Black Nationalism and Liberation | Boston Review

 

Nation of Islam counter-demonstration at NAACP rally in Harlem, 1961 / Photograph: NAACP collection, Library of Congress

In a world where Donald Trump’s presidential nomination speech has been endorsed by a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan—yet Black Lives Matter activists are accused of reverse racism for asking to not be murdered by police—what constitutes hate speech has become increasingly convoluted. In the aftermath of police killings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, gunmen Micah Johnson and Gavin Long were immediately linked by media outlets to black nationalist groups such as the Nation of Islam (NOI), New Black Panther Party, Black Riders Liberation Party, and Washitaw Nation, despite their professions to have been acting alone. Not only did these depictions draw misleading lines to organizations that do not prescribe such acts of violence, they also overshadowed both mens’ backgrounds in cultures of military violence (Johnson joined the Army Reserves immediately after high school and Long was a former Marine sergeant).

In a desperate attempt to drive home a link to black nationalism and direct attention away from these other troubling vectors, some news outlets began referring to Johnson as “Micah X” (NOI members use “X” to replace their “slave names”). In fact his middle name was simply Xavier. Even progressive groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, play a legitimating role by identifying black nationalist groups as “black separatist hate groups,” leaving little room for meaningful distinctions between white supremacy and black nationalism. While groups such as the Nation of Islam have historically advocated for the separation of black communities, to assert that this position is simply the obverse of white supremacy—that is, black supremacy—overlooks the nuance of black nationalism. More importantly, it fails to account for the dramatically different relationships to power that black nationalist and white supremacist groups possess. White nationalism reinscribes and exalts the privileges of whiteness. Black nationalists council separation as an anti-racist practice and a method of empowerment in the absence of alternative avenues of power. To many black nationalists, this is the difference between life and death: the black community must either do for itself or perish.

The conflation of black and white nationalism is not new. In 1963 the New York Herald Tribune satirized what it perceived as the ironic similarities between white supremacists and black nationalists in a story entitled “Integrated Segregation.” Things “seem a trifle confused on the racial front these days. The segregationists are getting integrated and the integrationists are getting segregated,” the Tribune remarked. The article imagined a scene in which staunch segregationist George Wallace was explaining why racial segregation benefitted black Americans when “a Black Muslim popped up from behind, tapped him on the back and agreed with him.” Soon, the article predicted, the Congress for Racial Equality would “start picketing the N.A.A.C.P., while the Black Muslims set up an all-Negro chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.”

To many black nationalists, separation from whites is the difference between life and death: the black community must either do for itself or perish.

Understanding black nationalism as simply the mirror image of white supremacy, rather than an anti-racist practice, has deep roots in American political discourse. And in our current moment of colorblind “post-racialism,” when race-specific remedies such as affirmative action or reparations are derided as reverse racism—and even modest demands from Black Lives Matter for criminal justice reform are decried as anti-white—black nationalism has been once again mischaracterized using a host of long-stale tropes. We would be better served, not by simply dismissing black nationalism as the underbelly of white supremacy, but by understanding it as a tradition that is both liberative and anti-racist; one that does not mirror white supremacy, but repudiates it.

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W. D. Fard, the founder of the Nation of Islam, arrived in Detroit in 1930 and told black Detroiters that they “were not Americans but Asiatics.” This was part of a holistic alternative creation story that rejected the racist underpinnings of white American nationalism. Many of Fard’s followers were former followers of Marcus Garvey, left without an organization after the decline of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the late 1920s due to financial mismanagement and government infiltration. Garvey and the UNIA epitomized the goals of black nationalism, launching the most ambitious and successful Pan-Africanist vision in history. At its height, the UNIA had over 700 branches in 38 states, and its newspaper, Negro World, circulated throughout the African diaspora. Millions of black people were moved by Garvey’s message of racial pride embodied through the UNIA motto “One God! One Aim! One Destiny!” The NOI borrowed many of its black nationalist tenets from the UNIA, combining them with religious symbols, practices, and theologies drawn from the plethora of new northern, black, urban religious and racial-pride movements spawned by the Great Migration. This blending spoke to the diverse backgrounds of many early NOI members: in 1951 nineteen out of twenty-eight Muslims interviewed reported having previously been members in other movements such as black Masonry, the Israelite Movement, God’s Government on the Earth (dedicated to Liberian emigration), the Peace Movement of Ethiopia, Repatriation Movement to Liberia, and the Black Jews.

As historian Robin D. G. Kelley notes, many of these movements were influenced by a Black Zionist tradition that drew upon the narrative of the book of Exodus to imagine liberation and deliverance for black people around the world. These freedom dreams not only provided what he calls a “narrative of slavery, emancipation, and renewal,” but also a “language to critique America’s racist state since the biblical Israel represented a new beginning.” Beyond providing a framework for denouncing American racism, black nationalists addressed the racist power structures that governed their communities by creating jobs, businesses, schools, and places of worship. Racial separation was not simply about black communities’ physical relationship to white people; it was about changing the structures of power that governed those relationships through self-determination, community control, and new relationships to self and one another.

By 1959 the Nation of Islam was a burgeoning movement well known within urban black communities in the North but still largely unknown to white America. That summer, as Malcolm X traveled to Africa as a guest of Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Mike Wallace (later of 60 Minutes fame) and black journalist Louis Lomax presented the NOI to white audiences for the first time. In their sensationalist documentary, The Hate That Hate Produced, NOI was compared to the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan. Members of the Nation were referred to as “black racists” and “black supremacists.” Its cautionary message to a largely white audience was that white racism would inevitably produce its black variant. As Malcolm X later recalled in his Autobiography, the show was meant to shock viewers, like when “Orson Welles frightened America with a radio program describing . . . an invasion by ‘men from Mars.’”

The Hate That Hate Produced was critical in launching the Nation of Islam into the public eye. But it also offered white viewers a language for understanding black nationalism that both intensified and allayed their fears. While racism was a plague that undermined American democracy, it was not a distinctly white characteristic. As Charlie Keil, a young white civil rights organizer at Yale during the early 1960s explained to me recently: “The Hate that Hate Produced allowed [whites] to sort of categorize the Muslims—the Nation of Islam—and treat them a certain way. . . . [It was] some way of saying that this was not an autonomous self-starting movement, but a reaction, an overreaction to a history of oppression.”

Throughout the 1960s black nationalists were castigated as “supremacists” who promoted the very racism and racial segregation that liberals were fighting against. This was stoked by white nationalists who saw calls for black racial separation as consistent with their belief in the benefits of racial segregation. As George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi Party, told Alex Haley in a 1966 interview: “Malcolm X said the same thing I’m saying.”

Rockwell was not the only one confused about the difference between racial segregationand racial separation. In a highly-publicized Los Angeles trial in 1962 after police killed an unarmed member of the Los Angeles NOI mosque, the Los Angeles Times reported the “unusual problem in seating of spectators . . . when women members of the sect refused to accept seats alongside white persons.” The court eventually overturned this seating arrangement, and the press described this as “desegregation.” Los Angeles NAACP president Christopher Taylor joined the chorus of the aggrieved by arguing that he would be against any type of segregation, regardless of who initiated it. This decontextualized, colorblind insistence that any race demanding separation was calling for racial segregation was central to mischaracterizations of black nationalism during this period.

Malcolm X set about clarifying the Nation of Islam’s advocacy for racial separatism through dozens of debates with prominent civil rights figures on college campuses across the country in the early 1960s. He debated James Farmer at Cornell, Bayard Rustin at Howard, Louis Lomax at Yale, and the NAACP’s Walter Carrington at Harvard. Almost every debate was themed around the question: “Integration or Separation?” As Malcolm explained at Wesleyan University: “We are just as much against segregation as the most staunch integrationist.” But he added that black people did not “want to be free any more; they want integration. . . . They have confused their method with their objective.” In other words, black nationalists were not opposed to racial integration as an outcome of freedom struggles, or even as an organizing strategy, but they saw it as deeply flawed as the movement’s principal objective. More importantly, they pointed out the racist presumption of integration, which took for granted that white society and its values were more desirable. As Malcolm once sardonically asked, Who is the white man to be equal to?

More than simply critiquing integration, the Nation of Islam emphasized the importance of community control, an idea that flourished in upcoming years with the emergence of the Black Power movement. As Malcolm explained: “segregation means to regulate or control. . . . A segregated community is that forced upon inferiors by superiors. A separate community is done voluntarily by two equals.” Recognizing the pervasiveness of racial segregation, nationalists sought control over the businesses, healthcare, education, housing, and policing in their communities. Indeed, the Kerner Commission’s grim 1968 assessment that the nation was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal” was something understood within black communities for decades. Amidst this backdrop, nationalists called for greater autonomy. The distinction between segregation and separation was not a semantic pivot. It was a deeper analysis of power, and an assertion of self-determination.

Over sixty years since the Supreme Court struck down the constitutionality of “separate but equal” in Brown v. Board, it would seem that calls for racial separatism are a relic of the past. But that might be too hopeful. A 2014 UCLA study revealed higher levels of school segregation in many regions than in 1968, the year the Supreme Court decreed a more proactive approach to desegregation. Schools with less than 1 percent white students are now being referred to as “apartheid schools.” And while the South is no longer governed by Jim Crow laws, cities outside the South such as Chicago and Baltimore continue to be described by demographers as “hypersegregated.”

The denial of race is a fixture of racism. Black nationalists have often exposed the “colorblind,” coded racism of liberals.

Black critiques of school integration during the 1950s and 1960s were often decried. In the words of scholar Andrew Delbanco, novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston “consigned herself to oblivion” when she responded to the Brown v. Board decision by saying that she could “see no tragedy in being too dark to be invited to a white school affair.” After James Meredith enrolled as the first black student in the University of Mississippi’s history, Malcolm X told a courtroom that anytime a man “needs [an] escort of 15,000 troops to go to a college where he will be among people whose viciousness toward him is so deadly that he needs the Army there to protect him . . . that Negro is foolish if he thinks that he is going to get an education.” Education, not integration, should be the goal, both Hurston and Malcolm agreed. As Malcolm explained, “token integration” was pointless as long as there were “a couple million Negroes in Mississippi who haven’t been allowed to go to the Kindergarten in a decent school.”

Meanwhile, integration today is often illustrated through the exceptional accomplishments of a handful of black elites, most notably President Barack Obama, rather than evidenced by a substantial redistribution of wealth or educational and housing opportunities. As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor demonstrates, the role of “black faces in high places” is often to obscure the common conditions facing many African Americans. Instead, black elected officials serve as interlocutors speaking to—and on behalf of—black communities. Taylor writes poignantly of the 2015 Baltimore uprising after the death of Freddie Gray: “When a Black mayor, governing a largely Black city, aids in the mobilization of a military unit led by a Black woman to suppress a Black rebellion, we are in a new period of the Black freedom struggle.” But this new period has unfortunately produced all-too-familiar outcomes for poor and working-class black people.

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The long history of black nationalist leaders having official meetings with white supremacist leaders is another narrative often mobilized as proof of the essential symmetry of the two movements. In 1922 Marcus Garvey met with the Imperial Wizard of the Klan, Edward Clarke, earning him swift denunciation by the NAACP. In 1961 Malcolm X and other NOI officials secretly met with the KKK in Atlanta to negotiate a non-aggression pact surrounding the NOI’s purchase of southern farmland. The following year American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell even appeared as an invited guest at the NOI’s Saviour’s Day convention in Chicago. When police in Monroe, Louisiana, illegally targeted and raided the city’s mosque with tear gas, rifles, and riot sticks, the Nation of Islam secured an interracial defense team: local black attorney James Sharpe, Jr., and Imperial Wizard of the National Knights of the Klan, James Venable. As Venable explained when taking the case, “I hate to say it but a colored man doesn’t have a chance in a courtroom in the South.”

The decision by black nationalists to meet or coordinate with white supremacists was often driven by a combination of pragmatism and a deep cynicism about the authenticity of liberals. In the case of the UNIA, Garvey negotiated an agreement with Clarke to sell stock in black businesses such as newspapers, factories, and his Black Star shipping line, which ambitiously hoped to link a global black economy in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas before failing due to poor business management. And although Malcolm X would later denounce the Nation of Islam’s détente with the Klan, the organization’s motivation for doing so was plainly and only to secure the right to farm in the South without danger of violent reprisal. And in the case against eight members of the NOI in Monroe, Venable successfully won an appeal for several of those convicted.

Black nationalists were also not uncritical of the white supremacists with whom they interacted, a fact often downplayed or forgotten. After his meeting with the Klan, Garvey told a crowd: “Mr. Clark [sic] did not tell me anything new; he told me what I discovered seven years ago. He told me the thing that caused me to have organized the Universal Negro Improvement Association four and a half years ago.” When Rockwell, wearing full Nazi regalia, donated twenty dollars to a collection plate at Saviour’s Day, there was a smattering of reluctant applause. Malcolm X belittled him by adding: “You got the biggest hand you ever got.” Equally, black nationalists used white supremacists to draw attention to the hypocrisy of liberals. Following his 1922 meeting, Garvey claimed that Klan members were “better friends to my race, for telling us who they are, and what they mean.” Malcolm used a similar device in his folk metaphor of the liberal “fox” and the conservative “wolf.” When comparing John F. Kennedy to George Wallace, Malcolm said: “Neither one loves you. The only difference is that the fox will eat you with a smile instead of a scowl.” He even penned a 1964 editorial entitled “Why I Am for Goldwater” in which he drew upon the same fox/wolf metaphor and cynically suggested that with Goldwater, “black people at least know what they are dealing with.”

Critics on the left who see these as misguided political strategies have marginalized black nationalists by painting them as racial conservatives, and thereby emptied black nationalists’ critiques of their incisiveness. For example, Paul Gilroy accuses Garvey of “black fascism” and C. L. R. James even compared him to Hitler. Others have taken Malcolm’s cynical support for Goldwater at face value, rather than understanding his rhetorical move to draw parallels between openly racist politicians and ostensibly liberal ones whose policies nonetheless gut the black community.

Black nationalist groups such as the UNIA and the NOI have rightly been critiqued for their deep patriarchy, homophobia, and tendency to reproduce the other trappings of empire. As historian Michelle Ann Stephens notes of Garvey, his “vision of the sovereign state figured in the black male sovereign; the desire for home at a more affective level figured in the woman of color.” Likewise, anti-Semitic comments by Nation of Islam leaders such as Louis Farrakhan have certainly buttressed comparisons between white and black nationalists. Most recently, Farrakhan stoked this fire by praising Donald Trump’s refusal to take money from Jewish donors.

But although charismatic leaders are often the voices we hear most prominently, for many rank-and-file members of the Nation of Islam and other black nationalist groups, the lived experience of racial pride, religious rebirth, and doing for oneself is a redemptive, affirming, and even lifesaving practice. Many members joined the NOI after feeling alienated in integrated, more middle-class organizations such as the NAACP. As Lindsey X told an interviewer, what the NAACP “wanted never seemed real to me. I think Negroes should create jobs for themselves rather than going begging for them.” Malcolm X’s autobiography is only the best-known narrative of religious and political redemption. In a long-running feature in the NOI’s newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, entitled “What Islam Has Done For Me,” members offered their conversion narratives and testified to the transformative practice of Islam. Robert 24X of Paterson, New Jersey, contributed: “I was a young drug addict who had spent too much time in the hells of Harlem’s East Side . . . [before] everything came into focus for me. . . . I stopped smoking, using profanity, and eating improper foods. And I’ve passed my biggest acid test—no more needles in the arm.”

Instead of positioning black nationalism as a reactionary, conservative ideology that simply apes the violence and hate of white supremacy, we might learn from its lessons today. If asked about the xenophobia and dangerous comments of conservative firebrand Donald Trump in our current election, Malcolm X might well have pivoted us back to Hillary Clinton’s questionable record on race, one which Black Lives Matter activists have pointed out includes racist dog whistles such as her comments about “super-predators” lacking empathy, her steadfast support for the devastating 1994 Crime Bill, and campaign money taken from private prison corporations. And beyond the hollow political discourse of election cycles, we must avoid the pitfalls of incessant claims of post-racialism that insist that to see race is to participate in racism. As we have witnessed with the familiar “All Lives Matter” rejoinder to “Black Lives Matter,” we are living in a time when people’s humanity is so denigrated that the mere valuation of life is taken by some whites to be a zero-sum game. The denial of race is a central fixture in the perpetuation of racism, and black nationalists have routinely called attention to the importance of racial pride while exposing the coded racism of liberals. Rather than draw facile lines between black nationalism and white supremacy, we are better served by understanding black nationalism as an anti-racist political tradition seeking to envision black American freedom and citizenship in a nation that has rarely devoted much effort toward either end.

Source: Black Nationalism and Liberation | Boston Review

How Prison Labor is the New American Slavery and Most of Us Unknowingly Support it

American slavery was technically abolished in 1865, but a loophole in the 13th Amendment has allowed it to continue “as a punishment for crimes” well into the 21st century. Not surprisingly, corporations have lobbied for a broader and broader definition of “crime” in the last 150 years. As a result, there are more (mostly dark-skinned) people performing mandatory, essentially unpaid, hard labor in America today than there were in 1830.

With 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population, the United States hasthe largest incarcerated population in the world. No other society in history has imprisoned more of its own citizens. There are half a million more prisoners in the U.S. than in China, which has five times our population. Approximately 1 in 100 adults in America were incarcerated in 2014.  Out of an adult population of 245 millionthat year, there were 2.4 million people in prison, jail or some form of detention center.

The vast majority – 86 percent – of prisoners have been locked up for non-violent, victimless crimes, many of them drug-related.

Big Business is making big bucks off of prison labor:

While prison labor helps produce goods and services for almost every big business in America, here are a few examples from anarticle that highlights the epidemic:

Whole Foods – You ever wonder how Whole Foods can afford to keep their prices so low (sarcasm)? Whole Foods’ coffee, chocolate and bananas might be “fair trade,” but the corporation has been offsetting the “high wages” paid to third-world producers with not-so-fair-wages here in America.

The corporation, famous for it’s animal welfare rating system, apparently was not as concerned about the welfare of the human “animals” working for them in Colorado prisons until April of this year.

You know that $12-a-pound tilapia you thought you were buying from “sustainable, American family farms?” It was raised by prisoners in Colorado, who were paid as little as 74 cents a day. And that fancy goat cheese? The goats were raised and milked by prisoners too.

McDonald’s – The world’s most successful fast food franchise purchases a plethora of goods manufactured in prisons, including plastic cutlery, containers, and uniforms. The inmates who sew McDonald’s uniformsmake even less money by the hour than the people who wear them.

Wal-Mart – Although their company policy clearly states that “forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart,” basically every item in their store has been supplied by third-party prison labor factories. Wal-Martpurchases its produce from prison farms, where laborers are often subjected to long hours in the blazing heat without adequate food or water.

Victoria’s Secret – Female inmates in South Carolina sew undergarments and casual-wear for the pricey lingerie company. In the late 1990’s, two prisoners were placed in solitary confinement for telling journalists that they were hired to replace “Made in Honduras” garment tags with “Made in USA” tags.

AT&T – In 1993, the massive phone company laid off thousands of telephone operators—all union members—in order to increase their profits. Even though AT&T’s company policy regarding prison labor reads eerily like Wal-Mart’s, they have consistently used inmates to work in their call centers since ’93, barely paying them $2 a day.

BP (British Petroleum) – When BP spilled 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf coast, the company sent a workforce of almost exclusively African-American inmates to clean up the toxic spill while community members, many of whom were out-of-work fisherman, struggled to make ends meet. BP’s decision to use prisoners instead of hiring displaced workers outraged the Gulf community, but the oil company did nothing to reconcile the situation.

The full list of companies implicated in exploiting prison labor includes:

Bank of America
Bayer
Cargill
Caterpillar
Chevron
Chrysler
Costco
John Deere
Eli Lilly and Company
Exxon Mobil
GlaxoSmithKline
Johnson and Johnson
K-Mart
Koch Industries
McDonald’s
Merck
Microsoft
Motorola
Nintendo
Pfizer
Procter & Gamble
Pepsi
ConAgra Foods
Shell
Starbucks
UPS
Verizon
WalMart
Wendy’s

While not all prisoners are “forced” to work, most “opt” to because life would be even more miserable if they didn’t, as they have to purchase pretty much everything above the barest necessities (and sometimes those too) with their hard-earned pennies. Some of them have legal fines to pay off and families to support on the outside. Often they come out more indebted than when they went in.

Prison farms” aka “modern plantations”
In places like Texas, however, prison work is mandatory and unpaid – the literal definition of slave labor.

According the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, prisoners start their day with a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call and are served breakfast at 4:30 a.m. All prisoners who are physically able are required to report to their work assignments by 6 a.m.

“Offenders are not paid for their work, but they can earn privileges as a result of good work habits,” the website says.

 

Most prisoners work in prison support jobs, like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and maintenance, but about 2,500 of them work in the Texas prison system’s own “agribusiness department,” where they factory-farm 10,000 beef cattle, 20,000 pigs and a quarter million egg-laying hens. The prisoners also produce 74 million pounds of livestock feed per year, 300,000 cases of canned vegetables, and enough cotton to clothe themselves (and presumably others). They also work at meat packaging plants, where they process 14 million pounds of beef and 10 million pounds of pork per year.

While one of the department’s stated goals is to reduce operational costs by having prisoners produce their own food, the prison system admittedly earns revenue from “sales of surplus agricultural production.”

Prisoners who refuse to work – again, unpaid – are placed in solitary confinement. When asked if Texas prisons still employ “chain gangs” in the FAQ section, the department responds:

“No, Texas does not use chain gangs. However, offenders working outside the perimeter fence are supervised by armed correctional officers on horseback.”

Similar “prison farms” exist in Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and other states, where prisoners are forced to work in agriculture, logging, quarrying and mining. Wikipedia says while the agricultural goods produced on prison farms is generally used to feed prisoners and other wards of the state (orphanages and asylums) they are also sold for profit.

In addition to being forced to labor directly for the profit of the government, inmates may be “farmed out” to private enterprises, through the practice of convict leasing, to work on private agricultural lands or related industries (fishing, lumbering, etc.). The party purchasing their labor from the government generally does so at a steep discount from the cost of free labor.

Source: How Prison Labor is the New American Slavery and Most of Us Unknowingly Support it

White Supremacist America: Trump and the “Return” of Right-Wing Hate Culture

White Supremacist America: Trump and the “Return” of Right-Wing Hate Culture

Many of my friends from college and fellow academics in the last year are focusing their anxieties on the Donald Trump campaign. A common frustration voiced among intellectuals is the disbelief that a candidate as bigoted, pig-headed, and willfully ignorant as “the Donald” could be running neck and neck with a seasoned political veteran like Hillary Clinton. This piece is not about Hillary Clinton, however. Rather, it’s about promoting a much needed discussion of what Trump’s rise really tells us. I don’t believe we have a “Donald Trump” problem in this country. The problem is much worse than that. More ominously, we have an American public problem that cuts to the very core of the quality of our democracy. Demagogues rise to power on the backs of workers, citizens, and your average “Joe” or “Jane.” They do not owe their success to their actions alone.

If Donald Trump is enjoying electoral success, it’s because the public – passively or actively – allowed it to happen. While Pew Research Center surveys do find considerable ignorance among Trump supporters – the most commonly cited reasons for supporting him have nothing to do with policy, but everything to do with personality characteristics – this trend was observed across all the front-runners, including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Ted Cruz supporters. What makes Trump’s case more disturbing than the norm of across-the-board voter ignorance is that such a large contingent of Americans know full-well about his bigotry, and embrace it. The ascendance of Donald Trump tells us much about the quality of American character – particularly about our enduring and toxic legacy of hate, ignorance, bigotry, and white-supremacy.

Hillary Clinton caught a lot of flak for referring to half of Trump Supporters as “the deplorables.” She was being far too generous. Public opinion surveys over the last year or so suggest that the white supremacist contingent of Trump voters is even larger. When I say white supremacist, I’m not referring to the old-style, KKK, white robe donning and lynchings of America’s past. Rather, the contemporary form of white supremacy is more of a “hate-lite” – if such a thing exists – in terms of its supporters embracing horrible, racist stereotypes, while claiming to reject racism. Call this “color-blind” racism, dog whistle racism, coded racism – or whatever you like, but it’s clear that white supremacy never disappeared from America’s political culture.

Consider recent surveys, if you want to ascertain the size of the problem. Polls of Trump supporters and Republicans more generally from 2015 and 2016 find clear and indisputable evidence of racism and prejudice against non-white, non-Christian Americans. I review these findings below.

Xenophobia

Irrational hatred of foreigners is pronounced on the American right. Public Policy Polling (PPP) found that in August 2015, 54 percent of Republicans, and 61 percent of Trump supporters still believed Obama was born in another country – drawing on fringe the birther conspiracy. Sixty-six percent of Trump supporters thought Obama was a Muslim, compared to 54 percent of all Republicans. The findings hadn’t changed much in 2016, when a May PPP poll found 65 percent of Trump supporters said Obama was a Muslim and 59 percent said he was born outside the U.S. The birther-Trump right is obviously impervious to evidence-based logic on anything related to Obama, considering this conspiracy theory was debunked long ago by countless sources.

Christian Supremacy

Much of the right-wing Christian contingent seems set on demonizing non-believers. Most Trumpeters see “Muslim” as synonymous with “bad.” A Reuters-Ipsos June 2016 survey, for example, found that 58 percent of Trump supporters said they held a “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” view of Islam. This type of blanket hatred is troublesome when Pew Research Center polling finds that the vast majority of American Muslims reject terrorism, and hold moderate, rather than extreme political values. A Texas Policy Project poll from June 2016 also found that 76 percent of Republicans “somewhat supported” or “strongly supported” a blanket ban of Muslims from entering the U.S. – no doubt based on the erroneous, blanket notion that Muslims represent an imminent threat to national security.

More Xenophobia

Most Republicans and Trump supporters also embrace negative views of unauthorized immigrants. Seventy percent of Republicans agreed in an August 2016 Pew survey that “undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit serious crimes.” This view persists, despite statistics from the Public Policy Institute of California concluding that immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens. The myth remains popular, despite national data over the last decade and a half showing that, as the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. grew, violent crimes rates were on the decline. On the macro- level, then, there is little merit to the idea that unauthorized immigration is destabilizing society and making us less safe. Still, 70 percent of Republicans agreed in a Fox News July 2015 survey with Donald Trump’s statement that Mexico is “sending people that have lots of problems…they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” The hatred was not reserved for unauthorized immigrants. Two-thirds of Trump supporters agreed in a March 2016 Pew survey that “immigrants [in general] today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing, and health care.”

Anti-Black Stereotyping

Old-fashioned, anti-black racism is alive and well on the American right, despite naive academic claims that the U.S. was “getting beyond race” as early as the 1990s. Reuters polling from June 2016 finds that nearly half of Trump supporters agree that African Americans are more “violent” and “criminal” than whites. Similarly, 40 percent say African Americans are more “lazy” than whites. These findings are prominent on the reactionary right, despite social scientists’ longstanding findings that race is not a significant predictor of Americans’ level of commitment to work, or hours worked, and despite the reality that the vast majority of whites, African Americans, and Hispanics are employed. Anti-black stereotypes are not surprising. They have long been woven into U.S. political and media commentary, as seen in academic studies identifying how African Americans are far more likely to be depicted in the media as criminals and as poor, in far greater numbers than the actual number of African Americans who commit crimes or are in poverty.

After framing Trump supporters as “deplorables,” Hillary Clinton publicly apologized, rejecting “grossly generalistic” characterizations, which are “never a good idea.” Her apology was unfortunate. Generalizations are perfectly acceptable, even valuable, if they are an accurate depiction of reality. And the above data suggests that it is indeed fair to generalize about Trump voters, considering most of them are racist and xenophobic. The polls I’ve reviewed should be sobering and disturbing for Americans who call themselves supporters of equal rights and democracy, and for those who abhor irrational hatred and bigotry. America’s white supremacy culture is wide-spread indeed. Consider the following: if approximately 55 percent of the voting age population turned out in 2012, and 2016 sees similar turnout, and about half of likely voters say they are planning on voting for Trump, his support base includes approximately 28 percent of American adults – give or take a few percent because of the small number of Americans who may vote third-party. Of this 28 percent, the polls above found that approximately two-thirds can be categorized as racist in their attitudes, meaning that nearly 20 percent of American adults – or one in five – fall within the category of Trump supporting white supremacists.

In the title of this piece I spoke of the “return” of the hate culture in America. Realistically, that culture never disappeared, even if many intellectuals thought we had transcended the old racist, sexist, and homophobic battles of the past. The right-wing reactionary movement has always been there, but was waiting for a populistic, demagogic character of the Trump variety to take the reins. On a symbolic level, public discourse on issues like race and immigration speaks to an overarching and enduring culture war in America. We are in the midst of a battle for this country’s very soul, and there is much uncertainty about the path forward. Reactionary forces – organized under Trump – represent an old order, which would like to reinvigorate the racist, bigoted, white supremacist culture of the past. Progressive societal forces, as seen in the rise of social movements like Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and others, are pushing for a progressive future in which government plays a crucial role in promoting political equality between social groups, and reduces economic inequality.

I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone who they should vote for in the coming election, although I can say without hesitation that I’m entirely opposed to the continuation of the Trump-inspired, old reactionary order. I don’t know whether or not a Trump defeat would be a fatal blow to racist forces in this country. I can say this much: at some point soon, Americans will have to decide whether they want to live in a country that respects democracy and equal rights for all, or embraces the racist, fascistic politics of a white supremacist culture. The answer to which side prevails will soon be upon us.

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at:anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

Source: White Supremacist America: Trump and the “Return” of Right-Wing Hate Culture

Privately Run Mississippi Prison, Called a Scene of Horror, Is Shut Down – The New York Times

The Walnut Grove facility that had been operating since 2012 under a federal consent decree for violating prisoners’ constitutional rights was the scene of two major riots in 2014.

 

This jail is likely 90 percent black men. Privately Run Mississippi Prison, Called a Scene of Horror, ““The sexual misconduct we found was among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation,” the report said.

Some of the guards, the report said, were themselves members of the gangs, including at least one prison supervisor who let prisoners out of their cells to assault unsuspecting rivals.

Organized gladiator-style fights between prisoners and encouraged by guards were also a frequent occurrence, with guards betting on the outcomes, according to the report.” FB comment from Antonio Moore

Relevant READ:

The Black Male Incarceration Problem Is Real and It’s Catastrophic

 

How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence

Read the piece from NYT.

Source: Privately Run Mississippi Prison, Called a Scene of Horror, Is Shut Down – The New York Times

Ruby Sales — Where Does It Hurt? | On Being

RUBY SALES —Where Does It Hurt?

Where does it hurt? That’s a question the civil rights icon Ruby Sales learned to ask during the days of that movement. It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now, but it gets at human dynamics that we are living and reckoning with. At a convening of 20 theologians seeking to re-imagine the public good of theology for this century, Ruby Sales unsettles some of what we think we know about the force of religion in civil rights history, and names a “spiritual crisis of white America” as a calling of this time.

[OCG NOTE: Dr. Ruby Sales is a frequent contributor and commentator of OUR COMMON GROUND.  In addition to being an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, she is an OCG Witness from the Bridge. Our visits with Dr. Sales can be found in our archives.   Please do check out a couple of  most important discussions that we had with her in our 2016 Season, “Hands Off Our Children: 300 Strong” Report from Field with Dr. Ruby Sales on 04/16; and, STOP THE WAR ON OUR CHILDREN™ • MARCH 18, 2016. We are proud of our association with Dr. Sales, our friendship and support from her and the Spirit House Project. Ruby Sales is a national treasure. ]

 GUESTS
RUBY SALES is the founder and director of the Spirit House Project. She is one of 50 African Americans to be spotlighted in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

“WHERE DOES IT HURT?”: A NATIONAL INQUIRYAnger, name-calling, and division seem to be deepening in American and global life. They are public faces of human pain and fear. But they are not the whole story of our time. As part of The Civil Conversations Project, we’re launching a national inquiry, “Where Does It Hurt?” Please join with us and take part in a new conversation in our radio and digital spaces.

Source: Ruby Sales — Where Does It Hurt? | On Being

What Does Black Lives Matter Want?

What Does Black Lives Matter Want?

On August 1 the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of over sixty organizations, rolled out  “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” an ambitious document described by the press as the first signs of what young black activists “really want.” It lays out six demands aimed at ending all forms of violence and injustice endured by black people; redirecting resources from prisons and the military to education, health, and safety; creating a just, democratically controlled economy; and securing black political power within a genuinely inclusive democracy. Backing the demands are forty separate proposals and thirty-four policy briefs, replete with data, context, and legislative recommendations.

But the document quickly came under attack for its statement on Palestine, which calls Israel an apartheid state and characterizes the ongoing war in Gaza and the West Bank as genocide. Dozens of publications and media outlets devoted extensive coverage to the controversy around this single aspect of the platform, including The Guardian, the Washington Post, The Times of Israel, Haaretz, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, M4BL is not the first to argue that Israeli policies meet the UN definitions of apartheid. (The 1965 International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the 1975 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid define it as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”) Nor is M4BL the first group to use the term “genocide” to describe the plight of Palestinians under occupation and settlement. The renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, for example, wrote of the war on Gaza in 2014 as “incremental genocide.” That Israel’s actions in Gaza correspond with the UN definition of genocide to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” by causing “serious bodily or mental harm” to group members is a legitimate argument to make.

The few mainstream reporters and pundits who considered the full M4BL document either reduced it to a laundry list of demands or positioned it as an alternative to the platform of the Democratic Party—or else focused on their own benighted astonishment that the movement has an agenda beyond curbing police violence. But anyone following Black Lives Matter from its inception in the killingtrayvonsaftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict should not be surprised by the document’s broad scope. Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi are veteran organizers with a distinguished record of fighting for economic justice, immigrant rights, gender equity, and ending mass incarceration. “A Vision for Black Lives” was not a response to the U.S. presidential election, nor to unfounded criticisms of the movement as “rudderless” or merely a hashtag. It was the product of a year of collective discussion, research, collaboration, and intense debate, beginning with the Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland last July, which initially brought together thirty different organizations. It was the product of some of the country’s greatest minds representing organizations such as the Black Youth Project 100, Million Hoodies, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, and Southerners on New Ground (SONG). As Marbre Stahly-Butts, a leader of the M4BL policy table explained, “We formed working groups, facilitated multiple convenings, drew on a range of expertise, and sought guidance from grassroots organizations, organizers and elders. As of today, well over sixty organizations and hundreds of people have contributed to the platform.”

The result is actually more than a platform. It is a remarkable blueprint for social transformation that ought to be read and discussed by everyone. The demands are not intended as Band-Aids to patch up the existing system but achievable goals that will produce deep structural changes and improve the lives of all Americans and much of the world. Thenjiwe McHarris, an eminent human rights activist and a principle coordinator of the M4BL policy table, put it best: “We hope that what has been created carries forward the legacy of our elders and our ancestors while imagining a world and a country profoundly different than what currently exists. For us and for those that will come after us.” The document was not drafted with the expectation that it will become the basis of a mass movement, or that it will replace the Democratic Party’s platform. Rather it is a vision statement for long-term, transformative organizing. Indeed, “A Vision for Black Lives” is less a political platform than a plan for ending structural racism, saving the planet, and transforming the entire nation—not just black lives.

If heeded, the call to “end the war on Black people” would not only reduce our vulnerability to poverty, prison, and premature death but also generate what I would call a peace dividend of billions of dollars. Demilitarizing the police, abolishing bail, decriminalizing drugs and sex work, and ending the criminalization of youth, transfolk, and gender-nonconforming people would dramatically diminish jail and prison populations, reduce police budgets, and make us safer. “A Vision for Black Lives” explicitly calls for divesting from prisons, policing, a failed war on drugs, fossil fuels, fiscal and trade policies that benefit the rich and deepen inequality, and a military budget in which two-thirds of the Pentagon’s spending goes to private contractors. The savings are to be invested in education, universal healthcare, housing, living wage jobs, “community-based drug and mental health treatment,” restorative justice, food justice, and green energy.

But the point is not simply to reinvest the peace dividend into existing social and economic structures. It is to change those structures—which is why “A Vision for Black Lives” emphasizes community control, self-determination, and “collective ownership” of certain economic institutions. It calls for community control over police and schools, participatory budgeting, the right to organize, financial and institutional support for cooperatives, and “fair development” policies based on human needs and community participation rather than market principles. Democratizing the institutions that have governed black communities for decades without accountability will go a long way toward securing a more permanent peace since it will finally end a relationship based on subjugation, subordination, and surveillance. And by insisting that such institutions be more attentive to the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable—working people and the poor, the homeless, the formerly incarcerated, the disabled, women, and the LGBTQ community—“A Vision for Black Lives” enriches our practice of democracy.

For example, “A Vision for Black Lives” advocates not only closing tax loopholes for the rich but revising a regressive tax policy in which the poorest 20 percent of the population pays on average twice as much in taxes as the richest 1 percent. M4BL supports a massive jobs program for black workers, but the organization’s proposal includes a living wage, protection and support for unions and worker centers, and anti-discrimination clauses that protect queer and trans employees, the disabled, and the formerly incarcerated. Unlike the Democratic Party, M4BL does not subscribe to the breadwinner model of jobs as the sole source of income. It instead supports a universal basic income (UBI) that “would meet basic human needs,” eliminate poverty, and ensure “economic security for all.” This is not a new idea; some kind of guaranteed annual income has been fundamental to other industrializing nations with strong social safety nets and vibrant economies, and the National Welfare Rights Organization proposed similar legislation nearly a half century ago. The American revolutionary Thomas Paine argued in the eighteenth century for the right of citizens to draw a basic income from the levying of property tax, as Elizabeth Anderson recently reminded. Ironically, the idea of a basic income or “negative income tax” also won support from neoliberal economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek—although for very different reasons. Because eligibility does not require means testing, a UBI would effectively reduce the size of government by eliminating the bureaucratic machine of social workers and investigators who police the dispensation of entitlements such as food stamps and welfare. And by divesting from an unwieldy and unjust prison-industrial complex, there would be more than enough revenue to create good-paying jobs and provide a basic income for all.

Reducing the military is not just about resources; it is about ending war, at home and abroad. “A Vision for Black Lives” includes a devastating critique of U.S. foreign policy, including the escalation of the war on terror in Africa, machinations in Haiti, the recent coup in Honduras, ongoing support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the role of war and free-trade policies in fueling the global refugee crisis. M4BL’s critique of U.S. militarism is driven by Love—not the uncritical love of flag and nation we saw exhibited at both major party conventions, but a love of global humanity. “The movement for Black lives,” one policy brief explains, “must be tied to liberation movements around the world. The Black community is a global diaspora and our political demands must reflect this global reality. As it stands funds and resources needed to realize domestic demands are currently used for wars and violence destroying communities abroad.”

Finally, a peace dividend can fund M4BL’s most controversial demand: reparations. For M4BL, reparations would take the form of massive investment in black communities harmed by past and present policies of exploitation, theft, and disinvestment; free and open access to lifetime education and student debt forgiveness; and mandated changes in the school curriculum that acknowledge the impact of slavery, colonialism, and Jim Crow in producing wealth and racial inequality. The latter is essential, since perhaps the greatest obstacle to reparations is the common narrative that American wealth is the product of individual hard work and initiative, while poverty results from misfortune, culture, bad behavior, or inadequate education. We have for too long had ample evidence that this is a lie. From generations of unfree, unpaid labor, from taxing black communities to subsidize separate but unequal institutions, from land dispossession and federal housing policies and corporate practices that conspire to keep housing values in black and brown communities significantly lower, resulting in massive loss of potential wealth—the evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible. Structural racism is to blame for generations of inequality. Restoring some of that wealth in the form of education, housing, infrastructure, and jobs with living wages would not only begin to repair the relationship between black residents and the rest of the country, but also strengthen the economy as a whole.

To see how “A Vision for Black Lives” is also a vision for the country as a whole requires imagination. But it also requires seeing black people as fully human, as producers of wealth, sources of intellect, and as victims of crimes—whether the theft of our bodies, our labor, our children, our income, our security, or our psychological well-being. If we had the capacity to see structural racism and its consequences not as a black problem but as an American problem we have faced since colonial times, we may finally begin to hear what the Black Lives Matter movement has been saying all along: when all black lives are valued and the structures and practices that do harm to black communities are eliminated, we will change our country and possibly the world.

This article previously appeared in the Boston Review.

Robin D. G. Kelley, who teaches at UCLA, is the author of the remarkable biography Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (2009) and most recently Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (2012). He is a contributor to Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence.

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Source: What Does Black Lives Matter Want?

For Colored Girls Like Korryn Gaines And the Black Men Who Hate Us

 

For Colored Girls Like Korryn Gaines And The Black Men Who Hate Us

What is it to be a black woman in America. For the burden of both racism and misogyny to lay at our feet.

Korryn Gaines was no fool. In her short 23 years she was all too familiar with the carnage of black bodies. This familiarity with state sanctioned executions empowered her to raise unafraid black children. With her thick Baltimore accent she instructed her five-year-old son to record the Baltimore County police who’d pulled her over for not having registered tags on her car. That day, she was ready to die. Her life was spared, but she wouldn’t be so fortunate again.

Her Instagram shows a warrior woman who believed in her right to legally bear arms. She was uninterested in cow-towing to the very system that kills even its most “perfect” victims. Instead of “hands up, don’t shoot!” shethought “#StopKillingUs is some begging ass shit” was more appropriate. Baby girl had no desire to be pleasant or respectable.

So when Baltimore County police showed up to her apartment to serve a warrant for her arrest over misdemeanor traffic violation charges, she knew it could very well be the day she took her last breath. In her last moments she took to Instagram to record her cute, chubby cheeked five-year-old son, her asking the questions, him predicting the outcome.

“Who’s outside?”
“The police.”
“What are they trying to do?”
“They trying to kill us.”

What happened next doesn’t matter much because the result is the same. It’s always the same. Korryn is dead. The police will lie. The media will corroborate the police’s lies. The public will blame her for her death. There will be no justice. Officials will call for peace. Family members are left to raise her children. And shortly we will have all moved on to grieve the next victim of police violence. The narrative is so familiar it shows up in our dreams. The tears feel the same as the ones we wiped the last time we mourned a black person who we did not know. Only this time those tears will only be cried by black women. All black lives are not mourned equally.

Because Korryn dared to be a vocal black woman — one who may or may not have been legally armed — there is no outcry for her except from other black women. There will be no outraged celebrities. Protesters won’t flood the streets in cities across the nation. Public officials will not demand accountability for the officers who killed her. Presidential candidates will not condemn the police department for their failure to de-escalate considering a child was present. President Obama will not tell the nation Korryn could’ve been his daughter. News and cable networks won’t profit off her death by hosting Town Hall meetings. Black men will not grieve her as they have the long list of black men killed similarly. In fact, black men will adopt the language of our oppressors to blame her for her own murder.

Black men couldn’t wait to vocalize their hatred for black women. “It’s looking mighty justifiable right now” and “Korryn Gaines deserved to die” and “Basically asked for it” and “She decided to be reckless with her son and her own life” and “Korryn Gaines was an ignorant, loud mouth little girl.” Those are just a few. Tucking in their hatred is hard to do, even when two black children are left without a mother.

Black men's hero, Malcolm X, telling the painful truth about black women.

Black men’s hero, Malcolm X, telling the painful truth about black women.

These are the same black men who automatically don’t trust police accounts in killings where the victim is a black man, but are quick to believe Korryn was pointing a gun at the police when they entered her home. Despite her documented recordings of run-ins with the Baltimore County police, black men aren’t thinking maybe this woman was targeted. Black men are not playing detective to figure out the truth in this strange story the police tell of using the landlord’s key to enter her home. Black men are not rallying for an end to a system that sends a SWAT team to someone’s home over non-violent traffic violations. Black men are not calling foul, because even if she was armed, white suspects with guns are apprehended alive all the time. Black men are not questioning how she could hold her phone to record, hold her son and allegedly hold a shotgun in her hand all at the same time. Black men aren’t sympathetic to her developmental disability due to lead poisoning, which could’ve affected her reasoning the day she was murdered. Nope. Black men are saying she deserved to die because she was a crazy fool and a shitty mother for daring to be free.

Ain’t that peculiar?

Black men must remove the word revolutionary from their vocabulary. One minute it’s “fuck the police” and the next it’s Korryn was reckless. Black men love the iconic photo of their hero Malcolm X looking out the window of his home, shotgun in hand to protect his family, but Korryn possibly having a gun means she deserved death. They cheer on Nat Turner but who does Korryn think she is to protect her family. Black men either don’t know what revolutionary really means or think the word is reserved for them solely.

Remove it from your tongues.

It’s not just about Korryn. It’s about black womenfolk being de mules of the worldat the hands of black men. Folks called Sandra Bland sassy. Said had she not talked back she would’ve lived. No one showed up for the Rekia Boyd rally in NYC. When we talk to black men about the dangers of street harassment we are met with death and rape threats. Statistics show violence against black women is mostly at the hands of black men, but we’re shouted over for bringing that up. Then when we tell black men that we, too, are killed by police, we are told now is not the time to be divisive. You will get to us after we take care of our “kings.”

But you see, that doesn’t work for me. My liberation is not going to come after. I’m not suffering through black men’s harmful misogynoir while black women’s freedom becomes a ‘maybe we’ll get to it in the next lifetime’ non-priority. I’m not adding a “not all black men” caveat to my truths in order to coddle hurt feelings. My life is literally on the line. And my freedom can’t wait.

Either cis black men are going to center black women so we can all get free together, or my freedom fighting will be reserved for black women and black queer folks. Do what you want with that. But my freedom can’t wait. I won’t wait for you to see my humanity while I fight for yours.

While you’re denying our humanity, remember this: Putting off black women’s liberation for tomorrow is a dangerous game. Because ain’t a single liberation movement survived without us.

To Korryn and Sandra and all the black women who refuse to bow, refuse to shutup, we got you. Rest easy knowing black women said your name and refused to let them forget.

Source: For Colored Girls Like Korryn Gaines And the Black Men Who Hate Us