As 2014 draws to a close, one of the country’s greatest controversies is the recent revelations regarding the human rights violations committed by CIA agents in the form of torture. Some people are playing these revelations off as no big deal. Others are calling for prosecutions. With that in mind, I would like to lay out exactly how I think this situation should be handled. Firstly, if any innocent people were tortured, they should receive a public apology and a massive amount of money in damages. Secondly, from now on, nobody in U.S. custody should be tortured under any circumstances, and nobody in U.S. custody should be handed over to countries that do practice torture. Some acts are inherently immoral and should never be committed, even if they may have utilitarian benefit. Torture is one such act, and indeed, its utilitarian benefits are questionable, since a person being tortured may well say whatever they think will make the torture stop. Thirdly, CIA agents involved with the torture program should receive a criminal pardon. As immoral as torture is, prosecuting the people who inflicted it would also be inadvisable. Given the support of many politicians for “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and Dick Cheney’s cavalier reaction to the release of the torture report, it seems quite likely that the Bush Administration was aware of what the CIA was doing and accepted it as necessary. It would be unjust to punish government employees for doing what their higher ups allowed or even ordered them to do without also punishing the higher ups. So, the argument goes, why not prosecute Bush and Cheney? The Justice Department certainly could file charges against Bush and Cheney, but be careful what you wish for. If Bush and Cheney are prosecuted, fairness requires an investigation to determine whether Senators and Representatives also knew about the torture. A few years ago, a controversy emerged as to whether or not Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi knew about certain violent interrogation techniques of terrorist suspects. Did she know? Did any other Democrats? It is hard to say. But consider this: for a year or so after 9/11, blind patriotism was probably the highest it had been since before the Vietnam War. If George W. Bush said a policy was in the interest of national security, most Democrats in the House and Senate were willing to go along with it. When the Orwellian Patriot Act was hastily passed the month after 9/11, only one Senator, the great Russ Feingold, voted against it. In the House, more Democrats, such as the great John Lewis, Tammy Baldwin, Jim McDermott, and Barney Frank, voted against it, but they were outnumbered in their own party by more than two-to-one. It was not until Bush prepared to invade Iraq that a high level of Democratic opposition to his War on Terror policies emerged. Is it really hard to imagine that many Democratic Senators and Representatives were aware of the torture program and considered it a necessary evil in light of 9/11? How many Americans are really willing to have an investigation of the House and Senate and let the chips fall, even if it means their favorite Democrats end up in the dock? I myself am forced to admit that I am unwilling. People who know me may be surprised to find out my views on prosecuting Bush and Cheney, since I have no problem stating that Richard Nixon should have faced a criminal trial and that Ford’s decision to pardon him was wrong. Yet while the torture that occurred in the Bush Administration was heinous, it was at least arguably undertaken out of a desire for national security. That does not make it acceptable, but it does distinguish this torture from the actions of Nixon, which were undertaken for political gain. This difference needs to be taken into account. A criminal pardon would acknowledge that torture is criminal behavior without launching a series of prosecutions that will take us down a path most Americans are unwilling to go on.
Monthly Archives: December 2014
When Missouri was granted statehood, it was part of the “Missouri Compromise,” in which Maine and all future states above the parallel 36°30′ were admitted as free states, while Missouri, as well as all future states below the latitude, was admitted as slave states. Although many German immigrants who settled in Missouri opposed slavery, their views failed to carry the day. In the 1850s, when the issue of whether or not Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state or free state became prominent, and the territory turned into a war zone, many Missourians worked vigorously to make Kansas a slave state. One such figure was Missouri Senator David Rice Atchison, a Kentucky transplant who urged Missourians to “to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district” if it was necessary to make Kansas a slave state. Missouri did not join the Confederacy during the Civil War, but over a hundred thousand people were enslaved in the state as of 1860, and many Missourians supported the Confederacy, including Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson. When Missouri Senator and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft praised the Confederacy in 1998, he was simply following in the footsteps of Atchison and Jackson. Missouri became an early flashpoint of the controversy over whether or not emancipation was an appropriate war measure for the North, as Union General John C. Fremont implemented martial law in the state in 1861 and ordered that all slaves of Confederate residents be free. Abraham Lincoln, who abhorred slavery but feared that Fremont’s order would lead Missouri and other “border states,” to secede, overruled Fremont and ended up firing him. As Missouri did not secede, it was not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation, and slavery remained legal there until the state legislature finally abolished it in 1864.
After the Civil War, Missouri established itself as being part of the “Jim Crow” belt. Andrew King, a Congressman from the 9th district, feared that the new Fourteenth Amendment would eventually lead to interracial marriage bans being declared unconstitutional and unsuccessfully tried in 1871 to pass a constitutional amendment against interracial marriage. In 1916, St. Louis voters approved a referendum requiring that neighborhoods be racially segregated. This event helped radicalize Roger Nash Baldwin, a white St. Louis resident who had moved there from Massachusetts and went on to help found the ACLU. Missouri native Mark Twain supported the pro-civil rights Radical Republican faction during Reconstruction and wrote the anti-racism classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but the exception proves the rule. Twain had grown up in a slaveholding community, and in his novel, Jim is enslaved in Missouri, not Mississippi. Certainly, some Missouri politicians took liberal stances on civil rights. Congressman Leonidas C. Dyer tried several times to pass federal antilynching legislation in the 1910s and 1920s. In 1956, Senator Thomas C. Hennings was only of the five Senators who voted with Paul Douglas in the case described in the previous blog. Stuart Symington had strongly favored integration as Secretary of the Air Force, and when he attempted to capture the Democratic Party’s 1960 presidential nomination while serving as a Senator, he refused to speak to segregated audiences. JFK had no such compunctions. Yet Dyer was elected in a predominantly African American district, and the election of Hennings and Symington reflected the high level of voter indifference on civil rights in Missouri rather than the state’s egalitarianism. Harry Truman, the first Democratic president to show much interest in civil rights for African Americans, was from Missouri. However, he used the n-word throughout his life, labeled interracial marriage a sin in 1963, and lambasted both white Northern abolitionists and white Northern protesters in the Civil Rights Movement as outsiders sticking their noses in other people’s business. In the case of activists in the Civil Rights Movement, Truman hypothesized that they had not been spanked enough as children and should be paddled by police. In 1938, the Supreme Court heard a case in which the state of Missouri was sued by an African American resident named Lloyd Gaines. Gaines wished to attend University of Missouri’s law school and had been denied admission, as the law school was not open to African Americans. Since Missouri had no state law school for African Americans, it offered to pay Gaines to go to school in another state. In a ruling that helped lay the groundwork for Brown, the Supreme Court declared that in the absence of an all-black law school, University of Missouri had to admit Gaines. Missouri state law required that all public schools be segregated until after Brown v. Board of Education. Interracial marriage was illegal in the state until the Supreme Court intervened in 1967. When the House of Representatives considered legislation that would ban racial discrimination in housing in 1966, 70% of Missouri Representatives voted against it while only 14.3% of Iowa representatives and 25% of Illinois representatives did. In recent years, Missouri has elected Republican Senator John Danforth, who at times defied party leadership from the left on civil rights but has also elected the aforementioned Neo-Confederate John Ashcroft. Interestingly, one of the few areas where Missouri showed a liberal streak on civil rights was organized labor. When Progressive Era Illinois reformer Jane Addams set up Hull-House as a settlement house for immigrants, she ran into a dilemma. Addams, who was both anti-racism and pro-union, preferred to employ only unionized workers at Hull-House. When she hired a black chef, she discovered that no union in Chicago would let him join and addressed the issue by finding an integrated union in St. Louis for him to join.
Skeptical readers may ask the question: does Ferguson perhaps have less racial animosity than Missouri as a whole? This scenario is theoretically possible, but it seems unlikely. While Ferguson is about two-thirds black, its police department is only about 7.5% black. New York City is about one-quarter black, and the NYPD is about 16% black. Minneapolis is less than one-fifth black, and its police department is about 9% black. San Francisco is about 6% black, and its police force is about 10% black. Ferguson has never had a black mayor, while all of the previously mentioned cities have. These figures are not absolute proof of large amounts of racial tension in Ferguson, but taken alongside Missouri’s history, there do constitute strong evidence. Looking at the facts, it is difficult not to conclude that the fact that violent protests have swept Ferguson but been mostly eschewed by New Yorkers in the past few weeks is partly because of New York City having less racial animosity.
Eventually, however, a change took place. In the twentieth century, New York’s white population as a whole moved to the left on civil rights. A major reason for the shift was the great growth of New York City’s Jewish population. In 1850, less than one in twenty-five people in New York City was a Jew. By 1920, more than one in four people in New York City was a Jew. From at least the early 1900s to the present, Jews have tended to have more liberal attitudes toward African Americans than whites in general, and as the Jewish population of New York grew, so did support for civil rights in New York. The history of the NAACP is inseparable both from the history of blacks and from the history of Jews. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that the Jewish contribution to black civil rights was too massive to be quantified. Another major reason was generational shifts; A New Yorker born in the late 1800s or 1900s tended to have more liberal views about race, compared with the majority of the country, than a New Yorker born in the first half of the 1800s.
Furthermore, as the state of New York’s overall number of residents swelled relative to New England’s, and Massachusetts’s WASP/WASU (White Anglo Saxon Unitarian) demographic shrunk, the Big Apple supplanted the Bay State as the epicenter of white support for civil rights. To be sure, New England continued to be a bastion of white support for civil rights. Massachusetts elected Edward Brooke, the first popularly elected black Senator in history and Deval Patrick, one of only two popularly elected black governors. Many of the whites involved in the formation of the NAACP, such as William Hayes Ward, Moorfield Storey, Albert Pillsbury, and the children of William Lloyd Garrison, were New Englanders. New England politicians like Endicott Peabody, Edmund Muskie, and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., writers like Truman Nelson, Ann Fairbairn, and Robert Lowell, and activists like Mary Parkman Peabody, Tom Houck, Carol Ruth Silver, and Kivie Kaplan played important roles in the fight for civil rights. But as referenced earlier, while Massachusetts had desegregated its public schools long before New York, it was New York that passed the first state law banning racial discrimination in employment. In 1956, when Senator Paul Douglas (D-IL) petitioned to adjourn the Senate and start a new session where a proposed civil rights bill could be discussed, only five Senators voted with him. Two of them came from New York–Democrat Herb Lehman, whose donations had helped keep the NAACP afloat during the Great Depression, and Republican Irving Ives, who had cosponsored the landmark state ban on workplace discrimination in the legislature. One of the main white NAACP lawyers who persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down government-mandated residential segregation, Louis Marshall, was born in New York. The white chair of the NAACP’s board from 1919 to 1932, Mary White Ovington, was born in New York. The first treasurer of the NAACP, John E. Milholland, was a white man born in New York. The white presidents of the NAACP from 1930 to 1965, Joel and Arthur Spingarn, were born in New York. Three of the eight white members of the Journey of Reconciliation, Igal Roodenko, James Peck, and Homer Jack, were born in New York. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s closest white confidante, Stanley Levison, was born in New York. Jack Greenberg, the man who became the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF)’s only white counselor and became the LDF’s Director-Counsel in 1961, was born in New York. Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, the two white volunteers for “Freedom Summer” who were murdered alongside black volunteer James Chaney, were from New York. Both of the men representing New York in the Senate when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, Kenneth Keating and Jacob Javits, were extremely strong civil rights supporters. Each refused to endorse fellow Republican Barry Goldwater for president after he voted against the Civil Rights Act and defeated fellow civil rights stalwart and New York politician, Nelson Rockefeller, for the nomination. In April of 1968, New York City avoided the large-scale riots that swept more than a hundred cities in the aftermath of MLK’s assassination in no small part because Mayor John Lindsay was ultraliberal on African Americans’ rights and appeared in Harlem to speak directly to black residents mere hours after King’s death. A few years later, Lindsay and New York Congressman Ogden Reid switched from Republican to Democrat partly because the GOP had moved to the Right on race, while the Democratic Party had moved to the Left. (Sadly, Lindsay’s liberalism often failed to extend to other historically marginalized ethnic groups. He showed traces of anti-Semitism and eventually advocated reducing immigration.) When the House of Representatives voted to override Ronald Reagan’s veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, only 45% of Republican representatives and 0% of Missouri Republican representatives voted in favor of the override, while just under 70% of New York Republican representatives did. New York City’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio, is married to a black woman, has two biracial children, and has shown great interest in combatting racism. Indeed, the city has been ranked one of the best in the nation for interracial couples to live in.
This is not to say that racism against African Americans does not exist in New York. It is, after all, the birthplace of William F. Buckley, Murray Rothbard, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, and Carl Paladino. And it has certainly not been free of hate crimes, such as the brutal murder of Michael Griffith at Howard Beach. Too much patting oneself on the back is dangerous for any society, as it can cause members to be blind to homegrown injustices via a mentality of “it can’t happen here.” Yet there does seem to be a distinct possibility that New York City has made enough progress on race relations as to make large scale race riots unlikely, progress that Ferguson, Missouri has not made. The record of the town of Ferguson and the state of Missouri with regard to African Americans will be assessed in my next blog post.
The decision of a grand jury in New York not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking civilian Eric Garner to death as Garner repeatedly pleaded that he could not breath, coming as it did on the heels of a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, has helped ratchet up controversies about police brutality and race. I myself recently took to this blog to point out that whether one agrees with these verdicts or not, the continued problem of racism against black people in America is an undeniable fact. Today, however, I would like to look at a distinct, albeit related issue: why has Ferguson experienced so much more violence than New York City in recent weeks? CBS did a great article on possible reasons why, and I think all of their suggested factors may well have played a role. However, there is reason to believe that another factor was likely in play, one that is almost certain to make many people uncomfortable. Simply put, New York City likely avoided large scale violence due to having lower levels of racial tension than Ferguson. It is important to remember that riots in response to controversial law enforcement cases do not occur solely because of these individual cases: these cases are trigger issues that cause longstanding racial tensions to boil over like Vesuvius. A city with fewer racial tensions may be able to mostly avoid rioting even in a clear case of police brutality.
A reasonable reader may posit that the fact that a grand jury in New York failed to indict a police officer for needlessly killing a black man indicates a high level of racial tension in New York. The truth, however, is somewhat more complicated. New York has a tradition of what I term “billy club liberalism”–liberal views on civil rights, mixed with a conservative streak on “law and order” issues. New York lawyer-turned-judge, Samuel Leibowitz, worked to help nine black Alabama youths falsely accused of rape avoid execution, deplored racism, felt that baseball could not be called “a national game” until it was racially integrated, and favored the death penalty. Governor Thomas Dewey signed the first state law anywhere in America banning racial discrimination in employment and let over ninety people go to the electric chair. Governor Nelson Rockefeller instituted sweeping civil rights reforms as governor, donated money to the SCLC, vocally supported sit-ins, paid MLK’s hospital bill after a stabbing incident in Harlem, was a strong supporter of the War on Drugs, and showed no mercy at Attica. Even Governor Andrew Cuomo, for whom opposition to the death penalty is a family tradition, worked tirelessly to legalize gay marriage and strongly opposes racial profiling but has been slow to challenge “stop and frisk.” Hence, when a New York jury refused to indict Pantaleo, they were following the New York tradition of support for equal rights and non-discrimination mixed with extreme support for law and order that veers dangerously close to police state policies.
New York’s liberalism on civil rights bares close examination in no small part due to the shift it has undergone. While it was one of the few states, even in the North, to never ban interracial marriage, New York and perhaps especially New York City was not the epicenter of the abolitionist movement. The abolitionist movement drew its greatest concentration of white support from New England. New York was certainly home to abolitionists and antislavery politicians. For instance, Helen Pitts, a white woman who married Frederick Douglass in 1884, hailed from a New York abolitionist family. Gerrit Smith, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Asa Mahan, and Theodore Tilton are examples of other white abolitionists from New York. Frederick Douglass made his home there. Though not an abolitionist, William Seward vigorously denounced slavery and served as both Senator and governor. Congressman Roscoe Conkling despised slavery and, after the Civil War, showed himself to be unusually fair-minded with regard to African Americans as a Senator. But even New York abolitionists tended to be more moderate than New England abolitionists. Massachusetts abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison led the faction of black and white abolitionists which not only called for equality of the races but reviled the Constitution as a proslavery document. This faction included other native New Englanders like Wendell Phillips, William Nell, Abby Kelley Foster, Stephen Symonds Foster, Charles Lenox Remond, and Samuel Joseph May. Gerrit Smith, by contrast, led the faction of abolitionists whose members embraced the Constitution, using mental gymnastics to argue that it was an antislavery document. During the Civil War, Smith even stated that patriotism was more important than abolitionism.
Meanwhile, New York as a whole was moderate, if not conservative, for a Northeastern state when it came to slavery. Out of the Northern states that had been part of the original thirteen colonies, it was the second-to-last to end slavery. Its gradual emancipation bill meant that slavery persisted for another quarter century or so, finally ending in 1827. On the eve of the Civil War, black men were legally allowed the same voting rights as white men in every New England state except Connecticut. In New York, they were subject to wealth qualifications that did not apply to white men. When the South began seceding, Mayor Fernando Wood proposed that New York City also secede in order to continue trading industrial goods for slave labor products. When Abraham Lincoln instituted the draft in 1863, a massive riot of mainly working class Irish Americans broke out in New York City. Their grievances were not entirely illegitimate. Conscription, even for the worthiest of causes, raises thorny ethical issues, and both the Union and Confederate conscription policies had loopholes that allowed more affluent citizens to buy their way out of service. Yet it was also true that many Irish Americans opposed the war precisely because they did not want slavery to be abolished, fearing that a massive influx of Southern blacks to Northern urban centers would threaten their jobs and status. This widespread attitude was revealed by the fact that at least eleven black men were murdered during the riot, and an orphanage for black children was lit on fire, though thankfully all of the children survived. From the 1850s to the 1890s, New York alternated between the parties in presidential elections, voting for anti-civil rights Democrats Horatio Seymour, Samuel J. Tilden, and Grover Cleveland. Massachusetts always voted for the Party of Lincoln. The shift undergone by New York will be examined in my next blog post.
David Koch recently made headlines for a Barbara Walters interview in which he said that he supports same-sex marriage and considers himself socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Koch had previously voiced support for gay marriage in 2012 and stated point blank that he disagreed with Mitt Romney on the issue. Understandably, Barbara Walters asked him about his donations to homophobic politicians. Koch’s response, saying that it was “their [the homophobic politicians’] problem,” and implying that he donated to them based simply on their fiscal policies, was certainly problematic. One should not prioritize economic concerns over people’s civil rights, and the anti-gay bigotry of people like Ted Cruz is not just “their problem,” since they help set national policy. I personally vote for whichever candidate supports equal rights for gays and isn’t racist or homophobic, provided they haven’t done anything extremely heinous, such as abusing a dog. (If they are guilty of extremely heinous acts, I vote third party.) Earlier this year, I said I would support Hillary Clinton over Rand Paul in a presidential contest due to Paul’s racism and homophobia, despite preferring Paul’s policies in many areas. I stand by that and, indeed, I would be willing to vote for a non-bigoted Socialist over a bigot with a perfect plan to revitalize the economy. However, I would advise against pillorying Koch too much for his (misplaced) prioritizing. To illustrate this point, a scenario is in order. Imagine that David Koch had said just a few years ago that efforts to legalize gay marriage and adoption were plots by Satan. Then imagine that earlier this year, Koch had reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage. And finally, imagine that he had an official policy denying high-ranking positions in his company to women. Most liberals would justifiably be raking him across the coals as a homophobe and sexist. Yet all of the hypothetical words and actions that I just described are things that Pope Francis has actually said and done, and he is practically a liberal icon. David Koch says he supports gay marriage and is labelled insincere, while Pope Francis repeatedly says he opposes it and gets a free pass. This indicates that many liberals, like David Koch, prioritize fiscal issues over civil rights, praising Francis because they see him as an economic progressive and letting his sexism and homophobia slide. How is that different from David Koch being thick as thieves with homophobic Tea Party candidates, other than the fact that Koch and the liberal Left have different economic views? Gay rights activists were right to call for the resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich due to his donations to the Yes On 8 Campaign, but that analogy works poorly in the case of David Koch. Eich donated to a campaign that was operating for the sole reason of opposing gay equality. Koch is donating to people because they share his economic views. Unfortunately, a lot of these people are also homophobic. However, we have little reason to think that Koch donated to them because they oppose gay equality, since he has said multiple times that he does not share their views in this area. I am reminded of when, a while back, anti-Prop 8 lawyer Ted Olson had his credentials as an ally to gays called into question because of his ties with conservatives. As with Koch, I’d prefer if Olson cut ties with anti-gay marriage conservatives. But there’s a double standard here if those who criticize Olson’s ties with conservatives do not also demand that the left-wing Cornel West cut his ties with Tavis Smiley. After all, Smiley has gone on record opposing equal rights for gays and lesbians. A lot of pro-gay marriage conservatives and a lot of pro-gay marriage liberals need to give equal rights a higher priority than they currently do. However, singling out David Koch for doing something similar to what a lot of liberal Democrats do is unfair.
The following is a by-no-means exhaustive list of examples of racism still being very much alive in America:
1. As stated previously, Rush Limbaugh has told a black caller to “get that bone out of your nose,” and mocked anti-apartheid activists for actually being appalled by white supremacy in South Africa. Ann Coulter has defended the Confederate Flag, and the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. Michael Savage has defended the junk science claim that African Americans are less intelligent than whites. Pat Buchanan has decried Brown v. Board of Education. Dinesh D’Souza opposes anti-discrimination laws. They are all still mainstream conservative pundits.
2. South Carolina displays the Confederate Flag, a flag representing a country founded to preserve slavery, on its Statehouse. Mississippi keeps the Confederate logo on its state flag.
3. The current governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, was asked for his endorsement of efforts to eliminate segregated proms. He called the attempt to obtain his endorsement “ridiculous.” While at least initially refusing an endorsement for efforts at prom integration, he was perfectly willing to offer an endorsement of Confederate History Month.
4. South Carolina’s junior Senator Tim Scott is the only black Senator ever to be elected by popular vote in a Southern state. Before being elected, he had to work for a former segregationist, walk back statements he had made denouncing the Confederate flag, refuse to support an anti-racial profiling bill, and be appointed to the Senate by Governor Nikki Haley. (His appointment by Haley had the effect of allowing him to avoid a primary, where voters could choose a white conservative candidate and catapulting him straight to the general election, where, as a Republican, he was all but guaranteed victory against his Democratic opponent in a state as deep red as South Carolina.) Outside the South, only four black Senators have ever been popularly elected. Only two black governors have ever been popularly elected anywhere in the country.
5. In the 2008 presidential election, the Republican ticket included a man whose wife had stolen to support a pill addiction and a woman with a teenage daughter who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. Can anyone say with a straight face that if Michelle Obama had stolen to support an addiction, and one of Barack and Michelle’s daughters had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, the family would not have been subjected to a slew of racial comments about their indiscretions?
6. In 2010, the president pro tempore of the Senate, Robert Byrd, passed away and received a national tribute. He was a former member of the KKK, had filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and used the n word on national television. The following month, a black Department of Agriculture official named Shirley Sherrod told a story of how she had discriminated against whites in the past before learning that reverse racism was wrong. When a video appeared that took her remarks out of context, Sherrod was forced to resign. Apparently, Democrats feared that a significant number of swing voters would tolerate accolades and tributes for a white supremacist but would balk at having an alleged black supremacist working for the federal government.
7. Mitt Romney received nary a peep of criticism from conservatives for his choice of Robert Bork, a man who opposed the Civil Rights Act, as a member of his “Justice Advisory Committee,” despite many of these same conservatives lambasting Barack Obama for his association with Jeremiah Wright.
8. Similar to #7, many of the same conservatives who were incensed at President Obama’s membership in Jeremiah Wright’s church have not similarly questioned why politicians who were members of the Mormon church prior to 1978 were willing to be part of a denomination that officially banned blacks from becoming priests.
9. In 2012, an Arkansas state legislator named Jon Hubbard labeled slavery “a blessing in disguise” for black people. A column defending this statement was published on the mainstream conservative website TownHall.com. The aforementioned Dinesh D’Souza made a similar assertion in his latest book, America: Imagine a World Without Her.
10. Nelson Mandela’s death prompted many comments from conservatives that, rather than being a hero, he was a terrorist. How many of these critics would agree with my assertion that George Washington should not be considered a hero due to him being a slaveholder? And if a person considers George Washington a hero despite his slaveholding while viewing Mandela’s Communism and use of violence as a “deal killer,” what does that say about their views on race?
11. Kentucky’s junior Senator Rand Paul has gone on record claiming that businesses have a right to discriminate based on race.
12. Last year, Cheerios released an ad featuring an interracial couple and their daughter. The comments section for the YouTube video had to be disabled due to so many people posting racist remarks.
Whether or not one agrees with the recent decision by a grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson, there is an idea being promulgated by many people that I hope all objective observers of American society will find farcical: the idea that racism against black people is not a major problem anymore and that most racism today is black-on-white. Now, anyone hoping to read a declaration that black-on-white racism is not immoral and deplorable or that black people cannot be racist had best go to another blog. That said, there is a very important truth that all too many people ignore and have been ignoring with a renewed vigor in light of the death of Michael Brown. That truth is that the root cause of black-on-white racism is the history of slavery and segregation in this country and the continued anti-black racism that all too many whites still won’t let go of. Yet many commentators insist that white racism is very rare in 2014 and that current racial tensions are the fault of African Americans and, of course, their white leftist “enablers.” I was reminded of this when I made a couple of remarks in the comments section of Bernard Goldberg’s website. Goldberg is actually one of my favorite conservative pundits. He believes in equal rights for gays, and he has displayed some willingness to occasionally call out other conservative indivduals–specifically Ted Nugent and Cliven Bundy–for making racist statements. He recently wrote an article about Ferguson, and, predictably, lots of readers commented. I am going to repost the dialogue that I had with two fellow commenters.
Commenter A: “ferguson is the result of the black communities insistence of hanging onto old hatred and bitterness and indoctrinating all black kids with this old hatred and bitterness beginning with the very day of their birth……
Perpetuating the hatred and bitterness will ensure that American blacks will never progress as a community or as a group of people…..
This hatred will always be a cancer on America…….”
Me: “Racism of any kind is destructive, deplorable, and immoral, but let’s not forget that white-on-black racism, despite declining a lot in the last 50 years, remains a major problem in America. The people defending Cliven Bundy’s comments on slavery earlier this year were a strong reminder of that. This current white-on-black racism, along with slavery, Jim Crow, and the white-on-black racism of the past, is the root cause of black-on-white racism.”
Commenter A: “No, the root cause of present day racism is refusing to let go of past hatred and bitterness……
American blacks are the most racist group of people on the planet…..
They are taught to be that way…….”
Commenter A: “Seems like the ‘race’ with the biggest ‘race’ problem are the blacks. As long as they adhere to their victim status they are absolved of any necessity to get an education, apply themselves, adopt a workable set of values. Whites aren’t the problem. Blacks are. Blacks put themselves in prison. Blacks kill other blacks. Blacks riot at the drop of a hat. It’s all a real familiar and losing game. You’d think Obama might see that and use a little influence to change things.”
Me: “And when people like Rush Limbaugh tell black callers to “get that bone out of your nose” and play apartheid off like it’s no big deal, or when Pat Buchanan says Brown v. Board of Education was a mistake, that isn’t contributing to racial tensions?”
Commenter B: “Do you consider having and stating opinions are bad things?”
Commenter C: “Have you considered Farrakhan’s statement of tearing down this country…..
or Browns dad screaming “burn this baby down”……
Ya think maybe this works both ways…….”
Oh well. Nobody can say I didn’t try to talk some sense into people. But it is sadly obvious from both the original comments and the way commenters replied to my replies that many people want to blame everything on African Americans and will criticize racism against whites vigorously but ignore racism against blacks. For instance, what evidence does anyone have to demonstrate African Americans are more racist than whites, let alone “the most racist group of people on the planet”? You would not know it from listening to Rush Limbaugh, but according to a recent Gallup poll, African Americans are twelve percentage points likelier than white Americans to approve of interracial marriage. And according to data from the FBI, not exactly a bastion of liberalism, the percentage of racially motivated hate crimes against blacks is about three times as high as the percentage of racially motivated hate crimes against whites. As for the comment about whether I consider having and stating opinions a bad thing, did the person who made that comment not grasp the concept of believing in someone’s right to free speech while still finding their opinions reprehensible? By their logic, it would be wrong to object to someone saying that white people are devils in human shape. After all, it’s that person’s opinion! And with regard to the “this works both ways” comment, nowhere did I claim that the statements the commentator cited were not problematic; I merely said that the views expressed by Limbaugh and Buchanan also contribute to racial tensions. The negative reaction to this point merely underscores the “it’s all the black people’s fault” mentality being expressed by an unfortunate number of individuals. In Part 2, I will offer a list of 12 point illustrating the fact that there is still plenty of racism in America.