What Family Rifts at Funerals can Teach Us About Pardoning Presidents

Exhibit A of Step Two Behavior

Watching the coverage of the death of Elizabeth II, two questions seem to be on a constant loop. The first is political: “How will Charles change the monarchy?” The second is personal: “Will the funeral heal the rift between Harry and William/Charles/the rest of the family?” The discussions that follow, between television anchors, reporters, and “royal watchers” have provided me with great amusement. “Oh look: Charles said something nice about Harry and Meghan in his first broadcast after the Queen’s death! Perhaps all is well again!!” The wishfulness of the discussion — “Surely the funeral of their beloved mother/grandmother will bring the family together, and they can heal from the past unpleasantness” — says much more about the hopes that these media folks have and much less about the reality of how a family torn apart acts as a family funeral approaches.

As a pastor for more than three decades, I’ve never done a royal funeral, but I’ve done plenty of regular funerals, including those of matriarchs who had presided over a divided family. Most of the time, what I’ve seen is that either (a) the family members manage to sit on their frustrations with one another for a week or so as the funeral goes forward, and then they return to their earlier fighting, or (b) the funeral intensifies the fighting, as they argue about the decisions made around the funeral itself. Occasionally, the funeral does help to begin a healing process, as folks who have not seen “those monsters” in years are now in the same room for the first time again, and they realize that these other folks aren’t the monsters they have seen them to be in the past. It doesn’t happen five minutes after the burial, but with a willingness to work on both sides, healing is possible. But it sure isn’t the magic “If only Harry and William can sit next to each other at the funeral, everything will be fixed!” that so many commentators are looking for.

Which brings me to the other crazy question I’ve seen popping up more and more often between anchors, reporters, and political pundits. This is the question posed by Chuck Todd that NBC chose to highlight as they tease the Meet The Press interview with VP Kamala Harris that airs in full tomorrow:

Let me try to go to 60,000 feet. What do you say to the argument that it would be too divisive to the country to prosecute a former president?

Earth to Chuck Todd, and anyone else who asks this question: the country *is* deeply divided already.

Giving Trump a pass to “avoid division” is like that scenario (a) at the family funeral, except you are betting that everyone can sit on their frustrations not for a week but forever. Turning the question around — “Would it be too divisive to the country to give a former president a pass for illegal behavior?” — ought to make it clear how silly both questions are.

Step One in dealing with divisions — either at a family funeral or in national politics — is admitting your family/nation is already divided.

As an interim pastor, I work with congregations whose previous pastor has left. Maybe that pastor retired, died, took a new call elsewhere, or was run out of town on a rail. One of the things I often have to help the congregation deal with is conflict, either between the old pastor and the members, or between the members themselves. Whenever I hear “Yes, we had divisions, but now that the old pastor is gone, everything is just fine now” I have to figure out how get them to pull their heads out of the sand. “What’s going to happen when you disagree with your next pastor?” I ask them, knowing that for the immediate future, I am that next pastor. “What do you have to say to the folks around here who loved that old pastor and blame you for running that pastor off?”

Within the House of Windsor, simply coming up with the right seating chart at the funeral for Elizabeth will not wash away the pain that led the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to withdraw from royal duties and decamp to the US. Similarly, pardoning Trump, either by choosing not to prosecute or by an act of President Biden, will not heal the nation either.

What *will* help both the House of Windsor and the United States is to admit that divisions already exist.

Step Two in dealing with divisions, then, is to explore that divided reality. What, specifically, does that painful divided reality look like? What are the presenting issues, that anyone can see at the surface? What are the underlying issues, that lie deeper down, at the heart of the trouble? What are the triggers, that bring all that buried pain out into the open again? How is everyone being hurt by these divisions?

Looking at all that is not easy. It requires a willingness to dig into a painful past, to admit to past bad behavior (your own as well as that of others), and to accept just how bad things have gotten for everyone involved. Until you do that, all you are doing is papering over division and pretending things aren’t that bad.

In the US, the arguments about race and the causes of the Civil War are a perfect illustration of this. So long as a non-trivial part of the country denies that the Civil War was about slavery (“it was the war of Northern Aggression, fought over state’s rights”), our country will never be able to fully deal with how race continues to divide our country today. If you don’t think racism divides our country today, please go back to step one and try again.

Only when the divided congregation or family or nation has done the hard work of examining its own ugly past are they ready to move to Step Three.

Step Three is to look at what you’d like the future to be. What would a healthy House of Windsor look like? How would members treat one another, in ways that are different than what caused the fractures in the past? What would a healthy United States of America look like? How would those with different political views treat one another, in ways that are different from what caused the fractures in the past?

Step Four, then, is to figure out how to get to that future. That’s a conversation about rules, roles, and responsibilities, with unstated assumptions put out in the open and mixed expectations clarified. It’s about crafting behavior that rebuild trust, dignity, and belonging for everyone involved.

The big lesson in all of this is that THERE IS NO SHORTCUT.

You can’t just jump to step four, without doing all the work of the other three steps. You can try, but you’re just sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “La la la – I can’t hear you.” You don’t need to take my word for this. Just look at the House of Windsor.

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were leaving their royal roles behind, that was Step One behavior. “Our family is painfully divided.” No more smiling masks, no more pretending all is well, and no more trying to ignore the pain.

When they sat down for their interview with Oprah, that was Step Two behavior. “Here’s what happened, at least from our point of view.”

Ever since then, the royal family had various private conversations to sort things out further, including such things as whether Harry and Meghan would be part of the Platinum Jubilee celebration last summer. (The answers at that time were that they were included in small family gatherings, but not the big public ones.) Now they are having similar conversations around the Queen’s funeral and the coming coronation ceremony that will follow in a few months. This is all Step Three and Step Four behavior.

To the extent that things are getting better for the House of Windsor, it’s because they’ve been working hard at Steps One through Three, not that they simply came together magically at a funeral and jumped to Step Four.

The US political press and political actors could learn a lot from the House of Windsor. Those who worry about prosecuting a past president need to recognize that this doesn’t cause division, but is a step along the way to healing – part of the hard work of Step Two that explores the divided reality in all its painful, ugly depth. The work of the January 6 Committee in the House of Representatives is Step Two behavior, and so is the work of the DOJ to investigate possible criminal behavior of the former president and his minions.

Until we as a nation are willing to honestly look at our ugly reality, we will never heal.

 

The L-Word Not Used [UPDATE-1]

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

I wish MSNBC did a better job of getting their content up on YouTube; I really need a link to Nicolle Wallace’s interview of Morgan State University’s Dr. Jason Johnson and his reaction to testimony by Fulton County GA election worker Shaye Moss. (temporary link: https://youtu.be/fEHkOzfa9Zs)

Before answering Wallace’s request for reaction, Johnson expressed concern about ‘performative Blackness’ — behaving as whites might expect of a Black American — but his fury was absolutely righteous.

Johnson acknowledged Shaye and her family should not have been subjected to the harassment unleashed on them by Donald Trump, but he went a bit further. He could identify with Moss’s grandmother as his own. This assault on the conduct of elections was personal.

Many of us are shocked, angry, dismayed by the harrying intimidation Moss and her mother and grandmother endured simply because Moss and her mother were election workers. Some of us have been moved to tears.

But what we’re missing is what Dr. Johnson avoided saying in his care to avoid offending white Americans with ‘performative Blackness’.

What was described by the testimony today was the mobilization of a lynch mob.

When watching or reading news coverage of today’s hearing, written, produced, and delivered by predominantly white Americans, listen closely for the generalization of terror. Election workers in multiple states were all subjected to harassment by angry protesters incited by Trump.

But Shaye Moss and her family endured another layer of terror — that of recognizing the horror aimed at Black Americans since the Civil War for having the temerity of exercising their rights as citizens, for supporting others’ right to vote.

As Johnson explained it, election officials — all of them white — were able to avail themselves of some security provided by the state due to their governmental roles.

But Moss and her mother and grandmother were only election workers, not officials.

They were on their own to work out how to protect themselves from the threat of mob violence over months’ time.

The white election officials will go on about their lives, perhaps facing the occasional in-your-face annoyance from Trumpers, but they won’t have to worry they’ll continue to be targets of violence.

Moss and her family know how lynch mobs work. Her visually obvious stress today may reflect this deep cultural knowledge unfamiliar to white Americans.

This is not to minimize the experience of officials like Rusty Bowers, whose daughter was not only seriously ill but likely mortally so as she passed away 22 days after January 6. It must have been horrifying to know his wife and daughter were subjected to harassment at such a critical time in their lives.

It must have horrifying to know one’s young teen was alone at home in the case of another election official, unable to predict how the protesters would act as time went on.

Neither, though, were targeted simply for being election workers who were Black in a white-minority county, doing their jobs while not having any authority to change anything about the election.

Hunted down and harassed by a mob because mother Ruby passed her daughter Shaye a mint. Fearful going forward, always looking over their shoulder, because they know these kinds of mobs and how they operate.

White pundits and reporters have and will discuss the terror Trump inflicted on election officials, but they’ve not yet mentioned the specific kind of terror Moss and her family experienced and continue to experience.

~ ~ ~

There’s another facet which surfaced as Moss testified and her mother’s testimony was streamed. Moss explained how she enjoyed serving her community’s exercise of the vote, in keeping with her grandmother’s teaching that the vote was critically important.

This was an expression of secular communion — ministering to the community especially those most in need of aid to participate.

Where Arizona’s Rusty Bowers explained his belief in a spiritual link between the nation’s founders and the drafting of the Constitution as well as his deep respect for that relationship, Moss expressed a link which was similar to that bond between members of faith communities. It is a vital thing which brings the community together regularly and unifies them in the act of perpetuating democracy.

The lynch mob Trump dispatched broke that link, severing Moss from that which her forebear impressed upon her.

This was a psychic and spiritual injury inflicted by Trump, his minions and mob, upon a Black American family and community.

Those of us who have been moved to tears at the loss Moss and her family experienced may not be able to articulate what this damage was because we have not been taught to value this social act of unification. For white Americans in particular this damage may not be perceived as lasting.

But it’s real and it was shredded by that racist entitled monster Trump.

~ ~ ~

This post may disturb community members here, most of whom are white. They may feel discomfort at the idea of a lynch mob incited by an American president when white election officials were also targeted by angry protesters (waiting for the hashtag NotAllElectionOfficials).

Don’t give into this discomfort. Do not be blind to role race plays when the GOP congressional caucus has obstructed voter rights protections, when states with GOP-led legislatures have failed to ensure voter suppression targeting BIPOC voters has ended.

Lynching isn’t always violent physical death or terror which diminishes Black Americans’ lives. Sometimes it’s the slow whittling away of their citizenship, one squelched civil rights bill at a time.

You want to make it up to Moss and her family and her community? Figure out how to fix this and ensure their full civil rights including the right to vote. The filibuster, for example, should never impede civil rights to which all Americans are entitled.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 2:50 PM ET 22-JUN-2022 —

Susan A. Kitchens captured the entire segment on MSNBC’s Deadline with Nicolle Wallace, posting it in a Twitter thread. Dr. Jason Johnson’s remarks are a must-watch.


The attempt to overturn the 2020 election for the corrupt benefit of Donald J. Trump wasn’t just seditious conspiracy or obstruction of government proceedings, or conspiracy to defraud the United States.

It was a massive attack on civil rights by intimidation of election workers and officials in an effort to deny Americans their voting rights. This cannot go undeterred and unpunished; failure to do so represents a collapse of American democracy.

Three Things: Something Truck-ed This Way Comes

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

If you’re not white you’re not surprised at expressions of hate in our society. There are frequent demonstrations in the form of microaggressions white folks often miss.

Sometimes they’re more obvious, like racist tagging on buildings or even more obvious like the noose once left in a friend’s front yard tree, or direct confrontation experienced by another friend and their family who trapped in their car by racists yelling at them and beating on their vehicle. Many of these expressions never make the local news and might not even be reported to police for fear of making things worse.

But overt signs of hate, the kind to which even white people notice and take exception, didn’t appear as frequently in the news until Donald Trump took the White House.

Now increasingly everyone can see the wretchedness out in the open, waving its stars and bars, screaming hateful epithets at persons who aren’t cis-het white.

Like the insurrectionists waving Confederate flags outside and in the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

Like the neo-Nazis’ demonstration in Orlando, Florida this past February.

And then the usual Republican DARVO response – Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender – when confronted with these hateful expressions.

In February, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ aide Christina Pushaw accused the Democrats of being neo-Nazis followed by DeSantis playing victim by accusing Democrats of smearing him about the neo-Nazis.

Yet nothing about DeSantis’ office’s response discouraged another future demonstration with attacks on passersby.

The hate’s all out there in the open – and it’s escalating.

It’s no longer restraining itself to minorities, either; it may also be a component of hybrid warfare intent on demoralizing a substantive number of Americans while embedding and normalizing itself in our communities.

~ 3 ~

On Saturday evening December 4, 2021, a white nationalist group — the Patriot Front (PF) — gathered in Washington DC and paraded in numbers along the Mall before hopping into U-Haul trucks and driving away.

The group is a spin-off from Vanguard America which took part in the hate rally in Charlottesville VA in 2017.

PF has had numerous pop-up events; the Anti-Defamation League has documented their activity across the country from propaganda to rallies. The December 4 event was in the same vein.

There were many calls to avoid giving this fascist organization any air time, and more calls to ridicule them as unserious.

… This weekend in Washington, a ridiculous white supremacist boys club called Patriot Front dressed up in matching outfits to make themselves look like menacing middle managers of an electronics store. They got their white nationalist flags and their little shields and their khakis and their shin guards and they marched from the Lincoln Memorial down the national mall in what was supposed to be a white supremacist show of force in the nation`s capital. …

(source: Rachel Maddow, MSNBC )

But the December 4 event should have given us pause, especially 11 months after the January 6 Capitol Building insurrection.

— PF didn’t have a permit for their demonstration;

— They amassed a large number of participants in a short time with little-to-no advance notice to the public;

— They used at least one smoke bomb during their demonstration;

— Their rally took place in the same area the insurrectionists gathered and traveled from the January 6 speeches at the Ellipse to the Capitol Building;

— Police presence was a fraction of the number of PF rally attendees, with many on bikes;

— It was difficult to tell whether police were protecting or monitoring PF attendees.

Not only were folks left of center insisting PF’s rally not be treated as a valid expression of dissent, but they encouraged laughing at their normcore appearance which included not only khaki pants and ball caps but white neck gaiter masks.

Where have we seen so many white men wearing white fabric masks over their faces not to prevent infection but to hide identity while displaying a unified identity?

The December 4 event and other earlier PF events like this one may have looked performative, like costume players merely dressing as contemporary fascists, but the entire effort made a point and may have been proof-of-concept for some other future effort.

In other words, what’s to stop another group which is armed from beginning an assault on Washington DC in exactly the same way?

Enclosed box trucks show up, their contents not visible to anyone on the street including law enforcement; the occupants jump out wearing similar outfits and shields but this time concealing firearms and other weapons; they march to their intended destination and deploy a smoke bomb at first to mask another explosive device or to mask their weapons.

On December 4 they made it clear they could do this.

I’d have been less worried about these normcore shock troops but persons with more expertise have likewise expressed concern.

~ 2 ~

All of the above I wrote months ago, beginning a draft in December after the PF event in D.C., revising the draft after yet another PF rally on January 8, 2022 when PF participated in the March for Life anti-abortion rally in Chicago IL.

Clearly I should have published what I had at the time, ahead of yesterday’s arrest of 31 PF members in Coeur d’Alene ID for conspiracy to riot at a scheduled Pride parade.

Though Coeur d’Alene police were in contact with federal law enforcement, it was CADPD which handled the arrest and charging of the PF members.

Only one person of the 31 arrested was from Idaho; the rest were from across the U.S. — Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia, and Arkansas — though the bulk were from West and Midwest states.

Like the December 4, 2021 PF rally in DC, CADPD found PF brought riot gear, one smoke grenade, shin guards and shields.

No firearms have been mentioned in any reports, but this event could have been bad had PF arrived and violence triggered if locals were carrying weapons.

There have been no federal charges, yet; it’s not clear if any federal laws were broken. Traveling across state lines might be a factor.

It’d be easy to brush this off as just another stunt by cosplayers on a sunny summer Saturday afternoon, except the number of events like this and the corresponding propaganda by PF have exploded.

(source: ADL report: White Supremacist Propaganda Spikes in 2020)

More than 80% of that uptick was PF’s work. Where are they going with this besides demoralizing much of the country?

~ 1 ~

There’s been some confusion in left-of-center social media about Patriot Front and the Proud Boys, some mistaking one for the other. They are different groups with overlapping if not identical ideologies.

Patriot Front

Proud Boys

Launched: 2017 (spun off from Vanguard) Launched: 2016
Ideology:

  • Patriot Front is a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, and no one else.
  • Patriot Front justifies its ideology of hate and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ethnic and cultural origins of its members’ European ancestors.

(source: ADL’s backgrounder)

Ideology:

  • The Proud Boys are a right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda. They are primarily misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration. Some members espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups.

(source: ADL’s backgrounder)

Their xenophobia, antisemitism, and misogyny are their primary shared attributes along with racism to varying degrees.

We’ve now seen what the Proud Boys have been willing to do which Patriot Front have not yet engaged in — participation in events which can become violent. Yesterday’s Pride parade in Coeur d’Alene could have become a crossover event had Team PF not been arrested ahead of their destination.

What’s problematic, though, is the slack Proud Boys have been allowed. They’ve been treated like other civic and community organizations when their core ideology is hate. Buhl, Idaho allowed the Proud Boys to participate in a parade last summer:

The Times-News reports that Proud Boys members were among about 100 floats in the Sagebrush Days parade that went through the center of town.

The Buhl Chamber of Commerce runs the parade but wouldn’t comment specifically about the Proud Boys taking part.

“At this time the Buhl Chamber (of) Commerce will not feed into any negative propaganda,” the group said in a statement to the newspaper. “The Buhl 2021 Sagebrush Days parade saw 90 plus entries who celebrated in a courteous and civil manner. The Buhl Chamber takes pride in welcoming all participants, while giving them the opportunity to celebrate our great nation.”

“will not feed into any negative propaganda” meaning what, they weren’t going to allow anyone to bash Buhl’s Chamber of Commerce, or they weren’t going to let anyone bash the Proud Boys?

So long as Buhl allows the Proud Boys to participate in a community event, there’s no daylight between Buhl and the Proud Boys.

Ditto for Scotland, South Dakota which had agreed to allow the Proud Boys to host a street dance in their town though the Proud Boys backed out due to unspecified security concerns.

Both communities have validated and legitimized a hate group by allowing them equal footing with the rest of their community.

Would they have done so with Patriot Front had they taken the same approach as the Proud Boys rather than showing up in a U-Haul panel van after publishing comments online which could be construed as an expressed intent to riot?

Are these two hate groups testing the waters to see where they can establish a foothold and grow their organizations? Or has there been something more hateful in the offing?

Why yes, there was — where PF was stopped from harassing a Pride event in Idaho, the Proud Boys had already stormed a public library to halt a Drag Queen story hour in San Lorenzo, California, scaring families with children by shouting hate-filled diatribes at attendees.

Alameda County sheriff’s department escorted the Proud Boys out of the venue.

Between the two groups at these two different locations on the same day, they now know they can get away with their harassment if they restrain themselves to smaller numbers and target families with children, or attack larger groups if they use more operations security.

~ 0 ~

When I first set out months ago to write about PF, I had also wanted to discuss harassment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the truck convoys. Both are examples of the spread of overt expressions of hate, the first being racist and the second being socio-economic. Whatever was driving the attacks on HBCUs and the convoys has eased for now. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if foreign influence operations were the primary drivers.

However we have plenty to focus on immediately with the domestic influence operations these two hate groups are engaged in which must be stopped.

PF, by the way, still has an active Twitter account and a Twitter account used as a follow hub.

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.

image_print