Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind – a few thoughts

With all due respect to “Ruby Tuesday” and “Tuesday Afternoon,” I chose this song title for my random Tuesday thoughts. “Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind” has the right melancholy feel.

Starting with the last part of the title “Gone with the Wind,” it reminds me that the entertainment world has finally figured out the famous movie and book are racist and poor renditions of the events surrounding the Civil War. We actually discussed this misrepresentation by the movie and book in my World Literature class in 1977. But, propaganda about the war has been around since white slaveowners got poor whites to fight for a more righteous cause of states’ rights than the real one to let them keep slaves.

Remember how states’ rights were cited by the president for delegating his responsibility to fight COVID-19. Yet, states’ rights are less important if he must flex his law and order muscles. Both the Kenosha mayor and Wisconsin governor asked the president not to come to Kenosha as he would not help calm the situation. Well, he is coming to get his photo shoot, but he should not be surprised if he is not well-received. Uniting people is not the mission of this president as noted by General James Mattis, his former Secretary of Defense.

The president’s actions and words concern me on so many levels. One is his fanning the flames of racial unrest to win an election. He offers it is not his doing, but he is the one walking around with a gasoline can. All lives and Blue lives, of course, matter, but those mantras denigrate the message of Black Lives Matters. What this white washing misdirection does is ignores that too many Americans do not feel Black lives matter or that Blacks are overstating their strife. And, the president is catering to these groups with his divisive rhetoric and gasoline.

The vast majority of BLM protests are peaceful and civil. They are also well attended by multiple racial groups. But, the smaller few need to cease the violence. It devalues the message. Violence also feeds directly into the hands of the president who looks for wedge issues. In three and half years, many have become weary of this me, me, me focus of the president who cares more about his perception than solving problems. These things are happening on his watch and he is making things worse, not better.

On the Blue side, the police must better police themselves. They need to weed out any bad actors and recognize, address and train-to-minimize bad actions. A former FBI domestic terrorism expert said she shared with the Justice Department that a few police officers are sympathetic with white nationalists. But, the police union and management must stop doing what the Catholic Church did for decades and ignore bad apples. They do spoil the impression of the whole bunch. Just like only a few priests were pedophiles, only a few police are overly racist.

Fixing problems requires leaders to acknowledge them. And, understand them. As I noted earlier, using problems to be a wedge issue to win does not solve the problems. It makes them worse.

Freedom Summer Project – a needed revisit with a voter suppression and racism afoot

With a president who attacks the voting process (without dearly protecting it) and does not speak out against racism in our country, this past post on a terrible time in history is relevant of what we must not become again. The only change is adding six years to the time elapsed.

Fifty-six years ago this summer, over 700 students from across the country, joined in the Civil Rights battle in Mississippi, where African-Americans had been demonstratively and, at times, violently denied their basic civil rights, especially the right to vote. These students joined together with the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNNC) under the guidance of Bob Moses, who had been slowly organizing SNNC since 1960. These students, were predominantly white, but included all races and ethnic groups.

The fact that many were white helped bring further attention to the ongoing tragedy going on Mississippi, perpetuated by those in power as the young students lived within the African-American community, taught through Freedom Schools young students about African-American history, literature and rights, items that had been absent from their curriculum. The Freedom Summer project can be viewed up close with an excellent documentary shown on the PBS American Experience. A link is provided below.* I would encourage you to watch the two-hour film as it can tell a story that requires footages of violence, overt racism, and brave people who spoke up, like Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rita Schwerner and countless others.

Hamer is the face of the effort as evidenced by her speaking passionately in front of the 1964 Democratic Convention committee about how she was arrested, beaten, and tormented when she and others tried to register vote. Schwerner is the widow of one the three Civil Rights workers, Michael Schwerner, who along with James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, were abducted and killed by the KKK who came to abet the efforts of those in power in Mississippi. The widow rightfully pointed out the fact that two of the abducted (at the time) were white, was the only reason people in America started paying attention. She noted it is a shame that many African-Americans had died or were injured merely trying to exercise their right as citizens. Before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, less than 7% of African-Americans in Mississippi were allowed to register due to ostracization, intimidation, and complex constitutional literacy tests.

Since I cannot begin to do justice to this subject, I encourage you to watch the documentary. It will make you ashamed that this could happen in America, while at the same time making you applaud the magnificent courage of all involved, especially those African-Americans who had lived and would continue to live in this Apartheid like state once the freedom summer students went home. Yet, it took the deaths of these three young folks to galvanize and empower people.

It also took the organization of a more representative Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of whites and blacks that went to the national convention to unseat the representatives sent by the state party, who were all white. Since morality was on their side, they almost succeeded, but they ran into the politics of Lyndon B. Johnson, who used his power to squelch the effort for a greater good – he could not help in matters if he did not get elected and he saw this as a means to interfere with that mission, no matter how noble the cause. LBJ accomplished great things for African-Americans, but politics is an ugly thing to watch up close and he looks manipulative in the process.

While their efforts fell short at the convention, their efforts were huge contributors to the passage of the Voting Rights Act the next year. But, one of the young folks who went to the Freedom Schools and is now a PhD., noted that learning about their African-American culture and civil rights that had been denied them, may have been the greatest achievement. I applaud their efforts and bravery. We still have a way to go and are seeing some battles having to be refought with several states passing restrictive Voter ID Laws. Three states have had their new laws ruled unconstitutional, while others are in court now. Yet, just because our President is multi-racial does not mean we are there yet. So, let’s keep in mind the battles these brave folks fought and not let their civil rights be stepped on again, no matter how cleverly masked those efforts.

* http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomsummer/

Wednesday wanderings in mid-July

Since my mind is wandering on this mid-week, mid-month day, let me offer a few thoughts for consumption and reaction.

– when I was involved with mergers between organizations, the mantra had to be focus on doing your job, not keeping your job; it became obvious when folks did the latter;

– political leaders tend to ignore this rule; retired Senators and Congresspeople said about 35% to 40% of their time is fundraising, leaving only the remainder to do the people’s work;

– the US president is even worse and expects his staff to do the same; rather than try to solve problems, he spends too much time blaming others for his failures and taking credit for things he had little to do with;

– defenders of the president say he is not a racist; well if that is the case he needs to stop doing, saying and tweeting racist things; there is a reason 67% of Americans disapprove of his handling of the racial injustice issues – to be brutally frank, it surprises me it is that low; and

– finally, ordering people to reopen schools or be punished follows the president’s instigation to reopen businesses without caution is unwise; the COVID-19 uptick is not a surprise; governors are explaining how could they have known, but my question is how could they not have known the risk? Pandemics do not care about one’s politics.

Let me know what you think about these wanderings. Feel free to share yours.

That Trump anchor

That Trump anchor is getting heavier. Republican Senate candidate are realizing the president’s decline in the polls is impacting their chances as reported in an article by Politico today called “Election forecast: Trump, Senate, GOP in trouble.”
Per the Politico article, 75% of voters think the country is going in the wrong direction as Trump’s approval ratings fall further beneath already underwater averages.

It goes on to say “President Donald Trump is now an underdog to win a second term and Republican majority in the Senate is in serious danger.” RealClear Politics, which averages poll results, reports Arizona Senator Martha McSally is behind in a close race to astronaut Mark Kelly, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is behind in a close race to state legislator and decorated vet Cal Cunningham, and Senators Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colorado), Susan Collins (Maine) are also closely behind in their races to Theresa Greenfield, John Hickenlooper and Sara Gideon, respectively.

With his ongoing misinformation and lack of leadership on COVID-19, with his racist tendencies adding gasoline to racial injustice issues and tensions, with his ongoing corrupt tendencies to punish people who try to protect our country against his deceit and ineptness in doing his job not bothering to read or pay attention, the Trump anchor is pulling others down with him.

And, it is not going to get better. COVID-19 is getting worse in America and he is hoping it goes away. Hope is not a strategy. Although, there was some hopeful news in May and June of some of the unemployed going back to work, the economy is going to continue its malaise into 2021, as more closings occur. The last half of June started to show fall off from the first half results.

After winning in 2016 on fear and a nationalistic campaign, he is doubling down on those themes, at a time when most of the country has left him behind on the problem of racial injustice. He had support when he made a prop out of Colin Kaepernick when he knelt to the national anthem, but Trump chose not to understand the reason why Kaepernick was kneeling. The fact a Vietnam vet knelt with Kaepernick did not register. Trump is shouting in the wind, but fewer are listening.

Now, Democrats, a word of caution. Do not count the seats as won yet. You must get out on and vote. There is an old saying that if you are going to take down the King, you better take him down. As economic advisor to presidents of both parties, Robert Reich said Trump is a clear and present danger to our country and world. If he were to win, America and the planet would be in dire trouble with an uncontrolled Pandora.

A plea from a fifteen year old girl

In my newspaper today was the following letter to the editor. I felt it had pertinence and poignancy, so I repeat it here in its entirety:

“As a 15-year-old upper middle class white girl, I am undeniably privileged. I’ve been given the opportunity to choose the side of history I wish to stand on. In the midst of this crisis, the two sides stand firm, yet logic and empathy seemed to have chosen my side for me. I cannot choose a side of ignorance, no matter how blissful. I must refuse the side that cannot understand the suffering of those unlike themselves. I will not ordain a cause that is more concerned about inanimate objects and a disrupted status quo than about unjust loss of life. I implore everyone to make the same decision. Think about what is replaceable, and what can never be returned.”

These words are more profound than the US president could ever possibly say, but they are precisely the kinds of words we need to hear from someone who occupies the White House. For someone who craves notoriety, this president will not be remembered for being on the right side of history, in my view.

Hate exists, but we get along much better than the news would imply

Many of us have highlighted the hate rhetoric and racism that has come more to the surface. Domestic hate groups are on the rise and we have a president whose former attorney and fixer called a “racist” under oath to Congress.

Yet, we should not lose sight of most Americans are getting along much better than indicated. They are coming together to help people during this virus. Good news stories do make the news, but they occur in greater number than indicated by coverage.

“If it bleeds, it leads,” the saying goes, so news tends to focus more on the bad stories, as does the president. The president looks for stories to exploit, as do many pseudo-news outlets. They make a story national to call attention to a point they want to make. That is why the president made such a big deal out of Colin Kaepernick, as he knew he could divide people with it.

What we need more of is the silent many to condemn the actions of the newsmakers on the negative side. They need to be spotlighted. The words of a recent post ring true – “Mr. president, if you cannot add value, please stop talking.”
The same goes for relatives spewing hate filled rhetoric.”Uncle Bob or Aunt Sally, I would appreciate you not condemning folks like that.” Or,” I am sorry you feel that way, as I do not” and leave the room. If we leave the room on enough folks citing a brief reason why, it might make them take notice.

True story. My father-in-law lived in the country and kept a loaded rifle in his closet, which I did not know he had until my boys saw it. When I asked him if it was loaded, he said yes. I asked him if he would unload it, as we cannot allow his grandchildren to be around a loaded weapon. He did so. It was an earnest and respectful request that he heeded.

Children learn bigotry from adults, so we can do the same when a relative or friend goes off on a group, as I did with the rifle. We just need to be straightforward and not chew anyone’s head off.

So, yes we have hate and it seems to be more open, but we need to not tolerate it and tell people so.

White Americans must speak out against white racism

The following was written by Pastor John Pavlovitz at john.pavlovitz.com in Wake Forest. I have shared his writings before and his words resonate with more than just me.

“Ahmaud Arbery is dead because he was a black man.
He was hunted down by two white strangers in broad daylight because he was two things: he was black and running, which was enough reason for them to grab weapons and get in their truck and chase him down and assassinate him in the road.
Being black and running was Ahmaud’s crime.
To some white people, you can’t be black and running,
you can’t be black and standing outside a convenience store.
you can’t be black and sitting in your car eating lunch,
you can’t be black and playing in a park,
you can’t be black and watching TV in your apartment.
To some white people, you can’t be black.
For far too many white people, such things are probable cause for calls to the police and screamed threats and physical intimidation—and immediate executions.
This is the unthinkable reality of the America we still live in, and in this America there are only two kinds of white Americans: there are white racists and there are white anti-racists.
Not professed anti-racists, who click the roof of their mouths, feel an initial wave of sadness at news of murders of jogging black men—and then move on with their day.
Not anti-racists who endure grotesque racist dinner table diatribes from their uncles and mothers and husbands, and choose not to speak because they don’t want to deal with the blowback at home.
Not anti-racists who sit through incendiary Sunday sermons from supremacist pastors, and somehow find themselves in the same pew the next Sunday and the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that.
Not anti-racists who absorb vile break room jokes and outwardly laugh along while internally feeling sick to their stomachs.
Not anti-racists who scroll past the most dehumanizing memes and videos from people they’ve grown up with and gone to high school with, not wanting to engage the collateral damage of publicly confronting them.
In the presence of this kind of cancerous hatred, the kind that killed Ahmaud Arbery, the kind that is having a renaissance here in America—there aren’t moderate grey spaces to sit comfortably and observe from a distance.
No, this is a place of stark black and white extremist clarity:
You oppose the inhumanity or you abide it.
You condemn the violence or you are complicit in it.
You declare yourself a fierce and vocal adversary of bigotry—or you become its silent ally.
White friends, we are being asked to be speak clearly because when we do, we place ourselves alongside those people who deserve to get up today and run and stand outside convenience stores and sit in their cars and play in the park and relax in their homes—and we place ourselves across from the bigots who feel they will never be held accountable for not wanting them to do these things.
To be clear—this outward stance doesn’t erase our privilege or exempt us from our prejudices or remove the blind spots within us that perpetuate inequity. Those are realities we’ll have to continually confront in the small and close and quiet moments of the remainder of our lives. It doesn’t dismantle systemic racism or the institutional inequalities woven into our nation, which we benefit from.
But what our outward declaration will do, is to let other white people know where we stand: our neighbors and and pastors and co-workers and family members and social media friends.
It will place us decidedly on the side of black men jogging in their neighborhoods.
It will place us in unequivocal opposition to white men choosing to become judge, jury and executioner to a stranger, who have grown up never acknowledging the value of a black like—because so few white neighbors, pastors, co-workers, family members, or social media friends told them otherwise.
As of this writing, Ahmaud Arbery’s white murderers are still free, and whether they remain free or not, the malignant racism that engineered his death will be showing itself again today.
It will shout its inhumanity across tables and in pulpits and in break rooms and on our news feeds and in presidential tweets—and we who live with the unearned privilege of having children and fathers and sisters who can run and stand outside convenience stores and sit in their cars and play in the park and watch TV in their homes—without fearing the taunts and punches and bullets of irrational strangers, we have an obligation to speak explicitly and loudly now.
White Americans need to condemn white racism in America, or be guilty of it.
I want to be someone who condemns it.”

As you read this, please know that law enforcement say domestic terrorist groups dwarf Muslim terrorist groups in the US. Yet, much of their funding is for the latter, not the former. The significant majority of these groups are white nationalist in nature.

But, the above speaks to those who are not in a terrorist group. They are people who let racial profiling dictate vigilante action. I have written several times before, as a white man in America, I can pretty much go anywhere I want. Yet, a black man, even when he is dressed in his Sunday best, is at risk.

Vigilante justice is illegal for a reason. It was illegal (but condoned) during the days of Jim Crow and remains illegal today. I am not saying all racists are white, as racism knows no color. Bigotry can rear its ugly head in any society. But, white nationalism is on the rise in America and followers feel more emboldened. That makes me sad.

We must speak out against hate. We must say this is not right. No matter who does it. I am reminded of black man named Daryl Davis who has talked over 200 KKK members out of their robes as he convinced them to leave the KKK. How did he do it? He asked them questions and listened. Then he posed a few more. We need not all be like Daryl Davis, but we can say we do not appreciate that kind of language, humor or treatment of others when we see it. Or just vote with our feet and walk away.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2020/05/07/white-americans-need-to-condemn-white-racism-in-america/

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

Former Judge announces her departure from the GOP due to president’s racist remarks

From today’s The Washington Post, the following are some powerful words from a former Judge who is leaving the Republican Party. This is as succinct as it comes and should be a long overdue clarion call to Republicans regarding the person they continue to rationalize on a weekly basis:

“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.'” 

What will it take for others to come to the same conclusion? A poll said while 68% of all Americans do not approve of the president’s remarks toward the “squad,” only 47% disapprove in the Republican Party. Another poll had Trump’s GOP voter approval increase by 5 points, while it fell by 10 points among Independents and two points in Democrats from a lower starting point.

As I ask GOP Senators on a routine basis, “is this the person you want to spend your dear reputation on?” The defenders do not fully know what will come out of the woodwork nor what he might do or say. At some point, the rationalizing will be hard to come by. They should be well past that point by now.