The Myth of Irish Slavery: A History of One of the Alt-Right’s Oldest Memes :::

inverseIn July 15, comedian Josh Androsky tweeted a video of a Proud Boy, a member of the alt-right men’s group started by Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, claiming that the Irish were enslaved.

“Irish people were slaves just like the fucking black people,” said the young man in a MAGA hat.

The statement, while probably jarring to most, is derived from a common alt-right myth and is yet another instance of fringe conservatives molding history into white supremacist propaganda. What makes this myth particular interesting is its own peculiar history: It was one of the first right-wing memes to be spread on the early internet.

One of the Oldest Memes on the Internet

Liam Hogan is a historian and researcher who has spent the past five years studying and debunking the Irish slavery myth. According to him, one of the seminal figures propagating the theory is Michael A. Hoffman II, who first spread his ideas on internet newsgroups in the 1990s. Hoffman’s perhaps most well known for his 1993 book They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America, a self-published title that was harshly criticized by academics, and like many alt-right mythologies, is still available on Amazon today.

Hoffman's book.
Hoffman’s book is still on Amazon.

That book has gone on to be the cornerstone of the Irish slavery myth, which according to Hogan, was ultimately concocted for nefarious purposes.

“The far-right embrace of the false equivalence inherent in the ‘Irish were slaves, too’ meme is not an attempt to assuage guilt,” Hogan wrote in an email to Inverse. “It is instead a blatant bid to support pre-existing anti-black racism.”

The myth was a common sight on white supremacist websites and message boards in the early 2000s, but Hogan noticed a sharp uptick in searches for “Irish slaves” between 2014 and 2016. It got so bad that 82 Irish researchers and writers (including Hogan) wrote an open letter excoriating the myth and urging publications to stop quoting conspiracy theorists.

Were the Irish Actually Slaves?

Brooks slave ship diagram
A diagram of the slave ship, Brooks. No Irish servant ever arrived to America like this.

The Irish have suffered many injustices in America from nativist resentmentjob discrimination, and religious bigotry. But they were never enslaved.

A small number of Irish arrived in the Americas as indentured servants. While the life of an indentured servant was brutal, it was not at all comparable to the chattel slavery that Africans were subjected to.

For one, indentured servitude was conditional and temporary. Irish servants were released after their contracts were up (typically seven years).

African Americans, however, were literally classified as a slave race. In early American history, children of slaves could be born free if they had a white parent, but these laws were slowly stripped away so that anyone with African heritage would be classified as black and therefore a slave.

Moreover, the conditions in which they worked were completely different. African slaves were subjected to inhuman horrors that would have been unthinkable to commit against an Irish servant. Whippings, brandings, mutilation, and rape were common.

American slavery was shockingly cruel even by historical standards. Though the treatment of slaves varied widely throughout the ancient world, most of them were still entitled to some basic rights and many slaves were even highly educated. The Greek philosopher Epictetus, for example, was born as a slave and trained to be a teacher.

Why Is the Irish Slavery Myth So Persistent?

Twelve Years a Slave, 12 Years a Slave
An illustration of Solomon Northrup, author of the memoir ‘Twelve Years a Slave’. Northrup was born a free man but drugged and enslaved on the basis of his race.

If the myth of Irish slavery is so demonstrably false, then why does it continue to be an alt-right talking point? As Hogan mentioned, it’s used as a cudgel for anti-black racism, but it also upholds the white supremacist narrative of fighting against the world.

“The far-right also promote the ‘white slavery’ or ‘Irish slavery’ meme because victimhood is the propagandic engine room of ethno-nationalism,” Hogan told Inverse in an email. “White nationalism is fundamentally rooted in victimhood, whereby the dominant group in society takes the position of ‘the oppressed’ to justify violence against the ‘other.’”

The glaring dissonance of white supremacist rhetoric is the simultaneous belief that white people are a superior race despite claiming constant victimhood in being outwitted by supposedly inferior forces such as the liberal media and its Jewish globalist puppet masters.

Altering history and referring to the Irish as slaves is an attempt to solve that discrepancy. For white supremacists, if the Irish managed to rise above discrimination through hard work and ingenuity, then it must mean the other races are lazy or unworthy. It also means that white supremacists will ultimately prevail over their foes.

In truth, the Irish escaped systematic inequality through neither work nor drive — that’s an impossible feat for any group of people. The target was removed from their backs because they began to be understood as white, according to scholar Noel Ignatiev. In 1863, Irish rioters targeted hundreds of black workers during the New York City draft riots, furious over the prospect of fighting in a war to free black slaves. By actively working against abolition movements and aligning themselves with the nativists who originally opposed them, Ignatiev says the Irish were eventually inducted into whiteness.

Law professor David Bernstein also pointed out that, as far as the law was concerned, the Irish were always considered white. During segregation, Irish children attended whites-only schools and none of them were subject to Jim Crow laws. African Americans, Native Americans, and Chinese Americans could not testify against white citizens in court, but Irish Americans could.

Unfortunately, facts and contexts aren’t held in high regard within the alt-right. On a grander scale, White Americans as a whole have been resistant to the idea that systematic racism is an enduring feature in American government because of a phenomenon that sociologist Robin DiAngelo has dubbed white fragility. The combination of far-right groups to falsify history and the refusal to acknowledge institutionalized discrimination means that the Irish slavery myth isn’t going away any time soon.

The Irish Slavery Myth Moving Forward

Irish slavery myth, coal miners
One of the more popular Irish slavery memes. Hogan points out that these boys were child miners for Pennsylvania Coal Co. but not slaves. The photograph was taken in 1911 by investigator Lewis Hines.

Ultimately, the propagation of the Irish slavery myth can be linked backed to the perennial white fear of changing demographics. It’s an attempt to counteract the well-documented benefits that White Americans enjoy by claiming there was a time when whites supposedly suffered more than minorities. This notion of white victimhood seems to be a pervasive belief among most White Americans.

55 percent of White Americans believe there is discrimination against white people in America today, according to a poll jointly conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Their beliefs are unfounded, yet it is the chief reason why the majority of white people across the board — from income level to gender — voted for Trump.

Racist anxiety has even altered the moral purity tests that white evangelicals once demanded from their chosen political candidates. In 2011, only 30 percent of white evangelicals were tolerant of elected officials who behaved unethically in their personal lives, according to a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute. In 2016, the same year Trump got elected, the number of white evangelicals expressing sympathy for immoral politicians doubled to a whopping 72 percent.

Whiteness has been a historical shield that has protected various groups from cultural and political bigotry, one that many White Americans believe will be forfeited if the country becomes less white. But unfortunately, a more diverse country doesn’t necessarily mean a more progressive one.

John Judis, a journalist who claimed that an increasingly diverse America would mean a less racist America, recanted his thesis after Donald Trump’s election. Judis and many other pundits believed that the rising numbers of interracial marriages and mixed-race Americans would lead to a more progressive country.

But in doing so, they vastly underesimated the flexibility of white supremacy. White people continue to be a majority power in the United States because of changing attitudes over who gets to be white and who doesn’t. The one-drop ruleapplied to Americans with African ancestry and the Irish induction into whiteness set these historical precedents hundreds of years ago.

As Judis pointed out, this has already been happening with some Asian Americans and Latino Americans. More than a quarter of both groups are in interracial marriages, the vast majority of which are Asian-White and Latino-White. Although the US census lists the children of these unions as Asian American and Latino American, more than 50 percent of biracial people from both groups identified as white. If this trend continues, then it’s unlikely that the United States will become a minority-majority country in the near future.

The Irish slavery myth is cribbing from an old playbook established by white supremacists years ago. The alt-right is simply the latest to do it by shitposting memesgaming Google results, and leveraging social media.

“These are the trademarks of Disinformation Age racism, the blanket denial of the existence of racism allied with feigned victimhood and the absolute obliteration of history,” Hogan said.

Jonathan D. Lee is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School. A lifelong competitive gamer, he’s written for Major League Gaming, 1337mag, GLHF Magazine, and the New York Videogame Critics Circle. He’s a big believer in Christian existentialism and mustard on hamburgers.

It’s Driven More Low-Income, Black Motorists Into Debt ::: Chicago

Chicago Hiked the Cost of Vehicle City Sticker Violations to Boost Revenue. But It’s Driven More Low-Income, Black Motorists Into Debt.

Now, a former official regrets the move and wants the city to revisit it. Some policies, she said, are “terrible.”

 

This story is a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ.

During negotiations for Chicago’s 2012 budget, newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then-City Clerk Susana Mendoza agreed to hike the price of what was already one of the priciest tickets vehicle owners can get in the city. Citations for not having a required vehicle sticker rose from $120 to $200.

The increase, approved unanimously by the City Council, was pitched by Mendoza as an alternative to raising the price of stickers as well as generating much-needed revenue from “scofflaws.”

A ticket hike, Mendoza told aldermen, could generate $16 million a year for the city.

That did not happen. The increase has brought in just a few million dollars more a year, while it’s unclear if it led to greater compliance. Sticker sales have been largely stagnant.

But increasing the price of sticker tickets came at a devastating cost for thousands of Chicago’s poorest residents, particularly those from African-American neighborhoods, according to an investigation by ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ.

Debt from this one type of ticket swelled, compounded by late penalties and collection fees. Collectively, drivers now owe the city some $275 million for sticker tickets issued since 2012.

The penalty increase — coupled with a pattern of racial disparities in sticker ticketing — has exacerbated a uniquely Chicago phenomenon: Thousands of mostly black drivers filing for bankruptcy to cope with ticket debt.

ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ analyzed millions of records from tickets dating back to 2007 and found:

  • Sticker citations are the least likely of the city’s routine parking tickets to get paid, with only one in three tickets issued in 2016 paid within a year. Other frequently issued tickets, including $60 street cleaning citations and $50 expired meter citations, are cheaper and more likely to end in payment.
  • Black neighborhoods are hit with sticker tickets at a higher rate, per household, than other parts of the city, according to an analysis of tickets from 2011 to 2015. Tickets issued by police drive the disparity.
  • Tickets issued in more affluent, majority white neighborhoods are more likely to get dismissed, according to an analysis of 2017 tickets. That’s in large part because motorists from those neighborhoods appeal at higher rates than drivers cited in other parts of the city.

The mayor’s office did not respond to questions about how the fine increase affects black residents. Instead, in a statement, a spokesman for Emanuel said the finance department “is always reviewing enforcement and collection. That’s in part what drove this administration to create new payment plans to make it easier for residents to pay off tickets.”

Mendoza, meanwhile, expressed regret over her role in increasing the cost of sticker tickets at the expense of low-income black Chicagoans. Now state comptroller, she said the city should “revisit” the ticket prices and consider forgiving drivers’ ticket debt once they come into compliance with the sticker requirement.

“Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to just give tickets and tickets and tickets to people who can’t afford to pay,” said Mendoza. “It’s important that we see what the consequences of policies are … Sometimes they’re terrible.”

Making “Scofflaws” Pay The Price

The decision to raise the fine was framed publicly as a way to pass the burden of paying for pothole repairs — which, along with other street maintenance, are financed with revenue from sticker sales — from “soccer moms” who drive large vehicles to “scofflaws” who don’t buy stickers or purchase them late.

It was the fall of 2011 and Emanuel’s first budget. Years of borrowing and overspending from the administration of his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, had left Chicago in a perilous financial condition. The housing downturn, meanwhile, had led to a drop in some tax revenue. The city needed to find new revenue sources.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

Among the newly elected mayor’s proposals to narrow the deficit, he suggested cuts to libraries and mental health centers while increasing the prices for water service, garbage removal and some parking.

He also proposed raising the cost of Chicago’s wheel tax — what’s known colloquially as the “city sticker” — for some large passenger vehicles from $75 to $135 per year. Heavier vehicles already paid more.

Chicago’s wheel tax is unique among the country’s largest 15 cities. Some cities have fees that are tacked onto state vehicle registrations, but none are so expensive.

Mendoza pushed back on increasing the cost of stickers, saying it was too steep and would hurt families that owned larger vehicles. One of the city clerk’s main jobs is to run the sticker program.

She suggested instead that the city raise penalties for sticker “scofflaws.” Aldermen applauded her strategy and the Emanuel administration went along. The increase was included in the broader vote on the city budget, which the City Council unanimously approved.

The cost of a sticker went up for all motorists, though not as much as initially proposed. Penalties for motorists who purchased city stickers late increased to $60, up from $40.

The citation for not having a sticker went up 67 percent, to $200 — an amount that, with late penalties and collections fees, quickly can rise to $488 and become a financial burden for families.

A lawsuit filed against the city last week alleges that these penalties exceed a state cap of $250. City officials have not responded to the suit, but have indicated that they will use Chicago’s “home rule” authority — a privilege that allows large cities to set their own taxes and fines — as a defense.

Despite repeated questioning over several weeks, finance department officials would not say if they ran revenue projections or considered how a price hike would affect the city’s poorest residents before the ticket hike was approved.

(See  Interactive Map) 

Elliott Ramos/WBEZ, David Eads/ProPublica Illinois and Katlyn Alo/ProPublica Illinois

Kristen Cabanban, a finance department spokeswoman, said in a statement that hiking ticket prices was meant to “serve as a deterrent for scofflaws” and an incentive for motorists to purchase stickers.

Sales have been relatively steady since 2008, at 1.2 million to 1.4 million stickers a year, according to records from the city clerk’s office.

In an interview, Mendoza said the final sticker ticket price “was based on the fact that the increase in the sticker itself would be marginal and that the money would be made up more so on the noncompliance side. They needed to come up with the revenues for the city at that time to fill that budget hole.”

She projected a windfall in testimony at an October 2011 City Council budget hearing.

“If we were to increase that fee [to], say, $200, that would give you $16 million there, without having to ask a single person who is in compliance today to give us more,” Mendoza said. “Let’s go after the other folks.”

Her projections appear to have been based on assumptions that everybody who gets a ticket pays it, and that the number of total citations is similar year to year. Both assumptions are false.

Few motorists pay city sticker tickets, a trend that has held steady both before and after the price increase. From 2007 to 2016, the payment rate over 12 months remained about one in three. Meanwhile, the number of sticker citations issued annually ranges between 200,000 and 250,000.

Police, finance department parking enforcement aides, investigators from the clerk’s office and private contractors all write tickets.

In years when the number of sticker citations were similar, revenue increased by a few million dollars. About 200,000 tickets were issued in both 2011 and 2014, for example, and revenue increased from about $21 million to $25 million. There were also similar numbers of tickets issued in 2007 and 2015 — about 250,000 tickets. Revenue jumped from about $25 million to $32 million.

Over time, those amounts can be expected to grow as more drivers pay their tickets.

Meanwhile, debt has skyrocketed. Drivers owe the city about $16.8 million for unpaid sticker tickets, late fines and collections fees from citations issued in 2011. They owe nearly twice that amount for unpaid tickets issued in 2012. And that debt keeps climbing.

Unpaid sticker tickets have contributed to an explosion in Chapter 13 bankruptcies in Chicago, a trend ProPublica Illinois reported on earlier this year. These citations, according to the city’s ticket data, represent one in four tickets connected to bankruptcies.

Cabanban said the increase in bankruptcy filings is “largely due to a small number of bankruptcy law firms selling Chapter 13 as the cheap and easy way to get out of having to pay the city debt, while those firms almost never deliver on that promise.”

Indeed, most bankruptcies tied to unpaid tickets fail as debtors are unable to keep up with required monthly payments. Bankruptcy firms routinely alter the terms of Chapter 13 payment plans in order to ensure their legal fees are paid first, a practice that has recently come under scrutiny in Chicago.

City officials say they want indebted drivers to get on municipal payment plans instead of filing for bankruptcy.

“Early enrollment in the City’s payment plan, where fines, penalties and accrued interest can be avoided, is open to all motorists – even those who have only received one ticket,” Cabanban said.

However, motorists with substantial ticket debt who have lost their driver’s licenses or vehicles because of unpaid tickets are required to pay $1,000 or more to sign up for a monthly payment plan. That down payment can be a barrier for thousands of drivers who file for bankruptcy protection to restore their driving privileges.

More Tickets in Black Neighborhoods

Last month, ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ reported on how the city has, on some 20,000 occasions over the past decade, issued multiple city sticker tickets to the same vehicle on the same day. Those duplicate tickets were disproportionately issued in black neighborhoods.

Those disparities are evident in a broader analysis of where sticker tickets are handed out. ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ mapped the 1.1 million sticker citations issued between 2011 and 2015 and found more citations were issued, per household, in low-income black neighborhoods than anywhere else.

(See chart here) 

David Eads/ProPublica Illinois and Katlyn Alo/ProPublica Illinois

Of Chicago’s 77 community areas, North Lawndale, West Englewood and West Garfield Park had the highest rates of sticker tickets — at least 10 times higher than in majority white, more affluent neighborhoods such as Forest Glen, Edison Park and Norwood Park, where the rates are lowest.

City officials have offered varying explanations for the disparities. A spokesman for the police department said officers check for city stickers during traffic stops. Finance department officials, meanwhile, said their staff may issue more sticker tickets in South and West side neighborhoods because those areas have fewer parking meters or residential parking zones — meaning there are fewer other kinds of tickets to issue there.

Another explanation for the disparities: More motorists in low-income black neighborhoods simply don’t have city stickers. An analysis of sticker sale data from 2017 does show slightly more late sticker purchases in black neighborhoods, when compared to other parts of the city. The data doesn’t offer a complete account, however, as motorists who never bought stickers are simply left out.

Mendoza said she knew at the time of the debate that many low-income Chicagoans struggled to buy vehicle stickers. While the city offers a discounted rate for senior citizens, no such discount is available for low-income residents. What’s more, she said, many middle-class and more affluent residents who don’t buy stickers can avoid getting caught more easily than low-income residents because garages are more prevalent in more affluent neighborhoods.

He said he’s been looking into policy solutions but has not found an answer.

Villegas was first elected in 2015, after the decision to raise the penalty for the city sticker citation. But he said he’s probably voted on other occasions to increase fines and fees without considering how they may affect the city’s poorest residents.

“Do I have the ability to comb through that budget and look through every fee? No,” he said. “Obviously we’re trying to balance the budget. But at the same time, we have to make sure we’re balancing it in a manner that’s not breaking people’s backs.”

Portrait of Melissa SanchezMelissa Sanchez

Melissa Sanchez is a reporter at ProPublica Illinois, where she has been looking at how ticket debt affects the poor.

 Melissa.Sanchez@propublica.org                   @msanchezmia   708-967-5728

 Signal: 872-444-0011  

MORE on this topic:

How Chicago Ticket Debt Sends Black Motorists Into Bankruptcy

A cash-strapped city employs punitive measures to collect from cash-strapped black residents — and lawyers benefit.

If you have any ideas or tips, email us at melissa.sanchez@propublica.org and eramos@wbez.org.

ProPublica Illinois reporting fellow Jerrel Floyd, news applications fellow Katlyn Aloand news applications developer David Eads contributed to this story.

Millions of Black Voters Are Being Purged From Voter Rolls, Often Illegally: Report

Millions of Black Voters Are Being Purged From Voter Rolls, Often Illegally: Report

Residents cast their votes at a polling place on November 4, 2014, near Ferguson, Mo.       Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

As the end of Barack Obama’s presidency grew closer, election officials began preparing for the next election. Instead of strengthening the security of voting machines and making voting more accessible to citizens, states did the exact opposite. But they didn’t just make it harder to vote. For hundreds of thousands of registered, eligible voters across the nation, they made it impossible.

Voter Purges (pdf), a new report by the Brennan Center, highlights the systematic purging of voters from rolls by state and local officials around the country. These are not random, isolated cases. It is a methodical effort that disproportionately affects minority voters. Even worse, no one seems to care.

In 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) which was an attempt to make registering to vote easier by offering driver license applicants the opportunity to register to vote. The law also prevented states from purging voters unless they met certain requirements.

But the Brennan report highlights how states have skirted the law and purged voters without punishment. And after the Supreme Court dismantled the requirements for voter pre-clearance with the Shelby v. Holder rulingstates with histories of voter discrimination no longer required federal pre-clearance before purging rolls.

Between 2014 and 2016, 16 million registered voters were removed from state rolls, 33 percent more than were moved between 2006 and 2008. For the election of 2012 and 2016, the Brennan Center estimates that two million fewer voters would have been purged if those states had to apply by the provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Some of the egregious highlights of the report include:

  • In June 2016, the Arkansas secretary of state gave a list of 7,700 names to county clerks to be removed from the rolls because of supposed felony convictions. That list included people who had never been convicted of a felony and formerly convicted persons whose voting rights had been restored.
  • In 2013, Virginia deleted 39,000 names from its voting roster. In some counties, the mistakes on the list were as high as 17 percent.
  • A federal court halted a purge after Hurricane Katrina after justices found that one-third of the purged names came from a majority black parish in of New Orleans.
  • After the Shelby v. Holder decision, Texas purged 363,000 more voters than it did the election cycle before the case. Georgia purged 1.5 million more voters.
  • Alabama, Indiana and Maine have illegally instituted the widely ridiculed Crosscheck system (on which Charles D. Ellison previously reported on for The Root) that purges voters without federally-mandated notification.
  • In 1986, one Louisiana official remarked that a voter purge effort “could really keep the black vote down considerably.”
  • Instead of checking out inequities, Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice has been urging states to do more purging.

Almost every type of voter purge disproportionately affects black voters and voters of color. Some states purge rolls based solely on names but non-whites are more likely to have the same names. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.3 percent of Hispanic people and 13 percent of black people have one of the 10 most common surnames, compared to 4.5 percent of white people.

Black and Hispanic voters are more likely to move, often in the same jurisdiction, but voter purges based on address eliminate them from voting. Officials also use “voter caging” which intentionally sends mail to verify addresses in a format that cannot be forwarded, leading to the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.

African Americans are also more likely to have felony convictions, and elderly and minority voters are more likely to be incapacitated, all reasons for which someone can be purged from a voter roll.

Almost every study ever done on this issue shows that in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Instead, these purges are intentional efforts to restrict voting rights.

Some of the easily-implementable recommendations to rectify this travesty include:

  1. Public notifications of impending voter purges.
  2. Making purge lists available to the public, including at polling places.
  3. Accepting provisional ballots from purged voters.
  4. Universal voter registration forms and rules.
  5. Stop using failure to vote as a reason to purge voters.

All of these policies seem like they would be universally-accepted fixes for a flaw in our democracy.

But then again, not having a Russian agent for a President seems like a smart thing too. How’s that working out?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Harriot

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of “it.” Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.    Posts

White Supremacy Has Always Been Mainstream ::: The Boston Reivew

White Supremacy Has Always Been Mainstream

STEPHEN KANTROWITZ

Image: Library of Congress

The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition
Linda Gordon
Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy
Elizabeth Gillespie McRae
Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America
Kathleen Belew

 

White supremacy is a language of unease. It does not describe racial domination so much as worry about it.

White supremacy connotes many grim and terrifying things, including inequality, exclusion, injustice, and state and vigilante violence. Like whiteness itself, white supremacy arose from the world of Atlantic slavery but survived its demise. Yet while the structures are old, the term “white supremacy” is not. Although it first appeared in British abolitionist critiques and U.S. proslavery defenses in the first half of the nineteenth century, it only became commonplace—and notably not as a pejorative—in U.S. whites’ post-emancipation calls for a racial order that would reinstitute slavery’s political and economic guarantees.

White supremacy has always been hard work. Because of this, it is possible to imagine that someday there will be no one willing to perform the labor.

White supremacy’s opponents evoke it to condemn. Its proponents use it to summon up a vision of a racially ordered society, to rally political forces behind that vision, to establish laws and institutions that affirm it, and finally to render it natural and normal. But the very fact that the phrase requires speaking means that something has gone awry. If the hierarchy of races were real, it would easily have survived slave emancipation. Instead, that hierarchy must be constantly asserted and enforced, lest the white race be overwhelmed, overcome, and extinguished. White supremacy is organized around a dread of its own demise, and with it the white race.

This inherent instability has produced a welter of fears, fantasies, and imperatives, from racial purity to race war. It has also made “white supremacy” a call to action. Indeed, the effort to transform the phrase from a slogan into a fact has been a massive social and political project, involving the witting and unwitting labor of many millions of people. White supremacy has always been hard work.

But because it is work, it is possible to imagine that someday there will be no one willing to perform the labor. And sometime between the march from Selma to Montgomery and the election of Barack Obama, many Americans allowed themselves to believe something of the kind: that white supremacy’s advocates, having lost their long war, were giving up.

The violent manifestations of white supremacy over the past several years—from Dylann Roof’s murders in Charleston, through Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency—unwound that hope. No better illustration exists for white supremacy’s return to the cultural center than Charlottesville’s 2017 “Unite the Right” rally, in which emblems of the Klan, the Third Reich, and the Confederacy jostled with more esoteric banners and names, together representing a century’s worth of white supremacist politicking. By the time the sirens died out, it should have been clear that Dylann Roof was no “lone wolf,” but the legitimate offspring of a reemergent social movement.

Yet even as white supremacy appeared suddenly to be everywhere in U.S. life, many—and not just on the right—denied its existence. Trump’s refusal to criticize even neo-Nazis was treated as a uniquely craven act of “norm-breaking,” not as a predictable extension of decades of coded and not-so-coded racist appeals. In the rush to catch Trump out, what has been omitted from media reporting is the long history of indulging white supremacist ideology and expression. Consider how long Pat “Blood and Soil” Buchanan served as a respectable voice of the political and journalistic right, winning four states in the 1996 Republican primaries and later playing Rachel Maddow’s curmudgeonly uncle on MSNBC—all in spite of his longstanding support for white ethnonationalism. Or remember the PBS NewsHour profile of Trump supporter Grace Tilly that failed to note her neo-Nazi tattoos. The network’s post-backlash editor’s note treated Tilly’s claim that her tattoos were religious, not racist, as worthy of debate, as though an enormous “88”—code for “Heil Hitler”—paired with a bullseye cross, another white supremacy symbol, left room for uncertainty. The myth that white supremacy is a marginal political phenomenon has proved so durable that many people find it easier to deny its overt expression than confront a more troubling reality: “very fine people”—and not just fathers, husbands, and sons, but mothers, wives, and daughters as well—have always been central to the work of advancing white supremacist causes.

“Very fine people”—and not just fathers, husbands, and sons, but mothers, wives, and daughters as well—have always been central to the work of white supremacy.

Three recent books explore the twentieth-century history of this political project. In Linda Gordon’s thoughtful reconsideration of the 1920s Klan, we watch shameless grifters deploy racial hierarchy and exclusion to forge the largest social movement of the early twentieth century. In Elizabeth Gillespie McRae’s revelatory exploration of mid-century white women’s segregationist work, we see how the inheritors of that vision learned to speak in new languages, muted enough to pass in a society increasingly hostile to white supremacy but unmistakable to partisans as a continuation of the long struggle against racial equality. In Kathleen Belew’s groundbreaking account of the White Power movement from the mid-1970s to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, it becomes clear how a post–civil rights generation of white supremacist organizers positioned themselves as victims of an overbearing state, even as they nurtured Timothy McVeigh, Dylann Roof, and the dream of race war.

These works do not claim to provide a comprehensive account of twentieth-century white supremacy; such a project would also have to probe (as other scholars have) the forces of labor and capital, and—as only Belew does here—the relationship of domestic ideologies and practices to their imperial histories. But read together and through one another, these works provide a sobering crash course in the power, diversity, and persistence of white supremacist ideas and politics.

Across the long twentieth century, white supremacist activists nurtured an exclusionary racial nationalism. They envisioned a nation safely in the hands of its “rightful” owners, redeemed from misrule by “unfit” peoples, and made great again. Although their work relied extensively on white women’s organizational and ideological labors, they posited a world of white patriarchal families in which men spoke and fought while women sustained and reproduced. Responding to successive challenges, these activists developed new languages and new coalitions, but they remained consistently suspicious (at a minimum) of political authority that they could not directly control. Partly for this reason, they usually saw electoral politics as a critical arena of struggle, and they rarely abandoned it. Across the century, this ideological and organizational landscape has been home to hustlers, activists, and insurgents playing distinct but often complementary roles. White supremacy has always been at once a political movement, an armed struggle, and a long con.

Gordon’s Second Coming of the KKK shows how a white supremacist and nativist movement reset the boundaries of political discourse, clarified that the nation existed in the image and service of a particular kind of American, and took control of governments from school boards to Congress to give those imperatives life. Klansmen nurtured a politics of resentment against both “elites” who looked down on them and the immigrants, blacks, and radicals who seemed to challenge their world.

To many of its white contemporaries, the KKK of the 1920s was a respectable organization that promised to restore white Protestants to their proper place of authority.

The first Ku Klux Klan was founded in the 1860s by former Confederate soldiers and for a few years became the spear and symbol of the war against Reconstruction. This first Klan was actively suppressed by legal and military action in the early 1870s, and the campaigns of racial terror and political intimidation that finally overthrew Reconstruction were largely conducted under other names. The second Klan was founded in 1915 by William Joseph Simmons in response to that year’s blockbuster film, D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, which reworked memories of the Reconstruction-era KKK into a mythos of white male chivalry combatting black sexual barbarism. Beginning in 1919, the Klan exploded in size and power as organizers channeled the era’s powerful currents of nativism and violent white supremacy through the heroic image and visual style of the film’s Klansmen. They coupled the anti-black rhetoric of the Reconstruction-era Klan with a pervasive hostility toward non-Protestant immigrants and what Simmons derided as their anti-American propensities for “Bolshevism, Socialism, Syndicalism, I.W.W.ism.” Gordon encourages us to understand that, to many of its white American contemporaries, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s was an “ordinary and respectable” organization that promised to restore white Protestants, mainly of the lower middle and skilled working classes, to their proper place of authority in U.S. cultural and political life. She reminds us that many of the Klan’s hobbyhorses—anti-black racism, antisemitism, anti-Catholicism, and nativism; censoriousness about sex and alcohol; support for eugenics; and narrow-minded nationalism—reflected broad and sometimes hegemonic aspects of 1920s U.S. culture.

Gordon also asks us to understand the movement as producing, not just reflecting, social concerns. The Klan channeled preexisting hatred of racial inferiors and haughty elites, but it also ginned up those expressions and provided new outlets for them. Conspiracy thinking was central to Klan rhetoric and ideology. Everywhere lurked sinister forces that sought to take over the U.S. government and subvert the country’s way of life. Indeed, those forces might already have taken power. Jews, Catholics, Bolsheviks, and African Americans were always about to swamp “true Americans” with rising birthrates; take control of U.S. police forces and public schools; undermine cherished values with sex, alcohol, or pornography; and oppress real Americans from the safety of powerful, distant institutions.

Such conspiracy talk effectively transformed grievances and insecurities into well-defined targets that local Klans could then organize against. In Madison, Wisconsin, for example, the Klan took up the cause of fighting illegal liquor trafficking in a neighborhood populated by Italians, blacks, and Jews. There and elsewhere, the Klan infiltrated or worked alongside police departments. Beatings, whippings, cross-burning, death threats, and fatal shootings marked the outer edge of the Klan’s activities, but in some locales—Dayton, Ohio; Williamson County, Illinois; large swaths of Oklahoma—assaults were common and condoned.

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An Open Letter to Those Who Still Give a Damn ::: John Pavlovitz

An Open Letter to Those Who Still Give a Damn

JULY 21, 2018 / JOHN PAVLOVITZ

From   JohnPavlovitz  Stuff That Needs to Be Said

It’s exhausting to give a damn isn’t it?

To be a person of compassion in a time when compassion is in such great demand?

To wake up every day in days like these, and push back against predatory politicians and toxic systems and human rights atrocities and acts of treason and spiritual leadership failures and Presidential Tweet tantrums—the volume and the relentlessness of the threats can be wearying.

You may have noticed.

I think you have.

And you’re not simply carrying around these big picture, larger systemic sicknesses and political realities—but the people behind them; the names and the faces and the lives of specific human beings who are under unprecedented duress right now; people whose stories you listen to and know and are living within, people you dearly love.

And day after day, all these massive realities and these individual stories begin to accumulate upon your shoulders and in your clenched jaw and in your elevated heart rate, and in the knot in your stomach that returns every morning when you check Twitter or turn on the news or step out into your community or walk into the kitchen—and you see so many reasons for grief, places so many places compassion is so needed and yet so scarce.

And worst of all, is how many people both at distance and very close to you, just don’t seem to give a damn; how the pain of other people simply doesn’t register in them anymore.

It seems like fewer and fewer people are capable of even an entry-level empathy for the suffering around them, and you’re seriously considering joining their ranks, because of how tired you are of carrying both your own and their share of compassion for a hurting humanity.

Not long after the election I purchased a blood pressure monitor. And not one of those manual base models, either. I went high-end, top of the line; full upper arm cuff, automated pressure, digital readout—the works. I soon stopped using it though, as it was a daily reminder of how stressed I was. I don’t look at it any longer. I don’t measure my blood pressure anymore. Now I just assume it’s dangerously high.

Those of us who give a damn all have new dangers assailing our hearts these days, and it is in this time of relentless urgency and sustained trauma and prolonged fatigue and profound fracture that you and I find ourselves.

I’m not sure why you’re reading this, but it’s probably because still you’re a damn-giver; because you are a fierce lover of humanity and of the planet, and of people who don’t look or worship or sound like you. As a result you probably find yourself pissed off, disconnected, isolated, worn out, and exhausted because how few people are as moved by the need around them as you are.

Whether you’re an activist or a minister or a parent or a caregiver, or just a citizen of the planet who is moved by other people’s suffering—you likely feel the immeasurable heaviness of these days. Sure, speed and activity can mask it for a while, but if you stop long enough, the reality of the fatigue catches up to you—you can measure the toll it’s all taken on you. I want you to measure it. I want you reckon with how tired you are. I want you to hear yourself exhale with the heavy sigh of someone who feels the weight of it all.

There is a cost to compassion, a personal price tag to cultivating empathy in days when cruelty is trending. There is in your body and head and in your midst, a collateral damage to you giving a damn when others do not, and it manifests itself in many ways: in irritability, impatience, physical illness, eating emotionally, addictive behavior, the inability to be present to the people who love you, an obsession with social media, a fixation on how jacked up everything is.

Notice these things in you today, and give them your attention.
Extend some of that compassion you’re so willing to extend to the world—to yourself.
Take some time to step away from the fray and the fight. It will still be there when you return, and you’ll be better able to face it.

Friend, I know you’re exhausted. If you’re not exhausted right now your empathy is busted. But I also know that you aren’t alone.
Millions of people are as tired as you are right now.
We too, live in disbelief at how callous so many people we know and love have become.
We too, are incredulous witnessing our elected leaders and parents and neighbors and pastors and parents and favorite aunts abandon any semblance of kindness.
We too, feel the fatigue of believing we’re doing this damn-giving alone.

You are in good company, so keep going.
Fight like hell to keep your heart soft, even while so many people have become hardened.
Yes the world is upside-down right now, but we can make it right—one beautiful act of decency at a time.
Get some rest and keep going.
The world needs people like you.

Blessed are the damn-givers, for they will right-side the world.

About John Pavlovitz  

John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In the past four years his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said has reached a diverse worldwide audience. A 20-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. In 2017 he released his first book, A Bigger Table. His new book, Hope and Other Superpowers, arrives on November 6th.

Contact John

Baby Bonds: A Plan for Black/White Wealth Equality Conservatives Could Love?

Baby Bonds: A Plan for Black/White Wealth Equality Conservatives Could Love?

Darrick Hamilton calls for spreading the benefits of asset-ownership to all Americans.

 

JOIN THE INSTITUTE IN DETROIT FOR A CONFERENCE ON RACE & ECONOMICS, NOV. 11-12.

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Sex, Race, and the Law: Considering America ‘In the Dark’ :: The Nation Mag

patty-wetterling-in-the-dark-podcast-ap-img

Jerry and Patty Wetterling, parents of Jason Wetterling, who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed by an Annandale man in 1989. (Star Tribune via AP / Renee Jones Schneider)

Madeleine Baran’s stunning investigative podcast grapples with our so-called “justice” system.

If Childish Gambino’s song “This is America” and Boots Riley’s film Sorry to Bother You perfectly distill the absurd comedy and violent hell of the United States circa 2018, then Madeleine Baran’s In the Dark does the same in podcast form. The audio-documentary series dropped the haunting final episode of its second season earlier this month, and, like Donald Glover’s and Riley’s works, Baran’s opus lays bare the nexus of racial anxiety, guns, criminal “justice,” and capitalism in our nation.

In the Dark is produced by APM Reports and hosted by lead reporter Baran, who helms an investigative team of a half dozen journalists who work on a single story for a year. Season 1investigated the 1989 abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in rural Minnesota. Wetterling’s fate went unsolved for almost 27 years, during which he became the poster child for dangerous misconceptions about child kidnappings. But unlike the purveyors of many true-crime series, Baran and her team do not hype hysteria. Rather, they reveal how those in positions of power—like the local sheriff, politicians, and huckster John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted—were incompetent and exploitative of the Wetterlings. (Danny Heinrich, an early but largely unpursued suspect, confessed in 2016 as part of plea deal over child-pornography charges.)

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