A white nationalist changes his stripes

Derek Black was raised and groomed to be a white nationalist. His father had a provocative radio show and he has been pictured with David Duke. Why is he in the news? Because he renounced his white nationalist upbringing and has embarked down a better path.

The attached link will take you to an interview that appeared on PBS Newshour earlier this week. Rather than say too much, I encourage you to read the transcript or watch the interview. In short, he said the belief that whites are under fire is strong, especially with the changing demographics. But, he said it is “not real.” It is a mantra sold on fear.

When he got to college, he was ostracized by people he respected, once they learned he was a white nationalist. They told him his stance was hurtful to them. It bothered him more than he thought it would. He was also invited to attend a weekly Jewish meal of fellowship. It was light on questions and heavy on welcoming. It changed him.

Please spend a few minutes to watch or read the attached piece.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/derek-black-grew-up-as-a-white-nationalist-heres-how-he-changed-his-mind

Half a dozen heroes to think about

My wife and I watched the movie “Harriet” on Friday about the American hero Harriet Tubman. She helped over 300 slaves find their way to freedom. Her courage, tenacity, faith and smarts are highly commendable. The movie is excellent and quite moving.

It got me thiking about a few other heroes. Let me mention three more historical heroes who need more notoriety, before I close with two current ones who deserve the shout out.

I have written before about Alan Turing, the father of modern day computing. He led a team that cracked the Nazi Enigma code used in secret transmissions. Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower said Turing and his team helped shorten the war by two years and save 750,000 lives. Sadly, Turing had to hide the fact he was gay and was later imprisoned after his sexual preferences were discovered. What if they had discovered he was gay in 1940 rather than 1950? Would those 750,000 people have died?

Two men who should get more acclaim are Elliott Richardson and William Ruckelshaus. What did they do? In October, 1973, they refused in succession to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox at the direction of President Richard Nixon and were themselves fired. This was the beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency. Nixon called the Watergate investigation a “witch hunt” and said repeatedly “I am not a crook.” He was wrong on both counts. It wasn’t and he was.

A current hero is only sixteen years old, Greta Thunberg, the climate change activist from Sweden. She has inspired tens of millions kids, teens and adults in urging the need for more climate change action. I find her candor and can-do attitude refreshing. She has gotten the attention of legislators, but they need to act. We are behind where we need to be.

The other current hero is former US ambassador to Ukraine, Maria Yovanovitch. She was the first to testify to the House impeachment committees. Her political courage and respect for the US constitution is enviable. Her testimony led others to also brave testimony, especially in light of a vindictive president who they reiterated abused his powers. I cannot emphasize their courage enough, as more than a few Republican legislators feel the same but are not as courageous and fear the wrath of the president and his base.

Going against the grain in the face of adversity should be valued. Tubman freed herself and traversed over one hundred miles alone. Then she went back at great personal risk and freed more people. I applaud her and these other five people. We all should.

Echoes of past blogposts

If you have been blogging for a few years, you likely witness some of your older blogposts resurfacing with more interest. In my case, it is not uncommon for some older posts to be more widely read than at the time they were written.

Now, I am not referring to those blogposts that have consistently drawn attention. The ones that pop-up in your most-viewed list after being long absent are to what I am referring. Here are a few late-blossomers that are getting more attention:

“Don’t laugh at me” written in September, 2013 – This one resurfacing is less a surprise as I think people are alarmed by the divisiveness in America and western democracies. The Peter, Paul and Mary songs resonates saying quietly and pleafully “we are all the same.” It’s message is place yourself in the shoes of the person who is being ridiculed. At some point, each of us has been ostracized. Here is a link.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/dont-laugh-at-me/

“Who is Paul O’Neill and why should his opinions matter?” written in March, 2013 – This one is more of a surprise, given the relative anonymity of Paul O’Neill. Yet, I think people are craving leadership with the dearth of such in the two largest English speaking democracies. O’Neill is a quiet, studious and effective leader who deserves notoriety for his ability to observe what is wrong and how to arrive at solutions. Plus, it shows great leaders facilitate communications up and down organizations as the best ideas often come from those closest to the action. Here is a link.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/who-is-paul-oneill-and-why-should-his-opinions-matter/

If you do not remember these posts or were not following my blog back in 2013, please check them out. I am delighted they are getting a little more interest given their subject matter. Also, please share a link to similar posts of yours. I would love to revisit them or read them for the first time.

Note from Nebraska GOP State Senator

Last month, I sent an email to a Republican State Senator in Nebraska complimenting him on his political courage to be critical of his own party. For his courage, he received a letter from the Nebraska Republican Party inviting him to leave the party. Today, I received this email.

“Dear Keith,
It’s State Senator John McCollister here. I’m the Nebraska legislator who called out the complicity of the Republican Party in enabling white supremacy 3 weeks ago.

If you are receiving this message, you are one of the kind people who sent me a personal email. There have been literally thousands of messages and with so much going on, I haven’t been able to respond to everyone individually. I want you to know I’ve read your notes and they have touched my heart. I wanted to send you all a message here to keep you informed about what has been going on and future plans. To recap:

Three weeks ago I had enough. After yet another mass shooting linked to a white supremacist, I tweeted out the following thread:

The Republican Party is enabling white supremacists in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s true. 

I of course am not suggesting that all Republicans are white supremacists, nor am I saying that the average Republican is even racist.’

Almost immediately, the post started gaining national attention. Prominent news anchors, celebrities and political figures all seemed to be talking about it and reposting. The night after, I was on CNN. A few days later, I was on Morning Joe:

None of this was planned, in fact it caught me quite off guard. State senators typically don’t attract much attention or controversy.

But I had to say something. The activities of this president are BEYOND the pale. Hate crimes are on the rise. Racism and discrimination have been mainstreamed. Just yesterday there was another mass shooting. I may be a registered Republican but I’m a human being first and clearly see what’s going on. Many want me to stay quiet. I will not be doing that.

In my remaining time in the Nebraska legislature, I will tell the truth about this president and about the viability of the two-party system. The GOP wasn’t always this way. We used to believe in fiscal responsibility and sustainability. We used to believe in environmentalism. We once stood up for civil rights.

I have a VISION for what our party can and should be and I want to keep spreading this vision. I want to use my new platform to have honest conversations about what is happening no matter how inconvenient it may be. I want to promote a more inclusive GOP.

If you want to join me on this quest, there are a few ways you can help. 🙂

#1. In my experience, convincing voters who’ve already made up their mind is a hard sell. Our efforts are better spent talking to non-voters or undecided voters. In the 2016 election, close to 40% of the voting-age population didn’t vote. Let’s change that in 2020. Let’s have conversations with friends, neighbors and go-workers so we can get out the vote.

#2. If you’re not already following my pages on Facebook and/or Twitter, please do so and help me SHARE posts when I release them. The larger our reach, the louder our message.

#3. If you want to make a contribution on my website, the proceeds will go to spreading this message in the biggest way we can. We will create more content. We’ll make graphics. We’ll be able to hire some smart folks who are savvy with the internet. The bigger our team is, the louder our megaphone will be and I intend to keep talking.

And that about summarizes everything. Thank you so much for your compassion. I wouldn’t be sending this message were it not for your letters of support. You give me strength.

-John McCollister

Nebraska State Senator

Copyright © 2019 McCollister for Legislature, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you sent us a message.”

We need more elected officials to speak the important truths, especially when their party needs to do better. I applaud Senator McCollister for his courage and truthfulness. We all should.

Independent comment pushing back on “A false narrative links the GOP and racism”

An editorial appeared in my local paper called “A false narrative links the GOP and racism” by J. Peder Zane. I will let you find the article on your own, but the premise is to say Democrats have cried wolf on racist remarks for a long time, in his attempt to defend the indefensible. So, the accusations on the current president are just more of the same in Zane’s view.  Here is my email to Mr. Zane pushing back on this premise.

Dear Mr. Zane,

I read with interest your editorial published today in The Charlotte Observer. As a 60 year old white man from the south and an independent and former Republican voter, I disagree with your premise. I know dog whistle racism when I hear and see it and, while your coin of phrase “yellow dogs” being the only ones hearing it is clever, it is offensive. Nixon used it as part of his southern strategy and I saw Jesse Helms use it recurringly in its most artistic form. And, three years ago, I equated Donald Trump’s campaign comments with George Wallace and his racist remarks. This is not a new phenomenon.

To be frank, I have grown weary of my former party’s leaders defending a retreating line in the sand of indefensible behavior by the person who occupies the White House. I have shared such concerns often with my two and other Senators pleading with them to condemn the latest set of the president’s behavior, tweets or remarks. I also ask them, what will they have to defend next week? We are better than this. And, our leaders must be our better angels, not our worst.

But, don’t take my word for it. Leaders in Sweden, Germany, UK, Ireland, EU, New Zealand and Scotland have condemned his racist  remarks toward the gang of four. Yet, let me close with a quote form a Texas judge from an article in The Washington Post in response to his racist remarks and doubling down on them earlier this month.

“A former top Texas judge says she has left the Republican Party over President Trump, after his racist tweet telling four congresswomen to ‘go back’ to where they came from.
Elsa Alcala joins a small group of conservatives alienated by Trump’s remarks as most of the Republican Party sticks with the president — including through his latest attacks on Democratic representatives of color, three of whom were born in the United States.
‘Even accepting that Trump has had some successes (and I believe these are few), at his core, his ideology is racism,’ the 55-year-old retired judge wrote Monday in a Facebook post. ‘To me, nothing positive about him could absolve him of his rotten core.’”

I realize you are a popular conservative-bent editorialist, but so are George Will, David Brooks, Michael Gerson, Erik Erickson and others who have pushed back on this president and his behavior and words. So, I will ask you the same question I have also asked GOP Senators – is this the man you want to spend your dear reputation on? These conservative-bent editorialists have said no.

Keith Wilson
Charlotte

Dog whistle racism

My wife suggested that when I use the term dog whistle racism it may not resonate with everyone. In short, it means implying racism without resorting to actual racist words.

“Send her back” is a prime example as countless minority groups of all colors have been told to go back where you came from. Defenders of the president have said he did not say racist remarks, but they did not hear the dog whistle. His remarks were directed at four women of color with non-WASP like names.

Variations of this are “we don’t need your kind around here” or the more innocent version of “where are you from?” It also applies to athletics where black and brown athletes are not defined as “heady athletes” as white athletes are. Even a famous sportscaster said a black quarterback could not be successful because they had to read and react to complex coverages implying blacks could not do so. Times have indeed changed.

Alabama Governor George Wallace was not the forerunner of racism in politics, but he was the face of white supremacy as he stood in the doorway trying to deny entry to young black students. He used dog whistle racism as well as the old fashioned racist rhetoric when he ran for president following the various civil rights movements.

He did not win, but Richard Nixon did using a southern strategy that reeked of dog whistle racism. His purpose was to take advantage of what LBJ feared. LBJ predicted the Democrats would lose the south following his push for the civil and voting rights laws. Ironically, these laws were passed with the help of several Republicans, but that did not matter. Nixon and his strategist Lee Atwater made sure of that.

Scrolling forward, Senator Jesse Helms routinely used dog whistle racism to get elected. But, one of his tougher races was against Harvey Gantt, the first black mayor of Charlotte and first black student at Clemson University. Helms ran commercials that implied racism, one in particular focusing on a pair of black hands as a negative message was spoken.

Dog whistle racism uses code words to imply inferiority or difference. Trump’s attacking four elected women of color denouncing their right to criticize our country is flat wrong. His using more code words to attack Congressman Elijah Cummings also is racist with references to rat infested areas. It should be noted the president had to settle two court cases over discriminatiory rental practices.

Dog whistle or not, we cannot condone and must condemn the president for his racist and xenophobic remarks. Racism is a part of our history, but it represents the worst of our nature. We must guard against it, especially when it comes out of the president’s mouth. We need to hold up our better angels.

My rights are more important than yours

As a 60 year old white man, I have come to several conclusions living in America. Where we are supposed to have equal rights, what that really means is “my rights are more important than yours.” The examples are many and seem to be more at the forefront in a spin-doctored to disinformation news cycle. The other thing I have learned is democracy is hard work – you have to work at it to keep it flourishing. That is why it so easy to harm it.

One of the best examples can be gleaned from the letters to the editors in the newspapers or the comments on various blogs. The comments/ letters I am speaking of occur when a celebrity, athlete or entity espouses a political opinion that differs from yours. The comment ranges from they should stick to their art or sport and not use their popularity as a platform to espouse political views. Or, it might read, I want to watch a ball game and not be told what I must do politically.

It is OK for these people to wear eight corporate sponsor logos to sell you things, but they should not tell you what they believe. Yet, what is not being said, is it is OK for me to use my platforms or read that of others because they agree with my belief construct. In other words, my right to espouse an opinion supersedes yours. So, how dare Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem or Megan Rapinoe say what she thinks. That is unpatriotic. Call me crazy, but siding with a Russian president’s opinions over that of your own intelligence people sounds pretty unpatriotic to me.

Another good example is the Religious rights activity. These laws grant the right to discriminate because it violates a religious belief. The subtlety of this being different from protecting one’s rights against discrimination is not heeded. But, it also causes a very slippery slope of the same folks being discriminated against by other religions or groups. This could be a LGBT owner not selling to someone with hate speech on their T-shirt, a Muslim owner not selling to an evangelical as they do not like their extremist views, a Jewish owner not selling to non-Kosher buyers.

Back in the late 1960s, three black athletes – Jim Brown, the star NFL running back and actor, Bill Russell, the star NBA basketball player and Muhammad Ali all spoke out against poverty and oppression of opportunity of black Americans. They did so knowingly and convincingly. What disappoints many is that Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods do not use their popularity to speak out against similar issues that still fester.To their credit, Lebron James and Stephen Curry are speaking out. Kaepernick actually hurt his career in so doing.

It is more than OK for people to speak out. That is the way it works. I recall when the US invaded Iraq, the country singing group The Dixie Chicks were vilified for speaking out against this. They were hailed unpatriotic by people supporting the Bush administration. Yet, history proved them right to question such a move. What is more unpatriotic – invading a country under false pretenses where over 4,000 American and additional numbers of allied soldiers die or speaking out against such an invasion?

Call me crazy, but if we are going to send Americans and our allies to die, we better have done our homework and exhausted all other options. It should be informational that a UK report found Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush at fault for not being forthcoming to the British people. As Forrest Gump would say, “That is all I am going to say about that.”