In light of the Kevin Hart backlash. Or maybe the Joy Reed controversy. I do not refer here to the metaphysical roots of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I refer, rather, to all those Irish white guys in America, whose ancestors were used as target practice by Tammany Hall Toughs in 19th century New York, who are now just fine, and from this position above a repressed and exploited past, say really bone-headed things like “All Lives Matter, #!” They climbed the ladder, and the first thing they did was pull it up so the next group could not. And I refer to all the other ladder pullers out there. You know who you are. Or, maybe, you don’t, and that could be a problem.
Continue reading Can we talk about ladder pulling for a minute?
Suman Seth is associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, at Cornell. He is an historian of science, and studies medicine, race, and colonialism (and dabbles as well in quantum theory). In his new book, Difference and Disease: Medicine, Race, and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire, Seth takes on a fascinating subject that all of us who have worked in tropical regions but with a western (or northern) perspective have thought about, one way or another.
As Europeans, and Seth is concerned mainly with the British, explored and conquered, colonizing and creating the empire on which the sun could never set no matter how hard it tried, they got sick. They also observed other people getting sick. And, they encountered a wide range of physiological or biosocial phenomena that were unfamiliar and often linked (in real or in the head) to disease. A key cultural imperative of British Colonials as to racialize their explanations for things, including disease. The science available through the 18th and 19th century was inadequate to address questions that kept rising. Like, why did a Brit get sick on his first visit to a plantation in Jamaica, but on return a few years later, did not get as sick? If you have a model where people of different races have specific diseases and immunities in their very nature, how do you explain that sort of phenomenon? How might the widely held, or at least somewhat widely held, concept of polygenism, have explained things? This is an early version of the multi-regional hypothesis, but more extreme, in which god created each type of human independently where we find them, and we are all different species. (Agassiz, with his advanced but highly imperfect geological understanding, thought the earth was totally frozen over with each ice age, and repopulated with these polygenetic populations of not just humans, but all the organisms, after each thaw).
Seth weaves together considerations of slavery and abolition, colonialism, race, geography, gender, and illness. This is an academic book, but at the same time, something of a page turner. Anyone interested in disease, colonial history, and race, will want to re-excavate the British colonial world, looking at disease, illness, and racial thinking, with Suman Seth as your guide. I highly recommend this book.
In order to answer this question, we have to talk about Jim. Jim Crow.
The term “Jim Crow” can refer to the set of laws based on the claim that black people in America are inferior to whites, are to be kept from opportunity, and segregated. Lynching is an option. The law implements this philosophy by codifying segregation and repression.
But Jim Crow was also an actual person. Well, not really a person, but a character played by a person, prior to the Civil War, that war that ended slavery.
After that war, the law, society, and politics changed, giving free blacks, most of whom were former slaves, opportunity and meaningful freedom. This change was widespread, rapid, and dramatic. Suddenly, there were black elected officials, for example. Black kids went to schools with their elders, and African American literacy rates rose rapidly. African Americans voted and actively participated in the political process. African Americans began to accumulate some wealth, and to own land, and were free to use public accommodations.
But the Federal government dropped the ball and these changes were not supported or enforced, and the northern white establishment quickly gave sway to the southern racists. There was a rapid fire series of events often associated with mini battles involving police, troops, and angry townspeople, that pushed African Americans back down. In some counties or cities, even at the state level, there were two sets of ballot boxes during elections. The legal one where everyone could vote, and the whites only box. Generally, the white only ballots were the ones that were counted.
This is when the Jim Crow legal philosophy emerged. White America oversaw the dismantling of most of the post war advancements, using the Jim Crow laws.
Besides the Jim Crow laws, another part of that regression was the widespread construction of civil war monuments across the south, honoring southern generals, troops, etc. Also, monuments were erected to celebrate the white victories in the post Civil War battles mentioned above. These monuments were explicit acts of oppression of black Americans.
Those are the very same monuments that have been coming down lately in the south, the center of protests bringing white supremacists out of the woodwork, the great people on both sides, according to Trump. (See: Taking down New Orleans’ monuments: Not what you think)
So, where does the original Jim Crow fit in? Before the war, Jim Crow was a character played by actor Thomas Dartmouth Rice. He had started playing the role by 1832, probably with blackface from the beginning, but if not, black face was soon added. Jim Crow was an absurd, ignorant, negative depiction meant to denigrate African Americans, mostly in those days slaves. But the black face Jim Crow continued after the Civil War and became the basis for later ministerial shows. Those shows were also meant to denigrate blacks. Stepin Fetchit was a latter day version of this, played by African American actor Lincoln TMA Perry. Perry was the first African American actor to make it big, and he had a long career as a fully co-opted player in 20th century racist Hollywood. Being already black, he did not wear black face, but he played a role fully cognate with Jim Crow.
In fact, post modern revisionists have taken both the original racist Jim Crow image and Stepin Fetchit, made the link with colonial African tropes, to call it all an embodiment of the “trickster” archetype. That’s also racist, that revisionism.
Jim Crow was a very offensive and hurtful parody of black people. Jim Crow was an absurd character meant to entertain racist whites. Jim Crow is where black face began, back in the 1830s Blackface was never not racist.
Blackface Halloween costumes are blatantly racist. Blackface has always, always, been racist. Blackface has been a racist, denigrating, part of white society in America since the early 1830s, when Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice invented this horribly offensive persona. Blackface has never been anything but racist.
And everyone knows this, except Megan Kelly.
NBC, maybe you need to take out the trash. Hey, NBC, thanks for taking out the trash.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum just won his party’s endorsement to run in the general election for Florida’s Governor. He is a strong candidate, a progressive, and we all hope he wins.
He also happens to be African American, which would be a great thing for Florida.
I have two observations, though, that I want to point out.
1) If you google around for the names of candidates that are referred to by name as “Sanders-backed [name of candidate]” you will find pretty much none. Except for Gillum. He is the “Sanders-backed gillum.” His name, today in the news, appears most of the time with Sanders’ name attached to him. Its like he is owned by Sanders. He can’t be his own candidate. He has to be the northern white guy’s candidate.
2) Ron DeSantis, the Russo-Republican Trumpian candidate running against Mayor Gillum, made a horrid racist comment. In case you didn’t know, when an African American speaks in an articulate and intelligent matter, the racist thing to do is to call him articulate. (In the old days, add in “He’s a credit to his race,” but we don’t do that so much any more.) DeSantis did that. You probably know that referring to an African American as an ape, gorilla, or monkey, or making a vaguely indirect reference to such, is also racist. DeSantis did that too. From NBC News:
“You know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views and he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”
We are not surprised. But I thought you should know.
Carlson suggests that white supremacy, the philosophy, is nearly absent in America. This assertion proves that Carlson has no spine, since he touts the white supremacist line at every opportunity. Admit it Tucker, you are talking about yourself.
Media Matters has this covered:
The infamous policy book, The Bell Curve, relied on the false claim that people of African ancestry are of low IQ (and some other things). That was based directly on the work of J. Philippe Rushton and it is false.
The Bell Curve became, in the 1980s, the intellectualized version of pseud-scientifically based racism. The Bradley Foundation, which paid for the book’s publication and printing, made sure there was a copy of it on every politically relevant person’s shelf, from elected officials to potential candidates to staffers to faculty involved even marginally in politics or society.
When those of us who study pseudo-scientific racism and works such as the Bell Curve hear the phrase “Low IQ person” we know exactly what it means. It means a white supremacist is referring to a black person.
Here is Eugene Scott commenting on this phenomenon:
This just came across my desk. This is bad at any time, but with Jeff Sessons as Attorney General, it is worse; People are sort of on their own at the national level. This is about white supremacy, and American Airline’s policy, or lack of policy, or culture, or lack of training, supporting it.
NAACP ISSUES NATIONAL TRAVEL ADVISORY FOR AMERICAN AIRLINES
(October 24, 2017) – The NAACP, the nation’s original and largest social justice advocacy organization, has released the following statement today announcing a travel advisory warning African Americans about their safety and well being when patronizing American Airlines or traveling on American Airlines flights: Continue reading Flying While Black #BLM
The image above is the tweet that alerted many people to the new Dove ad in which, apparenly, black people can clean themselves up and become white people!
When I first saw this ad, I was flabbergasted and assumed I had it wrong. I assumed that I simply misunderstood the ad, or it was a parody, or something. This, I thought, could not be happening. Then, I finally settled into the fact that Dove managed to produce a deeply disturbing, racist ad.
But then, I learned Continue reading Is this racist? (New Dove ad)
Visiting Arkansas, hanging around briefly with some people in the Real Estate business, I found a lot of hatred of Mexicans, whom they unimaginatively referred to as “spics” but making it clear they were talking about Mexicans, not some other spics. Sitting with a group of people talking about racism in an urban neighborhood in near Minneapolis, I found zero mention of dislike between whites per se and blacks per se. But Poles and Tibetans, they were very much disliked by people who were mostly but not all white. Years ago I remember being shocked by a fellow anthropologist who expressed a hatred of Cubans. This hatred stemmed from the death of a friend, gunned down by a Cuban criminal, who was in the US because of Mariel, in the Milwaukee area, a significant ultimate destination for Cuban refugees at that time. Where I grew up, all the white people sorted out and looked down upon each other by closely defined European ethnicity, and all the white people feared and distrusted all the black people, and there was one Japanese guy. But, we knew about, were told about, Puerto Ricans. That was in upstate New York, and New York City had a lot of Puerto Ricans, to the extent that as a child I thought Puerto Rico was an island just a few miles off New York City (because I was told that, don’t know why). White New Yorkers historically disdain Puerto Ricans because people from Puerto Rico represent one of the largest Hispanic groups in that area, or at least, did for many decades, while certain people were growing up and doing business.
It is not true that racism is random, arbitrary, or non deterministic. It is not build in, it is not always the same. Racism emerges with a strong historical context and different racisms look different for discernible reasons. American racism is special in its own way, with its own history, not the same as other racism, and there is an interesting characteristic to it. Most everybody who is white dislikes, distrusts, or disdains, the people of color, mainly African Americans. Recent immigrants of any ethnicity or geographic origins are generally disdained. That is all expected. But, since The Americas are a complex web of mostly Hispanic cultures with diverse and sometimes very complicated histories (Who knew history was so complicated? Nobody knew!) that part of American racism tends to have very specific parameters. Arkansas landowners rent to Mexican migrants. Minnesota city dwellers have a long menu of immigrants from diverse places across Eurasia and Africa, and multiple New World countries. It is a good thing Minnesota has a good educational system, because racists here have to know a LOT just to know whom to disdain. My Anthro colleague was from the Milwaukee area, where anti-Cuban sentiment had festered. If you were not from a Mariel recipient area, or near the mysterious Puerto Rican Islands of New York Harbor, or a Landlord to the Mexicans, you might not know much, or care much, about those specific groups. In short, white anti-other feelings are not uniform or consistent, and vary with the place the particular white person grew up and the particular way history has shaped their hatred.
All this is a long way of saying that Donald Trump hates Puerto Ricans because he is a white dude from Queens of a certain age, who was involved in real estaate, and also most would say, a white supremacist. I’m not sure if the rest of the country, outside of New York, is quite seeing this or understanding it. A hurricane during a Trump administration could happen anywhere other than Puerto Rico, and Trump would respond less disdainfully and stupidly. A hurricane hitting Puerto Rico during the Trump administration is not so much of a disaster in Donald Trump’s eyes. It isn’t just that Trump likes other people better, or is getting Puerto Rico wrong. No. Trump is a pretty right wing privileged real-estate connected white guy from Queens. Dollars to donuts says he likes that a hurricane hit Puerto Rico. Keep that in mind while listening to what he says and watching his body language. It will all make sense, in a sick and demented sort of way, if you do.
A lot of people will object to the title of this post. I will be told to take the post down. I will be told to modify the title or to change what I say in the post.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is correct, and his presentation is brilliant. Watch the following interview (in two parts) and read his book We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.
Chris Hayes is correct to point out that the historical source of Coates title is critically important and deeply disturbing (this is something we’ve talked about here in the recent past). He is incorrect, as Coates points out near the end of the second segment, that there will be a future in which we debate the relative merits of the Trump vs the Obama presidency. I have no idea what possessed him to day that (I see Hayes slip into the false balance mode now and then when he’s tired, maybe that’s what he did there for just a moment).
On the book:
“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”
But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period—and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective—the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.
We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.
You’ll remember that Philando Castile was killed in cold blood by a St. Anthony cop, who was later acquitted with the defense that “he was a black guy, I wuz scared.”
A couple of days ago, tragically and sadly, a cop in a town near me was run over by a driver who was probably on drugs and drunk, who was told by the courts she was not allowed to drive because she is so dangerous but was driving anyway. That is very sad. That particular cop was said by others to be “one of the good ones” and I believe that. He had a boy Huxley’s age, in the same school system (but a different building). The memorial service for that officer was yesterday and today. Imma come back to that later.
Anyway, an on line fundraiser was started some time back to help feed the kids in the Saint Paul school district. Philando Castile worked in the cafeteria in one of the elementary schools there. The fundraiser, Pamela Fergus’s idea, was supposed to cover the costs of the school lunch debts for kids in Philando’s schol, which would have required something less than $5,000. Imma come back to that later.
So, anyway, today a guy was run over in Saint Paul by a drunk driver driving an SUV. Another guy was killed a couple of days ago in nearby Robbinsdale when a drunk driver ran his pickup into a building, killing the guy in side. Over the last year and a half, over an area with a radius of about 2 miles or less, three people were killed on roads near my house by drunk drivers, people who were either nowhere near the road, on a foot or bike path, or, as is the case of the police officer mentioned above, out with his police car removing an obstruction from the highway.
It is sad that all of those people died, including Philando who was killed for exactly one reason, that he was black. Including the three pedestrians who were committing the crime of walking down the street, and the one guy in the business who was just sitting there minding his own business, and the cop who was doing his job.
Two big things happened today. One of them is that several miles of road and several acres of parking were shut down, school buses delayed and rerouted, and traffic (somewhat, not much I think) messed up in order to have a huge memorial for the officer who was run over. Cops came from all over, it was a huge, huge deal.
The other big thing is that it was reported that the fundraiser for kids at Philando Castile’s school produced $64,400 instead of $5,000. So, that’s enough to cover all of the debts for all of the students in Saint Paul’s rather large school district.
I don’t have a problem with a big memorial for a cop that died in the line of duty. But I just want to point out that a huge memorial happened for one guy who was killed exactly the same way as a bunch of other people who didn’t get the memorial. It is almost like the cops are royalty, so when one of them dies there is a big procession and the streets are closed down and everybody has to salute and be sad. And since they are cops and can harass or kill people, you can’t really complain about it.
You might think I’m annoyed at the cop memorial and not annoyed at the Castile fundraider, but actually, I’m annoyed at the fundraiser as well. In Minnesota we feed the kids in our schools. Kids who are short of resources get the food for free or cheap, and if the bills are not paid nobody does anything. So, I think the fundraiser was a bit too specific. There are kids who are above the cutoff for free or reduced lunch that probably still can’t pay, but what the J.J.Hill school, where Philando worked needs, is probably some other stuff. Since the fundraiser is for lunch debt, now the extra money, it seems, will be spread across the school district, and is probably paying for something the school would have covered because they don’t have a choice. I’d love to see all the money go to just his school, for things school administrations are not already forced to cover but that kids need.
Oh, and another thing that is related to all of this in the usual sick and demented way. Today it was revealed that a security guard, a rent-a-cop, at a local Catholic college, admitted that he had lied. He claimed that he had been shot, and specifically, that he was shot by some black guy. Turns out he accidentally shot himself. This is the sort of thing that happens sometimes.
It is very rare that I find myself yelling at the TV when Rachel Maddow is on. She is very good at historically contextualized nuanced well informed analyses. But when I watched a segment of last night’s show (on the Internet, I have no cable) I was shocked to see that she missed something really important. If, that is, it is real.
In the segment below, she makes the point that there are two “clear through lines” in the whole Trump thing. One is the love of Russia and Putin by Trump, his unwavering stance that Russia and Putin can do no wrong. The other is the consistent “vehement antipathy towards immigrants”, clearly part of a white supremacists strategy, with respect to who has been appointed to various positions, the things Trump has said, and the policies attempted. The difference, Rachel notes, between these two separate through lines is the apparent novelty and strangeness of the Russia theme, while the racist trope has deep roots with Trump.
Here, I think, is what she missed: They are not two separate through lines. They are two faces of the same coin. The Russian oligarchs are white supremacists too.
This is underscored by the news that just came out that Russian entities had purchased ads on Facebook during the last election, described this way: “Most of the ads focused on pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.”
There are all sorts of reasons Russia wants to control the US presidency and state department. There seem to be some great economic benefits to Trump for selling the government to Putin, something we will be forced to assume happened if even a small number of the accusations emerging are true. But, there is also the potential of the two main actors and their associates having a common philosophy about race. This would not be the first time dictators or would be dictators bonded over such things.
I could be wrong. Am I wrong? I suppose time will tell.
In The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction, Charles Lane describes the events — several years of events including the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, though only briefly — that led up to the Colfax Massacre. What happened was incredibly complex and only a very detailed description can do justice. But, I’ll try to summarize it his way: A war was fought over slavery, and slave holders lost. A conflict then ensued between the new, victorious, anti-slavery government and the racist pigs of the Confederacy, who insisted on repressing blacks and, essentially, emulating slavery in any way possible. In Louisiana, some two thousand blacks were killed over a period of time, maybe more, between the Civil War and the Colfax Massacre, and another 150 on that day. The Colfax massacre was the largest single one-event racial killing event in the United States. The exact number killed is uncertain, but it is known that most of those killed had been captured by white supremacists who had formed an illegal militia. The prisoners were then summarily executed. Many, possibly most, of the bodies were tossed in the river.
This is how Democrats and Republicans used to do politics in the South. (Reminder: In those days, the Republicans were the good guys, the Democrats were the bad guys, and in Louisiana, of where we speak now, that is not an oversimplification.)
The Colfax Massacre has a lot more to it than that, and The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction gives those details, including the famous United States v. Cruikshank ruling by the Supreme Court. It occurred on April 13th 1873. But it is an event that ocurred a little while later, on September 14th, 1874, that I’d like to draw your attention to. It was known as the Battle of Liberty Place.
The back and forth between Democrats and White Supremacists on one hand and Republicans and Free Blacks on the other hand had involved military and paramilitary battles, individual homicides, massive voter intimidation efforts, and so on. The Colfax Massacre was a key point in that series of events. The Battle of Liberty Place was a continuation. Five thousand white supremacists, organized as the “White League” (a paramilitary group that was part of the Democratic Party) fought the New Orleans police and the state militia. Federal troops eventually showed up to end the fight. The battle was over who should be placed as governor. There was one election but there were two sets of vote counters, the white supremacists on one hand and those representing the Federal Government and the state on the other.
Unlike the Colfax event, only a few dozen were killed, and the deaths were more even on the two sides.
Years later, in 1891, a monument was erected at the site of the Battle of Liberty Place. It was erected at the time to commemorate the white supremacists and their attack on the Republicans and government, and to reify their position that the election had gone their way (it had most definitively not). Eventually, in 1932, an inscription was added to the marble obelisk, in line with the original meaning of this edifice. It read:
[Democrats] McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored).
United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.
That monument is one of the monuments that has been removed in New Orleans in recent days. It is a monument to the murderous repression of African Americans in Louisiana over decades of time following the loss by the Confederacy of the Civil War.
You hear talk about these monuments, about how they are Civil War monuments and how they commemorate the dead on both sides. This monument was clearly erected to celebrate an event that happened many years after the Civil War was over, and it was erected to commemorate a failed paramilitary insurgency by self described white supremacists.
Later, an interpretive marker was put up near the monument. This was in 1974. It read:
Although the “battle of Liberty Place” and this monument are important parts of the New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans.
That was nice to do that. But probably not enough. The monument was moved in 1993, to a warehouse, with the diea of eventually putting it in a museum. But the idea of putting giant monuments nobody knows what to do with in a museum is easier said than done. No museum in its right mind would accept such an artifact. So, it was placed in a new location, less central, still in New Orleans. At that time, the original inscription was replaced with this:
In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place … A conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.
Which, of course, is a bald face lie.
And that is the history of what would by 1860 become the Republican Party and the coalition of Democratic abolitionists and others in the North, on one hand, and the would be Confederates on the other, from the 1830s to the war itself. To a Democrat, compromise looked like making the other side do what you want and screaming bloody murder when that did not happen. To the Republican coalition, led eventually by Abraham Lincoln, compromise looked like agreeing to do much of what the opposition insisted you do, red-faced and clench-fisted, tantrum enthralled, and violent, and hope they don’t hit you. When the Republican coalition looked like it might gain sufficient power to lead the country out of absurd treasonous states rights and slavery, the south violently attacked the north and started the war. After the Union destroyed the South in a war the South would not allow to end until the maximum number of their own people, and a good number of Yankees, were dead on the battle field, the south continued to kick and scream and whine and fight and punch and shoot and kill.
This is a monument to that. And when the monument was being dismantled a few days ago, threats to shoot or lynch those removing the monument were made. Representative Karl Oliver (email@example.com) said this:
“The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, “leadership” of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”
The other monuments in question were of Jefferson Davis, General P.G.T. Beauregard, and Robert E. Lee.
Davis was, of course a war criminal for a number of reasons, not the least of which was Andersonville. Lee had nothing to do with New Orleans. Beauregard was a native of Louisiana but his involvement in the Civil War included that famous moment: Attacking Fort Sumter to begin the war. Otherwise, he fought in and around Virginia and the Carolinas, but never in Louisiana. After the war he got a job as the supervisor of the Louisiana Lottery. So, maybe they should have kept that one statue up. For good luck.