Tag Archives: white nationalism

Facing Up To The Challenge?

As protests continue and the “President” (note quotation marks) continues to unravel, I am seeing some hopeful signs of a national awakening. I’ve previously noted that–in contrast to the 60s–there is enormous diversity in the crowds that have taken to the streets demanding justice, and fortunately, most of the media is highlighting that diversity.

Media (with the predictable exception of Fox) is also taking care to note that much of the chaos and looting is attributable to the efforts of white nationalist “race war” agitators and opportunistic hoodlums, not the protestors. They are also covering the backlash against Trump’s clumsy, militarized crackdown on peaceful protestors in order to clear the path for his ludicrous (and arguably sacrilegious) “photo op.”

Particularly gratifying are the signs of a welcome–if belated–pushback by the military.

A retired colleague of mine sent me a copy of the letter issued by Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (a letter which Milley copied to what appears to be the entire military establishment). The letter began by reminding recipients that every member of the military takes an oath to protect the Constitution and the values embedded within it–values that include the belief that all people are born free and equal and entitled to “respect and dignity.” He also referenced respect for the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Assembly clauses.

Milley’s letter came at approximately the same time that General Mattis–finally!–spoke out:

“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Mattis said in a statement published in The Atlantic.

“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens —much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

As these military men pointedly noted, their allegiance is to the Constitution–and by implication, not to the wannabe dictator occupying the Oval Office.

As reassuring as these reactions have been, I’m pinning my hopes for meaningful change on signs that unprecedented numbers of white Americans are ready to confront the realities of America’s social structures–ready to genuinely consider the longstanding effects of systemic racism and the dramatically-different realities experienced by white and black Americans.

A former student of mine has a once-in-a-while blog; I was struck by his most recent post, just a few days ago. He began by saying that, as “a privileged white male, I have been struggling with what I can add to the critical dialog on race during these turbulent times.”

He went on to take issue with the statement  that there is “only one race, the human race.”

While a beautiful sentiment, and a biological fact, for a white person to say that “there is only one race” discounts—in most settings—the lived experience of black and brown folk and shuts down any authentic conversation on race.  As one of my favorite writers on the subject, Dr. Robin DiAngelo explains in her lecture Deconstructing White Privilege,

“To say that we are all the same denies we have fundamentally different experiences. While race at the biological level is not real, race as a social construct based on superficial features is very real with significant consequences in people’s lives. The insistence that “we are all one” does not allow us to engage in that social reality.”

The entire post is worth reading, especially for his observation– only now beginning to be widely understood–  that racism is not (just) a moral problem; it is “a system of unequal social, cultural, and institutional power.” As he writes, so long as racism is seen as an individual moral failing, the structures and institutions designed to maintain white supremacy will remain in place.

About those structures…

It’s absolutely true that, as many defenders of the status quo like to say, laws can’t change what is in people’s hearts. What that facile truism fails to recognize is that laws do change behaviors, and that, over time, changing behaviors changes hearts.

Consider the effects of Loving v. Virginia, the case that struck down laws against miscegenation. One big difference between now and the 60s has been the increase in interracial marriages. Those unions haven’t simply allowed people who love each other to wed; they’ve educated–and changed– extended families, co-workers and friendship circles. 

The fire this time isn’t a repeat of the 60s. This time, more minds are open. This time, we can do better.

 

So Much Winning…

The Guardian recently made awards to the very worst “leaders” in the world during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a pretty substantial list, beginning with announcement that the UK’s Neville Chamberlin award would go to Boris Johnson, and proceeding through several others ( the “Tiger Woods award for making us feel we barely knew you” went to the whole country of Sweden, and the “Walking Dead Award for Reminding Human Beings Our Greatest Threat is One Another” to the anti-lockdown protestors in the US), before landing on the Grand Prize Winner–no surprise there–Donald Trump.

Like Boris Johnson, he ignored international warnings about the coronavirus when meaningful action could have slowed its spread. He held public rallies even while experts begged for social distancing. He’s used press conferences to attack reporters, repeat lies and push treatments that some studies now suggest may be unproven cures at the same time he’s demanded praise. He’s promoted people who don’t know what they’re doing, allowed the demotion of others who desperately do, he’s abused leaders who’ve taken responsibility for their citizens, and adamantly taken none himself. He’s talked about his TV ratings while Americans were buried in mass graves.

The only award in which he’s not competitive is one for failing to meet expectations – because nobody who’s watched Trump for five consistent minutes is surprised by this disaster at all. America outstrips the world for coronavirus infection. There have been more than 842,000 cases there. More than 46,000 Americans are dead.

Donald, you blitzed this competition. It’s your crowning achievement! Now, go put a glittering corona on your head!

And that was written before he suggested injecting disinfectants….

Trump’s incompetence and corruption are no surprise to people who follow the news, but even Americans who are charitably referred to as “low information voters” can hardly help being aware of just how badly this sad, mentally-ill buffoon is performing.

Which brings me back to my recurring, unfathomable question. Why does anyone still support him?

It’s a question I see frequently in my Facebook feed; a mystery we talk about with friends and family. The easy answer, of course, is that these are uneducated or stupid people who occupy an “alternative fact” universe. Unkind–and unhelpful– as that description is, it probably does describe the sorts of people we saw pictured with misspelled signs and AK-14s at the demonstrations protesting pandemic shutdowns. On the other hand, there are clearly some intelligent, educated people who continue to defend this horrific administration, and who continue to support this demonstrably insane President.

Some, of course, are plutocrats and other beneficiaries of fiscal favoritism who care about nothing but their own pocketbooks. What about the others?

The social science research that has been done in the wake of the 2016 election confirms a strong relationship between what scholars delicately call “racial resentment” and support for Trump.

Obviously, not every Trump voter in 2016 was a White Nationalist, but fear of being “replaced,” of losing White Christian male privilege, is really the only available explanation for the continued fidelity of those not on the “payroll” who recognize his personal deficits and abysmal performance and nevertheless still support him.

I hate the conclusion I’ve reached. I hate what it suggests about a significant percentage–fortunately not a majority–of my fellow Americans.

As the pandemic has dragged on, so many Americans are demonstrating what is best about us–compassion, charity, creativity and a recognition that we are all–all– in this together. My hope is that these are the Americans who will turn out in massive numbers to vote blue in November.

About that vote…

David Sedaris recently had the perfect rejoinder to those who respond to “vote blue no matter who” by pointing to the (undeniable) faults of those imperfect Democrats. I think he said it all:

I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

 

 

ALEC Again

The American Legislative Exchange Committee, familiarly known as ALEC, has come in for substantial criticism as its formerly-secretive operations have become more public. Most of those criticisms have focused upon its success in working with Republican legislators to create state-level policies that benefit businesses and corporations–often at the expense of working Americans and the poor.

Formed in 1973, ALEC was virtually invisible until 2011, when media reports on its activities and priorities–reducing regulation and individual and corporate taxation, combating illegal immigration, loosening environmental regulations, tightening voter identification rules, weakening labor unions, and opposing gun control–brought it unwanted attention, and prompted the departure of several corporate members.

The Guardian has recently reported another priority–an  accusation that ALEC fosters White Supremacy. 

AlEC, the rightwing network that brings conservative lawmakers together with corporate lobbyists to create model legislation that is cloned across the US, has been accused of spreading racist and white supremacist policies targeted at minority communities.

A report published on Tuesday by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other advocacy groups charges Alec with propagating white supremacy.

In one of the sharpest criticisms yet levelled at the controversial “bill mill”, the authors warn that “conservative and corporate interests have captured our political process to harness profit, further entrench white supremacy in the law, and target the safety, human rights and self-governance of marginalised communities”

The report came as ALEC was preparing for its four-day Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. The agenda for that meeting included sessions on several of ALEC’s “core principles” including “election integrity” (more properly called vote suppression), privatization of education and support for homeschooling, and protection for pharmaceutical companies (because Big Pharma needs so much protection….)

The event’s dinner was jointly hosted with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Guardian identified as “an anti-LGBT coalition devoted to re-criminalizing homosexuality in the US in the name of Christianity.”

ALEC was also responsible for the passage of 2010 Arizona law SB1070, which initiated what was then the most extreme crackdown on undocumented migrants in the entire country. The measure was patterned after a “model bill” drafted at the ALEC conference the previous year.

The CCR report characterized ALEC as a “shadow state apparatus” in which “private industry seizes control of the authority of the state, writing legislation and public policy for the general public behind the closed doors of a CEO suite,” and it identified four policy interventions that work to advance White Supremacy: “Stand Your Ground” laws (studies show that states having such laws are much more likely than states without them to rule homicides justifiable in cases of white-on-black killings); voter ID laws (overwhelmingly shown to disproportionately disenfranchise minority and poor voters); “critical infrastructure” bills (these bills criminalize efforts to protest contested infrastructure construction like the Dakota Access pipeline); and efforts to ban criticisms of Israel on college campuses.

These positions would be cause for concern coming from any organization, but they are truly dangerous coming from ALEC, because its partnership with state-level Republicans has been both secretive and wildly successful.

Bill Meierling, ALEC’s head of External Relations, boasts that

 “Alec is routinely targeted because its member legislators are nearly 300% as effective as any other group of elected officials. In fact, this year, USA Today reported that of 10,000 bills analyzed in state legislatures from 2010-2018, 2,900 were based on Alec model policy and more than 600 became law.”

That’s a statistic that makes the hair on my neck stand up.

 

Losing Privilege And Throwing A Tantrum

In 2016, following Trump’s win of the Electoral College vote, reasonable Americans  debated a foundational question: why? What would prompt a voter to cast a ballot for someone so obviously unfit for any office, let alone the Presidency? There were plenty of theories offered: hatred of Hillary, misogyny, a desire to blow up “the system,” Trump’s overt appeal to racism.

In the almost three years that have followed, the question changed. Now the mystery is his continued support by a significant majority of present-day Republicans. (I say present-day, because there have been sizable defections from the GOP in the wake of Trump’s election.) After three years of embarrassing behavior, constant obvious lies, and ample evidence of both ignorance and mental illness, how has he managed to retain the loyalty of his base?

A lot of us have guessed the (depressing) answer, but three years of academic research and simple observation have confirmed it. As a recent article initially published by Salon put it,

Trumpism is a form of backlash politics fueled by white rage at a perceived loss of privilege and power in a more diverse and cosmopolitan world. Trumpism is a temper tantrum along the global color line fueled by anxieties about power and social dominance.

That about sums it up.

It isn’t like the administration is trying to hide its bigotry. Aside from the horrendous treatment of brown people seeking asylum, there have been homophobic Executive orders about who can serve in the armed forces, anti-Semitic characterizations of Jews who disagree with Trump’s policies on Israel, attacks on Congresspersons of color, and a wide variety of other assaults aimed at those considered “other.”

Recently, reporters uncovered the fact that the Justice Department, among others, has been including white nationalist propaganda in official emails.

The Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review last week included a blog post from an anti-immigrant hate site in its daily news briefing to immigration court employees—and it was no accident: BuzzFeed News reports it has done this several times over the past year. It hasn’t been just the DOJ, either. “In addition, similar newsletters sent to the Labor Department, ICE, HUD, and the Department of Homeland Security included links and content from hyperpartisan and conspiracy-oriented publishers.” Among the sites have been Western Journal and Epoch Times, two sites that have spread birther and QAnon nonsense.

But a good chunk of this egregious behavior has come from the Justice Department, which has distributed links from VDARE, a white supremacist site popular with anti-Semites and other shits, at least six times since last September. In the most recent incident last week, the Justice Department shared a VDARE post that attacked immigration judges by name and “with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,” said National Association of Immigration Judges Union President Ashley Tabaddor. “If I had sent this,” she commented, “I would be facing serious disciplinary action.”

As the Salon report noted,

In their 2016 article “Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism,” social scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris also locate Trumpism as part of a global right-wing movement that is channeling what they describe as “retro backlash.” This is a feeling “especially among the older generation, white men, and less educated sectors, who sense decline and actively reject the rising tide of progressive values, resent the displacement of familiar traditional norms, and provide a pool of supporters potentially vulnerable to populist appeals.”

In the absence of principled Republicans in the Senate, Trump has been able to populate government agencies and–what is more frightening–the federal bench with men (and a very few women) who share his hostility to disfavored minorities.

The Salon article cites research suggesting that Trump voters embrace chaos in the hopes that what emerges will allow them to regain what they feel they have lost.

Whatever the psychology, there is one overriding lesson for Democrats: they will not “peel off” many–if any–Republican voters. Those who still support Trump are a lost cause, and trying to appeal to them is a fool’s errand. What will defeat Trump and his cult is turnout. 

Most Americans, fortunately, strongly disapprove of Trump and his racism. Our job is to make sure they vote.

It Isn’t Hypocrisy–It’s Worse. Much Worse.

In a comment a few days ago, Gerald posted a link to Raw Story, headlined “Why Evangelicals Won’t Care about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s apparent sex scandal.”

Presumably, they also won’t care about the self-dealing, corruption and similar behaviors that were the focus of a preceding expose in Politico. 

What I found fascinating about the Raw Story version wasn’t the detailed enumeration of Falwell’s multiple unChristian behaviors. His full-throated support for Trump had already provided ample evidence that the publicly-espoused values of his brand of Christianity were bogus. What I found interesting–and hopeful–was the publication’s willingness to identify the actual values of that brand.

The article began with evidence of Falwell’s sexual kinkiness and financial improprieties–and a prediction that none of it would matter to his followers.

The pretense that the religious right was motivated by faith and morality was dropped — or should have been — when white evangelicals flocked to vote for Trump in greater numbers than they did for George W. Bush, who if he was convincing about little else, was convincingly a man of faith.

Here’s the thing: The real purpose of the Christian conservative movement is to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy, full stop. As long as Falwell Jr. keeps that up — as his father did before him — his flock will stick with him just as they’ve stuck with Trump, a thrice-married chronic adulterer who has bragged about sexual assault on tape.

The article went on to debunk the evident belief of the whistleblowers who shared the information with Politico that Falwell Senior had been a better, more authentic Christian.

The elder Jerry Falwell was a bigot through and through, and his version of Christianity was primarily, if not solely, about rationalizing a white supremacist, misogynistic and homophobic worldview.

Falwell first rose to fame as a Baptist minister due to his stalwart opposition to civil rights, which he called“a terrible violation of human and private property rights.” He declared that the 1964 Civil Rights Act “should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights.” He also once declared, in response to the historic Brown v. Board of Education case, that if the Supreme Court “had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made.”

Falwell Senior made little effort to hide his racism. He criticized Martin Luther King, Jr. for political activism, despite his own equally political activities. The article also reports what scholars have recognized for some time: the attacks on LGBTQ citizens and women’s reproductive rights were intended to divert attention from the racism that was less politically palatable.

Falwell became even more politically involved  when the federal government under Jimmy Carter stripped tax-exempt status from all-white private schools, which Liberty University was at the time. To punish Carter, Falwell helped form the Moral Majority in 1980 to support Republicans and defeat Democrats. He and other organizers shrewdly pivoted away from open support for segregation and opposition to civil rights toward the more politically palatable politics (at the time) of opposition to feminism and LGBT rights. Falwell would try to distance himself from his past by claiming later to oppose segregation, but he kept finding himself on the wrong side of history, such as when he supported South Africa’s apartheid government.

So Jerry Falwell Jr. isn’t straying from his father’s legacy, but expanding it. From the beginning, it’s always been about white supremacy and patriarchal control. The sanctimony was just plastered over these ugly intentions to give all that hate a holy makeover.

So why isn’t this behavior properly called hypocrisy?

Despite the repeated, strenuous efforts of liberals to point out the hypocrisy, Trump’s support on the Christian right never seems to weaken. That’s because it was never, ever — not for one moment, even at the height of the George W. Bush era of big-time Bible-thumping — about sincere religious conviction. It was always about white supremacy and patriarchy. To call this “hypocrisy” misses the point, in a sense, because to be hypocrites Christian conservatives would have had to believe in something larger than their own bigotries to begin with.

Bingo.