Tag Archives: Racism

One Person No Vote: Listen to Carol Anderson et al

My new favorite podcast is Now & Then, with Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman (formerly one of the “American History Guys”).

Several issues back, Richardson and Freeman invited Carol Anderson, author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy* to talk about voting suppression.

On this episode of Now & Then, “Voting Rights: The Big Picture,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman talk about the history of voter suppression with Carol Anderson, professor of African American Studies at Emory University and author of One Person No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy and The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. The trio discuss the concept of the “consent of the governed” during the founding period, the emergence of Jim Crow laws after the Civil War, and the evolution of voting suppression efforts in the modern era. How have politicians justified restrictive voting policies? How do these policies damage American democracy? And what strategies might protect the franchise today?

The podcast is here.

One of the great features of Now & Then is that the hosts spend a lot of time running up to the body of the work laying down foundations and drawing in context. Very Maddowesque. But for this reason the podcast can have a slow start. In this episode, it takes a while for Carol Anderson to get the mic and start her thing, but once she does you will be blow away, even if you thought you knew stuff about voter suppression (and voting rights, not the same thing).

No more black pastors

Did you hear that white supremacist on the defense team of the white supremacist posse-men who murdered Ahmaud Arbrey said?

Watch:

I have no comments on this, it is obvious how wrong this is. But, I have some memes based on the reaction of one of those present.

By the way if you look at the video, and watch the woman to our right (the one with the non-curly hair) you will see one of the best aborted face-palms ever.

See also:

What ya gonna do when they come for you?

In Ramsey County, Minnesota (home of Saint Paul) you can be jailed for up to 90 days, and fined up to $1,000, if you are found in a park after hours. “Hours” in Ramsey County parks are from sun up to sun down, so the hours change daily and in pragmatic terms, are subjective.

I can see having a rule about when you can be in the park, and fixing it to sunlight makes sense, and I can even see a modest punishment for offenders. But three months in jail because you thought the sun was still up 15 minutes after sundown? Note to those reading this from the equator: The sun continues to brighten the northern sky long after official sundown, since the penumbra is quite wide in high latitudes.

That was in the Star Tribune, the region’s newspaper of record. In the same issue is an op-ed penned by a local retired cop who has a new job of screaming at clouds. There was a horrific and tragic shootout at a local bar the other day, in which over a dozen innocent bystanders were shot, one killed. It was a shootout among some bad hombres including one with an open warrant. Old Guy Cop made the argument that if only cops were allowed to make “low level stops” (aka pretextual stops) then this shooting could have been avoided. The argument goes like this: Cops were formerly allowed to pull people over for things like busted taillights. In so doing they would also end up finding felons with outstanding warrants, so they were thus kept of the streets. But now with all the “defund the police” talk this isn’t the case anymore, thus the shooting. Continue reading What ya gonna do when they come for you?

American Racism, Confederate Trappings, And this, too, shall melt away

A pottery cone is a cone-shaped object made of a pyro-sensitive material (in the early days, some kind of clay) so when a pottery kiln reaches a certain temperature, the cone droops. Pottery kilns are made with a tiny window one can look through and if your eye doesn’t melt (don’t worry, there are provisions for this) you can see which of a series of different cones have melted, and thus estimate the temperature of the kiln. You then add fuel if necessary, and keep a record and an eye on the clock, and over time your pottery fires just right.

The pottery cone, reaching a certain level of heat and then falling over, is a metaphor for Confederate monuments in America. The perennial racism-fueled conflict between white supremacists and everyone else flows and moves, waxes and wanes, and always generates heat. Every now and then enough heat is generated, and some sort of civil meltdown occurs in relation to one of these statues. This has happened since the very first months after the Civil War. It has happened more frequently, it has been more widespread, and it has been accompanied by much greater heat, in recent years. So, the statues are drooping, in their own way, like the pottery cones.

The falling statues are the direct result of activism, but they are also metaphors in their own right. They are metaphors of a changing demographic. The racist and classist cancer that infects society in the United States is perpetuated mainly by less educated white men, and although it appears in other societal tissues to some degree, that is currently the main source of the disease. Progressive minded people have been engaged in an open conspiracy for decades now, consisting of two parts: 1) Educate more, and 2) make sure “education” remains education and does not become indoctrination (or it wont’ work). This conspiracy has been only modestly successful, so the number of metastasizing cells, as it were, has not diminished much via liberal education.

But racism is becoming unfashionable, and that is probably the best thing that could happen to it. What was once de riguer, or at least, not something one complains about, in all areas of white or white-ish society, is now widely recognized as bad. Active racists know this, and they revel in its badness, with the new war cry of “make the liberals cry.” The key difference between now and 50 years ago is this: Out of fashion, racism is not recruiting from the young as much as it could, and is withdrawing rapidly from many areas it once held sway. This means the source, less educated white men, are aging as a demographic.

Racism in America will ultimately be addressed by the death of most of the racists.

Most people will react to this idea with the following, or something like it: “But racism will always be there, because of the basic nature of human beings.” This is one of the great lies of racism, that racism is natural, inevitable, and therefore, possibly, normal and even good. This is the Naturalistic Fallacy being used to excuse or underwrite nefarious behavior. Don’t be fooled by that fallacy. Also, despite the fact that we find racism of one sort or another in many societies, you need to know that American racism is it’s own thing. Racism in modern America grows out of American history. American slavery, American immigration, American isolationism, the American frontier, and many other things American are either unique, or at least, very different in America than any other place or time, and the combination is utterly unique. It is not some sort of demented American exceptionalism to claim that running a physically large country (or set of closely interactive colonies) for centuries on the back of widespread slavery, so that most of the people in the slave regions were the slaves themselves, is unique. (The Caribbean of course is part of this story, but lets not give this discussion over to the professional historians until we hit the comment section below.)

To understand this better, consider just one aspect of racism against East Asian people in America. In the 19th century, Chinese people, usually imported workers, were viewed, literally and unabashedly, by most white Americans, as subhuman. There wasn’t even a little apology there. They were a form of monkey that could talk in a lot of white people’s minds. The legislation to keep them out, the norms and regulations that gave Chinese workers less protection than the mules that died along with them building railroads across the mountains, clearly document this, as do the depictions and writings of the time.

Today, a different belief about East Asians pervades American culture. While many of the White Supremacists may view East Asian people as subhuman (I don’t put much past them), today East Asians are more often viewed as superior (like how well the kids do in school), of a more effective or demanding culture (how the parents of those school kids keep things under control) of greater physical prowess (East Asian marshal arts have redefined American fighting) and more gentile and artistic (see all the Asian influence in all the arts) all at the same time. Now also consider the plight of the Irish, considered sub human (again, monkeys that can sort of talk), or the Italians (monkeys that can talk very loudly) or the Polish or other Eastern European groups, and so on and so forth. All of these groups went through a period of intense denigration, were the subject of attack and murder, and economic disenfranchisement. Until the weren’t. That all went away. We see almost no remnant in day to day life of any of that.

American Racism is centered on, and consists mainly of, disdain for African Americans, the descendants of kidnapped Africans bred as a slave population on which our economy was based, and from which our country grew strong. This core of American racism is different from the other, just mentioned, racist historical trends, let alone racism among humans in general.

Yes, American Racism is big, bad, ugly, utterly unique, and most importantly, American racism exists because of its own specific history. Anything that arises from context and history can be put down with new context and future, if that future is unfriendly to it. White supremacy reproduced itself generation after generation in America not because it is innate, but because it is very large and very strong, very convenient, money-making, and desired even by those not directly engaged in the most obvious forms of it.

But now, the cones are melting. The reasons racism is good are melting away. Racism against African Americans is no longer economically neutral or convenient for an increasingly large part of the white dominated business world. In fact it can be downright damaging. It is hard to find a city or state where a wink and a nod in favor of racism increases your vote count. Individuals with histories tied to the American racist model are politically doomed these days, but not in the old days, where the “old days” were five years ago or so. Prosecutors who rode the law-and-order wave of recent decades are increasingly inviable as candidates for executive office, because that “law and order” movement is what made Americans the most incarcerated population in the world, with a strong racial bias. An up and coming mover and shaker who wore blackface to his frat party is no longer seen as a mere doofus. The societal and cultural feedback loops have been breaking for some time, but in recent years, they are being systematically identified and ripped asunder. This is one of the key roles of the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” It is an ironic statement designed to pop the racist mole so it can be solidly, and with finality, whacked.

I am not suggesting that racism in America is suddenly over, or that it is going to become unimportant any time soon. Rather, I’m saying these three things. 1) Racism of the kind we see in America is not a mere reflection of human nature, and to see it as such is not only factually wrong, but defeatist; 2) while American racism is big and complex and should not be underestimated, if it was a disease, it would be best cured by cutting out that one element of society that keeps it going, less educated white men; and 3) we need to keep up the pressure, to stop them from recruiting or spreading their culture, over the next 30 years while most of them die off. Under current conditions, with Covid-19, the tendency of these very men to also disdain science may speed the process. We can talk about that after a 30 day period following the upcoming in-person Republican National Convention sans mask.

Of course, we speak here in statistical generalities. Lots of less educated white men are not contributing to this problem. But the demographic of less educated white men has a lot of ‘splainin to do.


“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, “And this too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

  • Abraham Lincoln

Racism and Related Books for Kids

New Kid by Jerry Craft.

Class Act by Jerry Craft.

I Am Not a Number by Dupuis, Kacer, and Newland.

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester.

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Celano, Green, Collins, and Hazzard.

That’s Not Fair! / ¡No Es Justo!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice/La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia (Spanish and English Edition) by Tafolla, Tenyuca, and Ybanez.

Sulwe by Nyong’o and Harrison.

Where Are You From? by Mendez.

Hat Tip: Sam Fredrickson, Birchview.

Can we talk about ladder pulling for a minute?

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?

Difference and Disease: Excellent new book on medicine and race in the 18th century British empire

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.

Is Blackface Ever Racist?

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.

Andrew Gillum Greg Laden's Blog

Gillum for Governor, and Racism Everywhere

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.

Send the guy ten bucks.

Donald Trump and the Bell Curve

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:

Flying While Black #BLM

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

Is this racist? (New Dove ad)

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)

Why Donald Trump Is Being So Bad To Puerto Rico

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.