Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘Racism

UNC Chapel Hill kisses Walter Hussman’s ass

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Written by Leisureguy

6 July 2021 at 6:42 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Education, Media, Politics

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A stirring response to a racist university in North Carolina

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Nikole Hannah-Jones issued a statement on her decision to decline a (reluctant and belated) tenure offer from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and to accept the Knight Chair appointment at Howard University. It’s a powerful statement, and I think it should be read in its entirety.

Some passages from the statement:

. . . As part of the months-long tenure process, I had to write a teaching statement, a creative statement, and a service statement. I had to teach a class while being observed by faculty. Dean King solicited letters to assess my portfolio of work and professional accomplishments from several academic experts in the field of journalism whom I did not personally know. I presented to the journalism faculty. Following these steps, my tenure was put to vote by all the full professors of the journalism school, who were overwhelmingly in support.

My tenure package was then submitted to the university’s Promotion and Tenure committee, which also overwhelmingly approved my application for tenure. My tenure package was then to be presented for a vote by the Board of Trustees in November so that I could start teaching at the university in January 2021. The day of the Trustees meeting, we waited for word, but heard nothing. The next day, we learned that my tenure application had been pulled but received no explanation as to why. The same thing happened again in January. Both the university’s Chancellor and its Provost refused to fully explain why my tenure package had failed twice to come to a vote or exactly what transpired. The rest of this story has been well documented in the press.

Being asked to return to teach at Carolina had felt like a homecoming; it felt like another way to give back to the institution that had given so much to me. And now I was being told that the Board of Trustees would not vote on my tenure and that the only way for me to come teach in the fall would be for me to sign a five-year contract under which I could be considered for tenure at a later, unspecified date. By that time, I had invested months in the process. I had secured an apartment in North Carolina so that I would be ready to teach that January. My editors at The New York Times had already supplied quotes for the press release of the big announcement. I did not want to face the humiliation of letting everyone know that I would be the first Knight Chair at the university to be denied tenure. I did not want to wage a fight with my alma mater or bring to the school and to my future colleagues the political firestorm that has dogged me since The 1619 Project published. So, crushed, I signed the five-year contract in February, and I did not say a word about it publicly.

But some of those who had lobbied against me were not satisfied to simply ensure I did not receive tenure. When the announcement of my hire as the Knight Chair came out at the end of April, writers from a North Carolina conservative think tank called the James G. Martin Center railed against the university for subverting the board’s tenure denial and hiring me anyway. The think tank had formerly been named after Art Pope, an influential conservative activist who now serves on the UNC Board of Governors, who had helped birth the center. The article questioned how I had been hired without the Board of Trustees approval, and its writer argued that, because the university hired me anyway after the board stymied my tenure, the Board of Governors “should amend system policies to require every faculty hire to be vetted by each school’s board of trustees.” And yet, when that article was published, it had not been made public that I had been hired without the board approving my tenure or my hire. Even faculty at the journalism school were not aware that I had not been considered for tenure and would not learn this until some days later.

Nine days after the James G. Martin Center published this piece, reporter Joe Killian at N.C. Policy Watch broke the story that, because of political interference and pressure by conservatives, I had been denied consideration for tenure and instead offered a five-year contract. The story about the denial of consideration went viral, and I was dragged into the very thing that I had tried to avoid as the actions of the Board of Trustees became a national scandal. . .

. . .  I cannot imagine working at and advancing a school named for a man who lobbied against me, who used his wealth to influence the hires and ideology of the journalism school, who ignored my 20 years of journalism experience, all of my credentials, all of my work, because he believed that a project that centered Black Americans equaled the denigration of white Americans. Nor can I work at an institution whose leadership permitted this conduct and has done nothing to disavow it. How could I believe I’d be able to exert academic freedom with the school’s largest donor so willing to disparage me publicly and attempt to pull the strings behind the scenes? Why would I want to teach at a university whose top leadership chose to remain silent, to refuse transparency, to fail to publicly advocate that I be treated like every other Knight Chair before me? Or for a university overseen by a board that would so callously put politics over what is best for the university that we all love? These times demand courage, and those who have held the most power in this situation have exhibited the least of it. . .

. . . Every Knight Chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since the 1980s has entered that position as a full professor with tenure. And yet, the vote on my tenure had to be forced by weeks of protests, scathing letters of reprimand, the threat of legal action and my refusal to start July 1 without it. Even then, the Board of Trustees had to be led to this vote by its youngest member, Lamar Richards, the student body president who publicly demanded the special meeting. The board then chose to wait to vote until the last possible day at the last possible moment.

If I had any doubts about whether I should come to UNC or not, watching the proceedings affirmed my decision.

I watched as student protestors, who for weeks had been expressing their pain and hurt, were forced to wait for more than 20 minutes before they were let into the meeting room. I watched as not a single official in the room bothered to explain that the meeting they had advertised as a special meeting that would be livestreamed would in fact be held in closed session because that is the rule. I watched as their response to the shock, hurt, and outrage of students, who thought they’d come to a public hearing, was to remain silent when any adult in the room could have calmly explained what was happening. I watched as the Chancellor and other officials looked down and did nothing as law enforcement shoved, pushed, and pummeled the students they are supposed to serve. I watched as student protestors were forced outside in the heat to wait for nearly two hours as the board argued over my tenure. And then I watched as one of the trustees came out and falsely claimed that June 28 had been the first time the board had ever had the opportunity to review my application, and that it was the board that had been treated unfairly in this situation.

To this day, no one has ever explained to me why my vote did not occur in November or January, and no one has requested the additional information that a member of the Board of Trustees claimed he was seeking when they refused to take up my tenure. The university’s leadership continues to be dishonest about what happened and patently refuses to acknowledge the truth, to offer any explanation, to own what they did and what they tried to do. Once again, when leadership had the opportunity to stand up, it did not. . .

Read the whole thing. UNC-Chapel Hill should be ashamed, but the response of ignorance and bigotry comes exactly from those who lack any sense of shame.

Written by Leisureguy

6 July 2021 at 9:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Politics

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GOP Lawmakers Intensify Effort to Ban Critical Race Theory in Schools

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And they are making those efforts without even knowing what Critical Race Theory is. Stephen Kearse writes for PEW:

In April, Cheryl Harris, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, noticed an uptick in citations of her work. Sort of.

“My inbox started being flooded with very bizarre and rabid emails and voicemails attributing things to me that I’ve never said,” she recalled in a phone interview. “I’ve been in this scholarly business long enough to know that occasionally, somebody may pick up something that you write and take exception to it. But this had nothing to do with anything I had said, actually.”

Harris’ name was appearing in op-eds purporting to explain critical race theory (CRT), a decades-old vein of scholarship that she has contributed to and taught.

Critical race theory studies racism at the systemic level, examining how policies, laws and court decisions can perpetuate racism even if they are ostensibly neutral or fair. Since its emergence in the late 1970s and 1980s, the discipline has expanded to include researchers in sociology, education and public health.

It has lately come under fire by Republican lawmakers who assert critical race theory is un-American and racist, and argue it will further divide the country. Legislators in at least 15 states have introduced measures this session that would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory or related concepts in all publicly funded schools, sometimes including penalties such as dismissal of teachers or defunding of school districts, despite no evidence that it is being taught in any public school.

The measures are part of a full-throttle conservative push to restrict discussions of racism and inequity in the name of defending American institutions. A toolkit created by Heritage Action for America, an affiliate of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, states that “CRT weakens the public and private bonds that create trust and allow for civic engagement.”

The Center for Renewing America, a conservative think tank, created model critical race theory legislation for lawmakers to introduce that alleges equity, intersectionality, social justice, land acknowledgments and “woke” are racist terms. Both documents misstate the intent of critical race theory.

Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank, has written several articles disparaging critical race theory and has suggested that it could become a rallying cry for Republicans. “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory,’” he tweeted in March. “We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.” Rufo was not available for comment.

Critics of the bills argue that the legislation amounts to censorship and worry that the broad language of the measures could chill the free speech of educators and students, as well as stunt the antiracist efforts inaugurated by last year’s nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice.

“This isn’t just about critical race theory as a body of work. This is about any form of antiracist speech, because these are also the jurisdictions that are trying to pass restrictions on protest,” Harris said, referring to new curbs on public demonstrations that Republicans have pushed in response to Black Lives Matter.

‘Divisive Concepts’

The Trump administration launched the first broadside against critical race theory, issuing a September 2020 Office of Management and Budget memorandum that called for the cancellation of any federal spending related to critical race theory, White privilege or “any other training or propaganda effort.” Russ Vought, then director of the OMB and now president of the Center for Renewing America, wrote the memo.

That move was followed by an executive order later that month banning “divisive concepts” in federal workforce training. Citing training materials used in contractor courses discussing race taught at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and federal laboratories, as well as a Smithsonian museum graphic about Whiteness, the order did not mention critical race theory by name but warned of a “malign ideology” that promoted racism, sexism and scapegoating.

A California district court blocked the order in December, and President Joe Biden later rescinded it, but Republican state legislators have renewed the charge.

Missouri state Rep. Brian Seitz, a Republican, said in a phone interview that teaching critical race theory in schools would create “another great divide in America.” He introduced a bill that would ban critical race theory from all publicly funded schools, including universities, because it “identifies people or groups of people, entities, or institutions in the United States as inherently, immutably, or systemically sexist, racist, anti-LGBT, bigoted, biased, privileged or oppressed.”

Noncompliance would result in up to 10% of funding being cut until the violation was resolved. The measure died in committee, but Seitz plans to submit a new bill in next year’s session, he said.

Tennessee state Sen. Brian Kelsey also argued that critical race theory will split Americans. “Critical Race Theory creates divisions within classrooms and will cause irreversible damage to our children who hold the future of our great country,” he wrote in an emailed statement to Stateline.

When the Tennessee House and Senate’s anti-critical race theory bills went to conference committee, Kelsey proposed additional amendments, citing his days in law school and claiming to “know [critical race theory] very well.”

The resulting Tennessee bill, which was signed into law last month by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, bars schools from broaching a wide range of topics such as the existence of systemic racism, privilege, oppression and any criticism of meritocracy. It also grants the commissioner of education undefined discretion to withhold state funds from schools found to be in violation of the law.

“Instead of broadening our worldview, this legislation narrows it,” Jenny Miller, an elementary school librarian in Camden, Tennessee, told Chalkbeat. “How will this come across to teachers of color or those that are contemplating entering the profession?”

Bills introduced in Michigan and West Virginia also would impose penalties. Michigan’s measure would bar, in part, teaching that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the United States are “fundamentally racist.” Schools that violate the measure would see up to 5% of their funding withheld.

West Virginia’s is particularly far-reaching, declaring a “teacher may be dismissed or not reemployed for teaching, instructing or training any student to believe any of the divisive concepts.” Its definitions of divisive concepts include “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” and “an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.” Critical race theory advocates none of these beliefs.

Critics are alarmed by the latitude of these bills.

“Their language is broad enough,” said Emerson Sykes, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, “that an overzealous investigator or enforcer could easily implicate all kinds of discussions that are about what has actually happened in this country and what’s actually ongoing.

“Even asking students those types of questions on an exam could hypothetically run afoul of some of the really broad language in these laws.”

‘A Provocative Term’

School boards, textbook publishers, lawmakers and parents have long tussled over how American history should be taught in schools, clashing over the causes of the Civil War, the Vietnam War and the merits of multicultural education, among many other topics. But the critical race theory controversy has little connection to existing curriculums or school district policies.

There is no evidence that critical race theory, as defined by its originators, has been taught in any public school. Nor has a school board in any state cited critical race theory as an element of its curriculum.

A March joint poll by market research firm Leger and The Atlantic found that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

4 July 2021 at 9:53 am

Is there an uncontroversial way to teach America’s racist history?

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In Vox Sean Illing interviews James Givens, a professor of education at Harvard University:

If you follow politics at all, you’ve likely encountered phrases and terms such as “critical race theory” or “anti-racism” recently.

There’s a debate raging over the history and legacy of American racism and how to teach it in schools. The current iteration of this debate (and there have been many) stretches back to 2019, when the New York Times published the 1619 Project, but it evolved into a kind of moral panic in the post-Trump universe, in part because it’s great fodder for right-wing media.

The hysteria over critical race theory, or CRT, has now spilled beyond the confines of Twitter and Fox News. As I explored back in March, conservative state legislatures across the country are seeking to ban CRT from being taught in public schools.

There are lots of angles into this story, and frankly, much of the discourse around it is counterproductive. The main issue is that it’s not clear what these concepts mean, as tends to happen when ideas (à la postmodernism) escape the confines of academia and enter the political and cultural discourse.

Conservatives have appropriated critical race theory as a convenient catchall to describe basically any serious attempt to teach the history of race and racism. It’s now a prop in the never-ending culture war, where caricature and bad faith can muddy the waters. But the intensity of the debate speaks to a very real and difficult question: What’s the best and most productive way to teach the history of racism?

A few weeks ago, I read an essay in the Atlantic by Jarvis R. Givens, a professor of education at Harvard University and the author of Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching. Givens studies the history of Black education in America, focusing on the 19th and 20th centuries.

His essay is mostly about the blind spots in the public discourse around race and education. But in it, he raises a point that seems overlooked: The uproar over CRT isn’t about anti-racist education itself — Black educators in Black schools have practiced that for more than a century. Rather, it’s about the form anti-racism takes in classrooms with white students. Teaching this history to Black students comes with its own complications, but we’re having this discussion because white parents are protesting and entire news outlets are obsessed with it.

So, I reached out to Givens to talk about why this conversation is so hard, how he responds to some of the criticisms of CRT, why he thinks it’s crucial to not get stuck with a single narrative of Black suffering, and why an honest attempt to teach the history of race in America is going to create a lot of unavoidable discomfort.

A transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.

Sean Illing

The term “anti-racism” has become so muddled that a lot of people probably have no idea what it means. How are you using it?

Jarvis R. Givens

It’s about teaching the history of racial inequality and the history of racism, to understand that it’s about more than individual acts of racism.

The idea is that students — and educators — should have a deep awareness of how racist ideas and practices have been fundamental in shaping our modern world. Students need to be able to have these discussions honestly so that new generations of students aren’t just aware of this history, but can also acknowledge and comprehend how our actions can disrupt those historical patterns or reinforce them.

But one thing I tried to do in my piece was remind people that anti-racist teaching isn’t new. We’ve been talking about it in public as though it’s this novel thing, and perhaps it’s because so much of this discussion is about how to teach white students, but for well over a century, Black teachers have been modeling an anti-racist disposition in their pedagogical practices. They recognized how the dreams of their students were at odds with the structural context in which they found themselves. And they had to offer their students ways of thinking about themselves that were life-affirming, despite a society that was physically organized in a way that explicitly told them they were subhuman.

Sean Illing

I don’t want to pass over what you just said about teaching white students, because that does seem to be what this is really about, and you can see it in the debate over “critical race theory.”

You gestured at the criticism I hear the most: that CRT (and, I guess by extension, “anti-racism” education) is built on an assumption that the study of racism has to be anchored to a commitment to undoing the power structure, which is seen as a product of white supremacy. To the extent that’s true, the complaint is that it’s not really an academic discipline or an approach to education — it’s a political ideology.

Jarvis R. Givens

I hear what you’re saying, and I’m not going to argue that there are no clear political commitments on the part of those scholars who gave us CRT. One thing I’d be interested to hear, however, is an alternative approach to teaching the history of America, or the history of anything, quite frankly, that doesn’t have an embedded set of political commitments.

Any approach to framing history is going to have some political commitments baked into the narrative. The choices we make about what to highlight or omit, all of that reflects certain values and biases. It’s just that we often take these for granted when it’s the “preferred” or “dominant” history.

In the end, I don’t see how you can completely remove politics from the work of education or the production of history. I don’t think it’s ever fully possible, and that’s something that isn’t usually acknowledged in these conversations.

Sean Illing

From your perspective, what’s missing from the current discourse around anti-racism education?

Jarvis R. Givens

The best educational models can teach us to recognize injustices, and they can cultivate a commitment to resisting those things, but equally important — and this is something Black educators have done for a long time in their own communities — is modeling other ways of being in the world, other ways of being in relationship to the world.

If you’re striving to create more justice in the world, you can’t do that if you’re only focusing on the things you’re trying to negate. You can’t just be “anti” whatever. You have to have some life-affirming vision that you can hold on to, a vision that’s more meaningful and points us in the direction of a better world. You have to teach people not just to resist injustice but to transcend it. This is what the Black educational models I’ve studied have always done, and it’s lost in so much of the debate about anti-racism and CRT today.

Sean Illing

Why is it so important to move beyond the “anti”?

Jarvis R. Givens

I think it’s important because . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2021 at 9:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, History

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To ban teaching about systemic racism is a perfect example of systemic racism

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I am indebted to The Eldest for pointing out the nice recursion of the title. Someone then commented about a video of a teacher who totally understands teenagers:

Teacher: I’m not allowed to teach you about critical race theory.

Class: What’s that?

Teacher: I’m not allowed to tell you.

Class: What?? Not fair! (Then they all looked it up in Wikipedia.)

Chris Argyris in his (excellent) books on management theory and what distinguishes a learning organization from one that resists learning. One difference, of course, is success vs. failure over the long term, but also organizations that resist learning typically have double-layer taboos on some topics within the organization: not only can you not talk about X, you also cannot talk about not talking about X. It will be interesting to see whether the Right is so far gone they will prohibit teachers from explaining why they cannot teach critical race theory. (My guess is that the Right is indeed so far gone — and even farther.)

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 2:25 pm

“What I’ve Learned Teaching the Tulsa Race Massacre for Two Decades”

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Some of the ruins from the Tulsa Race Massacre in June 1921, when white vigilantes set the Oklahoma city’s African-American district ablaze.Credit…Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Hannibal B. Johnson writes in the NY Times:

About a decade ago, when a class of third, fourth and fifth grade students at Mayo Demonstration School in Tulsa, Okla., were studying the city’s history, their team of teachers gave them a special assignment: build a scale model of its once segregated Black business district, Greenwood, which was known as Black Wall Street.

The students spent days working on the project. They toured the real Greenwood neighborhood for inspiration, created facades of the businesses, labeled the streets. Once finished, they planned a memorial celebration and invited their parents to attend.

But the night before the celebration, the teachers quietly stayed behind. They doused the model with lighter fluid, set it on fire, and let it burn for a few minutes before putting it back.

The students were dismayed when they returned to school the next day. Who had destroyed their painstaking work, and why?

Their teachers had seized a teachable moment: This was their way of introducing, in an unforgettable way, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. They asked their distraught pupils to imagine what it must have felt like to lose real homes, real schools — real people.

Years later, many of those former Mayo students say the project stands out as among the best lessons they ever had.

As a Black man who chairs the Education Committee for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, I believe that all Americans need similarly powerful and profound experiences to stoke compassion and empathy, particularly as we grapple with issues of historical racial trauma.

The white mob that invaded the Greenwood District during the massacre obliterated Tulsa’s Black community: its property, possessions and people. As many as 300 people were killed; hundred more were injured. The losses, in today’s dollars, would run into the tens of millions, if not more.

Like a wound left untreated, years of silence and neglect left the damage of the massacre to fester. Its effects linger. Healing that history — owning and addressing it — is our present imperative. The centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre presents an opportunity.

I moved to Tulsa, Okla., in the summer of 1984, fresh out of Harvard Law School and eager to settle into a law firm career in a midsize, cosmopolitan city close to my hometown.

Early on, when I began writing a guest editorial column for the local Black newspaper, The Oklahoma Eagle, the editor asked that I write a series about the Greenwood District.

I had grown up in Fort Smith, Ark., about 100 miles southeast of Tulsa, but I’d known nothing of Tulsa’s history — nothing about “Black Wall Street”; nothing about the massacre that was one of the worst incidents of racial domestic terrorism in our country’s history. But I soon learned, and though the story was horrifying, it drew me in.

As time passed, this lawyer by profession became a historian by trade. The newspaper series led me to write other articles and books, to teaching, and to lecturing about the events, which are emblematic of American history of that period — and the widespread historical racial trauma that still bedevils us.

When I think about how we can help people better understand the past, I hark back to the commitment and creativity of the Mayo school’s teachers. Their boldness so many years ago still holds a lesson for me, and anyone who is teaching the truth of our country’s history. Honesty and balance are our allies, as is the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt; to recognize that people do not know what they do not know. We must give people the opportunity to learn and grow, just like those teachers did.

It’s not easy. There will be resistance.

Just weeks ago, Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma signed House Bill 1775 into law, which bans the state’s schools from teaching about notions of racial superiority and racism, and even about concepts that might engender “discomfort, guilt, anguish.” It’s true that the bill does not prohibit the teaching of “concepts that align with the Oklahoma Academic Standards,” and the Tulsa Race Massacre is included in those standards. But having taught this history to both adults and children for more than two decades, I believe a chilling effect is likely. Some teachers may avoid the subject for fear of running afoul of the law; others may soft-pedal it.

Oklahoma is not alone. This bill is part of a national movement aimed at racial retrenchment, a backlash against the embrace of diversity, equity and inclusion. And this state is not alone, either, in the way this backlash threatens to prevent us from confronting and repairing the sins of the past. Though the Tulsa Race Massacre may be distinguished by its scale, American history between the end of Reconstruction and the victories of the civil rights movement is marked by gouts of mass anti-Black violence.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2021 at 9:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, History

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Recalling the Tulsa race massacre, and calling for reparations

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Brett Milano writes in the Harvard Gazette:

The upcoming centennial of the Tulsa race massacre brings a grim reminder of America’s troubled history with African Americans with a particular resonance, given the current national reckoning sparked by the unjust police killing of George Floyd and other people of color. In a virtual event this week sponsored by the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, a panel of academics and human rights activists discussed the past and focused on the work that remains.

On May 31, 1921, armed white mobs began a deadly assault on Tulsa’s affluent Greenwood district, popularly known as the Black Wall Street. It was sparked by an accusation that a young Black man named Dick Rowland had threatened or possibly assaulted a white woman on an elevator. Charges against Rowland would eventually be dropped. But the rumor was enough that rioting whites descended on the Black district, killing as many as 300 African Americans, injuring hundreds, leaving thousands homeless, and burning hundreds of businesses, homes, churches, schools, and other buildings to the ground.

In the wake of the massacre, the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan continued to flourish; police and many other records of the event vanished; and no public memorials or commemorative events occurred in Tulsa for decades.

The anniversary held special personal meaning for Wednesday’s first speaker, Regina Goodwin, an Oklahoma state representative and Black Caucus chair. Born and raised in the Greenwood area, she had a great-grandmother and great-grandfather who survived the massacre. “The history and the lessons of that period are with me every day. You can talk about a new kind of massacre if you will, when it comes to the erasing of a culture and the particular kinds of businesses that once were,” she said, referring to gentrification in and around Greenwood that threatens to rob the district of its historic identity.

Her ancestors, she said, were among the first to call for reparations after the assault, and she said that battle continues in the efforts to pass federal H.R.40 (an act that would establish a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans). “That’s where we are: We’re at a crossroads in America where racism has been amplified, the same racism that triggered the total devastation of Greenwood,” she said. “We have to grapple today with the question of race. When are we going to stop just hearing the remedies and start enacting good policy?”

Each of the panelists echoed the same sentiment, that our times call for concrete reparations and not just words. Karlos Hill, who chairs the Department of African and African-American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, underlined that argument by sharing some of his own research — particularly some powerful photos of the Tulsa devastation. “Even for an historian of racial violence, I was shocked when I really learned the depth of the viciousness,” he said. Both the photos and survivors’ testimony, he said, undercut the white supremacist narrative of the Tulsa death and destruction were the result of “Negro insurrection.”

“Once I understood the scope of this I realized it was a community lynching … and we could even look at this as an attempted expulsion of Black people from Tulsa,” Hill said. This made reparations all the more necessary, he said. “If the 100th anniversary is to mean anything, it should mean us mustering the courage for once to do right by America’s victims of white supremacist violence.”

Dreisen Heath, a researcher and advocate in Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program, was even more specific. She said  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

21 May 2021 at 3:03 pm

Media bias delegitimizes Black-rights protesters

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Systemic racism is endemic in the US (and other countries, though the focus of this study is the US, though they are many (who coincidentally are overwhelmingly white) who deny the problem exists (see the previous post for an example). Danielle Kilgo writes in Nature on the workings of media bias:

The protests following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police a year ago built on those that came before — in response to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and far too many others. The global reckoning was a result of decades of work by advocates who prepared the public to engage with race and racism. One reason their message had taken so long to become mainstream lies in how the press typically covers protests.

I study media representation, marginalized communities and social movements. I have quantified narratives in news coverage of Black civil rights since the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, comparing it with coverage of protests for and against former US president Donald Trump, women’s rights, gun control, environmental protection and more. My colleagues and I use computational methods to find linguistic patterns, rhetoric and sentiment in texts, together with human coding for overarching themes including ‘violence’, ‘combativeness’ and ‘racial justice’, as well as for contextual cues, such as the passive voice in headlines, for example “peaceful protesters teargassed”, which neglect to say who took the action.

Linguistic analysis can show what narratives are being presented to and adopted by the public. Such work — examining which groups are privileged at the expense of others — can help many enterprises, including the scientific system, to repair damage from stigmatizing narratives.

Civil-rights protesters are the least likely to have their concerns and demands presented substantively. Less space is given to protesters’ quotes; more space to official sources. Although my work captures amazing individual pieces of journalism that explore themes such as civil rights, protesters’ motivations and communities’ grief, the dominant narrative accentuates trivial, disruptive and combative actions. My early analyses hint that practices improved during the wake-up call that was 2020, but not by much.

In 2017, more than half the coverage of immigration, health and science demonstrations included protesters’ grievances. Less than one-quarter of Black civil-rights protest coverage did so. After a police officer shot Michael Brown in 2014 in Missouri, one-third of articles emphasized disruption and confrontation. Fewer than 10% described protesters’ demands for reform, and then did so shallowly. Our sample found broad consistency across the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and top newspapers such as The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalUSA TODAY and The Washington Post. The pattern persists over national and local papers and broadcast coverage, as well as around the world.

Activists’ work here in Minneapolis, where Floyd died, extends well before and after the events of May 2020, and is often done by people carrying the trauma of their own losses. Many are veterans of demonstrations that followed the deaths of dozens of Black people, including those of two other young Minnesotan men, Philando Castile and Jamar Clark. What I learnt from being on the ground is just how much mainstream media does not cover. Namely, how organized, civil, inspiring and restorative many protest efforts are — from setting up food drives to holding public vigils.

In our preliminary analysis of cable news and Associated Press coverage from May to December 2020, there’s a small rise (12% of coverage) in mentions of police violence during protests from years past. Otherwise, there is little change. Headlines such as “Police violence is just the tip of the issue”, and “Lawmakers use protest momentum to push state racial reforms”, made up only about 69 of 690 articles. Headlines focusing on protester violence and disruption were about four times more common. There were days when some protesters were violent or used radical tactics, but there were solid weeks of peaceful demonstrations. Descriptions of the latter appear in only 4.9% of articles.

Consistently under-represented from the eight years’ worth of coverage my team has worked on — from newspapers, websites and TV — are discussions about how racism intersects with other issues. For example, the connection between police shooting Black people and gun violence is rarely made. Stories about police violence against Black and trans women are often pushed to the margins.

Before 2020, journalists’ reaction to my research was usually indifference. As newsrooms around the country made efforts to reckon with their racist pasts, they were more willing to engage in initiatives, training courses and workshops. This shift makes reanalysis essential. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2021 at 11:47 am

Posted in Daily life, Media

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The health-care industry doesn’t want to talk about this single word

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A clear example of the extent of systemic racism in the United States is offered in a Washington Post column by Ron Wyatt, co-chairof the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s equity advisory group and faculty for the IHI Pursuing Equity Initiative. Wyatt was the first Black chief medical resident at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. He writes:

When I write about health policy or speak with medical colleagues about barriers to care, there is one word — and one word only — that evokes a wide range of responses. Some respond with silence; others with avoidance. Some respond with anger and defensiveness.

The word appeared at the top of a paper I submitted to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015 with David R. Williams, a professor of public health and African American studies at Harvard University. The title: “Racism in Health and Healthcare: Challenges and Opportunities.”

The editor of the journal at that time, Howard Bauchner, advised us that the word could not be published and that “racial bias” would be substituted into the title before publication. Using “racism,” he said, would result in “losing readers.” As authors and scientists, we compromised. We agreed to the change, and the article was published.

Just a few weeks ago, six years after that decision to compromise, Bauchner and I spoke by phone. He apologized, saying that progress has been made since then.

Has progress been made? JAMA recently announced that following controversial comments on racism in medicine made by a deputy editor, Bauchner was placed on administrative leave on March 25 while an independent investigation is completed.

Entrenched systemic racism — and the deliberate omission of the word in patient safety circles — is the cause of an astonishing level of preventable harm and death among communities of color that have been devalued and discounted for more than 400 years.

The covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the racial inequities of the U.S. health-care system. Too many health-care executives still perpetuate the ahistoric perspective that our country’s model provides safe and equal care for all. Yet the disproportionate number of deaths to covid-19 among racial and ethnic minority groups exposes the systemic and lethal barriers to care.

Last month, a major health-care trade magazine accepted another article that I contributed to with three colleagues, once again with “racism” in the title. When our editor sent us the final authors’ agreement, we noticed the word had been removed from the title and replaced with “intolerance.” This time, we were not willing to compromise. Our editor later informed us that the article would not be published in the May/June issue as scheduled. We were not given a reason.

I have worked all over the United States and internationally as a champion of addressing health inequity. I can say without hesitation — both as a doctor and a citizen — that racism in the United States is a public health crisis.

Having lived in rural Alabama, my family experienced these inequities personally. When my great uncle, who was like a father to me, fell ill, he was taken to a clinic that was segregated by skin color, and was subsequently admitted to a hospital in Selma in 1973. He died one day later. In 2015, I learned he had a ruptured appendix and was never seen by a physician.

I have advised and worked with large, complex health-care systems in the United States, Britain, Australia and Africa. I have collaborated with organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the Joint Commission. I have even discussed race as a risk factor for death with White health leaders, such as former president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Don Berwick.

Yet, I still sometimes feel that survival mechanism kick in to compromise and veil the truth that structural and systemic racism is a root cause of preventable harm and death across U.S. health care. I have been warned that if I did not continue to compromise, I would be labeled an “angry Black man” and that colleagues would distance themselves from me.

The days of compromise are over.

Solving systemic racism in public health must start with naming it. We must publish the word. We must say the word. If health-care providers are to be competent in caring for communities that have been marginalized and oppressed for centuries, then they must understand the role racism plays in poor health. This includes . . .

Continue reading.

Racists don’t like it when you point out their racism.

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2021 at 5:51 pm

This retired baseball player built the largest Black-owned McDonald’s franchise operation. Now he’s suing the fast-food chain for its ‘racist’ policies.

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Carrying forward the theme from the story I just posted: Tracy Jan reports in the Washington Post:

Herb Washington, a former Oakland Athletics player who built the country’s largest Black-owned McDonald’s franchise operation, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the fast-food giant of systemic racial discrimination for its pattern of steering Black owners into restaurants in impoverished neighborhoods that yielded less profit, targeting them with unequal assessments that made it harder to renew their contracts, then pressuring them to sell to White owners.

Washington, 69, owned 27 McDonald’s restaurants in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania during his four decades as a franchisee but alleged that the company began a campaign to drive him out in 2017 in retaliation for speaking about the “predatory, racially biased steering practices” against Black franchisees. Today he owns 14 McDonald’s restaurants, he said, having been forced to sell seven stores in the last three years alone to White owners.

“McDonald’s has targeted me for extinction,” Washington said during a Zoom press conference from his home, appearing in a gray suit and black tie before a painting of Muhammad Ali knocking out Sonny Liston. “It took every ounce of me to succeed against the incredible and unfair odds that McDonald’s forced on me.”

Washington said he’s suing to end McDonald’s “two-tiered system where Black owner operators cannot be as successful as Whites. There is a system for them and one for people who look like me.” He said many Black franchisees left McDonald’s broke because of that system.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Ohio, accused McDonald’s of hypocrisy, joining corporations releasing statements proclaiming Black Lives Matter while “it has done nothing to change its own internal policies that perpetuate systemic racism by disadvantaging and squeezing out its Black franchise owners.”

McDonald’s responded to the lawsuit Tuesday by blaming Washington for his business challenges.

“This situation is the result of years of mismanagement by Mr. Washington, whose organization has failed to meet many of our standards on people, operations, guest satisfaction and reinvestment,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “His restaurants have a public record of these issues including past health and sanitation concerns and some of the highest volumes of customer complaints in the country.”

The company said it invested significantly in Washington’s franchise, helped him sell restaurants as part of his business improvement plan, and offered him multiple opportunities to address the concerns. Washington said McDonald’s recent investments amounted to just $6 a day per restaurant to help narrow the gap between his sales and his White counterparts.

[52 former franchisees accuse McDonald’s of racial discrimination in lawsuit]

Washington’s lawsuit comes amid an alarming exit of Black franchisees from McDonald’s and widespread allegations of racial bias. Last fall 52 Black former franchise owners sued McDonald’s for setting them up to fail despite the company’s public commitment to racial equity. McDonald’s denied the allegations and said it was committed to diversity and equal opportunity across its franchisees.

The decline in Black restaurant owners accelerated after Steve Easterbrook and Chris Kempczinski became presidents and chief executives of McDonald’s Corporation and McDonald’s USA, according to Washington’s lawsuit.

Black franchise ownership is at an all-time low today. In 1998, there were 377 Black franchisees in the McDonald’s system, according to the lawsuit. Now there are 186.

“These numbers are not a coincidence; they are the result of McDonald’s intentionally racist policies and practices toward Black franchisees,” Washington’s lawsuit alleges.

McDonald’s said that the company has seen a reduction in the total number of franchise organizations across all demographic groups in recent years, and that the overall representation of Black operators remains broadly unchanged.

Black senior executives who objected to the company’s policies suffered swift retaliation, the lawsuit alleged. During Easterbook’s and Kempczinski’s leadership, the number of Black executives dropped from 42 to seven. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2021 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law, Law Enforcement

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The Vaccine Had to Be Used. He Used It. He Was Fired.

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The decision to fire the doctor — and moreover to charge him with a crime — strikes me as quite clearly racist. Dan Barry reports in the NY Times:

The Texas doctor had six hours. Now that a vial of Covid-19 vaccine had been opened on this late December night, he had to find 10 eligible people for its remaining doses before the precious medicine expired. In six hours.

Scrambling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. A bed-bound nonagenarian. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a child who uses a ventilator.

After midnight, and with just minutes before the vaccine became unusable, the doctor, Hasan Gokal, gave the last dose to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that leaves her short of breath.

For his actions, Dr. Gokal was fired from his government job and then charged with stealing 10 vaccine doses worth a total of $135 — a shun-worthy misdemeanor that sent his name and mug shot rocketing around the globe.

“It was my world coming down,” Dr. Gokal said in a telephone interview on Friday. “To have everything collapse on you. God, it was the lowest moment in my life.”

The matter of Dr. Gokal is playing out as pandemic-weary Americans scour websites and cross state lines chasing rumors, all in anxious pursuit of a medicine in short supply. The case opens wide to interpretation, becoming a study in the learn-as-you-go bioethics of the country’s stumbling vaccine rollout.

Late last month, a judge dismissed the charge as groundless, after which the local district attorney vowed to present the matter to a grand jury. And while prosecutors portray the doctor as a cold opportunist, his lawyer says he acted responsibly — even heroically.

“Everybody was looking at this guy and saying, ‘I got my mother waiting for a vaccine, my grandfather waiting for a vaccine,’” the lawyer, Paul Doyle, said. “They were thinking, ‘This guy is a villain.’”

Dr. Gokal, 48, immigrated from Pakistan as a boy and earned a medical degree at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. After working at hospitals in Central New York, he moved to Texas in 2009 to oversee the emergency department at a suburban Houston hospital. His volunteer work has included rebuilding homes and providing medical care after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

. . . On Dec. 22, Dr. Gokal joined a conference call in which state health officials explained the protocols for administering the recently approved Moderna vaccine. The 10 or 11 doses in a vial are viable for six hours after the seal is punctured.

Dr. Gokal said the advice was to vaccinate people eligible under the 1(a) category (health care workers and residents in long-term-care facilities), then those under the 1(b) category (people over 65 or with a health condition that increases risk of severe Covid-related illness).

After that, he said, the message was: “Just put it in people’s arms. We don’t want any doses to go to waste. Period.”

On Dec. 29, a mild Tuesday, Dr. Gokal arrived before dawn at a park in the Houston suburb of Humble to supervise a vaccination event intended mostly for emergency workers. In part because of minimal publicity, the pace was slow, with no more than 250 doses administered. But this was the county’s first public event, he said. “We knew there would be hiccups.”

Around 6:45 at night, as the event wound down, an eligible person arrived for a shot. A nurse punctured a new vial to administer the vaccine, which activated the six-hour time limit for the 10 remaining doses.

The chances of 10 eligible people suddenly showing up were slim; by now, workers were offsetting the darkness with car headlights. But Dr. Gokal said he was determined not to waste a single dose.

He said he first asked the event’s 20 or so workers, who either refused or had already been vaccinated. The paramedics on site had left, and of the two police officers, one had been vaccinated and the other declined the doctor’s offer.

Dr. Gokal said he called a Harris County public health official in charge of operations to report his plans to find 10 people to receive the remaining doses. He said he was told, simply: OK.

He said he then called another high-ranking colleague whose parents and in-laws were eligible for the vaccine. They weren’t available.

The hours were counting down.

The doctor figured that if he returned the open vial to his department’s almost certainly empty office at this late hour, it would go to waste. So as he started the drive to his home in a neighboring county, he said, he called people in his cellphone’s contact list to ask whether they had older relatives or neighbors needing to be immunized.

“No one I was really intimately familiar with,” Dr. Gokal said. “I wasn’t that close to anyone.”

When he reached his home in Sugar Land, waiting outside were a woman in her mid-60s with cardiac issues, and a woman in her early 70s with assorted health problems. He inoculated both.

Eight doses to go.

The doctor got back in his car — his wife insisted on going with him — and drove to a Sugar Land house with four eligible people: a man in his late 60s with health issues; the man’s bed-bound mother, in her 90s; his mother-in-law, in her mid-80s and with severe dementia; and his wife, her mother’s caregiver.

He then drove to the home of a housebound woman in her late 70s and administered the vaccine. “I didn’t know her at all,” he said.

Three doses remained, but three people had agreed to meet the doctor at his home. Two were already waiting: a distant acquaintance in her mid-50s who works at a health clinic’s front desk, and a 40-ish woman he had never met whose child relies on a ventilator.

As midnight approached, Dr. Gokal said, the third would-be recipient called to say that he wouldn’t be coming: too late.

Tired and frustrated, Dr. Gokal said that he turned to his wife, whose pulmonary sarcoidosis made her eligible for the vaccine. “I didn’t intend to give this to you, but in a half-hour I’m going to have to dump this down the toilet,” he recalled telling her. “It’s as simple as that.”

He said his hesitant wife asked whether it was the right thing to do. “It makes perfect sense,” he said he answered. “We don’t want any doses wasted, period.”

With 15 minutes to spare, Dr. Gokal gave his wife the last Moderna dose.

The next morning, he said, he submitted the paperwork for the 10 people he had vaccinated the previous night, including his wife. He said he also informed his supervisor and colleagues of what he had done, and why.

Several days later, the doctor said, that supervisor and the human resources director summoned him to ask whether he had administered 10 doses outside of the scheduled event on Dec. 29. He said he had, in keeping with guidelines not to waste the vaccine — and was promptly fired.

The officials maintained that he had violated protocol and should have returned the remaining doses to the office or thrown them away, the doctor recalled. He also said that one of the officials startled him by questioning the lack of “equity” among those he had vaccinated.

“Are you suggesting that there were too many Indian names in that group?” Dr. Gokal said he asked.

Exactly, he said he was told. . . .

It seems clear that if the names had been “white” names, there would not have been a problem, especially since the guidelines and protocols had been followed.

But it gets worse:

On Jan. 21, about two weeks after the doctor’s termination, a friend called to say that a local reporter had just tweeted about him. At that very moment, one of his three children answered the door to bright lights and a thrust microphone. Shaken, the 16-year-old boy closed the door and said, “Dad, there are people out there with cameras.”

This was how Dr. Gokal learned that he had been charged with stealing vaccine doses.

Harris County’s district attorney, Kim Ogg, had just issued a news release that afternoon with the headline: “Fired Harris County Health Doctor Charged With Stealing Vial Of Covid-19 Vaccine.”

It alleged that Dr. Gokal “stole the vial” and disregarded county protocols to ensure that vaccines are not wasted and are administered to eligible people on a waiting list. “He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Ms. Ogg said.

But Dr. Gokal said that no one from the district attorney’s office had ever contacted him to hear his version of events. And when his lawyer requested copies of the written protocols and waiting list referred to in the complaint, a prosecutor told him by email that there were no written protocols from late December; nor had a written wait list yet been found.

Harris County had received the vaccine faster than anticipated, the email said, and public health officials “immediately jumped from testing to vaccinating.”

As news of his alleged crime spread, Dr. Gokal heard from relatives and friends in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. “Many were calling me for support, telling me, ‘We know you better than that,’” he said. “But there were a lot of people who didn’t call.”

Days later, a criminal court judge, Franklin Bynum, dismissed the case for lack of probable cause.

“In the number of words usually taken to describe an allegation of retail shoplifting, the State attempts, for the first time, to criminalize a doctor’s documented administration of vaccine doses during a public health emergency,” he wrote. “The Court emphatically rejects this attempted imposition of the criminal law on the professional decisions of a physician.”

Both the Texas Medical Association and the Harris County Medical Society recently issued a statement of support for physicians like Dr. Gokal who find themselves scrambling “to avoid wasting the vaccine in a punctured vial.”

“It is difficult to understand any justification for charging any well-intentioned physician in this situation with a criminal offense,” the statement said.

Dane Schiller, the district attorney’s director of communications, declined to answer questions about the case . .

Read the whole thing. The US is still a racist nation. No wonder Donald Trump appeals to so many.

Written by Leisureguy

11 February 2021 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics

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Why Are Conservatives So Angry Biden Denounced White Supremacy? (Proverbs 28:1 – “The wicked flee when no one pursues.”)

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

The themes and rhetoric of President Biden’s Inaugural Address — in a departure from his predecessor’s odd decision to channel comic-book villain dialogue but a continuation of the choices used by normal presidents — were a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Biden praised the American spirit, called for unity, reminded his audience of our common history of overcoming challenges, promised to represent all Americans, and so on.

Whether or not one found this inspiring is a matter of personal taste. What’s interesting is that certain quarters of the right found the speech actually objectionable. The portion of the speech that rankled was Biden’s renunciation of racism and violent white-supremacist terrorism.

“If you read his speech and listen to it carefully, much of it is thinly veiled innuendo calling us white supremacists, calling us racists,” protested Rand Paul on Fox News. “It’s an odd way to seek national unity: Call a significant portion of the American public white supremacists, racists, and nativists,” complained Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonaldTucker Carlson devoted an entire segment to angrily denouncing Biden for opposing white supremacy, which he interpreted, not unreasonably, as a veiled criticism of himself and his most fervent supporters.

None of these right-wingers self-identify as racist or white supremacist. And at no point did Biden say, or even imply, that all — or even most — Trump supporters are racist. Why, then, do they object to a fairly rote denunciation of ideas they claim to abhor themselves?

To understand why it rankled them, you should start with Biden’s reasons for including an attack on white supremacy in the first place. From Biden’s standpoint, he needed to do this in order to contextualize his call for “unity.” Historically, unity has been used as a device to encourage white Americans to come together while ignoring racism. The basis for the post-Reconstruction healing of the regional and partisan split was that white northern Republicans withdrew their protection for freed slaves and allowed white Southerners to violently repress and disenfranchise black people. That sub rosa agreement became the foundation for the century-long period of depolarized politics that ran from the end of Reconstruction through the civil-rights era, which triggered its demise.

Black Americans have particular cause for suspicion of “unity” as a transcendent value. (Biden himself has inadvertently articulated their reasons for questioning the old, bipartisan era when he touted his history of making deals with segregationists.) Biden’s explicit renunciation of racism and white-supremacist terror was a way of clarifying that his idea of unity would exclude, rather than include, racism.

Then, of course, there was the recent insurrection by a mob that, if not white supremacist in toto, was led by a militant white-supremacist vanguard. Biden is attempting to define a (small-d) democratic order that excludes a violent authoritarian faction that refuses to accept political equality for fellow citizens.

And that is what makes Biden’s statement an implicit rebuke to Trump and his fans. One of the most significant realignments of the Trump era was an extension of the Republican coalition to the more distant edges of the far right. As early as 2015, observers . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2021 at 2:43 pm

Can white graduates of racist schools unlearn hate?

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Good question, but I have to admit that I tend toward pessimism on this. I just got a newsletter from Mother Jones that included this:

As kids, they were thrown into “segregation academies” in the South—private all-white schools where parents could send their children to avoid the integration of public schools, and where kids were, as one put it, “conscientiously and misguidedly furnished with an unbending white universe.”

At least 3,000 of these schools opened in the South in the early 1970s. By 1975, as many as 750,000 white students were being what they thought was “educated” there. Now, graduates of those all-white schools are telling stories about the resounding racism they learned—and the decades that some have spent unlearning or trying to unlearn it. A new website,, is posting their stories in hopes of striking a chord with other people raised with and steeped in white supremacist ideologies who are trying to critically dismantle and understand their own hate.

“I want to gauge how the thinking bred in such a culture — growing up inside a white society that invested huge energy and money into the segregation academy’s creation — lingers inside our heads still,” wrote Ellen Ann Fentress, a longtime journalist whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, and a documentary filmmaker who is spearheading the project with support from the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Fentress told me that some graduates of the academies are opening up about their years through self-reflection, while others say they wish she and outlets like the Jackson Free Press had never shed a spotlight on the schools. “To some of them, it looks like a personal attack on parents and faculty,” said Fentress, who posted the first essays and a call for submissions last week.

“This isn’t a proud narrative, but it’s essential U.S. history that shapes how both towns and individuals live their lives now,” as well as how structures and institutions continue to operate, Fentress said. “The conversation is unsettling” but necessary.

On the website’s first day, Fentress she got half a dozen new writers. Author and journalist Kristen Green, an early contributor, wrote that her all-white Virginia academy had “normalized and centered whiteness for me in my formative years.” For decades afterward, she said, “I didn’t have the skill set to make friends with people who looked different than me, to report knowledgeable stories about people of color” as a journalist.

Some graduates, such as Jackson, Mississippi, lawyer Lynn Watkins, have spent their lives trying to fight the racial hate that created their schools. “From the tenth grade forward, I attended and ultimately graduated from a white Citizens’ Council School; at one time, it was reportedly the largest private school system in the country,” Watkins wrote, describing her eventual work in journalism and law to expose the very systems she grew up benefitting from. “Later, as a journalist and later still as a lawyer, I learned the real lessons of history.” (The Academy Stories)

Written by Leisureguy

6 November 2019 at 11:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Government, Memes

Tagged with

Racism Is Good at Hiding. Just Ask This White Nationalist Police Officer.

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Zak Cheney-Rice writes in New York:

The historical ties between American law-enforcement agencies and white supremacist groups are well documented. Southern sheriffs abetted Ku Klux Klansmen under Jim Crow. The FBI posted a bulletin in 2006 warning about white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police entities, citing cases in Ohio, Illinois, Texas, and California, including the formation of a neo-Nazi gang by officials within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The armed forces have been implicated as well. Federal agents in February arrested a 49-year-old Coast Guard lieutenant and self-described white nationalist who had amassed 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition while planning a massacre of innocent civilians “on a scale rarely seen in this country,” according to court documents.

Most of the accused are united as much by their bigoted beliefs as their ability to fortify them in private while maintaining a veneer of public respectability. But as has been true throughout history, the most recent reported case proves these impulses are not at odds. On the contrary, they are intimately connected, and often make one another possible.

The Daily Beast’s Kelly Weill reported this week that Daniel Morley, a 31-year-old school resource officer employed by L.C. Bird High School in Chesterfield, Virginia, is also an organizer for Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group also known as the American Identity Movement. His involvement was first exposed on Monday by Virginia anti-fascists, according to the report, who leaked the group’s online chat messages. (Morley has since been suspended, pending a departmental investigation). The exchanges they uncovered suggest that Morley holds an esteemed and valuable position within the organization: coordinating new recruits. His particular focus is on helping members hide their bigotry and racist aims from the public by employing misleading language.

According to Weill, this role is an extension of Morley’s activities going back a decade, to his days as a commenter on the white supremacist website Stormfront. “A good strategy would be to steer the definition of ‘racism’ towards ‘racial hatred,’” he reportedly counseled one Identity Evropa member last year. “We don’t hate other races, so we’re not racists. After all, the word isn’t going away. May as well control it.”

In order to be successful, this brand of subterfuge requires a public that is either too ignorant or in willful denial of racism’s machinations to look past the surface. Fortunately for Morley, he lives in the United States, where questions of racism are often litigated in terms of “what’s in a person’s heart,” or what they are willing to admit publicly. Such myopia permitted Representative Steve King of Iowa to espouse white nationalism for more than a decade, with the only rebuke from his fellow Republicans coming in January when he inquired (on the record, in a New York Times profile), “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” It is how U.S. senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker can respond to the question, “Do you believe that Donald Trump is a racist?” with, “I don’t know the heart of anybody. I’ll leave that to the Lord.”

Absent divine insight or X-ray vision, the rest of us will have to do better on our own. To this end, historical evidence is valuable: The impulse to obscure or deny one’s bigoted intentions is not new, nor is it limited to avowed white supremacists. It was being deployed in national politics decades before Donald Trump tried his hand at campaigning, as illuminated when Richard Nixon’s campaign consultant, Lee Atwater, explained the strategy behind his candidate’s efforts to woo southern whites away from the Democratic Party: “By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.”

Indeed, such behavior has become more useful in the post–civil-rights era, as open bigotry has become more taboo in polite company and the explicit racism of Jim Crow–era laws and sumptuary codes ran afoul of federal law, requiring evasive action among its adherents. This is where cries of “reverse racism” enter the discourse, where claims like Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’s 2007 insistence that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race” captures the ethos of pols seeking to override civil-rights gains through fealty to a theoretical — but not actual — equality.

Other manifestations have been less mannered. Morley can find perhaps his most famous modern analogue in former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who has spent decades preoccupied with taking his brand of white nationalism mainstream. He has been remarkably successful. Duke, in 1989, was elected to a seat in Louisiana’s House of Representatives, where he served until 1992. These days, he can be found defending other bigots in public using canards and false equivalences. “[In] this country,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2019 at 7:57 am

Roads to nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality`

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Johnny Miller reports in the Guardian:

It’s a little after 3pm in Detroit’s 8 Mile neighbourhood, and the cicadas are buzzing loudly in the trees. Children weave down the pavements on bicycles, while a pickup basketball game gets under way in a nearby park. The sky is a deep blue with only a hint of an approaching thunderstorm – in other words, a muggy, typical summer Sunday in Michigan’s largest city.

“8 Mile”, as the locals call it, is far from the much-touted economic “renaissance” taking place in Detroit’s centre. Tax delinquency and debt are still major issues, as they are in most places in the city. Crime and blight exist side by side with carefully trimmed hedgerows and mowed lawns, a patchwork that changes from block to block. In many ways it resembles every other blighted neighbourhood in the city – but with one significant difference. Hidden behind the oak-lined streets is an insidious piece of history that most Detroiters, let alone Americans, don’t even know exists: a half mile-long, 5ft tall concrete barrier that locals simply call “the wall”.

“Growing up, we didn’t know what that wall was for,” says Teresa Moon, president of the 8 Mile Community Organization. “It used to be a rite of passage to walk on top of the wall, like a balancing beam. You know, just kids having fun, that kind of thing. It was only later when I found out what it was for, and when I realised the audacity that they had to build it.”

In 1942, 8 Mile was a black neighbourhood – segregated by law, segregated by culture, segregated from white Oakland County by the eponymous 8 Mile Road. It was a self-contained community, filled with not only African Americans but immigrants of all colours, some of whom had built their houses with their own hands.

It was also adjacent to empty land – valuable land that developers were rapaciously turning into homes for a surging postwar population. Land that one housing developer wanted to use to build a “whites-only neighbourhood”. The only problem was, he couldn’t get federal funding to develop the land unless he could prove he had a strategy to prevent black people and white people from mixing. His answer: wall off the white neighbourhood with a concrete barrier.

“That wall is a monument,” says Moon. “We survived it. It’s a part of what happened, and no one feels any negativity towards what happened.”

Her neighbour, Lou Ross, agrees. “What that Wall was intended for, it didn’t work that way. It did for a minute – but it didn’t last.”

Today, policymakers are making plans to revamp the nation’s infrastructure. The Trump administration has pledged to create a $1tn infrastructure renewal plan, and came to power, after all, on the promise of building a massive wall. But, like Trump’s wall and the 8-mile wall, infrastructure is not value-free – and the decisions made now will affect the future of inequality in our cities.

To get an understanding of how infrastructure transforms communities, there’s no better place to start than the Federal Housing Authority “redlining” housing maps. Commissioned by the federal government in the 1930s, these maps were critical to decisions of where and what type of infrastructure, lending and housing each neighbourhood of each American city would be able to receive.

“The FHA promoted home ownership in new – and primarily suburban – neighbourhoods so long as they were white and not ethnically or economically diverse,” writes Antero Pietila in Not in My Neighbourhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City.

If your neighbourhood had the misfortune to be “redlined”, it was often doomed to a future of stillborn investment and decay. Specifically, it would be impossible to secure federally backed mortgages, a sort of scarlet letter branded across huge swaths of the city. Developers avoided these areas and concentrated investment into white areas, and services stagnated. The seeds of the future ghettos of America had been sown.

FHA maps were created for every major city in the US. Original assessment documents unearthed by researchers at the T-Races project reveal the cold, casually racist way in which data collectors consigned vast neighbourhoods to neglect and poverty:

This is a ‘melting pot’ area and is literally honeycombed with diverse and subversive racial elements. It is seriously doubted whether there is a single block in the area which does not contain detrimental racial elements … It is hazardous residential territory and is accorded a general medial red grade – Original FHA evaluator report for Boyle Heights, California

West Oakland in California is a typical example of a redlined neighbourhood.

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more, illustrated with photos, about how racism shaped infrastructure. The part on Baltimore is particularly interesting since I have family who live there.

Written by Leisureguy

24 February 2018 at 9:45 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government

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Trump’s Pardon Aside, Reporters Have Built Long Rap Sheet Against Sheriff Joe

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Ryan Gabrielson reports in ProPublica:

President Donald Trump issued his first pardon to Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff famous for using his local police force to aggressively pursue undocumented immigrants. In its official statement, the White House credited Arpaio with “more than fifty years of admirable service to our nation,” which made him “a worthy candidate” for a pardon.

Below is a list of essential reading on one of the most reviled and beloved lawmen in the U.S.

In November 2004, Arpaio won re-election to his fourth term as sheriff and quickly set about reorganizing the police force by transferring some 140 deputies to different positions. Mark Flatten, then a reporter at the East Valley Tribune, found evidence the moves were tied to the deputies’ political loyalty, or lack thereof, to Arpaio. “Those who worked to re-elect the sheriff moved into more prized positions,” Flatten wrote. “An analysis of the transfers of sworn officers by the Tribune shows deputies who backed Saban, Arpaio’s rival in the Republican primary last September, were moved to such jobs as transporting prisoners or standing watch in courtrooms.”

The sheriff’s office had long feuded with the Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly newspaper that broke major stories about misconduct by Arpaio’s force. In August 2007, the agency’s top commanders teamed with local prosecutors to subpoena seemingly every document inside the newsroom, ostensibly as part of a criminal probe. The order warned the New Times that it was a crime to disclose anything about the subpoena. Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, then New Times’ publishers, did not remain silent.

That October, the newspaper plastered across its front page the headline: “Breathtaking Abuse of The Constitution,” and provided the public with every detail. The subpoena demanded “every note, tape, and record from every story written about Sheriff Arpaio by every reporter over a period of years,” the publishers wrote. Worse yet, the sheriff’s office wanted information on the newspaper’s readers, including “every individual who looked at any story, review, listing, classified, or retail ad over a period of years.” Sheriff’s deputies arrested Lacey and Larkin at their homes the evening they published, and held them for several hours.

Arpaio allowed William Finnegan, staff writer at The New Yorker, to attend his meetings, ride along in his car, and interview his top commanders at great length in early 2009. The result of that access is a revealing, unsparing profile of Arpaio and the police force he ran at the peak of its illegal immigration enforcement. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2017 at 4:48 pm

Systemic racism in America explained in just three minutes

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Jason Kottke has a powerful post, which begins with a three-minute video:

Kottke writes:

This short video shows several ways in which systemic racism is still very much alive and well in the United States in 2017. See also Race Forward’s video series featuring Jay Smooth.

“What Is Systemic Racism?” is an 8-part video series that shows how racism shows up in our lives across institutions and society: Wealth Gap, Employment, Housing Discrimination, Government Surveillance, Incarceration, Drug Arrests, Immigration Arrests, Infant Mortality… yes, systemic racism is really a thing.

The reason why this matters should be obvious. Just like extra effort can harness the power of compound interest in knowledge and productivity, even tiny losses that occur frequently can add up to a large deficit. If you are constantly getting dinged in even small ways just for being black, those losses add up and compound over time. Being charged more for a car and other purchases means less life savings. Less choice in housing results in higher prices for property in less desirable neighborhoods, which can impact choice of schools for your kids, etc. Fewer callbacks for employment means you’re less likely to get hired. Even if you do get the job, if you’re late for work even once every few months because you get stopped by the police, you’re a little more likely to get fired or receive a poor evaluation from your boss. Add up all those little losses over 30-40 years, and you get exponential losses in income and social status.

And these losses often aren’t small at all, to say nothing of drug offenses and prison issues; those are massive life-changing setbacks. The war on drugs and racially selective enforcement have hollowed out black America’s social and economic core. . .

Continue reading.

The fact is that the United States has been a racist society since its beginning, and it is obvious to those who look. However, many whites, enjoying their privileged position, will not look. (A good book in this connection: Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, by Daniel Goleman.) To take one glaringly obvious example: the genocide of the Native Americans, who still must struggle to make their voice heard (cf. the Dakota Access Pipeline struggle at Standing Rock).  Of see the attitude many Americans express about immigrants.

One good example is the War on Drugs. When drugs were a serious problem in the black community, as in the days of crack cocaine, we got paramilitary actions against both drug suppliers and drug victims, with mandatory minimum sentences and tens of thousands sent to prison for the crime of addiction.

Now, however, the drug epidemic is affecting white victims, and lo! the tactics used are suddenly much more compassionate. See, for example, Al Baker’s report “When Opioid Addicts Find an Ally in Blue” in the NY Times:

BURLINGTON, Vt. — In this college town on the banks of Lake Champlain, Chief Brandon del Pozo has hired a plain-spoken social worker to oversee opioids policy and has begun mapping heroin deaths the way his former commanders in the New York Police Department track crime.

In New York City, detectives are investigating overdoses with the rigor of homicides even if murder charges are a long shot. They are plying the mobile phones of the dead for clues about suppliers and using telltale marks on heroin packages and pills to trace them back to dealers. And like their colleagues in Philadelphia and Ohio, they are racing to issue warnings about deadly strains of drugs when bodies fall, the way epidemiologists take on Zika.

The police in Arlington, Mass., intervene with vulnerable users. Officials in Everett, Wash., have sued a pharmaceutical firm that they say created a black market for addicts. Seattle’s officers give low-level drug and prostitution suspects a choice: treatment instead of arrest and jail.

Opioids are cutting through the country, claiming increasing deaths and, in some cities, wrecking more lives than traffic fatalities and murders combined. Police leaders are weary of the scenes: 911 calls; bodies with needles in their arms; drugs called “fire” strewn about. They are assigning themselves a big role in reversing the problems. They are working with public health officials, and carrying more antidote for heroin and its synthetic cousin fentanyl.

Continue reading the main story

Few see policing, by itself, as the answer to such a complex social problem, certainly not through enforcement alone. The law enforcement approach to the crack-cocaine scourge of the late 1980s filled jails and prisons, expanded government and did little to address the social issues driving that addiction crisis.

“The police can play a critical role in a very broadly based social and medical response,” said Samuel Walker, an emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha. “So if people think we are going to arrest our way out of the opioid crisis, they’re wrong.”

Governors like Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey, both former prosecutors, have adopted a notably compassionate tone in framing the crisis. In 2014, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont used 34 minutes of his state-of-the state speech to urge treatment and support for addicts. As a candidate, President Trump vowed to solve America’s drug crisis, a pledge that resonated in impoverished, rural areas that have been ravaged in recent years by opioids.

Labeling it a health epidemic, not a war on drugs, marks a stark contrast with the criminal justice system’s approach to the crack-cocaine plague, which was met by mass arrests in mostly black and Hispanic communities. [But the opioid epidemic is affecting whites, so a totally different approach is used. – LG]

Now, policing leaders claim to have learned from the past. But they also know how violent crime can flow from illegal drugs the way Anthony Riccio, a chief in the Chicago Police Department, says is happening in his city. A big fear among police chiefs is that increased demand for low-cost, high-potency opioids will lead to more shootings, and murders, as prices drop and drug traffickers organize.

In Mexico, where almost all of the heroin entering the United States is grown and cultivated, violence surrounding the drug trade is “horrific,” said Chuck Rosenberg, who runs the Drug Enforcement Administration.

But American cities are not immune.

“In almost all of our major seizures and arrests, we’re encountering weapons,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “And there’s only one reason to have those around.”

Increasingly, the police find themselves scrambling from call to call for reports of seemingly lifeless bodies. Death counts are rising. Nearly 1,400 people died of drug overdoses in New York City last year, the highest ever and up from 937 the previous year. In Philadelphia, the tally was 906. Nationally, there were 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015, Mr. Rosenberg said. And last year, the drug overdose death count likely exceeded 59,000, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2017 at 9:37 am

Oregon is the White Supremacist state

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I generally think of Idaho as a state with an active white supremacist movement, but clearly I was wrong. Keegan Stephan informs us about Oregon:

Last week, a white supremacist allegedly stabbed two men to death and severely wounded another who tried to intervene as he hurled racial slurs at a black woman and a Muslim woman. Yet one of the most shocking aspects of the incident was where it occurred: Portland, Ore. Many Americans consider the city to be a progressive utopia, to the point of televised parody. The truth is far more complicated.

I went to high school outside Portland, and I encountered more overt white supremacy there than anywhere else. Progressive politics and discrimination are not mutually exclusive. Many classmates who would have described themselves as progressive expressed white supremacist ideals, often in violent terms. Without diversity, overt racism often goes unchecked. And where it goes unchecked, it persists.

While Portland is indeed progressive on many political issues, it is still the whitest large city in America — and that’s by design. Before becoming a state in 1859, Oregon passed laws that prohibited slavery but also required all African Americans to leave the territory. It simply wanted no black people. It went so far as to make the “crime” of being black punishable by floggings until the “perpetrator” left. Thus, when Oregon joined the union, it joined not as a free state or a slave state, but as a no-blacks state, the only state to do so.

Even as the rest of the country began to extend rights to African Americans after the Civil War, Oregon held fast to its racist origins. When the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870, giving black men the right to vote, Oregon was one of only a few states not to sign on, and refused do so until 1959. While the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, granting citizenship and equal protection of the law to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” Oregon did not ratify it until 1973.

The state left on the books anti-miscegenation and other laws that clearly violated the equal protection clause well into the 20th century. Until 2002 , the Oregon constitution even insisted that “no free Negro, or mulatto . . . shall come, reside, or be within this State, or hold any real estate.”

Technically, these laws were unconstitutional despite Oregon’s refusal to ratify the 14th Amendment, and anyone prosecuted under them should have been able to successfully overturn their conviction. Yet their existence still served to intimidate; the weight of the state’s criminal-justice system stood behind them, as Portland proved just as willing to enforce Jim Crow-style segregation as the Deep South, even banning black people from public swimming pools into the 1960s. The possibility of successfully challenging the application of these racist laws in federal court, even for those with the means to do so, offered little comfort.

I was lucky enough to live across the street from Judge Belton Hamilton, the first black federal administrative law judge in the state. (A black justice still has not been appointed to Oregon’s highest state court.) One of the kindest and most generous men I’ve ever met, Hamilton told me that he never felt safe living in the state under these laws. He told me that he had to draft legislation in order to legally marry his wife (a Japanese American woman) and to buy his house in our small suburb. But although Hamilton may have helped to rewrite the laws, he never successfully changed the hearts of all our neighbors. I remember his house being vandalized regularly growing up. I remember helping him pick toilet paper out of his trees and scrub swastikas off of his stone walkway — in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As tragic as last week’s murders were, they should shock no one. In a state that sought to exclude black people entirely, and that openly discriminated as long as the Jim Crow South, no one should be surprised that violent, white-supremacist ideologies still flourish. In the 1920s, Oregon had the largest Ku Klux Klan membership per capita of any state; in the 1980s, white nationalists chose Portland as a place to establish themselves in the Northwest; in 1988, a skinhead, egged on by two others, beat Nigerian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw to death with a bat; in 2016, a white supremacist was charged with a hate crime after mowing down a black teenager named Larnell Bruce with his SUV; just two months before this latest attack, ProPublica and BuzzFeed found that Oregon has recently had more documented hate crimes than any other state. A white nationalist rally is still slated to take place just two weeks after this latest double slaying. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2017 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Daily life

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The racist base of the GOP

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Not all in the GOP are racist, by any means. But there is a substantial block, particularly in the South. Paul Krugman points out in his NY Times column today:

. . . My own understanding of the role of race in U.S. exceptionalism was largely shaped by two academic papers.

The first, by the political scientist Larry Bartels, analyzed the move of the white working class away from Democrats, a move made famous in Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Mr. Frank argued that working-class whites were being induced to vote against their own interests by the right’s exploitation of cultural issues. But Mr. Bartels showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon — it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy.

And this party-switching, in turn, was what drove the rightward swing of American politics after 1980. Race made Reaganism possible. And to this day Southern whites overwhelmingly vote Republican, to the tune of 85 or even 90 percent in the deep South.

The second paper, by the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote, was titled “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State?” Its authors — who are not, by the way, especially liberal — explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: “Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”

Now, that paper was published in 2001, and you might wonder if things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the answer is that they haven’t, as you can see by looking at how states are implementing — or refusing to implement — Obamacare.

For those who haven’t been following this issue, in 2012 the Supreme Court gave individual states the option, if they so chose, of blocking the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, a key part of the plan to provide health insurance to lower-income Americans. But why would any state choose to exercise that option? After all, states were being offered a federally-funded program that would provide major benefits to millions of their citizens, pour billions into their economies, and help support their health-care providers. Who would turn down such an offer?

The answer is, 22 states at this point, although some may eventually change their minds. And what do these states have in common? Mainly, a history of slaveholding: Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 percent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War.

And it’s not just health reform: a history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy. . .

Written by Leisureguy

22 June 2015 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Politics

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White supremacy groups

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Fascinating video well worth watching. Thanks, Bob.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2008 at 11:39 am

Posted in Daily life

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