Years” is also important in terms of understanding racial relations in this country today. It must be understood that the cruel and inhuman and barbaric institution of American racial slavery stained this country for over two hundred years. But the barbarism and inhumanity and cruelty did not evanesce upon the end of the Civil War or upon the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery.

What followed after the Civil War was another century of institutionalized racism taking the form of legalized racial degradation (segregation), state sponsored terrorism (Ku Klux Klan and rampant lynchings) and the general, anesthetized denial of a problem by most white Americans who did not live in the South. The passage of landmark civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965 made much of this horrific activity illegal. The spirit of racism cannot be outlawed and three centuries of indifference and dehumanization do not simply vanish into thin air, especially when they reside in the hearts and minds of men and women who, to this very day, embrace a culture that was built on the blood, sweat and tears of black slaves.

That is why there is nothing quaint or cute about the celebration of the Confederacy or the parading of the Confederate flag. The Confederate States of America initiated and fought the Civil War in order to protect and preserve American racial slavery. When anyone celebrates the Confederacy or parades the Confederate flag, they are clinging to a blood-soaked and sin-stained tradition that was literally a crime against humanity.

There are many reasons for the disparity that exists regarding the human condition of black Americans as opposed to their white counterparts. There can be no argument that there is so much more that black Americans must do in order to achieve and secure real progress.

But there should be no doubt that the ground upon which all Americans stand covers the bones and blood and tears and fears of millions of black men, women and children who were born, lived and died as slaves. And there should be no doubt that America’s Original Sin should not be set aside as an unfortunate episode in this country’s history.

The legacy of slavery lives with us all – to this very day.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 18, 2013

During the past week in Washington we were witness to a commemoration of heroism and also some craven, low grade behavior. Let’s take the high road. Meanwhile the D.C. Demolition Derby occasioned by the Teapublican Reign of Error clearly demonstrated something that has been obvious for a long time – the spirit of the Confederacy is alive and well and residing in the Teapublican Party. And finally, “Twelve Years as a Slave” is opening in movie theaters across the country – and as we go see this film we should remember that slavery is also alive and well throughout the world.

The Reward for Valor?

This past week President Obama awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Captain (Ret.) William Swenson for his bravery and valor during an incredible battle in Afghanistan. Putting issues of this country’s foreign policy aside for the moment, there is no doubt that when one reads the account of Captain Swenson’s actions it is impossible not to be moved by his incredible courage and compassion in the most lethal of situations.

Here’s the thing – Captain Swenson is applying to be reinstated to active duty because………….he is unemployed. Incredibly, in a country where so many armchair war hawks and beer drinking flag wavers whoop and holler about “honoring our troops” that not one corporate titan couldn’t find the spare change rolling around in one of his offshore accounts to make sure that Captain Swenson never had to work another day in his life should he so choose.

The Romans and the Greeks and the Zulus used to honor their war heroes. It appears that here in the United States they get a hearty handshake and a medal.

Enough said.

Crouching Elephant, Hidden Dixie

During the Teapublican Reign of Error that just ended (for the moment) it was obvious that the tail wagging the Teapublican elephant was Southern in origin. With the exception of House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (Minnesota) and Congressman Steve King (Iowa), just about every talking head was from one of the former Confederate States of America.

It is well documented that upon the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, white Democrats in the South deserted that party and fled to the waiting pachyderm that used to be the Republican Party and is now clearly the Teapublican Party. That these Southerners, these sour souvenirs of a damnable past, would now try to dismantle all the social progress that has been made since the end of the Civil War is no longer a secret.

The Southern Teapublican zealots are hell bent on turning back the clock and the tide of history and they seem to be wedded to the same suicidal strategy that resulted in Atlanta, Richmond and most of the South being razed in 1864. And in the process these sociopathic ideologues are willing to bring down the entire country in the process of achieving there damnable goals.

There is only one way to describe this crew – they are 21st century terrorists, plain and simple. And, as they have shown, they are capable of wreaking more damage than all the jihadist terrorists around the world in their wildest dreams.

Is it Time to Free the Slaves?

This week “Twelve Years as a Slave” is scheduled to appear in theaters across the United States. Reviews state that it is the most compelling and painfully accurate rendition of American slavery to ever appear in a feature film. Much like “Schindler’s List”, “Twelve Years as a Slave” promises to be a teachable moment for all American, black and white.

However, lest we think that the modern era is more advanced, the Global Slavery Index 2013, which is compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, estimates that there are 30 million people worldwide who are living under conditions of modern slavery. Some of the largest numbers of slaves, according to this study, are to be found in India and China. Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan had the highest number of slaves relative to the population of those countries.

Clearly, as a species, human beings have a long way to go.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

Dancing on the Edge

In celebration of Black History Month the Teapublican right wing caucus is doing its level best to make certain that the first black President of the United States presides over the collapse of the American economy thereby confirming every junglebunnyspearchuckersambo myth that fuels their hate for Barack Obama. As you are reading this column the United States is less than two weeks away from a self-imposed cataclysm that arises from the alarming willingness of some Americans to consider institutional suicide as a strategy.

A little background is in order – during the near disastrous debt ceiling negotiations of 2011, the furor and frenzy associated with Teapublican intransigence and illogic resulted in the downgrading of the credit status of the United States for the first time in history. In the rubble and debris left from the collision of the mindless with common sense a “sequestration” feature was devised for the end of 2012.

The idea was that impossibly draconian budget cuts and government service reductions would be imposed if a budget compromise could not be negotiated by the end of 2012. The thinking was that no one – Republican, Teapublican, Democrat or lunatic would want to see the government apparatus and the financial infrastructure come crashing down and that a deal would certainly be worked out, even if it had to be accomplished by self-imposed duress.

In December of 2012 the can was kicked down the road to the beginning of March 2013 and now the Teapublicans are taking the incredibly stone headed position that unless President Obama and the Democrats accede to their demand that no taxes are raised in the budget deal they are willing to allow the consequences of sequestration to flow over the head of every American man, woman and child.

Even though President Obama won the presidency by three million votes (more than the combined plurality of George W. Bush’s two elections), even though the Democrats continue to control the Senate, even though Democrats in the House of Representatives won one million more votes than the Teapublicans, the Teapublicans are acting as if they actually won on November 6, 2012 and that they are calling the shots.

But it is finally time to be very clear about the source of this near maniacal opposition to the Obama presidency. While President Obama is certainly progressive in some of his views and policies, he is certainly not anywhere near the left wing of American politics. The signature piece of his first term, the Affordable Care Act, was modeled after a proposal designed by a Republican think tank.

Government spending has actually decreased by six percent during the first term of the Obama Administration. The economy has improved by every reasonable indicia and major corporations are overflowing with cash as they see record profits quarter after quarter, year after year.

But looking for the logic in the opposition to President Obama is a fool’s errand. One must understand that the core of the Teapublican Party is in the South, the same states that were part of the only revolt against the United States. These are the states that were so enamored of slavery that they were willing to fight to the death to maintain that hellish institution.

The South is where black dreams have gone to die for centuries and the South is where black men and women were hung from trees within the lifetime of just about everyone reading these words. The South is so far from post-racial that it cannot even spell the word.

If this seems harsh keep in mind that it is in the South that the Confederate flag still flies – a flag that is as repugnant to black Americans and all people of good will as the Nazi Swastika is to Jews and all people of good will. The South is where the state of Mississippi ratified the thirteenth amendment to the United States Constitution (outlawing slavery) JUST LAST WEEK.

The shameful and despicable venom of racism still flows freely through the veins of Southern politics and their Teapublican avatars come to Washington with a very clear vision of an America where there will never be another black president. To them, Barack Obama is an accident of nature, an aberration that will never happen again. And they see their sole mission being to obstruct and destroy anything and everything that he proposes, even if it damages the entire country.

It is this kind of logic that led to the Confederate States of American fighting a suicidal war against the United States, a war that left the South in ashes and in shame. This time that logic is back in full force in Washington and the damage it brings will not be confined to the South.

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Weekend Edition – November 16, 2012

In the aftermath of the election it turns out that Mitt Romney was elected president of Angrywhitemenistan – which used to be called the Confederate States of America. Meanwhile, it is becoming more and clearer that the Teapublican voter suppression strategy produced an unintended boomerang effect. And finally, Victoria’s Secret turns out to be shared by millions of insensitive Americans.

Hail to the Chief

The recent election returns have been counted. It turns out that, contrary to popular belief, Mitt Romney was elected president – of Angrywhitemenistan. The borders of this country seem to be defined by the former Confederate States of America and there are thousands of would-be citizens who still believe even after Romney’s defeat on 11.6.12.

Most of the states that voted for Mitt Romney are, with the exception of Florida, located in the former CSA. Most of these states have the worst schools, the least educated population, the least healthy citizens, the highest rates of obesity. The citizens of Angrywhitemenistan also receive the highest proportion of federal assistance services.

We now learn that petitions have already been submitted to the White House from eight states, all of which are former members of the CSA. One can only hope that if these dissatisfied citizens do not succeed with their secession strategy that they consider going into voluntary exile.

They should only take care not to let the door knob hit them on the way out.

Boomerang!

During the recent two years over a dozen Teapublican state governors and legislatures attempted to put together a voter suppression apparatus that was specifically intended to dissuade or prevent minority citizens from voting for Barack Obama. Incredibly, these Teapublicans were very transparent about their intent to suppress voter participation so that their presidential nominee would win.

The revelation of this ugly racist strategy inspired millions of minority – and white – voters to go to the polls. People who may not have voted were aroused to make sure that no one denied them the right to vote. So in trying to deny the rights of citizenship to the supporters of President Obama the Teapublicans managed to sink their own chances of winning.

Come On Victoria!

This past week Victoria’s Secret models sashayed down the runway in promoting the company’s December television special. Clearly someone got carried away and one of the scantily clad models paraded before the cameras wearing a Native American headdress.

This wrongful use of an important element of Native American culture prompted outrage and an apology. As well it should. But Victoria’s Secret is not alone.

How is it possible that in American professional sports ethnic slurs and racially demeaning images are still being used in 2012? Why is there still a football team called the Washington Redskins? How can racist cartoon images of Native Americans adorn the uniforms and logos of teams called the Indians and the Braves?

Too many Americans dismiss these concerns as a matter of being too racially correct. But imagine the uproar if there was a basketball team called the New York Niggers or the Chicago Wops. If a professional team had a logo of black slaves picking cotton or Jewish clerks counting money the outrage would be explosive and righteous.

So how is a team called the Redskins o.k.?

I’m just asking.

Have a great weekend!

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