Category Archives: Race

The New South and the Confederacy

Buried in the turmoil and never-ending work associated with a move from one home to another I’ve kept up with the headlines, but little of real substance. Over a week ago I took a break and came across the transcript of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s speech on the removal of confederate monuments.Mitch_Landrieu_2007March01 The mayor represents the new South, the Southerners who acknowledge that they live in the 21st century and understand and accept that slavery and the Confederacy died more than 150 years ago. They belong to a progressive America that has been trying to overcome that old legacy since the 1960s, an America that continues to make progress in the civil rights of people of all colors, genders and ethnicities.

Landrieu was responding to his critics who hold that by removing the statues of Confederate leaders he is erasing history:

There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.

The truth is that New Orleans is a great city, a “city of many nations … a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.” It is also true that

New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.

America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.

So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

Was the Attorney General listening?

Leave a comment

Filed under American Society, People, Race

Recognition of African-American Women in 1960s long overdue

civrtsmarch

Now, as Black History Month begins, is an ideal time to celebrate the heroism of the largely unsung African-American women who put their lives on the line, fighting next to their men.

Few of the women activists in Martin Luther King’s day—women whose zeal and courage matched his—earned lasting fame. In the 1960s, women’s voices didn’t carry very far, despite the fact that their activism was critical to the movement. The resounding chorus of men, few of whom realized or acknowledged the intelligence and dedication of the black and white women who worked and protested alongside them, all but drowned them out. Of those women, only Daisy Bates, who spearheaded the desegregation of the Little Rock Schools, spoke at the rally that concluded the famous 1963 March on Washington.

A half-century later, black and white women organized massively: On January 21, 2017, hundreds of thousands of women marched not only in Washington, but in cities and towns across the U.S. Their voices reverberated throughout the world.

Here are some of the African-American women of the 60s whose stories must be told again: Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under American Society, People, Race, Women

White males only?

ChrisRockSunday night Oscars host Chris Rock brought Black History Month to a rousing close. He engaged us with humor that unmasked the ugly truth of a racism that still pervades a self-deluded and self-defined liberal society. Talented people of color can’t possibly win Hollywood’s highest honors if white people are given the major roles. And the same holds true for women of all hues. They rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate their talents when they are passed over by the white men who dominate all aspects of film-making, to mention only one of the many creative and other fields of human endeavor.

SistersInLawToday the focus shifts from color to gender, as Women’s History Month highlights the achievements of women all over the globe. In honor of the occasion, Women’s Voices For Change is publishing my review of Linda Hirshman’s “Sisters-in-Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World.” The book’s title is clever, but somewhat misleading, though it does chronicle the vital legal arm of the women’s movement. Had Justices Ginsberg and O’Connor not been appointed to the Supreme Court, American women today would have a very different “herstory.”

How many women born 50 years ago or less understand how inequality made women’s lives and aspirations radically different from those of men? How many know that until the 1970s, when old laws were struck down and new laws began to change the culture, women were rarely if ever seen in corporate boardrooms, as members of houses of Congress and state legislatures, or as judges in the courts? Women were even prohibited from serving on juries (and so they never could be judged by juries of their peers), and often were not hired or promoted in order to protect jobs for men.

Continue reading …

Leave a comment

Filed under American Society, Race, Women

Fear and Hate in America

26GovsRejectSyrianRefugees

The fallout from the jihadist terrorist attacks in Paris continues to proliferate. Its poison has infected and inflamed the governors of 26 American states. These executives, all Republican, proclaimed they will not allow any refugees from the Syrian battlefields to take refuge in their states lest a terrorist be lurking in their midst. The Deep South, Texas, most of the Midwest, four states on the East Coast and four Western states all barred their doors.* Another five** haven’t denied the refugees safe harbor, but they want increased screening to deny entry to terrorists in disguise.

Although in fact governors do not have the authority to bar groups of people from their states, they are able to impose hardships on them. They can lock them out of state-funded English and job-training classes, for example.

Ted Cruz, Republican presidential aspirant from Texas, would admit only Christians, because “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Really? Who engineered and carried out the Newtown School and Charleston church massacres, the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, and the many other shootings, bombings and bloodbaths on American soil? Not to mention the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists — the list goes on and on.

Americans love freedom and democracy, but American history is rampant with shameful episodes of hatred and violence against the despised Other. (Xenophobia is not limited to America, of course; no nation is exempt.) Given the loathing of the majority of elected officials for President Obama and now the revolt of the governors, will America ever again welcome the wretched refuse of distant shores, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

Has the golden door slammed shut?

 

*Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

**New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma and North and South Dakota.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Society, ISIS, Islam, Politics, Race

A License To Kill: the “Stand Your Ground” Law

MurderRatesSYGYou know it intuitively. A “Stand Your Ground” law is simply a license to kill. When George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old , the law protected Zimmerman. He claimed he shot in self-defense, and with no evidence to support or refute his contention, the police were prohibited by law to arrest him. Under the “Stand Your Ground” law, someone who reasonably believes (s)he is in imminent danger may protect him- or herself by any means, including deadly force.

Not surprisingly, Florida, the first state to adopt the law, saw its gun homicide rate spike above the national average and stay there. Twenty-one more states adopted the law within a year. A 2012 study showed that far from deterring crime, the laws resulted in an increase of murder and manslaughter (500-700 cases per year) in the states that adopted the laws. Moreover, another study by the Tampa Bay Times shows that defendants who took cover under the “Stand Your Ground” law were “significantly” more likely to avoid criminal liability for a homicide if the victim was black.

As Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush worked with the National Rifle Association to pass the law the NRA had written. In April, 2015, Bush attended the NRA’s annual convention and claimed he was second to none in his support of the Second Amendment. He still supports “Stand Your Ground,” describing it as “a sensible law that other states have adopted.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Gun safety, Politics, Race, Shooting

A remarkable week in June

What a week!

It began with the mourners for the Charleston massacre victims. Their appeal to take down the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s state capitol swelled to a national demand to remove all symbols that glorify the Confederacy and tacitly condone slavery.

The Supreme Court handed down two momentous, life-altering decisions. The first, King v. Burwell, upheld the Affordable Care Act, saving it from a precipitous collapse that would have snatched healthcare away from the millions who were previously uninsured. It also ensured a significant legacy for President Obama. The following day, on Friday, June 26, the Court affirmed in Obergefell v.Hodges  that LGBTQ citizens will no longer be treated as second-class citizens, denied the right to marry anyone of their choosing. The Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights, the Court ruled, applies to all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation.

The week was capped by the Charleston tragedy, as President Obama gave the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. After he spoke, Obama grew silent, then gave a plaintive rendition of “Amazing Grace” that will not soon be forgotten.

From mourning to celebration: June comes full circle to a fitting close. Gay Pride parades and festivals mark the Stonewall Riots that propelled gay activism and culminated in a victory unforeseen in 1969.

Democracy is not dead in the U.S., as many fear. This week it made a stunning recovery.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Society, People, Politics, Race, Shooting

Charleston and our “gaping, racial wound”

JonStewartSeriousIn case you haven’t seen Jon Stewart dropping his comedian persona when tragedy silences comedy, watch this. Grief, handwringing and then routinely, oblivion  follow mass shootings in the U.S. Shame belongs there too. We have a “gaping, racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist.”

Why, asks Stewart, why do we go to war, fly murderous drones over strangers, torture and murder foreigners to protect the American people, but when one of our own kills Americans, we do nothing?

There was another day Jon Stewart couldn’t laugh. He’s becoming the go-to counselor when tragedy numbs Americans.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Society, Race, Shooting