Derrick Bell’s Parable Of Afrolantica

Introduction And Posts In This Series

Chapter 3 of Derrick Bell’s Faces At The Bottom Of The Well tells the parable of Afrolantica. Out in the Atlantic Ocean a new continent suddenly begins to emerge from the water 900 miles off the coast of South Carolina. Months later when it emerges from the boiling waters and steam that surrounded its birth, it is revealed as a land mass the size of the New England States, with mountains, forests, rivers, and meadows; with plants, animals, fish; and with a whole lot of gold and silver. Nations vie for control, but the US gets a head start and tries to put people there. They are immediately sickened by a strange heavy air pressure which they cannot breathe.

It turns out that only American Black people, and not even Black people from other nations, could breathe the air just fine. A group of Black explorers reported:

… they needed neither their space suits nor special breathing equipment. In fact, the party felt exhilarated and euphoric—feelings they explained upon their reluctant return … as unlike any alcohol- or drug-induced sensations of escape. Rather, it was an invigorating experience of heightened self-esteem, of liberation, of waking up. All four agreed that, while exploring what the media were now referring to as “Afrolantica,” they felt free.

Black people begin to think of Afrolantica as the Promised Land. One minister likened it to the story of the Israelites in the land of Egypt. The Israelites, emancipated from Egyptian slavery, wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Black people lived this for hundreds of years. He urged Black people to emigrate to this Promised Land.

The arguments began. Some Black people, Remainers, argued that life in the US wasn’t as bad as the Israelite had it in their 40 years. They said Black people of today were better off than their parents and grandparents. This is our land, they said, and we don’t want to leave.

A pro-emigration group introduced a bill in Congress to give each emigrant $20K to cover expenses and start-up costs, to be repaid if the emigrant returned within 10 years. Opponents attacked it as unconstitutional because it created a race-based benefit without showing a compelling state interest as a justification.

The Remainers argued that things were definitely getting better and it would be dumb to leave just as the dream of equality was in sight. The pro-emigration people, Leavers, pointed out that the dream always favored white people, and was always hedged for Black people.

Each side quoted historical authorities. Leavers cited Abraham Lincoln who backed resettlement of freed Blacks throughout his life. Remainers cited Frederick Douglas who asserted that Black people belonged in America as much as any other immigrant.

Non-Black Americans were troubled by these events. Some saw the new confidence and pride of Blacks as arrogance or “uppity”. Racists were furious. Others were merely envious. Conservatives feared the possibility of another Cuba, a rallying point for third-world peoples who might identify more with Afrolanticans than US capitalists backed by US military and political pressure. The US government worked to undermine the Leavers, seeing them as a threat to world stability. Agents of the government tried to find Black leaders or academics to back up their conspiracy theories about this invented plot, but none were willing to sign on, which was surprising.

Meanwhile, Black people organized to leave. Even Blacks who didn’t want to go supported this movement with money and services. That frightened many white people. Governments and corporations set up barriers. Visas were denied. Threats were made of loss of citizenship. The right to return even to visit relatives. Criminal charges and civil litigation followed.

Black people banded together to fight off these attacks. A large flotilla left on July 4, in search of Black Independence.

But. As they neared Afrolantica, the mists rose, and the island began to sink back into the Atlantic. They watched it disappear. They realized they were not feeling grief or despair, but a deep satisfaction in having accomplished so much together. They spoke of the words of Frederick Douglass:

“We are Americans. We are not aliens. We are a component part of the nation. We have no disposition to renounce our nationality.”

This spirit inspired a huge number of Black people to renewed efforts to achieve their place in their America.

Discussion

1. The image of the pressure Black people feel in America just trying to live their lives, and the freedom they felt in Afrolantica is striking. It’s reflected in the coverage of the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. The hearings featured the New Racist Stylings of the Republican Party. Ted Cruz brought in posters of a baby playing with blocks to illustrate something he didn’t like about Critical Race Theory, and asked Judge Jackson whether babies are racists. Elie Mystal explains what happened next:

Jackson started to answer. She said, “Senator.” And then she sighed. And then she paused. For a long time. As the silence filled the room, I felt like I could see Jackson make the same calculation nearly every Black person and ancestor has made at some point while living in the New World. It’s the calculation enslaved people made before trying to escape to freedom, or activists made before sitting down at the white lunch counter. But it’s also the calculation a woman makes before responding to the e-mail of the failson who was just promoted ahead of her, or the calculation I make when a white executive comments on my Twitter feed but not my published columns. It’s the calculation when black people try to decide: “Am I gonna risk it all for this?”

This is what Jeneé Osterheldt, writing for the Boston Globe, saw:

Black women are familiar with the weight of white supremacy even when it cloaks itself in a polite veneer.

The GOP repeatedly has said Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings are to be fair and respectful. They tell her how “intelligent” and “articulate” she is, affirming how proud Jackson should be as they look for ways to lay pressure on her in hopes of making her chin reach her neck in shame.

Black people in, say. Kenya don’t feel the pressure Mystal and Osterheldt describe, pressure not mentioned in other coverage. That’s just for American Black people.

2. As with any parable, we have to ignore the parts that don’t match up well with reality. (Do not get me started on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.) Bell ignores the practical difficulties of living in a land with no electricity or other form of power, the problems of capitalism generally and many others not central to his concerns. We should ignore them too if we want to learn anything useful.

Taking the parable at face value, we see one of Bell’s central concerns. He believes that racism is so deeply entrenched in US society that it can not be eradicated. Black people will only make progress by working together. As I noted in my introduction to this series, he believe that the effort has to be the goal, it has to be its own satisfaction and justification.

3. As with any good parable, there are layers of meaning, and different lessons for different people. We might ask White people how they would react to the situation. I’m not at all sure how I’d react.

My first thought was that it would be great for the people who wanted to go, and I’d be delighted to help. Then I thought that I’d feel terrible that so many Black people would want to go. I’d take it too personally, as them saying I have failed to treat them right, even if #NotAllWhitePeople. But that gets really complicated. It isn’t just my fault, and I don’t know what I personally could or should have done differently. How do we even allocate fault in the situations we are born into, and only escape with the help of others? Communities of every nationality and race in our country are dysfunctional. I would gladly support any plausible effort to fix them as best I can, but I have no ideas about what to do.

Maybe Bell is asking us to think about how we get people to work together to solve common problems. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen in a real Democracy?

Introduction and Index To Faces At The Bottom Of The Well

Derrick Bell was the father of Critical Race Theory. Here’s a helpful overview of his intellectual life by Jelani Cobb. Faces At The Bottom Of The Well is not a book about CRT. It’s a group of essays and short stories fleshing out Bell’s view that racism is so deeply ingrained in the fabric of the lives of white people that ending it is a hopeless project. [Not all white people.] This is the foundation for his work on CRT.

In the Preface he talks about the challenge of writing about racism without leading people to despair. It might be an explanation of his own difficulties in trying to understand and solve what he sees as an intractable problem. He cites Paulo Freire saying

Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of . . . [the individual]; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.

I confess that for me this kind of quote usually just flies by, sure, sure, move on. It’s that last part that got to me. This isn’t just encouragement for activists. It’s a justification for freedom, by which I mean the kinds of freedom described by Elizabeth Anderson, negative freedom, positive freedom and civic freedom. Bell, an intellectual academic with a long list of scholarly wprks, and a legal activist with a long record, says that he cannot be complete as a human being without freedom.

And it hit me that I can’t either. I’m an old straight well-off white man. I have this freedom, and it’s the foundation for my own sense of myself as a whole person. I know this because lately I’ve frequently felt that my freedom is under attack by a sickening cabal of right-wing and religious fanatics, many of whom are violent. Thinking about it makes me feel off-balance, ill-at-ease, slightly nauseous, to the point where I’m not always able to work at my own projects. I can’t imagine living a whole life like that, as Bell and every Black person in this country does.

Bell quotes Albert Camus for the proposition that we must keep going in the face of certain defeat. Bell’s quote reminds me of one of my formative books, The Myth Of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is condemned by Zeus to roll a rock up a mountain and watch it fall to the bottom again and again for all eternity. Camus ends his essay with this:

The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Bell quotes Franz Fanon and Martin Luther King for similar views. This should shame those smarmy Republicans who yammer about color blindness and vote to disenfranchise Black voters (but it won’t):

[King] said those adversaries expected him to harden into a grim and desperate man. But: “They fail, however, to perceive the sense of affirmation generated by the challenge of embracing struggle and surmounting obstacles.

It isn’t just intellectuals who feel this way. Bell tells of Mrs. Biona MacDonald, one of the people he worked with on a desegregation case in Harmony, MS, near the Mississippi Delta, back in the 1960s. He asked how she and the other organizers worked on despite

… intimidation that included blacks losing their jobs, the local banks trying to foreclose on the mortgages of those active in the civil rights movement, and shots fired through their windows late at night.

Mrs. MacDonald looked at me and said slowly, seriously, “I can’t speak for everyone, but as for me, I am an old woman. I lives to harass white folks.”

Bell tells us Mrs. MacDonald doesn’t think or even hope she and her colleagues will win. It’s her resistance that counts.

The nine chapters in this book each talk about racism and resistance. Most read like extended law school exam questions, where the way you discuss your answer is more important as the actual answer. This makes them excellent teaching vehicles, and this book is widely taught in colleges and law schools.

I’m going to start with Chapter 2. In Chapter 1, Bell explains why he doesn’t think laws are much help in fixing racism. It’s brutal read for this old lawyer who truly believed that a decent society would emerge if we just had good laws.

One of Bell’s gifts is his ability to make these issues personal, and not just for Black people. I’m still profoundly angry that the protests against the Viet Nam War failed. Hundreds of thousands died while US elites performed their dance of destruction and then ran away to riches with no shame, no accountability. I can’t say that my small participation in anti-war activities generates the feelings Bell describes, or reduces the anger.

It makes me think about the Black activists of my generation, the people of SNCC, the Black Panthers, the Selma marchers, the men and women at the lunch counters, the sanitation workers of Memphis, and others. I wonder how they feel contemplating their youthful hopes, their goals, their actions, and then remembering the physical beatings, the taunts, radists screaming at their kids, and the government and media attacks on them as people and as groups. Do they feel like Mrs. MacDonald, or Camus or King or Fanon or Bell say: proud that they acted? Did their actions make them whole, and give them strength to last a lifetime? I hope so.

CTDT: Critical Turkey Day Theory

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I’m once again up to my elbows in another Thanksgiving turkey, preparing  the annual feast. My two adult children are home to observe this holiday, bringing with them a new challenge: four dogs.

I swear this is payback for not letting them have pets when they were younger.

My canine guests range in size from a dainty 30 to a hefty 90 pounds and exhibit varying degrees of nervousness. Two of them are here because my eldest is dogsitting.

And one of these dogs suffers from ADD as does their owner.

I really need more than a continuous stream of alcohol to get through this day.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are all of us healthy, we’ve all been vaccinated and don’t need to wear masks or to ventilate the house. Three of us have had our boosters with the remainder to get theirs very soon.

Last Thanksgiving we looked for places to have an outdoor picnic in the cold halfway between my place and my kids’ places, because we didn’t want to risk being cooped up inside not knowing if any one of us had been exposed to COVID.

This holiday is better; we are living far more freely than last year.

For this we give our thanks.

~ ~ ~

Putting aside the pandemic, the complexion of this holiday has changed since I was in grade school back in the 1960s. The happy little turkeys we made from construction paper and hand prints are the only thing which might yet make sense now that the truth has stripped away the hoo-ha make-believe surrounding the mythic first Thanksgiving and the Mayflower’s Pilgrims of Plymouth.

We know now that the decimation of the indigenous people who were here long before the Mayflower arrived had already begun because of exposure to diseases brought by British fishermen; they’d also attempted to enslave members of tribes as they fished the east coast.

The epidemics which came with the whites killed nearly 90%% of native people who had no resistance to the Europeans’ diseases, leaving behind smaller numbers of tribal members who could not fend off violence by settlers after what we’ve been taught was the first Thanksgiving.

This holiday has been a fallacious celebration of peace and harmony between immigrant whites and the native peoples; in truth it marks the beginning of massive genocide. What we were taught as children was that this land was nearly virgin, ready for the taking, when in fact it had been populated by millions belonging to many nations but cleared by disease and the savagery of Christianity’s “soldiers” who claimed dominion here as part of their god’s promise to them.

The eventual American colonies were born of disease and deaths of the previous occupants of land that wasn’t truly up for grabs.

Decolonizing this holiday requires seeing this truth beneath the happy little cut-out turkeys and remembering what has been sacrificed and lost before this day.

~ ~ ~

Walking a foot in both worlds — a descendent of European settlers on one side of the family and a member of a vanquished indigenous people nearly wiped out by disease and whites’ oppression — can be a bit challenging.

The in-laws who are all of European descent do not want to hear the truth, that they live on what is occupied land hornswoggled one way or another from Native Americans. “Oh, but there were treaties, this is ceded land,” they’ll argue. How quaint — as if the remaining 10% of the people who once lived here had the power to confront and force off settlers who came bearing even more disease and firearms.

The truth is bitten back, just as it must have been hundreds of years ago when indigenous Wampanoag first met the Pilgrims, stressed and needy after their long voyage as they attempted to settle into their new home on others’ land.

It’s a tradition which is changing, but not all at once. Many other uncomfortable truths will still be held back this day; we ignore the in-law who’s a pig-ignorant anti-vaxxer, and the other who’s an unrelenting gullible Trumpist who eats up all bat shit garbage they are fed by Facebook. There’s no reasoning with them.

In spite of them we make an effort to depart from a white-centric observation; this day will be spent celebrating the health and companionship of those who survived the last year because they cared for their fellow humans and themselves, thinking of the generosity of the Wampanoag back in 1621.

We’ll remember genocide both passive and active took a vast wealth of humans who lived on this soil, entire nations and their ways gone with them.

We’ll support Native American by choosing an indigenous-owned business or Native American artist when we shop for holiday gifts, or make a donation to support Native American news outlets.

We’ll talk about the nations on whose lands we live (do you know whose land you’re on?), and discuss the foods which would have been eaten by these same nations.

There’s more we can do but this is a start toward decentering the white settlers in American history and recognizing the history of this country hasn’t been as glossy and perky as packaged by those uncomfortable with the truth.

~ ~ ~

The observation of thanksgiving as an autumnal or harvest festival was hit or miss and highly local in this country’s early years. It was formalized as a national holiday after Sarah J. Hale lobbied then-President Lincoln for a “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.”

Lincoln consented and issued this proclamation:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

It is this we’ll celebrate today: leaving behind a falsely-constructed image of the past, remembering where these bounties came from, aspiring to heal this nation’s wounds, the restoration of its health, and enjoyment of domestic tranquility as we continue to seek a more perfect Union.

Thanks to you all for sharing this holiday with us, and every day as community members at emptywheel.

Now let’s see if this household can get through a turkey dinner without any one of these four energetic canines helping themselves to our feast.

Three Things: No, No, and Hell to the NO, NYT

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

They can’t stop the bullshit. It’s in The New York Times’ DNA. Why should we trust their newsroom when the editorial page is full of crap created from distorted news?

I hope the better op-ed writers have backup plans because at some point they have to ask themselves why they want to be associated with idiots for neighbors…

~ ~ ~

Two words probably tell you most of the problem without elaboration: Maureen Dowd.


Look, when a white person uses the word “woke” as a pejorative adjective you should walk away because they are fucking racist.

It’s that simple.

Which means you should walk away from BOTH MoDo and the person she allowed to vent their racist spleen, James Carville. The latter who once was a respected Democratic political consultant when Clintonian third-way ideology and its emergent neoliberalism walked the earth, needs to retire his big fat trap because the 1990s have been over for more than two decades. He clearly has no grasp of racism’s toll on Black Americans including the constant erasure of their oppression, even though Black women in particular are the most reliable Democratic voters. (Not to mention the average Millennial and Gen Z Democrat would have a difficult time recognizing the old coot.)

Read this article by Aja Romano at Vox on the history and use of “woke.” This exhortative word of caution and awareness has belonged to the Black community, and bled into progressive activists’ use because of the overlap between Black activists and progressives.

Like the word “liberal” and the framework of critical race theory (CRT), the right-wing has now seized “woke” to poison it and make it toxic, to discourage its wider exhortative use to beware racism’s threats and racists.

When it’s used by whites who are neither Black and/or progressive, who are not activists advocating for their intersectional human rights, it’s amplification of the same poisonous effect and the same underlying racism.

Oh look, it’s that tool Bret Stephens doing his duty once again for the right-wing, this time bolstering the promulgation of racism by the rest of NYT’s editorial page combined with bashing intersectional anti-racist progressivism.

Just walk away from these asses.

~ ~ ~

Contrast and compare: here’s the opinion editorials at the Los Angeles Times on November 10 and today.

And the Washington Post from today.

While there are the spot annoying bad actors like Marc Thiessen at WaPo helping push the toxification of CRT, there’s a better mix of opinions not intent on poisoning left of center ideology compared to NYT which has persistently offered a home to crap like Maureen Dowd’s closeted racism and Bret Stephen’s more overt racism.

[Disclosure: I have subscriptions to WaPo and LAT — guess why.]

~ ~ ~

And then the news page…perhaps it didn’t make it into an NYT article, but this tweet by Maggie Haberman which has now been deleted displays a weakness for amplification of right-wing crap without validating it first. Thank goodness this garbage didn’t make it into a news piece (that we know of so far).

I wish I’d taken a screen shot of the original tweet when I first saw it, before it was deleted. It’s only available now in the Internet Archive and without the link to the original crappy story she had retweeted with comment — an article at New York Daily News which made a false claim about Black Lives Matter activists without checking first to see if the sources they relied upon were in anyway associated with BLM.

Haberman made a claim in this reweet-with-quote without first verifying who Hawk Newsome is, assuming NYDN did their work.

Uh, no; it’s as if Haberman never heard the old journalists’ aphorism, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Worse, it’s as if Haberman would accept Trump’s word and stick with it long after he was disproven. Newsome is NOT affiliated with BLM and cannot speak for them; BLM had to issue a statement about this a year ago June when Trump used Newsome as a mouthpiece.

If you are white and a journalist, unless you have been very close to BLM and covering it regularly as part of your beat, DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about the movement’s members; validate your sources’ relationship and authority for authenticity and accuracy.

Jesus Christ, it’s a well-known Russian active measure to use racism in this country as a wedge to increase political tension, with BLM in particular a target of their efforts.

Unless, of course, you enjoy being used by foreign influence ops as a useful idiot and don’t mind further trashing your credibility.

~ ~ ~

Institutionalized systemic racism doesn’t always look as obvious and egregious as it does in the Rittenhouse trial. Sometimes it just looks like laziness by journalists and contributors who are privileged by their circumstances. And sometimes it looks like readers who can’t be arsed to recognize and call out that racism based in easy material which satisfies a majority white audience.

Bullshit Brigade: State and Local Election Day Edition [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. Update(s) will appear at bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

It’s election day across the country with lots of local and state elections still underway. The race receiving the most national attention is Virginia’s gubernatorial race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin.

A lot of people are getting themselves worked up right now over what recent polling suggested would be a tight race. I can’t and won’t look; I don’t need more anxiety over the continued Trump effect on governance. Vote count may not be settled tonight if the race is very tight — take a deep breath and look away for a while.

Here, have some fresh bullshit to occupy your wattage.

~ 3 ~

We need deprogramming so badly in this country when hundreds of people are readily motivated by conspiracy theories to show up and participate in pop-up events over a couple days.

Especially events which are based on the belief a person dead for more than two decades will appear.

These people actually believe John-John is walking the earth and will run as Trump’s VP in 2024. There’s even a real person who they believe is JFK Jr.; I don’t know why the Kennedy family hasn’t sued this person already to prevent any grifting done in their deceased family member’s name.

These folks are completely out of touch with reality. What can they be made to do with a gentle nudge to their wacky irrational beliefs?

~ 2 ~

It’s not just the Average Josephine showing up on location to see the second coming of a dead Kennedy scion. It’s members of the media who’ve been permitted into White House pressers tweeting conspiracy theories without any skepticism whatsoever.

Newsmax’s Emerald Robinson shouldn’t be granted a press pass to federal offices anywhere because she’s got serious issues. This tweet, which was removed as it violated Twitter’s terms of service related to misleading health information, reveals a stunning lack of journalistic acumen. She regurgitated nonsense which had been debunked six months ago without any effort on her part to check it for credibility.

~ 1 ~

“Critical Race Theory” = dogwhistle to white nationalists who won’t admit on camera they are racist fucks who vote for racist fucks.

Critical race theory isn’t being taught in K-12 public education. At best depending on the state and school district, K-12 students may hear that enslavement of humans is bad and the root cause of the American Civil War. On the worst end of the K-12 education spectrum students may hear bullshit claims that enslaved people were happy being treated like animals without agency and autonomy.

The only people widely teaching critical race theory outside universities are the GOP and talking heads who support them. Instead of explaining to the public the true history of enslaved people in America and the economic impact of slavery as taught in university-level coursework, they tell the public CRT is inverse racism.

As if long-oppressed minority groups have the ability to teach inverse racism when racism by a dominant white class is their lived experience. Rejecting white’s racism while teaching factual history is merely the continuation of America’s decolonization.

Sadly, that brings us back to the race in Virginia, where the nasty old closeted white supremacist above who can’t and won’t explain CRT has voted for the racist GOP gubernatorial candidate.

A racist gubernatorial candidate who may have won his seat as of 8:25 p.m. EDT while I was writing the last of this post, damn it.

~ 0 ~

Here’s the final piece of bullshit I want to call out RTFN: Do NOT blame progressives for McAuliffe’s loss. Progressives have been busy trying to get Biden’s agenda passed. They are NOT to blame for the piss-ignorant intransigence of West Virginia’s corrupt Joe Manchin and Arizona’s kawaii con artist Kyrsten Sinema.

Old machine Democrats need to look long and hard in the mirror — this includes McAuliffe who went on national TV this weekend instead of pounding the pavement and knocking on doors during that time slot. Hell, why didn’t he attend a Black church in a key district instead of going on that useless Press the Meat with GOP’s buddy Chuck Todd? So many stupid mistakes like that, running a race like it’s 2006.

What other bullshit did you see today which might need deprogramming? Do tell.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 02-NOV-2021 11:50 PM —

Here’s some not-bullshit, a palate cleanser:

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu won the mayor’s race in Boston. She’s the first Asian American mayor for the city; she’s also a progressive Democrat who is tight with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Hamilton County clerk of courts Aftab Pureval won the mayor’s race in Cincinnati, becoming the city’s first Asian American mayor. He defeated an older centrist Democrat David Mann to win.

Michigan state house representative (MI-15) Abdullah Hammoud won the Dearborn mayor’s race, becoming the first Lebanese American in the city with the largest Lebanese American population in the U.S.; Hammoud is Arab and Muslim.

Former Obama senate intern Justin Bibb won the Cleveland mayor’s race, replacing term-limited Frank Jackson. Both are Democrats; Bibb is the first new mayor since 2005 and at 34 the second youngest mayor ever.

All four of these new mayors are persons of color and more progressive than the incumbent and opposing candidates. All of these races make the case it’s not progressives who lost the VA governorship.

But wait, there’s more:

Former chief deputy attorney general of New York Alvin Bragg has won the race for Manhattan District Attorney, becoming Manhattan’s first Black DA. He will inherit the Trump org-related investigations and prosecutions from Cy Vance.

I may need a celebratory nightcap for that one! As it’s after midnight here and many votes are still being counted in races west of here, I’ll check back in the morning.

Ending American Erasure

[NB: Byline check, thanks. /~Rayne]

In my personal library I have a copy of my textbook from American Government, a mandatory class when I was in high school in Michigan from 1974-1978. Most students took this class in their senior year as it was understood they needed familiarity with government before they voted for the first time, usually within a year of becoming seniors.

Covered about week three of the school year, the subjects of immigration and citizenship followed an overview of basic forms of government, the American republican system of democracy, and the Constitution.

It was the first time in my life that coursework directly addressed any topic related to my family’s origins – specifically my father’s Chinese heritage.

This is it, all of it from that class, in three paragraphs, one of which is a footnote.

The text, Page 83:

Oriental and Personal Exclusion Policies. Congress placed the first major restrictions on immigration with the passage of the Chines Exclusion Act in 1882.[3] At the same time it barred the entry of convicts, lunatics, paupers, and others likely to become public charges. Over the next several years a long list of “undesirables” was composed; for example, contract laborers were excluded in 1885, immoral persons and anarchists in 1903, and illiterates in 1917.[4] By 1920 more than thirty groups were listed as ineligible on grounds of personal characteristics.

Footnote:

[3] The law was intended to stem the flow of “coolie labor” to the Pacific Coast; the Chinese could and did work for far less than white laborers, especially in the mines and on the railroads. By 1924 all Orientals had been excluded except for temporary visits. The policy was relaxed somewhat during World War II when provision was made for the admission of limited numbers of Chinese, Filipinos, and natives of India. Since 1952, immigration from each independent country in the Far East has been regulated by the quota system.

Page 89:

Just how broad the 14th Amendment’s statement of jus soli is can be seen from one of the leading cases in the law of citizenship, United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898). Wong Kim Ark had been born in the United States to parents who were citizens of China. After an extended visit to China, he was refused entry to the United States by immigration officials at San Francisco. They insisted the 14th Amendment should not be applied so literally as to mean that he was a citizen. They held that as an alien he was prohibited from entry by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that under the clear words of the 14th Amendment Wong Kim Ark was, indeed, a native-born citizen and that the Chinese Exclusion Act could not be applied to him.

Because he and his immediate family members left no documents like journals, a total of 318 words in Magruder’s American Government, fifth edition circa 1971, are all I have to understand why my great-grandfather ended up staying in Hawaii rather than coming to the U.S. mainland.

There was nothing in the textbook about other laws affecting immigration and citizenship of Chinese coming to the U.S. – nothing about:

Anti-Coolie Act of 1862
Naturalization Act of 1870
Page Act of 1875
In re Ah Yup 1878
Angell Treaty of 1880 and 1892
Geary Act 1902
In re Hong Yen Chang 1890
In re Knight 1909
Immigration Act of 1924, which included the Asian Exclusion Act
Lum v. Rice 1927

Nothing at all about state and local restrictions affecting Chinese immigrants like:

CA Foreign Miner’s Tax Law 1852
CA law barring “Chinese or Mongolian races” 1858
Pigtail Ordinance of San Francisco
Alien land laws across multiple states

And while there was a generalized discussion of the Naturalization Act of 1790 affecting naturalization of “free white person[s] … of good character,” there’s nothing about its affect on Chinese who weren’t considered white.

As recently as 2018 (!) an alien land law remained in effect in the state of Florida which denied Asian farmers the right of land ownership; the law was finally overturned by voters that year though they had rejected its repeal in 2008.

All of this is particularly galling knowing that over the course of the project, the Transcontinental Railroad was built with the labor of as many as 20,000 Chinese immigrants – enough men to populate a small city. In my American History class the achievement in which the west and east railroads were joined was covered with little more than a passing nod.

Just look at this famous photo taken at the celebration of the railroad’s completion:

Chinese immigrants made up as much as 90% of Central Pacific Railroad’s workforce. How many Chinese faces do you see in that photo? The Chinese paid dearly, hundreds having died from the dangerous work and conditions, paid far less than whites on the same job, only to be literally erased.

It’s also particular painful over the last couple of weeks observing the anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in which Black Wall Street residents were murdered, knowing that there have been multiple massacres in American history of Chinese Americans which have gone unobserved. Granted, there have been more massacres of Black Americans throughout American history like the 1920 Ocoee massacre, but like the thousands of railroad workers the Chinese victims of white rage since the 1800s received a dearth of recognition.

How many U.S. textbooks contained references to these violent assaults on Chinese American communities during which whites drove out residents after attacking and sometimes killing Chinese Americans:

Los Angeles Chinese Massacre 1871
33 California attacks 1880s
Rock Springs Massacre 1885
Attack on Squak Valley 1885
Tacoma riot 1885
Miscellaneous mob violence in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon 1885-1886
Seattle riot 1886
Hells Canyon massacre 1887
Pacific Coast Race Riots 1907
Bellingham riots 1907

Likely none. Perhaps it’s just as well my great-grandfather never made it to the mainland, becoming an American citizen after the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 and granted Hawaii’s citizens U.S. citizenship in the process of establishing the Hawaii as a territory.

It’s funny Donald Trump forgot this bit of history each time he denied Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship, yet more deliberate erasure. Each time I heard about Trump’s birtherism I wondered if my family’s citizenship was likewise being called into question for being both brown and born in Hawaii.

~ ~ ~

All of this is to say that the rabid state-level attempts to excise teaching the truth of America’s history is another racist effort to police brown people and erase them while continuing to siphon their value (i.e., keep working and contributing to Social Security and taxes, but die early from the same kind of racist neglect extended to Americans of color through the nation’s history.)

Hello again, colonialism, this time occupying not only brown bodies but the public’s mind, whitewashing the past.

I won’t use the phrase which was honestly and earnestly applied to the body of knowledge which teaches all of America’s history, including its pre-nation origins. I respect the persons behind it, but the phrase or label has become toxic, deliberately made so by a counter movement intended to invoke a reflexive negative reaction in a particular audience.

That I will call out for what it is: it’s white supremacy and nationalism with oligarchic sponsors, attempting to sanitize its wretchedness and avoid disclosure of its ongoing toxic effect on this country by insisting the history of Black Americans is removed from classrooms.

It’s naked racism, fighting against a near-term future in which half or more of the U.S. is not white, in which people like me and my family are a part of a new majority.

It’s a raw struggle for continued domination over the narrative through which they cling to power – the falsehood that America is ever-innocent and eternally white, that its emergence over the last 402 years didn’t depend on the physical, economic, and political subjugation of non-white humans and their nations, even now on a rolling basis.

It’s desperate denialism which cannot accept this country began as multiple layers of theft, constructing an illusion of a vast and empty space waiting for European whites to fill it, suppressing the truth that forced labor by brown people helped turn this space once occupied by indigenous brown people into the precursor entity which became the largest economy in the world.

Fuck all of that. Fuck the erasure which denies people of color have been an intrinsic part of this country’s emergence and too often under violence.

~ ~ ~

No country is perfect. Absolutely none; it’s the story of humanity. A good many countries are now or have been occupiers or occupied over the history of mankind. Changes in boundaries and country names through human history often came with atrocities. There are some truly awful histories like that of the former Belgian Congo and the more recent Cambodia under Khmer Rouge, South Africa’s apartheid past, and now the horrors of the Israel-Palestine conflict and China’s carceral Xinjiang province.

In this the U.S. is not alone. It’s simply a younger country than the United Kingdom whose English forebears injected their brand of slavery into this nation’s history by bringing enslaved people of Ndongo ashore into what is now the state of Virginia.

The same nation later “discovered” Hawaii, encouraging the first wave of colonists and their European diseases which over the next hundred-plus years would wipe out roughly 80-85% of Hawaiians.

This is in part why Hawaii became a territory and is now our fiftieth state. There were too few Hawaiians left to mount a vigorous rejection of colonialism, to defend against the seizure of its monarch. Magruder’s American Government gave even less text to the process by which Hawaiians’ sovereign was deposed and its government replaced as American sugar plantation owners desired, in order to reduce taxes on their products.

I can’t recall exactly how much my American History text expended on Hawaii but I doubt it was little more than a page.

In spite of the wrongs done by Britain and then the U.S. to the small sovereign Pacific nation, it is a bulwark of islands guarding the remote mainland, its residents ready to defend their nation as they were in 1941.

The women in this U.S. Navy photo who were training to fight fires in Pearl Harbor naval shipyard aren’t all white. They are like me and my family – mixed race, some Hawaiian, some Chinese. There were more who were Filipino and Japanese. Let’s not forget war hero and former senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, also of Japanese heritage who served his country in WWII with distinction along with other tens of thousands of other Japanese Americans even as 120,000 more civilian Japanese Americans were interned.

These Americans didn’t withdraw and withhold their efforts because the nation which claimed their island as territory was at that time majority white. They signed up to serve the military as did many other local residents who likewise weren’t all white.

Like so many other non-white Americans — Black American descendants of slaves and later immigrants from African nations, Vietnamese and Latin American immigrants, Native Americans who were here all along, so many more — they are part of our complete history and are entitled to be remembered and taught in classrooms.

Any and all of these groups are worth more than three paragraphs. All America deserves a richer, more complete picture of itself. Their story is our story; it shouldn’t be muted, silenced, erased.

Accept the truth: this is what America looks like at its best, warts and all.

Racism and Russia: The Topics Brian Murphy Claims He Was Ordered to Lie About

Yesterday, Adam Schiff released the whistleblower complaint of Brian Murphy, who was recently demoted from his job in Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis because — he claims — he refused to make lie about what the intelligence showed to match President Trump’s preferred policy objectives.

The whole complaint is worth reading, and Murphy has been subpoenaed for a classified deposition on September 21, after which we may learn more about his complaints.

But I think it’s useful to pull out the topics about which he claims he or others lied:

  • To support President Trump’s claims to need a border wall, Murphy alleges, Kirstjen Nielsen substituted the number of “special interest aliens” — migrants from countries where there is significant terrorism, but against whom the US government has no reason to believe is tied to terrorism — for the number of “known and suspected terrorists,” effectively turning every person from a terrorism-affected country (presumably, with the exception of Saudi Arabia) into a terrorist.
  • Murphy also alleges that Nielsen substituted the number of KSTs who had ever applied for a visa or crossed a US border at any point, 3,755, for the number, 3, who had come across the southern border.
  • Murphy alleges that Ken Cuccinelli demanded that intelligence reports misreport the conditions of corruption, violence, and poor economic conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador (it’s not clear from the complaint whether Cuccinelli wanted I&A to downplay or exaggerate those conditions, but logically he probably wanted them to downplay the conditions that might support asylum claims).
  • Trump allegedly threatened to fire Murphy’s boss, David Glawe, after he refused to bow to pressure from Republicans on the House Committee for Homeland Security to deny Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • On more 11 occasions spanning from March 2018 to May 2020, Murphy says he provided analysis about Russian influence, which led to several orders from his superiors either to downplay Russian interference or focus instead on Iranian and Chinese attempts to influence our elections.
  • In March 2020, DHS limited distribution of the Homeland Threat Analysis because of what it said about White Supremacy and Russian influence in the US; in May and June, 2020, Cuccinelli allegedly told Murphy to downplay the threat of White Supremacist terrorism and include claims about left wing terrorism. Ultimately, the document was released with sections on Antifa and anarchist groups that had not originally been there.
  • Between the end of May and July 31, 2020 (the day before Murphy was demoted), Murphy claims Cuccinelli and Chad Wolf ordered him to include claims about Antifa and anarchist groups in reports on Antifa that matched what Trump had already said publicly.

In short, Murphy claims he was ordered to lie about:

  • Both the reasons people migrate to the US and the degree to which migrants across the Southern border include possible terrorists
  • Russian interference and disinformation, past and present
  • The actual and relative danger of right wing terrorists and Antifa

These topics are important not just because they crystalize Trump’s ideology — racism and Russia — but also because people throughout government (most notably and dangerously the Attorney General) are lying about the same topics. Trump spends a lot of time gaslighting about these topics and trying to reassure suburban moms that he’s not a racist sponsored by Russia. But the bureaucratic abuses committed to back Trump’s lies make it clear what his ideology is and where his loyalties lie.

Not the Right Kind of Monster, Says the Racist [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! Updates at bottom of post. / ~Rayne]

It was just a matter of time before Republicans honed their eye teeth and sharpened their claws, coalescing around a single line of attack after Joe Biden announced he’d selected Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Harris is a dirty radical leftist! Harris is an Obama centrist! they snarled across social media, grasping at any point to prove to Democratic Party voters that Harris isn’t their kind of candidate.

Harris will defund the police! Harris is a cop! they growled in more posts and tweets from the right and their horseshoe left proxies, whipping up vortices of volatility in messaging about Harris’s identity.

But Newsweek solved that yesterday by publishing this piece of racist bullshit to which I won’t link:

Not only is this racist ogre’s argument wrong, the contributor was a former candidate who lost the Republican primary for California Attorney General in 2010 when Kamala Harris won.

Newsweek failed to point out this conflict of interest upfront; in for a penny, in for a pound, though, as Newsweek had already failed to spike the piece.

Early this morning Newsweek’s editor offers an explanation and it is just as bad as Eastman’s:

Newsweek’s editors claim it wasn’t birtherism (racism focusing on a candidate’s birth place), but a 14th Amendment issue (racism focusing on a candidate’s parents’ birth place).

It’s still racism. There’s no excuse for running Eastman’s racist op-ed. Period.

It’s bad when right-leaning Axios says the op-ed is baseless and hypocritical since Eastman didn’t have any problem with Ted Cruz’s candidacy in 2016.

Justin Fox at Bloomberg Opinion definitively takes apart Eastman’s monstrous argument in case there’s any doubt, replete with excerpts about the drafting of the 14th Amendment. This is what Newsweek should have sought before approving Eastman’s racist crap.

~ ~ ~

Eastman likely picked up his cue from USAToday’s fact-checking article addressing an earlier Facebook entry which cast doubt about Harris’s eligibility (not linking to the entry):

USAToday said they reached out to this Facebook poster. They never mention whether they had any luck making contact.

I doubt they could.

The poster’s last name, Sciuridae, means squirrel in Latin; the last name doesn’t match the username in the Facebook URL for the post, aseckora. The post looks — well, squirrelly.

The post’s timing doesn’t make sense — it’s dated August 2 when Biden didn’t announce his running mate until Tuesday August 11.

While USAToday did a thorough job shooting down the Facebook post’s false claims, it doesn’t look good that it didn’t resolve the source of the claims.

Whatever triggered Newsweek’s unacceptable choices isn’t rational. A once-respected news organization has now become cursed by its terminal adherence to bothsides-ism, giving a platform to racism.

~ ~ ~

In the manga work, “Death Note,” by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the character L Lawliet describes the targets of his detective work:

“… There are many types of monsters that scare me: Monsters who cause trouble without showing themselves, monsters who abduct children, monsters who devour dreams, monsters who suck blood… and then, monsters who tell nothing but lies. Lying monsters are a real nuisance: They are much more cunning than others. They pose as humans even though they have no understanding of the human heart; they eat even though they’ve never experienced hunger; they study even though they have no interest in academics; they seek friendship even though they do not know how to love. …”

While their adored tangerine-tinted president abducts children from the parents and cages them, sucks resources from taxpayers’ government services, lies about the spread of pandemic and the reasons why Americans are dying, the right-wing will argue again and again that Harris is some kind of monster. These arguments will be propelled even further by their trollish minions to flood the zone.

They’ll ignore the logical inconsistency of their claim Harris is not eligible as an immigrants’ child though their fearless and feckless leader is an immigrant’s child, too, and the grandson of a then-Canadian brothel owner to boot.

We can see the challenge isn’t immigrant parentage. We can see their problem.

The real problem for the right-wing isn’t that Harris is some kind of dread bugaboo or a feared bugbear.

It’s that Harris isn’t one of their kind.

She’ll never be qualified to be a white supremacist monster.

.
UPDATE-1 — 6:45 P.M. ET —

The monster in the White House just referred to Eastman’s piece-of-shit racist op-ed.

This is why this argument must be repudiated strongly. Average Americans have taken this man’s word on face value too often — like the man who poisoned himself with HCQ or the people who sickened themselves drinking disinfectant after Trump promoted both as means to treat COVID-19.

These same people will accept on faith this racist’s racist lawyer’s bad opinion because he said it from the presidential podium.

.
UPDATE-2 — 8:00 P.M. ET —

This observation is key:

It’s on Newsweek for platforming Eastman’s racist bullshit, validating it as equal to any counter argument.

It’s on other entities like USAToday which fact checked another birther’s claims but did not call it out forcefully as racism. The words race, racist, racism never appear in their article.

As I’ve said before: Get comfortable with calling out racism. I’m talking to you white people. Recognize, call it out, shame it.

The reason why Trump had any chance of winning in 2016 and again in 2020 is racism. Until you, white people, make it socially, morally, ethically unacceptable to be racist, Trump and his kind of monster will continue to acquire and hold power.

It’s not enough to just nod your head. Silence is approval. Silence is complicity. You must be anti-racist if you want the monsters dead.

Newsweek was overtly racist by publishing Eastman’s racist screed.

USAToday piece is what happens when white people just nod their heads and don’t openly acknowledge racism at work.

Which media outlets recognized the next generation birtherism as racism?

Ceci N’est Pas La Violence: The Treachery of Chad Wolf

I’ve had this image stuck in my head since the non-lawyer, movie-villainesque Secretary of Homeland Security complained about violence in Portland, Oregon.

In a now-deleted tweet, acting DHS Secretary Wolf posted this with three other photos in which he is looking at graffiti deposited on the federal courthouse’s exterior walls.

Violence, he calls it.

His nonsensical labeling called to mind a surrealist work with which you are likely familiar:

Image: La Traihison des Images (The Treachery of Images) by Rene Magritte, c. 1929, owned by Los Angeles County Museum of Art, via Wikipedia. Displayed here under Fair Use.

Just as this is not a pipe, what Wolf displays in his photos is not violence even if he calls it that. This palimpsest of paint is not “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”[1]

It’s graffiti expressing outrage against state violence, a protest not unlike that in December 16, 1773, when protesters demonstrated against the state by tossing tea into Boston Harbor.

Tossing the tea wasn’t violence. It was a protest expressing rejection of oppressive state policies which denied colonists both representation and fair competition in the marketplace.

The graffiti in Portland protests and rejects systematic abuses by police — the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against persons of color which has resulted in higher rates of injury, death, excessive prosecution, and constant low level fear of police.

Wolf has been pushing this ‘graffiti is violence’ argument for days now. You’d think someone with a bachelor’s degree in history would have learned that graffiti is historically anything but violence.

Photo: Ancient Pompeii graffito caricature of a politician, by Zebulon via Wikipedia (CC0)

What destroyed Pompeii wasn’t the graffiti on its walls.

He’s also gone on a right-wing media tour, shifting his language to equate vandalism with terrorism. What horse shit. It wasn’t burning boxes and spray paint which took down the World Trade Center, giving rise the department he now leads.


Wolf has linked protests and vandalism — the latter can’t be blamed solely on protesters in the absence of any investigative effort to determine if agents provocateur were involved — with “violent anarchism,” using that label 72 times in a list of grievances against anti-racism protesters. Again, more bullshit.

It’s amazing how few federal employees and Portland police have been injured amid all this violence Wolf claims has occurred; it’s equally amazing how the streets of Portland continue to function under the pressure of all these anarchists.


Gosh, just look at the devastation — people walking about pandemic-emptied streets unimpeded, minding their own business. Unmarked security forces conducting undocumented warrantless arrests are the answer to this kind of outrageous calm, aren’t they?

Chad Wolf is an idiot who’s damaged what little remained of Homeland Security’s legitimacy. Even employees within DHS have expressed concerns about their mission under Wolf’s questionable leadership.

Wolf certainly isn’t ensuring the security of this country by actively targeting American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, sending out personnel untrained in crowd control and riot response to deal with amorphous groups’ peaceful protests, armed to the teeth and ready to toss pepper spray and non-lethal loads at the drop of a hat, fomenting violence.


It’s so patently obvious Wolf’s minions have no intention of deescalating tensions and aren’t there to protect federal property but instead to mete out punishment even on passive dissenters. Indeed,Wolf is the source of violence.

This Navy veteran who reminded Wolf’s minions of their oaths put them on notice. Any of these federal employees who are not upholding their oaths by executing unlawful orders and violating civil rights should be investigated and prosecuted. They have personal agency and should be pushing back at Wolf for failing his own oath of office.

Meanwhile, the real work of Homeland Security is given short shrift in order to unlawfully surveil Americans using protests as a pretext to treat citizens like hostile foreign adversaries. This is yet another distortion of words and meaning, shifting the identity of our country’s enemies from intrusive foreign agents and terroristic white supremacists to citizens who have legitimate protests against a system which is killing Americans with impunity.

Seriously, though: is Chad Wolf going to start spying on moms, invading their Facebook groups, Instagram cooking posts, and bookclub blogs to suss their plans this evening?

Is he going to start calling mothers ‘enemies of the people’?

When moms in yoga pants and bike helmets are under attack for protecting peaceful protesters, Wolf needs to stop the word games and ask himself just who the real enemy is, and whose side he’s really on.

As one sign held by a mom read, “Step Off, Chad.”

It’s time for Wolf to go.

 

[1] Definition from The World Health Organization’s World report on violence and health 

And the Good Troublemaking Goes On

A Surge of Power” sculpture of Jen Reid in Bristol, UK, commemorating her stand with raised fist in place of a toppled statue of a British slave trader
[h/t Sam Saunders, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

I went to bed in tears last night.

They weren’t tears of pain or shock or outrage. They were the tears that college presidents cry at the retirement of the last of the teachers and professors who helped make them who they are. The tears sports figures cry at the death of the last player on their favorite great championship team. The tears you cry when the last of your grandparents “goes home.” They’re the tears of grief at the loss you’ve suffered, and the tears that say “It’s your turn now.” You have to tell the stories you learned at their knees, as you go on to make a difference in the lives of others as they made a difference in your life.

I’m still in tears this morning, because I’ve got lots of stories to tell. (That’s a hint, folks, that this might be a tad lengthy. But don’t let that deter you from reading. They’re good stories.)

As I noted in January after John Lewis announced that he had stage 4 cancer, John Lewis was not always old. He was young when he started making “good trouble” as one of the co-founders of SNCC, one of the first Freedom Riders, and one of the lead marchers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge on March 7, 1965. As the best storyteller at the Root, Michael Harriot, spelled out in a Twitter thread, this was a march with a purpose:

The Selma to Montgomery march wasn’t a symbolic demonstration. It wasn’t even an original idea. See, black ppl all over Ala. were attacked when they tried to register to vote. So local organizers would get large groups of people to march to their respective courthouses.

That’s how those marches started. They weren’t protesting. They were GOING TO REGISTER. And they figured: “If we’re in a group, they can’t beat us all.” But y’all know white people. They will definitely try their best. I think they call it “American exceptionalism.”

They were headed to Montgomery to confront the governor in person and demand their right to vote when Bloody Sunday happened. But here’s the part about the Selma to Montgomery marches most people are never told: It was NOT nonviolent.

Let me spell it out: the Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and others, was only non-violent from the perspective of the how those in the movement acted. On Bloody Sunday, Lewis and his fellow marchers may have acted non-violently, but Sheriff Clark and his fellow police most certainly did not.

It’s hard to type that without noticing the other big story in today’s news cycle, which puts the coverage of John Lewis’ life alongside this:

“What is happening now in Portland should concern everyone in the United States,” said Jann Carson, the interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. “Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street, we call it kidnapping. The actions of the militarized federal officers are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered.”

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon on Friday also sued the Department of Homeland Security and the Marshal’s Service for “indiscriminately using tear gas, rubber bullets and acoustic weapons.”

One demonstrator, Mark Pettibone, 29, said agents who were in camouflage but lacked any insignia forced him into an unmarked van and did not tell him why he was being arrested. Deploying agents without any identification violates the protocols of police departments across the United States.

Mark Morgan, the acting secretary of Customs and Border Protection, said the agents did display signs that they were federal agents but withheld their names for their own safety.

You know what would keep these federal agents safe? Staying out of Portland in the first place. From the Oregonian, here’s more of the news from Portland:

During a news conference Friday with Police Chief Chuck Lovell, [Portland Mayor Ted] Wheeler said the city has no oversight authority on federal officers during downtown demonstrations. He reiterated that Portland officials didn’t ask for federal officers to be deployed and said local officers can end any violence that occurs on the streets without federal help.

“Mr. President, we see right through you,” Wheeler said. “So do us a favor: Keep your troops in your own buildings or have them leave our city.”

[snip]

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon on Friday granted the oregnization’s [sic] request to add the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service to a temporary restraining order preventing police from dispersing, arresting or targeting journalists or legal observers at protests.

Meanwhile, the president and Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf have blamed state and city leaders for not doing enough to end violence that occurs during protests in Portland and in recent days have doubled down on their plans to keep federal officers on Portland streets.

[snip]

Lovell said although the police bureau’s main headquarters are sandwiched between the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse and the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, Portland police and federal officers have operated separately. He did say both jurisdictions do communicate with one another and know when the other engages in some form of action during demonstrations.

Lovell and Wheeler said they didn’t meet with Wolf while he was in Portland, but the police chief later said police union president Officer Daryl Turner did.

Of course he did. It seems police union leaders are following the lead of Catholic bishops like Boston’s former Cardinal Bernard Law, who would rather cover up violent abuse by officials in their organizations than address the actual problem itself.

James Gardner Clark, Jr. may be dead, but his spirit carries on. Unfortunately for Sheriff Clark, so does John Lewis’, and it’s a helluva lot stronger.

Now-Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) was the local prosecutor in 2002 (!) who finally convicted the last of the Klan members who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 (!!!), killing 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson and 11-year-old Denise McNair in the basement of the church as they awaited the start of worship. Doug Jones is not dead, and he’s still making good trouble.

[Note to Alabamans: If you want to make some good trouble yourself, voting to keep Doug Jones in the US Senate in November’s election would be a very good way to do it.]

But let’s get local. Last month here in metro Kansas City, students at a local school district made a bunch of school board members, administrators, and teachers in their school district very nervous as they responded to a simple call in a single tweet, put out because of some tone-deaf statements made by those same board members at the BLM protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota:

Maryam Khalil @maryamkhaliki01 Jun 4

Okay LSR7 let’s talk about the racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, classism, homophobia, sexism and blantant [sic] prejudice etc we have experienced. I’ll start. #OurstruggleLSR7 (use this hashtag)

She did, and her classmates responded. They said out loud what they had experienced, and forced school and community leaders to admit to the reality of racism in their midst, and its impact on the student they claim to value so much. Even more powerfully, students in other local districts in the area picked up on the hashtag and started their own, to tell the stories of their own districts.

Some teachers and administrators reacted defensively, and others were noticeably silent. But then there were those who were not only shocked, but glad to be shocked so that change might happen. All across metro Kansas City, young people forced adults to own their actions, or more critically, their inactions, by telling stories like these (from the KC Star):

In Lee’s Summit, more than 100 students, teachers and residents gathered for a rally at the administration building, saying they were “fed up” with as lack of response to complaints of racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.

The chanting quieted as Yonny Astatke, a 2019 graduate, shared the racism and fear he faced during his days in the district.

He was a sophomore at Lee’s Summit High School when he posted his political viewpoints on social media. Another student replied with a threat of violence: “Black Knives Matter.”

“I was terrified,” he told the crowd. He reported the incident to school leaders. “They made me shake his hand. They made me shake the hand of the person who threatened violence toward me,” he yelled through a megaphone. “I complied because I was afraid. I am vehemently frustrated with our school district.”

[snip]

In Blue Springs this month, students created the hashtag #BlackatBSSD on Twitter and posted about their experiences: Many have been called the N-word. One said a white classmate told him he wouldn’t mind dating a Black girl but wouldn’t marry one.

“That is why we are taking action,” a Blue Springs statement said. “We are reviewing and changing policies, addressing teachers with violations, creating an anti-racism campaign and so much more.”

[snip]

The Black Student Union at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, organized a demonstration last week as well. Parents and students said they faced discrimination in the district, or pointed to a lawsuit filed last year in which a Black student said she was told that her skin was “too dark” to perform with the school dance team. She sued the district for racial discrimination. The dance team’s coach, Carley Fine, was fired.

[snip]

“They don’t feel seen,” [Shawnee Mission school psychologist Brandi] Newry said. “They don’t feel respected. There are Black children in a building where there is no one, no one, who looks like them. It just about makes me cry.”

These kids made good trouble last month, just by recounting what they had had to deal with. They made lots and lots of good trouble. [Edited to add: These kids also did more than just talk. They put together a list of changes they want the district to make in terms of teachers, administrators, and curriculum, and submitted these to the school board at the same meeting the first African American was seated as a member of the school board.]

I wonder what lies ahead for these students. What will the reactions be when they come back to school (in person or virtually) and have to deal with these teachers and administrators again? What will they do as they go to college or enter the workforce, and face racism in other settings?

And which one of them will end up making good trouble as a member of Congress?

Rest in peace, my brother John — your good troublemaking goes on.

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