Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America

July 26, 2020

4,178,730 –146, 463 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

 The death of Congressman John Lewis has provided an opportunity to once again fully appreciate the importance and nobility of his life, which was one of protest and advocacy for change and justice literally until the day he died. There have been the expected hypocritical and totally hollow mechanical statements from the like of Trump and Senator Marco Rubio (who couldn’t even tell the difference between Elijah Cummings and John Lewis when he tweeted his faux statement of sympathy).

 

But there have also been eloquent statements from his remaining peers like Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young to name but a few. And certainly many current leaders like Kamala Harris and Marc Morial, again to name but a few, have been delivered statements that meet both the gravity and the glory of the moment.

 

And then there have been some statements by commentators and members of the press to the effect that the leadership of the civil rights movement is dying. And that is an astounding misstatement of fact and history. It is misstatement of history because it perpetuates the absolutely false assumption that the civil rights movement began in the 1950’s until at some point in the latter part of the 1960’s after the passage of the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Fair Housing Acts.

 

The reality is that the struggle of Black Americans for civil rights and the institutional recognition the humanity of Black people began in 1619 when at least one or more of the first enslaved Africans said no. The struggle for civil rights was manifested in the Underground Railroad and the hundreds of revolts by Black slaves. Pierre Toussaint was a civil rights leader in the New York of the 1700’s as he established his humanity not only by being a successful businessman but also by being a philanthropist.

 

Nate Turner and Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey and so many other leaders of slave revolts were civil rights leaders – as was Harriet Tubman and the other conductors of the Underground Railroad. Black abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, Prince Hall, Sarah Parker Redmond, Henry Highland Garnet and William Still were all civil rights leaders.

 

And when they died the mantle of leadership in the ongoing struggle for civil rights rested on the shoulders of the like Ida B. Wells and Monroe Trotter and W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington and Walter White and Marcus Garvey and Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall and Harry T. Moore.

 

And when they died this country learned the names of Malcolm X and Whitney Young and Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown and Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver and Robert Williams as advocates for civil rights.

 

Clearly the list goes on of the men and women of this day who believe in and live for the struggle for racial justice and dignity for Black people. And the fact that many of these names And while it is right and just to mourn the passing of John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, the idea that the leadership and heroes of the Black civil rights movement sounds like the beginning of an excuse for future inaction and a defense of acceptance of the status quo because “our heroes are dying”.

Every man, woman and child is a hero – we are all heroes, if we would only take the time to realize that fact and then act.

 July 27, 2020

4,234,140 –146, 935 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

We begin the day with the breaking news that National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now quarantined at home. The White House immediately reassured America that Trump and Vice President Pence are safe.

Somehow, Americans are supposed to be assured that not only are Trump and Pence safe, but that American children will be safe to go to school next month even though the highest officials in the federal government – who are in the White House on virtually a daily basis and presumably tested regularly – fall to the disease. How many infections and how many deaths will be too many for this White House to backtrack on mandatory school openings? Clearly it is an unknowable and probably unthinkable number.

And then there is this – and if anyone who is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement thought that white supremacy was just going to go away to the dustbin of history quietly, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton had this to say:

“We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country.

“As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”

There is no way to argue with a stone. And there is no way to argue with this kind of stubborn embrace of white supremacy. The real question is how his colleagues in the Senate and the House and the people of this country will respond.

It is safe to say that if a United States Senator were to suggest that slave labor and prison camps were “an understandable choice by Nazi Germany” that there would be a justifiably righteous uproar and outrage. The question will now be one of how America – having embraced the concept of Black Lives Matter by kneeling at a few public events and taking Aunt Jemima off the pancake box and removing a few statues of dead Confederate thugs and offering up ritualized mea culpas regarding slavery and systemic racism and the death of George Floyd – will respond to a new blooming of the rancid flower of racism in the moment.

It’s now pretty safe to agree to take down the Confederate swastika flag. But it is always safe to condemn the past and be silent in the present. What is going to happen to Tom Cotton? Will he be censured on the floor of the Senate? Will editorials flow from media outlets from coast to coast? We know that Trump will do nothing, but what will Joe Biden do? What will the Congressional Black Caucus do? And what about the clergy and elected officials across the country – what do they have to say?

Years ago Jimmy the Greek, a glorified TV bookie spewed some rancid garbage about the inherent inferiority of Black people and he never worked on TV again. Tom Cotton is a United States Senator, one of only one hundred elected officials with awesome responsibility, awesome power and awesome stature. If a glorified bookie can be sanctioned for making racist remarks what should happen to a sitting United States Senator?

We know that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson will be silent, but there are 49 other governors. We know that Arkansas Senator John Boozman will be silent, but there are 98 other senators.

The American response to Tom Cotton’s outrageous embrace of white supremacy and justifying and legitimizing of slavery is a perfect opportunity to find out if Black Lives Really Matter.

Meanwhile Republicans in the Senate are finalizing their version of a stimulus package which includes virtually no money for states and localities – a position that will virtually guarantee the near collapse state and local governments across the country. Trump has been running ads claiming that Joe Biden supports the defunding of the police. But in reality it will be the Republicans who will literally defund the police in states across the country if the stimulus package does not address the pressing needs of states and localities.

But even the part of the Republican bill that deals with direct aid to American citizens, the proposal is to reduce the $600 per week income supplement to $200 50 million suddenly unemployed Americans have an incentive to go back to work.

This from a group of well fed and financially comfortable and self-righteous satraps who seem to have a good dose of mean flowing through their veins. They are reminiscent of the billionaires who give a quarter to a homeless man on the corner and then feel like they have done a good deed.

 July 28, 2020

4,294,770 –148, 056 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Because constant drama seems to be a hallmark of the Time of Trump while awaiting the appearance of Attorney General (and Trump consigliore) William Barr before the House Judiciary Committee, the chair of the committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, was delayed when his car was in an accident. It appears that he was unhurt but the conspiracy theorists on every side of the political spectrum are already in a frenzy.

When William Barr did appear he did not disappoint his Godfather Trump or his fiercest critics who have accused him of being nothing more than Trump’s consigliore and fixer – kind of a Michael Cohen with an Ivy League pedigree. Democrats on the Committee came looking for a fight and Barr certainly accommodated him.

Fresh off his denials of being involved in the multi-year sexual scandal at Ohio State where he was an assistant wrestling coach, Congressman Jim Jordan did his best pit bull imitation in trying to turn the hearing into an Inquisition of……. the Obama administration, of course. Accusing the Obama Justice Department of spying on the Trump campaign only makes sense

if Jim Jordan simply ignores the fact that Trump campaign operatives engaged in conversations with Russian operatives who were being spied on – and that is when they became persons of interest and ultimately some of them became convicted felons as a result. But, to the likes of Jim Jordan, facts have no place in a good Inquisition.

The Republicans began their turn at the hearing by airing what looked like an updated version of the dystopic 70’s movie “Wild in the Streets”. If you believed the GOP production America is in flames and at any moment the peasants will be at the gates with torches and pitchforks. And our only hope is the gestapo tactics of Barr, who is playing Pinocchio to Trump’s Geppeto. And we kept waiting for the Republicans to trot out some Benghazi tapes while they were at it.

The Democrats attacked Barr and there was a lot of thrust and parry. It is fair to say that no one landed a knockout punch, on either side. Although Barr did make a couple of stunning statements including:

  • He was not sure if Trump could or could not change the date of the national election
  • He would not answer what he would do if Trump refused to leave the White House on January 20, 2021
  • He implied that there might be instances where the President accepting election from a power might be permissible.

Any one of those statements would be jaw dropping. But since we are living in the Age of Trump, no one’s jaw dropped even once.

And the day mercifully ended with Trump conducting another press conference where, among other things, he reiterated his support for a Nigerian-American doctor who claims that masks are useless, hydroxychloroquine is a cure for COVID-19 and that some doctors have been working on vaccines involving the DNA of aliens (simply cannot make this stuff up).

Trump went on to complain that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx were getting higher approval ratings than him. And he mused out loud as to why people don’t like him.

At least he didn’t start sucking his thumb.

But there is always tomorrow.

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Point of View Columns

A Hate Supreme

Part of the singularly American mindset is the belief that the stated ideals of this country constitute reality, when in fact that is not, and has not, been the case – ever. The Declaration of Independence speak to all men being created equal and there is no doubt that not one of the signatories actually believed it.

The Constitution speaks about “we the people” when the so-called white and largely slave holding Founding Fathers absolutely did not believe for a nanosecond that “the people” included women, white men without property, black people or the indigenous people who had the horrible misfortune of living on land that white Europeans coveted and stole.

It is this willful blindness that has created a public conversation regarding the “rise” of white supremacy and white nationalism and white terrorism as if the recent massacres committed by self-confessed white nationalists is representative of some kind of new phenomenon that is new to America. All the while, even a passing familiarity with American history would reveal that white supremacy/nationalism/terrorism is embedded in the American DNA.

Consider that only an absolute belief in white supremacy could justify Europeans coming to what became North America and claiming the entire continent despite the fact that millions of indigenous people had established civilizations over thousands of years. And, after the first “explorers” “discovered” that this continent was huge and bountiful, the concept of Manifest Destiny proclaimed that some divine right empowered white Americans to literally steal an entire continent.

Consider that even before there was a United States, race-based slavery was an absolute fact of life. And this “peculiar institution” was founded on the notion of white supremacy and the innate inferiority of people of African descent. This concept was embedded so deeply that a Civil War was fought in order to divest slaves from the slave owners who believed so deeply in white supremacy that were willing to kill and die for their belief.

Consider that after the Civil War and throughout the 20th century, state sanctioned white terrorism – based on concepts of white supremacy and white nationalism – victimized black Americans, not only in the South, but in virtually every part of these United States. For those exposed to only the sanitized version of American history, it is important to know that this is the 100th anniversary of the “Red Summer” when over 1000 black men, women and children were murdered by mobs of white terrorists in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The bodies of the victims were dumped into a common grave. And it was during this same summer of 1919 that the black town of Rosewood, Florida and its residents were wiped from the face of the earth by mobs of white terrorists.

It is important to understand that the concept of white supremacy countenanced the white terrorist lynching of thousands of black citizens throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. And it was that same concept white supremacy that allowed white Americans who did not participate directly in this carnage to turn a blind eye and do absolutely nothing.

It was a white supremacist terrorists who blew up the church in Birmingham, Alabama killing four black girls. And it was white supremacist terrorists who killed Emmit Till and Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman and Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King and Harry T. Moore and Viola Liuzzo and so many more.

White supremacy, white nationalism are not new to America. These vile notions are unworthy of the stated ideals of this country but they are as much a part of history as the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

And certainly, the first step to addressing this sad and pathetic aspect of the American Way is to acknowledge the truth – white supremacist terrorism is part of the American Way and it cannot be removed until it is acknowledged.

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A Eulogy for Julian Bond and a Generation

The recent death of Julian Bond caused a righteous outpouring of honor and respect for a man who dedicated his life to human dignity and liberation. History provides some context for the courage and passion that he brought to a struggle that benefitted not only black Americans, but all Americans.

Julian Bond was born in 1940 and during the first ten years of his life over thirty black Americans would be lynched in this country. In the year that he was born Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president and during his entire thirteen year term in office he never supported a single anti-lynching bill that was proposed in Congress. And no anti-lynching bill has ever been passed.

The America into which Julian Bond was born was covered with the slime and ooze of sixty four years of legalized and institutionalized racism, segregation and bigotry, the horrid aftermath of Reconstruction. Julian Bond did not read about black and white water fountains, he drank from the black fountains. He did not hear stories about segregated schools, pools, universities and hotels – he attended those schools, swam in those pools only on “Negro days”, could not aspire to attend the public universities in the South and, if the opportunity had arisen, he could only stay in “Negro hotels”.

In 1951 when Julian Bond was eleven years old, Harry T. Moore, the head of the Brevard County (Florida) NAACP and leader of a black voter registration drive, was assassinated by the local sheriff. Harry T. Moore is a footnote to a footnote in the history of the civil rights movement and that sheriff never served a day in prison.

When Julian Bond was fourteen the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court declared that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional. In 1955 when Julian Bond was fifteen Emmett Till was tortured and lynched in Mississippi, ostensibly for the unforgivable crime of whistling at a white woman.

Two years later, in 1957 when he was seventeen, Julian Bond watched with the rest of the country, indeed the rest of the world, when the National Guard and the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army were needed to guarantee the safety of nine black children whose parents had the temerity to want their children to go to a quality school in Little Rock, Arkansas that had been all white.

This was the America in which Julian Bond and all black Americans lived when he enrolled at Morehouse College soon thereafter. And it was in this cauldron of bubbling racist toil and trouble that he became one of the founding members of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). Looking through the cloudy lens of the past it is difficult to comprehend the courage that Julian Bond, James Lewis, Stokely Carmichael possessed to even try to organize resistance to a brutal and malevolent regime that valued racism and racists practices over the lives of all black men, women and children.

Julian Bond is well remembered for his role as a member of the Georgia State Legislature, Chairman of the Board of the NAACP as well as being a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. And well should he be remembered for these and his many other good deeds.

And, as we remember Julian Bond, we should take a moment to understand and comprehend the force and power and beauty and courage of his generation who confronted White Power when it was the law – and in a very real way prevailed.

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Why SCOTUS Should Remember Harry T. Moore

The recent United State Supreme Court decision virtually disabling the Voting Rights Act is arguably the most racially negative decision since Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. In that decision SCOTUS confirmed the constitutionality of state-sponsored racial segregation, legalizing most iterations of Jim Crow in the process. In the wake of this most recent decision it is time for all of us, especially the ScaliaAlitoThomasRoberts gang to remember Harry T. Moore.

While there is plenty of time for legal experts to parse through the armada of arguments that justify the evisceration of a key foundation of the modern civil rights era, it is time to put this entire issue into a human perspective. The Voting Rights Act was never just about enabling black Americans to vote, it was also about putting into law a key element of full citizenship – citizenship that had been explicitly denied to black Americans since the founding of this country.

The issue of race has been a source of contradiction and hypocrisy, cruelty and denial, virtually from the time that the first European settlers came to that part of North America that eventually became the United States. The establishment of a slavery system totally based upon race was historically unique and particularly malignant because it created the malignant slime of racism that has been immune to the vaccine of emancipation and liberation.

The Slave Codes, the Dred Scott decision, the calamitous end of Reconstruction and the abandonment of the newly freed slaves, the blind eye turned to the rampages of the Ku Klux Klan, the case of Plessy v. Ferguson – all of these historical facts and many more have contributed to the American institutional effort to make America a living Hell for black Americans.

The slow and grudging progress towards some semblance of equal rights and the attainment of full citizenship took place in the face of outright violence. Justice Antonin Scalia should be ashamed of himself for referring to the Voting Rights Act as “racial entitlement” as if the VRA was part of some grand legal exercise. In point of fact the VRA arose out of the need to protect and preserve the place of black Americans in this very critical aspect of citizenship – the only “entitlement” in the VRA is meant to “entitle” black Americans to the same rights that Justice Scalia’s Italian immigrant parents obtained as soon as they could pass an English literacy test and a perfunctory civics exam.

From the earliest colonial times terrorism of black Americans was literally the law of the land in the American colonies. And, because literacy could be a key to liberation, access to literacy was severely limited when it came to black slaves.

The United States Constitution, ratified by such icons as George Washington (slave owner), Thomas Jefferson (slave owner), James Madison (slave owner) and James Monroe (slave owner) referred to black slaves as 3/5th of a person for electoral allocations but even that 3/5th designation failed to protect black Americans from the twin depredations of slavery and institutional racism.

After the Civil War the displaced slave hierarchy in the South immediately realized that upon emancipation the battle lines for depriving black Americans of citizenship no longer would be drawn at the point of literacy, but rather at the point of enfranchisement – voting rights. The Ku Klux Klan was born as a terrorist organization dedicated to keeping black Americans from voting. After the death knell of Reconstruction was sounded in 1876 as the bastard child of yet another soulless political bargain, every Southern state immediately established as many statutory barriers to black enfranchisement as possible.

For almost a century black voters have had to risk their lives and livelihoods just to get the right to vote. And that is why SCOTUS should learn about Harry T. Moore, the head of the Florida NAACP who, in 1951 was blown up along with his wife, for having the temerity to attempt to secure the right to vote for black Americans.

The Voting Rights Act was the legacy of Mr. and Mrs. Moore and the thousands of black and white Americans who literally died in order to this right to become a reality. To suggest that 50 years of the VRA is enough to erase the racial slime of over three and a half centuries is sadly preposterous and a dangerous proposition.

The rights won by these martyrs are not so safe and secure – as the voter suppression campaigns of 2012 proved.

June 24, 2103 was a shameful day for SCOTUS.

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The Digital Klan

If this was truly a country where there was liberty and justice for all, Rick Scott, the current governor of Florida, would be attired in a jumpsuit while hoping against hope that he could avoid another forced visit to the bridal suite at some penitentiary. Instead, Governor Scott has initiated the ethnic cleansing of the voting rolls in his state, having already removed close to 200,000 men and women, the large majority of whom just happen to be black and Latino. The Ku Klux Klan would be proud of how Rick Scott has adapted their terror tactics to the digital age.

Fifty years ago it was a death defying act for black men and women to even register to vote, much less dare to vote. There is a long list of barely remembered heroes and heroines who risked their homes, jobs and lives simply to exercise the constitutional right to register and vote. There is a similarly long list of villains and scoundrels who conspired to deny this right to black Americans in the name of preserving a hellish concept of the Southern Way of Life. In pursuit of this conspiracy these misfits engaged in arson, murder and general mayhem.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 restated the existing constitutional rights of all American to vote regardless of race, creed or religion. Interestingly, the passage of the Voting Rights Act is the point in time when white Southerners abandoned the Democratic Party and became Republicans. And resting on the seamy foundation of racist resentment, the Republican Party has dominated politics in the South ever since.

Now Rick Scott, acting in concert with the Republican governors and legislators in a dozen states has acted to cleanse the voting rolls of ineligible voters in order to protect against “voter fraud”. The fact is that during the past ten years complaints regarding voter fraud anywhere in this country have been minimal. Indeed, the biggest case of voter fraud in recent history was the Republican theft of the 2000 presidential election. But that is a story for another time.

The results of all of this cleansing has been the removal of hundreds of thousands of minority voters many of whom the Teapublicans are presuming would have voted for President Obama later this year. So, rather than steal the election in November, they are seeking to steal the election six months earlier. A damnable preemptive strike if there ever has been one in the sordid history of race politics in this country.

The United States Justice Department has been following this travesty but to date it has taken no definitive legal action in Florida or anywhere else. And one can safely predict the Teapublican wailing about the “politicizing” of the Department of Justice if Attorney General Holder moves from rhetoric to action in the courts.

Meanwhile, there are men and women who have already been advised that they are ineligible to vote. Some of them will seek redress and may be reinstated. We can be certain the Governor Scott and his henchmen are expecting that most of the disenfranchised will just stay home thereby eroding support for Barack Obama and empowering the tepid wave of support that is now backing Mitt Romney.

In 1952 Harry T. Moore, the leader of a Florida NAACP branch near Orlando, Florida was killed by a bomb placed under his home. It is pretty clear that the bomb was the work of the local sheriff and that Mr. Moore died because of his advocacy of voting rights for the black citizens of Florida. Clearly the voting rights movement persevered and prevailed. Just as clearly, the battle has not ended.

Rick Scott was one of the founders of the Columbia Hospital Corporation. This healthcare company eventually pleaded guilty to fourteen federal fraud felonies and paid the United States government $600 million in fines. Incredibly, in a country where a petty burglar can go to prison for 5-10 years, Rick Scott walked away Scott-free, so to speak.

The moral standing of this man is suspect at best. His motives in promoting the ethnic cleansing of Florida’s voting rolls are transparently racist and partisan. The real shame is that this story is floating below headlines about Mitt Romney’s dog and Secret Service hookers in Colombia.

We can only hope that we pay attention before it is too late to pay attention. Then there will be hell to pay.

Remember November 6th!

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