blue bits. red rocks.


Criminal courts, time after time, have cleared white assailants and emboldened the vigilante racist killing illustrated by Dunn, and Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Beneath the strategic claims of fear is an air of invincibility endorsed by the court, and an institutionalized racism that facilitates the resonance of such absurd defenses that we all, as Americans, are heirs of and have inherited. Deconstructing the Dunn Trial: The Weaponization of Blackness vs. White “Fear”

Conservatives don’t just hate accusations of racism or racial insensitivity (that’s reasonable), they almost always deny that they have any substance, regardless of circumstance. It doesn’t matter that the right-wing indulged “birtherism” and called Obama a “food stamp president” and “Kenyan anti-colonialist”—it’s simply unreasonable to stamp those as racial. Ties to Secessionist Sympathizers? Don’t Worry, Rand Paul Will Still Endorse You

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Phil should be commended for setting things straight once and for all that “entitlement” and “welfare” are code words for the civil rights movement. It’s pretty shocking to me to hear someone in 2013 openly taking a pro-segregationist position and suggesting that black people stopped being humble, godly, etc, as a result of civil rights. And yet, it should be said that those of us who were born after America supposedly “stopped being racist” in the 70′s or later have inherited an abominably oversimplified narrative about the relations between races in which all white people were despicably racist before 1970 but then a giant reset button got magically hit and everyone was healed instantaneously of their racism so that the past could be completely left behind us and there would be no need to bring it up ever again. Phil’s comments remind us that racism has always been a systemic sin in the midst of which personal relationships were a lot more complicated. America pre-1970 (or 1990 or whenever you put the magic reset button in our history) was not a categorically different world than the world we live in today. I imagine that Phil Robertson had genuine friendships with the black people he shared the cotton fields with; they probably told jokes together and shared snacks. That part of the story doesn’t get wiped out by the systemic racism that existed when Phil was picking cotton and continues to exist today. Conversely, Phil’s idyllic memories of cotton-picking don’t get to negate the evil that happened to black people. Since you’ve all been waiting for my two cents on the #DuckDrama…

Segregation has worked brilliantly in the South, and in fact, in the nation to this extent: It has allowed white people with scarcely any pangs of conscience whatever, to create, in every generation only the Negro they wished to see. James Baldwin

Despite protestations that Phil Robertson’s opinions are the words of an uneducated man, he attended college at Louisiana Tech. I have no doubt that his life experiences have put him in situations where he observed blatant mistreatment of black people in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Louisiana. Again, I don’t think it’s uncommon, nor do I think he intended to be racist. But as we grapple as a nation to move forward with racial reconciliation, we cannot continue to pretend that slavery or Jim Crow were not that big a deal because the mythical happy black person overcame by singing songs. These were horrible times for black people, and to suggest otherwise is incredibly tone-deaf. A short history lesson of racism in Louisiana for those who may be confused

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The politics of language are rich here as they advance a multicultural, conservative, colorblind racial agenda that imposes contemporary standards onto the past in an effort to remove the grounds of historical grievance in the present. Melvinia did not give birth to a “biracial” child. She was raped and had a black child who would be considered human property unless freed by his “father.” The Slaveocracy and America’s racial order was based on the “one-drop rule” where a child’s racial status and freedom was determined by that of the mother. Thus, a white man (and slave owner) could rape, exploit, and do as he wished with black women (and men). The children would be born slaves. The logic of hypodescent was also operative as well. Race is not about the reality of genetic makeup and admixture. Racial identity is about perceptions by the in-group regarding who belongs and who does not. Slavery, Race, and Reunion: The NY Times White Washes the Rape of Michelle Obama’s Ancestors (Again)

The social control problem of the 1970s was decidedly different. It was as much if not more Northern and Southern, it was as much if not more urban than agrarian – indeed the urban race riots of the late 1960s and early 70s were a key precipitating event, alongside racial mutinies on the front lines of Vietnam, the rise of the Black Panthers, and the civil rights struggle. But in the background, the key political-economic shift was not from slave to proletariat, but from proletariat to lumpenproletariat. The flight of middle class blacks from desegregating inner cities, deindustrialization, the loss of jobs in the North, and increasingly concentrated urban unemployment among black males produced a surplus labor population. The role of the criminal justice system in this context was to police an underclass, not make workers out of slaves. And it became increasingly so as other, more benign, modes of social control – like welfare, public housing – sputtered. This new carceral regime invovled the state taking on direct responsibility for control of a population now that it lacked a strong tie to economic life. And it did so by criminalizing one of its few economic activities: drugs. The war on drugs was the pivotal instrument for introducing this new form of social control. It not only massively increased the prison population, but subjected them, and urban black communities more widely, to the continual supervision of public coercive authority. The Political Economy of Mass Incarceration

Since the mid-60s Republicans have seen an electoral opportunity in appealing to the basest, racist sentiments of a section of the white electorate. What became known as the “Nixon strategy” aimed to use the dog whistle of racial symbolism – like “Welfare Queens” and “Willie Horton” – to draw white southerners into the Republican fold and peel off disaffected whites in the north too. It worked. Since the second world war, Democrats have won the presidency with the white vote alone only once – in 1964. One of the appeals for some whites of voting Republican is a desire to maintain whatever limited racial privileges they have acquired over the years combined with a fear that what little they have will be taken away by feckless non-whites and undocumented migrants. While in Nevada in 2010 I asked a white Republican without health insurance why she wouldn’t support a candidate who might give it to her. “I never really got into that Obamacare insurance stuff,” she said. “My mind is focusing 250% on this illegal immigration.” None of this means all Republican supporters are racist. But it does suggest they make their appeal on racial grounds and, as the poll shows, it is effective. Gary Younge

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