Mueller report: A harsh indictment of Donald Trump — and also of America’s leadership class | Salon.com

The American people also learned from the report that Mueller declined to prosecute Donald Trump Jr. because, in plain English, he was too dumb to know that he was likely committing crimes.Of course, poor and working-class people are not allowed such latitude, or given the benefit of the doubt regarding how their emotions or intelligence may have impacted their decision-making and other behavior. This is true more generally for nonwhites, Muslims, immigrants and all those viewed as the un-American “other.”

Source: Mueller report: A harsh indictment of Donald Trump — and also of America’s leadership class | Salon.com

Frederick Douglass and Donald Trump: Faint hope endures this Fourth of July

The former slave imagined a better America than this. Too many white people want to go backward: But there’s hope

  OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, CHAUNCEY DEVEGA
JULY 4, 2018 10:00AM (UTC)

Douglass

Frederick Douglass knew that America has a white democracy problem. That rot was never corrected. The result? Donald Trump and his human deplorables. Racism is destroying American democracy. But then again racism is the real foundation of this country.

Every year, on America’s birthday, I read Frederick Douglass’s essay “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

I was first introduced to Frederick Douglass while in elementary school. My sixth grade teacher, a stern but kind black woman, knew that I, the only black boy in her class, would benefit greatly from his wisdom and example. She was right.

The book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” was wondrous.

It was the amazing adventure of a man who fights to free his people by first liberating his mind and then his body from the evils of white-on-black slavery.

Douglass tricks gullible white children to teach him how to read . . . ”

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ABOUT CHAUNCEY DEVEGA

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.
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‘Police are Heroes’: The Cultural Mythologies that Enable Police Brutality Against Black and Brown Americans φ Chauncey Devega

‘Police are Heroes’: The Cultural Mythologies that Enable Police Brutality Against Black and Brown Americans φ

The deaths of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, gunned down by a mentally unstable man who later committed suicide, have been accompanied by public rituals of mourning. Unfortunately, many public figures are also villifying those who demand accountabilty for police brutality.
In a sign of how debased American cultural values have become (especially on the Right), a plea for human dignity, civil rights and an end to police brutality against people of color can be twisted and warped into some type of provocation to violence against the police. The millions of Americans who want police to act in a professional and responsible manner by not abusing those they are ostensibly “sworn to protect” are not endorsing premeditated violence against police. Rather, those Americans of conscience who are standing up against police brutality believe that the dignity and safety of all people are paramount virtues.
While it may be a challenging truth for some, as I wrote here, the lives of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu are no more valuable or sacred than the lives of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, John Crawford, or any other human being. Human rights are universal. The lives of police are no more valuable or special than those of any other citizen. Failing to embrace this fact leads to a type of creeping fascism or authoritarianism by legitimizing police thuggery and abuse of the public.
While the public rituals that accompany the loss of a police officer are by definition designed to hide and obfuscate complex realities through the use of powerful symbols and rhetoric, the basic truth remains that police as a social institution and group are not victims. Rather, in the United States the police are a protected class of people. They are the day-to-day face of the State—and its power to visit violence upon the American people. Police are enforcers of the law; in many ways they are positioned above and outside it.
The examples of this Orwellian abuse of power are many.

The Supreme Court recently ruled in Hein v. North Carolina that even when a police officer stops a person without proper cause such an act is not a violation of the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
And in those rare instances when police are faced with indictments by the courts for their illegal, hostile and heinous acts against the American people they are rarely, if ever, indicted.
Police departments also do not report the actual numbers of people they kill in the United States each year. Victims of police violence are “disappeared” by a bureaucratic trick where “justified” killings by police officers are thrown down the memory hole.
The criminal justice system monitors itself. There can be no true accountability. This is not an accident or aberration of the system. No, it is the carceral and punishing State working exactly as designed and intended by American elites.
The United States was founded as a white (and male) supremacist society. Centuries later, the country remains organized around the maintenance and protection of white privilege. These hierarchies of race deem that the ability and power of the police to violate the basic human and Constitutional rights of a given person of color in the United States are outsized and exaggerated.
Here, police abuse against non-whites (and the poor, more generally) within the context of a racist criminal justice system (what Michelle Alexander has called the New Jim Crow) is the norm, a quotidian reality that hides behind cold statistics that detail how black teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by the police than their white peers, or how a black person’s life is taken at least once every 28 hours by a law enforcement officer.
The panoply of ways black and brown people have been killed by the police, and the explanations offered for their deaths, could form the basis of an absurdist or dark satire. Black people have been killed by cops for sleeping in cars, because wallets, key chains and cell phones look like guns when held by African Americans; for holding toys, committing the Jim Crow-era crime of “bumptious walking,” playing in the park, dressing up like a favorite anime character, or selling loose cigarettes outside a corner bodega.
Except for pathological white racists, and those other white folks who share such sentiments and feelings even while they mask their bigotry with the claim that they don’t “see” race, there is no humor to be found in this necropolis of black people, many of them unarmed, who have been killed by the police in this bloody 2014 or in the decades and centuries that preceded it.
Because the police are a protected class, an artifice of myths has been erected around them, myths that take the form of unstated assumptions that are circulated throughout American culture and are rarely questioned or critically interrogated. This cultural and rhetorical shield takes many forms; it is a narrative and type of conventional wisdom that Americans learn in childhood, is recited by politicians and religious leaders, and endlessly reinforced by the mass media.
Police violence is justified and explained away by the following tropes.
Police work is a dangerous job. While being a police officer may involve some level of risk, it is largely mitigated by training and equipment. On the macro level, in the United Statespolice work is not included in the top 10 most dangerous professions. Sanitation workers, truck drivers, forestry workers, and professional fisherman are far more likely to be killed or injured on the job than police.
While the mass media and police unions are invested in projecting an image of police work as highly dangerous, thrilling, and adrenaline-filled, the number-one cause of death for police officers are vehicular accidents.
Police have a difficult job that involves making split-second decisions. As research on implicit bias, racism and police use of force has demonstrated, cops are much more likely to make “split-second decisions” to kill black men. Yet, somehow the perils and fears that loom over police and their decision-making processes are suspended and lessened when they interact with white people.
Cliven Bundy and his armed group of marauders did not face a “split-second” decision by the police to shoot them. White men walking around neighborhoods with guns displayed in plain sight are not preemptively killed by the police. White men who have actually shot at firefighters and police are somehow miraculously taken into custody unharmed and alive. White teenagers who bring arsenals of guns and knives to their high schools are arrested and given bail.
Police selectively make split-second decisions about who to shoot and kill in America. Blackness is a trigger for violence; whiteness and white skin privilege are signals to deescalate.
Police are heroes. Heroism involves a selfless act by a person who is not trained for such duty, or who cannot be reasonably expected to act in such a manner. Police have chosen their profession. They are trained and equipped for the task. Police officers are also well compensated both on the job and in retirement. They also benefit and receive support from a huge and powerful social apparatus that is designed to protect them from the consequences of their actions.
A given police officer may have a moment of bravery or courage. By themselves, neither of those deeds rises to the level of heroism.
The police who killed Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and who participate in a system that harasses and targets people of color for unjust punishment and harassment are most certainly not heroes in the best and most authentic sense of the word.
Instead of holding police (and others who are empowered by the state to kill) to a higher standard, America’s civil religion deifies police and simultaneously lowers their bar of accountability to one far below that of the average person—in all, what is a perverse paradox.
The blind worship of the police exists in the same flat and empty right-wing political imagination as litmus tests for patriotism that consist of questioning if a given politician wears an American flag pen on his lapel.
Such rituals socialize the American people into the twin habits of banal and unreflective thinking which legitimizes a narrowing of the public discourse. Basic questions about justice are made verboten; they are not to be mentioned or discussed in polite company.
Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu are dead. Eric Garner, and many other unarmed black and brown people are also dead—killed by the police under highly questionable circumstances. Demands that police treat all Americans with respect, and in accordance with their human rights, is not a zero sum game.
Police lives matter because they are human beings. The lives of the victims of police brutality and violence matter because they too are human beings. This simple calculus makes for a safer and more just society for all people.

devega2WHO IS CHAUNCEY DEVEGA?

I am the editor and founder of We Are Respectable Negroes, as well as the host of the podcast known as “The Chauncey DeVega Show”.

I am also a race man in progress, Black pragmatist, ghetto nerd, cultural critic and essayist. I have been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Make it Plain, Joshua Holland’s Alternet Radio Hour, the Thom Hartmann radio show, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground.  My writing has been featured by Salon, Alternet, The New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos.  My work has also been referenced by MSNBC, as well as online magazines and publications such as The Atlantic, Slate, The Week, The New Republic, Buzzfeed, The Daily Beast, The Washington Times, The Nation, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Judge me by my enemies. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Juan Williams, Herman Cain, Alex Jones, World Net Daily, Twitchy, the Free Republic, NewsBusters, the Media Research Council, Project 21, and Weasel Zippers have made it known that they do not like me very much

A Theory of Obama Cinema? “Killing Them Softly” is the Defining Movie for the Age of Obama

We are respectable negroes

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2013

A Theory of Obama Cinema? “Killing Them Softly” is the Defining Movie for the Age of Obama

I am suspicious of unifying theories which try to explain the relationship between popular culture and politics. However, A.O. Scott’s piece in the New York Times on the defining Hollywood films of the Obama era is pretty compelling:

Last year in The New York Review of Books the critic J. Hoberman wondered when we would see an “Obama-inflected Hollywood cinema.” “The longing for Obama (or an Obama),” he wrote, “can be found in two prescient 2008 movies,” citing “Wall-E” and “Milk” as releases about creative community organizers, with Harvey Milk also a political symbol of hope. It may be too soon to identify an Obama Cinema, but the president’s second inauguration seems like an appropriate time to try.

Film is one of the sites where societies negotiate meaning, develop and challenge their own mythologies, and express the hopes, anxieties, and feelings of the collective subconscious. Films talk to us, talk to each other, all the while revealing the “spirit of the age.” In total, popular culture is an informal type of public opinion, a barometer for the attitudes of a given society.

Obama’s election in 2004 was supposed to usher in postracial America. It did not. Hope and change was met by the twin realities of a coordinated assault on the legitimacy of the country’s first black President, as well as how practical governance is an exercise in realpolitik. As such, hope and change had to be surrendered to practical realities–here Obama’s right-leaning centrism was greeted by upset on the part of Progressives, and recast as treason and Socialist-Communist-anti-white tyranny by Conservatives.

How do the films in the Age of Obama reflect these dynamics?

Films can be considered political in a number of ways. They can deal with explicitly political matters of public policy or public concern as plot devices. Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty fit this mold.

[Question: Am I the only person who thought both movies were exercises in tedium? Am I the only person who thought that Cloud Atlas was one of the year’s best movies and should have been nominated for an Oscar?] 

Films can also be implicitly political as they reflect changing attitudes, beliefs, anxieties, or social relationships in society without offering explicit commentary on “politics” per se. Likewise, films can tell us something about politics and society by how they reflect unstated cultural values and tropes–the lies and stories we tell to make sense of ourselves as a nation and community:

Some of the connections between politics and movies are obvious, but we wanted to go beyond the topical resonance of films like “Zero Dark Thirty” and enter into the realms of allegory and national mythology.

What these period pictures have in common is a sense that righting our wrongs is a shared burden. Or, as Nick Fury, in describing another battle between good and evil, puts it: “There came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat.”

“Marvel’s The Avengers” might have been called “Team of Rivals” — the title of the book, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, that was one of the sources for “Lincoln.” And Joss Whedon’s Marvel costume party is, like Mr. Spielberg’s historical costume drama, largely about an urgent response to a political crisis. It is also about community organizing, as Fury mobilizes a fractious group of individuals whom he must persuade to pursue a set of common interests.

As such, “The Avengers” may be the exemplary Obama Era superhero movie, replacing the figure of the solitary, shadowy paladin with a motley assortment of oddballs and, despite the title, focusing less on vengeance than on interplanetary peacekeeping. A similar ethic informs “X-Men: First Class,” which takes place around the time of Mr. Obama’s birth (at the height of the cold war and the civil rights movement) and which shows how the idealistic pursuit of justice and tolerance can end up tragically divided between radical and conciliatory impulses…

A.O. Scott omitted the movie Killing Them Softly from his theory of Obama Cinema. This is unfortunate. I would suggest that no other movie has captured the cynicism, anxiety, fear, and liminal moment between the end of Bush’s tenure and Obama’s election in 2008 with such clarity and insight.

The Great Recession is in almost every frame of Killing Them Softly. The disappointments of how easily Hope and Change became more of the same–where the banksters win, and the drones keep killing innocent people, while the 1% laughs all the way to the bank–lingers over the final scene of the movie as an ending note on what is a 90 minutes or so meditation on life in the Bush era and how it did (or did not) transition into “Obama’s America.”

Watching the hope embodied by 2008 election of Barack Obama in 2012, four years after we have seen the realities of his tenure, in a film about how even hitmen and gangsters are impacted by a failed economy is a profound comment on the American dream, and the realities of “austerity” and neoliberalism/hyper-conservatism.

Killing Them Softly came and went in the theater during the course of a few weeks. Maybe it spoke too much truth to power to be popular among the masses.

What do you make of A.O. Scott’s list? Are there any movies which you think speak to the Age of Obama with a particularly sharp amount of clarity and insight, and which should have been included in his theory of Obama Cinema?

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A Conversation with Professor Ann Little About the Newtown Massacre, Adam Lanza, America’s Gun Culture, and the Puzzle of White Masculinity

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2013

A Conversation with Professor Ann Little About the Newtown Massacre, Adam Lanza, America’s Gun Culture, and the Puzzle of White Masculinity

I hope that the New Year was restful and celebratory. Before Christmas, there was a momentary “national conversation” about gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre. Curiously, but not surprising, said moment of introspection about how America’s gun culture eats it youth has fallen off of the national radar as the pundit classes have moved on to other matters. There will be other mass shootings; we will have said “national conversation” again; nothing will be done given the NRA’s murder hold on the American people.

As I explored in a series of posts, the central question regarding the Gun Right is how these mass shootings do not lead to any serious exploration of the intersection(s) of Whiteness, White Masculinity, and mass gun violence. White men commit an overwhelming amount of the mass shootings in the United States. Yet, except for a few outliers, there is no sustained effortto engage the obvious puzzle: if white men are killing people, often by the dozens–in murders where they are the offenders at twice their rate in the general population–why are so many in the news media afraid and hostile to basic questions about “white crime?”

In my effort to explore this question, I reached out to two great scholars of American history and culture. Both kindly agreed to participate in WARN’s podcast series.

Our first guest is Professor Ann Little, author of the bookAbraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England,who writes over at the great website Historiann. In our podcast, she does a wonderful job of setting up our conversation by offering a wonderful, rich, and insightful perspective on the Newtown Massacre and the colonial era roots of the United States (near pathological) love of guns in the present

Dr. Little was so very generous with her time. We covered a great amount of material in this conversation and offered up a necessary, and to this point, very much lacking historical context for the Newtown Massacre, and the fear by many in the pundit classes to even discuss white masculinity and gun violence.

This was a real treat. I was so glad to be able to bring this dialogue to the readers of We Are Respectable Negroes and those who follow our podcast series.

I do hope you enjoy the conversation.

AUDIO

2:59 As a historian and scholar of America and gun culture, what were your first thoughts about the Newtown Massacre?
6:18 How do we begin to think broadly about masculinity and gun culture in the United States, and how it helps us to understand Adam Lanza’s murder spree?
11:22 The gun and white male citizenship in colonial America and the Founding
15:00 Is the magical thinking of Conservatives typified by the gun control debate? What are some of the regional differences in regards to gun culture in the United States? How is this surprising (or not)?
23:55 An open letter to white men. Beginning to think about White masculinity, Whiteness and gun violence
29:25 How do people respond to conversations where whiteness and masculinity are interrogated and challenged?
34:40 Is White Masculinity a story of historical continuity or change? Is White Heterosexual Masculinity static?
48:27 More context for avoiding a critical interrogation of Whiteness and gun violence: White Mediocrity and the subsidization of Whiteness vs. the myth of American Meritocracy
56:14 Historical myopia, the luxury of being white and historical memory, and the allure of believing the “White Lies” of American history
62:14 What is your “blogging story?” How does blogging fit into your academic career?
64:03 The failure of academics to be able to effectively communicate with “regular” folks who are also smart like them
69:20 Academic writing’s impact vs the audience and impact of blogging