Saturday, February 04, 2006

Rebels Without a Clue, Revisited

TIM WISE in Counter Punch "Racism, Neo-Confederacy and the Raising of Historical Illiterates" :

"Here's a little experiment, in two parts.

First, pick a white person, pretty much any white person; then go up to them and mention the subject of slavery, and its consequences for blacks in the United States. Then pull out a stopwatch and time how long it takes for them to say something to the effect of, "All that was a long time ago. Why can't we leave the past in the past and move on?"

And here's the second part: come and spend a little time in my neck of the woods -- the American South -- and watch how long it takes for you to spot someone waving, wearing, or otherwise displaying (perhaps on their car) a confederate flag.** Now, having seen several, go up to their respective owners and tell them, "All that was a long time ago. Why can't you leave the past in the past and move on?" (more)

Friday, February 03, 2006


Gerald EARLY blogs at the NY Times and "In the Center of it All":

"Taking these objections in turn: the creator of this commemoration, Carter G. Woodson, who earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard and became one of the most prolific African American historians ever (though, with his crabbed writing style, never the easiest to read), chose the second week in February for Negro History Week in 1926 because of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12, which, when I was a kid, was a national holiday) and Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14), although, of course, Douglass never really knew when he was born. Lincoln’s birthday was clearly the more important because it tied African American history to the one white person who could make it a transcendent topic of human importance to both blacks and those whites who cared about this issue at all. [...] In short, he wanted to place the week in such a way that blacks would seem “present at the creation” of a new society, indeed, their condition being the cause of it. As historian Paul Johnson has asserted, the Civil War made the United States a nation. So why not tie it to Lincoln? The week was expanded to a month in 1976 and there seemed to be little reason to change it at that point to another, longer month. (more)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Not Rational?

Armed Teen at Mass. Gay Bar Injures Three

"NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - A young man dressed all in black went on a rampage at a gay bar with a hatchet and a gun Thursday, wounding three patrons in what police said appeared to be a hate crime.

One victim was in critical condition with head wounds. Police searched for 18-year-old Jacob D. Robida, who was wanted on charges of attempted murder, assault and civil-rights violations.

According to court papers, Robida's mother told police that he briefly stopped by the house less than an hour after the brawl and was bleeding from the head. In Robida's bedroom, officers found Nazi regalia and anti-Semitic writings on the wall.

"Obviously we have a man who's dangerous, who's not rational, and he has weapons," said prosecutor Paul Walsh Jr.

A bartender said it was around midnight when a teen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants walked into Puzzles Lounge, a gay nightspot in this historic seaport city of 94,000 people, about 50 miles from Boston.

He flashed an apparently fake ID and ordered a drink, then asked if the place was a gay bar and was told it was, said the bartender, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Phillip, because of fear for his safety.

The bartender said the teen finished his drink and walked back to where two men were playing pool. He shoved one of them to the ground, then pulled a hatchet from his sweatshirt and began swinging at the man's head, cutting him, Phillip said.

Other patrons tackled the man, sending the hatchet sliding across the floor, the bartender said. Then the attacker pulled a gun, shot a man, and then fired another bullet into the chest of a patron who was leaving the bathroom, the bartender said.

He then ran off into the night.

Police recovered the hatchet and found a knife outside. The knife was not apparently used in the attack.

According to court papers, a woman in the bar recognized Robida as a current or former student at New Bedford High School. School officials would not confirm whether he was enrolled there.

Robida graduated in 2001 from the city's Junior Police Academy, a "boot camp" that teaches discipline to 12- to 14-year-olds, many of whom are referred by juvenile courts or social services agencies, Acting Police Chief David Provencher said.

Police identified the injured men as Robert Perry, Alex Taylor and Luis Rosado but would not say which one suffered the head wounds. The two other men were shot; their conditions were not released.

A family friend who answered the door at Robida's home said his mother had no comment.

The owner of the bar, Richard F. Macedo, said he planned to be open on Thursday night because closing would amount to giving in to homophobia. He said the place and its customers have never been targeted before because of their sexual orientation.

"We've been here almost 15 years," Macedo said. "All it takes is one bad egg."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Sadomasochism of Everday (Black) Life

Every time a black person in this country (descendant of enslaved people or not) is called upon and takes up the challenge to illustrate or explain the justice of Affirmative Action or the injustice of the privileges (wages) of whiteness, we see the sadomasochism of everyday black life.

Each time a black person in the US turns to the holocaust (concentration camp, gestapo) as an index of atrocity it is because the holocaust is an atrocity that, at least in this country, can speak its name. Slavery, and its traumatic and material afterlife, in all of its atrocity (slave owner, auction block, slave ship, cowhide, rape, death, starvation, sale, HIV/AIDS, infant mortality, unemployment, heart disease, stroke, etc) is not. Witness the sadomasochism of everyday black life.

Witness the sadomasochism of everyday black life in relation to Hurricane Katrina, in Aaron McGruder's Boondocks on Martin Luther King and you witness the sadomasochism of everday black life.


Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

Coretta Scott King, first known as the wife of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then as his widow, then as an avid proselytizer for his vision of racial peace and non-violent social change died Monday night, her sister in law, Christine King Farris, said this morning. more

submit to the radical women of color carnival

~~~a call out for submission

submissions are due the night of jan 31st - TONIGHT

What does the internet *mean* to a woman of color?

Because this is a Woman of Color Carnival for women of color and put together by women of color, this carnival will prioritize those submissions written by and that centralize women of color issues.

To nominate or submit posts, you may email them to Jenn at Alternatively, you may copy-and-paste the following code into your blog post:

Submitted to the Radical Woman of Color Carnival:

Monday, January 30, 2006

tomorrow is today

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. There is such a thing as being too late. We still have a choice today. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful struggle for our new world." From a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted in counter punch

Round up

Harry Belafonte on Democracy Now "I call President Bush a terrorist. I call those around him terrorists, as well: Condoleezza Rice, Rumsfeld, Gonzales in the Justice Department, and certainly Cheney. I think all of these men sit -- and women -- sit in the midst of an enormous conspiracy that has been unraveling America for the last eight years -- six years. It is tragic that the dubious way in which this president acquired power should have begun to unravel the Constitution and the peoples of this country." more

Louisiana in Limbo NYTimes Editorial (with a subtext of don't bet on black) "Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on the wreckage of poor, low-lying New Orleans neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward. That has sparked the unproductive, blame-the-victim debate revolving around whether people should have lived there in the first place. The Ninth Ward provides a misleading picture of the city, as do the relatively unscathed tourist areas like the French Quarter and the Garden District. Huge swaths of the city have the empty quality of a ghost town. Stores wait for residents to reopen; residents wait to see if neighbors will return. The city and surrounding parishes will not meet Mr. Powell's neat categories, when renters lived beside owners, insured next to uninsured. He is talking like an actuary when a leader is needed to rescue this region." more

Memory for Forgetting: Reconstruction Revisited

From The NY Times:
Reconstruction Revisited

Published: January 29, 2006

ERIC FONER wrote "Forever Free" to combat what he calls our "sheer ignorance" of the 15 years between the Emancipation Proclamation and the withdrawal of the last federal troops from the South in 1877. Yet when it comes to those years, ignorance is progress, a step in the right direction.

What could be worse than ignorance?

Horrible history: the distortions, misinformation and myths that passed for "the facts of Reconstruction" for nearly a century after 1877. In that history, Lincoln's magnanimous plan for reunion died with him, as power-hungry, South-hating Radical Republicans in Congress rolled over Andrew Johnson and set out to punish the South for the war.

What followed was a "tragic era" of military occupation, corrupt state governments, heavy taxation, wasteful spending and, worst of all, "Negro rule": the enfranchising of ignorant, gullible, bestial black men. All seemed lost, until the Ku Klux Klan arose and expelled the carpetbaggers, dragged the scalawags back to the white side of the color line and put the former slaves in their place. Home rule was restored, the South redeemed.

That's not a caricature. That was Reconstruction at our finest universities (nowhere more than at Columbia, where Foner now holds an endowed chair) and it was Reconstruction in popular novels, histories and films, most notably D. W. Griffith's repugnant classic, "The Birth of a Nation." Woodrow Wilson, a political scientist and Princeton professor before he became president, viewed the film in the White House. It is "like writing history with lightning," he said, "and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true."

It was terrible, but not true - as African-Americans knew. "One fact and one alone explains the attitude of most recent writers toward Reconstruction," W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in a blistering critique in 1935: "they cannot conceive Negroes as men." Du Bois saw Reconstruction as a noble effort to establish genuine democracy in the South. His white contemporaries ignored him, but a generation later his sources and insights contributed mightily to a new history, a history that has been elaborated and refined but remains the standard one today.

"Forever Free" will not supersede "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877," the grand synthesis Foner published in 1988. His new book is aimed at readers basically unfamiliar with American history. For their benefit, he opens with a short account of slavery and emancipation. He then turns to the struggle to determine the meaning of freedom and the character of American democracy after the war. "The vast economic and political power of the South's white elite hung in the balance," he writes. So did the "lives and dreams" of four million former slaves.

Landowners and merchants wanted laborers to plant and pick their cotton - on terms as close to those of slavery as they could get. Freedmen and women wanted land of their own. They also wanted schools, churches, equality before the law and the franchise. They didn't get land. But by the early 1870's, they had achieved a measure of economic autonomy, and the legal and political tools - especially the Civil Rights Acts and the 14th and 15th Amendments - necessary to protect it. Black men voted, served on juries and held local, state and national office. "For a brief moment, the country experimented with genuine interracial democracy," Foner writes. But it wasn't easy or pretty, and it provoked a ferocious reaction. In the face of fraud and terror, the freedmen's white allies, north and south, abandoned them.

In his last two chapters, with the uninitiated again in mind, Foner traces the lines of race and politics that run from Reconstruction to the age of segregation to the civil rights movement to our own time. And throughout, the history lesson is enhanced by Foner's collaboration with Joshua Brown, a social historian and cartoonist. Brown selected the book's "illustrations" (scores of drawings, engravings, paintings, photographs and cartoons), and he wrote six short "visual essays." Those essays, set among Foner's chapters, vividly show how images - a Republican buying one black man's vote, Klansmen lynching another - are never merely illustrations of historical experience. They are another dimension of that experience.

"Forever Free" is a good book: passionate, lucid, concise without being light. But will it be a match for ignorance? The old history took hold when Northerners concluded that the freedmen and women were as hopeless as white Southerners said they were; their fate was best left in white Southern hands. Through decades of lynching, segregation, disfranchisement, debt peonage, heightened prejudice and abject poverty, history justified inaction by demonstrating that federal interference only made race matters worse.

The new history took hold in the 1960's, during the civil rights movement and Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society," when many Americans came to believe that the government had an obligation to join the struggle for equality, and that they had a huge stake in the outcome of that struggle.

Four decades and untold political abuse later, our federal government is again held in low esteem. Many wonder if it is even competent to do what it used to do best: wage war. I would like to think that the prejudice at the heart of the old history of Reconstruction would prevent its revival. But as long as Americans continue to see government simply as a problem, we won't know much, or care, about Reconstruction.

James Goodman, a professor of history at Rutgers University, Newark, is the author of "Stories of Scottsboro" and "Blackout."

There Goes the Neighborhood

On NPR's Morning Edition this morning there was a report from Houston on the recent crime increase coincident with ... the arrival of the Katrina refugees. "Houston Examines Post-Katrina Spike in Violent Crime" by Ari Shapiro "Police in Houston late last year noticed an increase in homicides. At the time, they downplayed the potential role of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Now, the Houston Police Department says hurricane survivors were at least partly responsible for the spike in violence." Listen