Tag Archives: racism

Is Florida the Fourth Reich?

A couple of weekends ago,  Nazis demonstrated in Orlando. According to media reports, they screamed antisemitic slogans and threats against Blacks and Hispanics, waved swastikas, and assaulted a couple of people who stopped to argue with them.

According to Newsweek, Twitter users posted videos of the neo-Nazi rally and reported the slurs.

And a Florida resident posted to Daily Kos, 

In addition, the Nazis protested at several overpasses on I-4 toward Disney, with Nazi flags and a large “Let’s Go Brandon” sign with swastikas. Another one said, “Vax the Jews.” This protest followed another one in Mount Dora earlier. The fact is that antisemitic incidents in Florida rose by 40% since 2020. The undeniable rise of antisemitic demonstrations in Florida even got Sen. Rick Scott’s attention, and he condemned them in a tweet. Democrats, including the candidates for governor and senator, strongly condemned the Nazis. However, the two incumbents they are running against, Ron DeSantis and Marco Rubio, have remained silent. 

It’s bad enough that DeSantis refused to condemn the demonstrations; his spokesperson was worse. She tweeted “How do we even know they’re Nazis?” and suggested they might  have been Democrats “pretending.”

If this were a one-off, DeSantis’ silence could be attributed to oversight, overwork…something. But no one who has followed DeSantis and his enablers in the Florida Legislature is likely to give him the benefit of the doubt. (There’s a reason The New Republic made him their “Scoundrel of the Year.”)

A Miami newspaper recounted “Eight Times DeSantis ‘Accidentally’ Did Racist Stuff.”That article was written during DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign, and started as follows:

After enough racism scandals involving a particular political candidate, you’d think everyone might just admit that person is simply racist. Yet a whole lot of people — from bad-faith conservative pundits to easily fooled reporters — continue offering excuses for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ infamous statement on Fox News that Andrew Gillum would “monkey… up” Florida.

At best, that gaffe implies DeSantis, who is a seasoned lawyer with degrees from Harvard and Yale, is so ignorant he doesn’t know it’s a really bad idea to use the word “monkey” when talking about a black person.

But claiming his use of the word was a simple accident is also hard to believe because DeSantis has a clear, repeated pattern of making offensive and/or outright racist statements, hanging out with racists, and defending other people who are also racists. It’s past time that DeSantis — long considered the most right-wing Florida congressman who is running on a platform of fealty to Donald Trump and pure anti-immigrant bile — lost the benefit of the doubt.

The article enumerated the reasons DeSantis isn’t entitled to the benefit of the doubt: among other things, he spoke at a Muslim-bashing event alongside Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon, defended a supporter who advocated”bringing back the hanging tree,” leveled a slur at AOC’s ethnicity, and was moderator of a Facebook group that was a haven for racist memes.

Since he’s been governor, of course, he has worked hard to out-Trump Trump. His anti-vaccination, anti-mask, anti-mandate efforts have received wide publicity, but those efforts are arguably not targeted at minorities–they’re unforgivably dangerous to the health of all Florida citizens (especially the elderly, and Florida has more than its share of elderly folks.)

Other measures are more clearly bigoted.

 DeSantis and Republicans in the state legislature have joined the campaign  against what DeSantis calls”woke” schools. As this Washington Post article describes it:

As part of the “stop-woke” agenda of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Florida lawmakers are now considering bills that would allow almost anyone to object to any instruction in public school classrooms. DeSantis wants to give people the right to sue schools and teachers over what they teach based on student “discomfort.” The proposed legislation is far-reaching and could affect even corporate human resources diversity training.

While the legislation mirrors national efforts to ban critical race theory in schools, the debate in Florida has turned especially raw and emotional, a testament to how central multiculturalism is to the state’s identity. Many parents and teachers — who note that critical race theory is not taught in Florida’s public schools and is already banned under state law — fear the legislation would force teachers to whitewash history, literature and religion courses.

 In Florida, more than 1 in 5 residents are foreign-born and nearly half the population is Latino, Black or Asian American. That might explain DeSantis’ multiple new voting restrictions.

DeSantis and GOP lawmakers have also advanced a bill opponents are calling “don’t say gay.” It would effectively forbid classroom discussions of sexual orientation.

 One proponent of the “anti-woke” bills gives the racist game away: “To say there were slaves is one thing, but to talk in detail about how slaves were treated, and with photos, is another.” 

It is indeed.

It Always Comes Back To Racism II

Last Sunday, my post described the actual origin of the anti-choice movement, which was an effort to turn out Evangelical voters in order to protect segregated “Christian” academies.

Last Tuesday, I posted about the research tying a variety of our current hostilities back to racism. Opposition to immigration from “brown” countries, belief in a number of conspiracy theories and, of course, devotion to Trump and his “Big Lie,” among other distortions of public opinion, all strongly correlate with racist ideologies.

After that particular post was written, The Guardian added to the evidence. 

The article began by noting that the US Supreme Court is very likely to overturn Roe v. Wade this spring–and that the Court’s refusal thus far to halt a patently unconstitutional Texas statute means that, for women in Texas, reproductive rights have already been nullified.

The article then reported on an ugly underside of the “pro life” movement that has rarely been the focus of media coverage.

These victories have made visible a growing cohort within the anti-choice movement: the militias and explicitly white supremacist groups of the organized far right. Like last year, this year’s March for Life featured an appearance by Patriot Front, a white nationalist group that wears a uniform of balaclavas and khakis. The group, which also marched at a Chicago March for Life demonstration earlier this month, silently handed out cards to members of the press who tried to ask them questions. “America belongs to its fathers, and it is owed to its sons,” the cards read. “The restoration of American sovereignty must follow the restoration of the American Family.”

Explicit white nationalism, and an emphasis on conscripting white women into reproduction, is not a fringe element of the anti-choice movement. Associations between white supremacist groups and anti-abortion forces are robust and longstanding. In addition to Patriot Front, groups like the white nationalist Aryan Nations and the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker party have also lent support to the anti-abortion movement. These groups see stopping abortion as part of a broader project to ensure white hegemony in addition to women’s subordination. Tim Bishop, of the Aryan Nations, noted that “Lots of our people join [anti-choice organizations] … It’s part of our Holy War for the pure Aryan race.” That the growing white nationalist movement would be focused on attacking women’s rights is maybe to be expected: research has long established that recruitment to the alt-right happens largely among men with grievances against feminism, and that misogyny is usually the first form of rightwing radicalization.

The article provided evidence that the growing presence of White Christian Nationalists at “Pro Life” marches and events isn’t because the movement has been “infiltrated” without its consent.  To the contrary, “just as the alt-right loves the anti-choice movement, the anti-choice movement loves the alt-right.”

In 2019, Kristen Hatten, a vice-president at the anti-choice group New Wave Feminists, shared racist content online and publicly identified herself as an “ethnonationalist”. In addition to sharing personnel, the groups share tactics. In 1985, the KKK began circulating “Wanted” posters featuring the photos and personal information of abortion providers.

Now, mainline anti-choice organizations routinely share names, photos and addresses of abortion providers.

The association has a long and ugly history. 

Before an influx of southern and eastern European immigrants to the United States in the latter half of the 19th century, abortion and contraception had only been partially and sporadically criminalized. This changed in the early 20th century, when an additional surge of migrants from Asia and Latin America calcified white American racial anxieties and led to white elites decrying the falling white birth rate as “race suicide.”

This led to a campaign of forced birth for “fit” mothers–White women– while another widespread campaign actively supported involuntary sterilization for poor women, particularly Black and incarcerated women.

The final paragraphs of the report are chilling:

In the current anti-choice and white supremacist alliance, the language of “race suicide” has been supplanted by a similar fear: the so-called “Great Replacement”, a racist conspiracy theory that posits that white Americans are being “replaced” by people of color. (Some antisemitic variations posit that this “replacement” is somehow being orchestrated by Jewish people.)

The way to combat this, the right says, is to force childbearing among white people, to severely restrict immigration, and to punish, via criminalization and enforced poverty, women of color. These anxieties have always animated the anti-choice movement, and they have only become more fervent among the March for Life’s rank and file as conservatives become increasingly fixated on the demographic changes that will make America a minority-white country sometime in the coming decades. The white supremacist and anti-choice movements have always been closely linked. But more and more, they are becoming difficult to tell apart.

This isn’t about “saving babies.” It never has been.

 

it Always Comes Back To Racism…

Let me begin today’s discussion with a disclaimer: I’m fully aware that–at least in the context of public policy and governance–nothing is simple and linear. When it comes to humankind’s longstanding bigotries, for example, there’s ample evidence that they come to the surface more forcefully in times of economic downturn and/or unease, and can be triggered by recognition of demographic change.

But that said, there is also a veritable mountain of research confirming that today’s civil discord is primarily grounded in racism. We may not be having a “hot” civil war, but it is abundantly clear that the most prominent and damaging elements of our current dysfunctions are rooted in the same moral sickness that prompted the original one.

Recently, Thomas Edsall surveyed some of that evidence for the New York Times. Here’s his lede

Why is Donald Trump’s big lie so hard to discredit?

This has been a live question for more than a year, but inside it lies another: Do Republican officials and voters actually believe Trump’s claim that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election by corrupting ballots — the same ballots that put so many Republicans in office — and if they do believe it, what are their motives?

A December 2021 University of Massachusetts-Amherst survey found striking links between attitudes on race and immigration and disbelief in the integrity of the 2020 election.

Surveys have found that 66 percent of self-identified Republicans agreed with the statement that “the growth of the number of immigrants to the U.S. means that America is in danger of losing its culture and identity.”  (I have actually been amused–in a “black humor” sort of way–by the GOP’s recent laments about the dearth of workers, especially in the hospitality and food industries. They seem utterly clueless to the rather obvious link between severely depressed immigration numbers and the “inexplicable” lack of people willing to pick crops and be restaurant servers. But I digress.)

Edsall shared the following paragraph from an essay by four political scientists, further emphasizing the link between racial attitudes and unfounded beliefs.

Divisions over racial equality were closely related to perceptions of the 2020 presidential election and the Capitol attack. For example, among those who agreed that white people in the United States have advantages based on the color of their skin, 87 percent believed that Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate; among neutrals, 44 percent believed it was legitimate; and among those who disagreed, only 21 percent believed it was legitimate. Seventy percent of people who agreed that white people enjoy advantages considered the events of Jan. 6 to be an insurrection; 26 percent of neutrals described it that way; and only 10 percent who disagreed did so, while 80 percent of this last group called it a protest. And while 70 percent of those who agreed that white people enjoy advantages blamed Trump for the events of Jan. 6, only 34 percent of neutrals did, and a mere 9 percent of those who disagreed did.

In his column, Edsall traced the scholarly dispute between researchers who believe that poll respondents claiming to believe The Big Lie really do know better, and are using their purported agreement as a way of signaling that they are part of the tribe/cult, and those who think these respondents have actually imbibed the Kool Aid. He also quotes Isabell Sawhill of The Brookings Institution, who suggests that there is a dynamic at work here– that what was originally an “opportunistic strategy to please the Trump base” has had the effect of solidifing that base.

It’s a Catch-22. To change the direction of the country requires staying in power, but staying in power requires satisfying a public, a large share of whom has lost faith in our institutions, including the mainstream media and the democratic process.

In response to an inquiry from Edsall, Paul Begala wrote

Trump lives by Machiavelli’s famous maxim that fear is a better foundation for loyalty than love. G.O.P. senators don’t fear Trump personally; they fear his followers. Republican politicians are so cowed by Trump’s supporters, you can almost hear them moo.

Elected officials who know better may lack both the backbone and integrity to oppose the party’s Trumpist base, but–as a professor from MIT pointed out–there’s a reason the base loves Trump, and it’s simple: racial animus and Christian millennialism.

No wonder they engage in an unremitting culture war.

As a sociologist at N.Y.U. described our current, dangerous political dynamic: “In capturing the party, Trump perfectly embodied its ethno-nationalist and authoritarian tendencies.”

I guess labeling the GOP as “ethno-nationalist” is nicer than calling it out as irredeemably racist. But it means the same thing.

 

The GOP (Non) Platform

Speaking of “what’s next”…..(yesterday’s subject)…

What happens when a crazed minority controls important parts of a nation’s government? I worry that we are about to find out just how much worse it can get.

A few days ago, I woke up to news that the GOP is once again competing for office solely on the basis of its ongoing culture war–that the party will not produce a platform in advance of the 2022 midterm elections. According to Heather Cox Richardson,

Senate Republicans will not issue any sort of a platform before next year’s midterm elections. At a meeting of donors and lawmakers in mid-November, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the Republican Party’s 2024 nominee would be responsible for deciding on an agenda. The Republican senators in 2022 will simply attack the Democrats.

That should have been stunning, front-page news–one of America’s two major political parties is asking for our votes based only on what it is against. 

To be fair, it isn’t that Republicans aren’t for anything; they are simply unwilling to be explicit about their obvious, albeit policy-free goal, which is to return the U.S. to the social structures of the 1950s, when women, LGBTQ individuals and people of color were second-or-third class citizens, and White, purportedly Christian males dominated.

Granted, it would be awkward for the party to articulate its actual goal, but there’s another barrier to producing a document that sets forth what today’s GOP stands for–the inability of the crazies who are now at the center of the Republican cult to form any coherent narrative, let alone agree on any specific policy agenda.

True, some of the more obvious, albeit unwritten “planks” in that abandoned platform have been part of GOP dogma for quite some time: repealing women’s reproductive rights, ensuring that every nutcase who wants a weapon can access one, ensuring that industries can misbehave–collude, pollute, spy– without the interference of that pesky government…but others are relatively new, and difficult to explicitly defend.

For example, how do you frame an argument against government’s role in protecting public health? I continue to be gobsmacked by the “freedom warriors” who are literally laying down their lives for the right to refuse a lifesaving vaccine. (Let me be clear: if they weren’t also endangering rational folks, I’d be more than happy to see them thin the ranks of the terminally stupid.)

How do you justify attacks on accurate education without admitting that your motivation is protection of White Supremacy?

Thanks are due to the Williamson County, Tennessee, chapter of Moms for Liberty for once again clarifying what the “critical race theory” (CRT) uproar is really about. We can say until we’re blue in the face that critical race theory is a graduate-level school of thought not taught in K-12 schools, and along comes an anti-CRT group to show that what they really object to is any teaching that shows that racism is or has ever been a real thing.

The group, run by a woman whose children do not attend public school, filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Education claiming that some texts being taught to grade-school students violate the state’s new law against teaching about “privilege” or “guilt” or “discomfort” based on race or sex. The texts? Books for second-graders including Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington and Ruby Bridges Goes to School, along with Separate is Never Equal and The Story of Ruby Bridges.

Lest you think “Moms for Liberty” isn’t racist to the core, the book they recommend to replace “Ruby Bridges” was written by one W. Cleon Skousen, a conspiracy theorist and John Birch Society supporter. It characterizes ‘black children as ‘pickaninnies’ and American slave owners as the ‘worst victims’ of slavery, and claims the Founders wanted to free the slaves but that “[m]ost of [the slaves] were woefully unprepared for a life of competitive independence.”

I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

The good news should be the fact that  GOP craziness and conspiracy-mongering are most definitely a minority phenomenon. Survey research confirms that its delusions and positions are held by a distinct minority– a lot more people than we’d like to believe, but certainly not a majority of Americans.

The bad news is that, thanks to gerrymandering and the filibuster, a wacko minority has seized far more power than a properly operating democratic system would let them wield.

In fact, if Congress cannot pass voting rights legislation, and soon, the crazies and bigots will win.

 

Good News

In Christianity, the gospel is sometimes called the “Good News.” The phrase evidently heralds the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. If you have landed on this page in hopes of a post exploring that concept, you’ve come to the wrong place. I don’t even recognize “Christianity” these days. (Granted, I’m not a Christian.)

In fact, when it comes to contemporary news, I’ve become used to seeing headlines like this one, on articles documenting the ways in which Evangelical “Christians” have become more and more indistinguishable from GOP cultists. 

A group that says its mission is “to halt and push back the forces of darkness” is holding a tactical event in southwest Missouri this weekend to train Christians in “hand-to-hand combat” and “fighting from your vehicle.”

I’m not Christian, but I really don’t think Jesus would approve…

Peter Wehner, a lifelong evangelical, recently wrote an article for the Atlantic about the internal conflicts being caused by the politicization of Christianity. I recommend it.

My “good news” is very different– an explicit rejection of that perversion of belief . There are evidently evangelical pastors who are genuinely religious–that is, concerned with concepts like brotherly love, ethical behavior and the golden rule. 

The Washington Post recently had the story.

Emotions ran high at the gathering of about 100 pastors at a church, about five miles from the University of Notre Dame. Many hugged. Some shed tears. One confessed she could not pray anymore.
 
Some had lost funding and others had been fired from their churches for adopting more liberal beliefs. All had left the evangelical tradition and had come to discuss their next steps as “post-evangelicals.”

Those  who planned the meeting–which took place in South Bend, Indiana–had expected 25 pastors. Word-of-mouth expanded it to over 100.  The appeal appears to be part of what the report calls a” larger reckoning” that has been triggered in individuals and congregations that are “grappling with their faith identity in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency and calls for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd.”

Many of the (formerly) evangelical leaders in attendance at the meeting had been deeply concerned when they learned that approximately 8 out of 10 White evangelicals had voted for Trump in both of his presidential runs–evidence, as they see it, that the evangelical movement has been co-opted by Republican politics.

As the pastors traded stories, they quickly found shared experiences. They lamented their conservative evangelical parents who watch Fox News, as well as their peers who had re-examined their beliefs so much that they lost their faith entirely. They skewed younger, many in their 30s with tattoos covering their arms.

Most of the leaders held some belief in Jesus and the idea that people gathering in churches is still a good idea. Many want their churches to be affirming, meaning that they would perform gay weddings and include LGBTQ people in leadership and membership. They preferred curiosity over certainty, inclusion over exclusion.

According to the article, all of the attendees agreed on two things: they opposed Trump and they opposed racism. (Some of us would suggest that Trumpism is racism, so maybe they only agreed on one thing…) 

One of the most positive signs of change came in a quote from Amy Mikal, who was once a pastor at the Chicago-based megachurch Willow Creek.

“The hardest part is that we were taught to take the Bible literally,” Mikal said. “We want to be a place that asks more questions than provides answers.”

I have previously shared my youngest son’s distinction between a good religion and a bad one: a good religion helps you wrestle with morally-fraught questions about life’s meaning and challenges; a bad religion gives you predetermined “correct” answers and demands that you live in unquestioning accordance with them. Mikal obviously reached a similar conclusion.

The article quoted a different participant, Brit Barron (who had worked for a megachurch in California before she began re-examining her beliefs) for a similar sentiment. Barron opined that “Our job is to create the conversation. If someone opens up and says, ‘I don’t know if any of this is real,’ then we’re doing our job.”

The participants in this meeting understood that the “job” of a pastor is to provide a safe space for questions and debates about morality and faith. That sets them apart from the mega-churches and celebrity pastors who increasingly seem to believe that their job is to program troops for the GOP while raking in lots of money.

The refusal of a growing number of pastors to participate in the con games of the Falwells and Grahams really is “good news.”