Category Archives: Opinion

Ethel L. Payne

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Ethel L. Payne (August 14, 1911 – May 28, 1991) was an African-American journalist. Known as the “First Lady of the Black Press”, she was a columnist, lecturer, and freelance writer. She combined advocacy with journalism as she reported on the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. She became the first female African-American commentator employed by a national network when CBS hired her in 1972.

Ethel Payne was one of four journalists honored with a U.S postage stamp in a “Women in Journalism” set in 2002.

Prompted by her work in Africa as a foreign correspondent and to honor the name of a journalist who covered seven U.S. presidents and was a war correspondent, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) award “Ethel Payne Fellowships” to journalists interested in obtaining international reporting experience through assignments in Africa. Several of Ethel Payne’s belongings and awards are on view at the Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C.

https://www.facebook.com/Black-Americans-1955759327982735/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf

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Daughters Speaking UP

 

  Patti Davis

To Donald Trump: I am the daughter of a man who was shot by someone who got his inspiration from a movie, someone who believed if he killed the President the actress from that movie would notice him. Your glib and horrifying comment about “Second Amendment people” was heard around the world. It was heard by sane and decent people who shudder at your fondness for verbal violence. It was heard by your supporters, many of whom gleefully and angrily yell, “Lock her up!” at your rallies. It was heard by the person sitting alone in a room, locked in his own dark fantasies, who sees unbridled violence as a way to make his mark in the world, and is just looking for ideas. Yes, Mr. Trump, words matter. But then you know that, which makes this all even more horrifying.

                                         

    Bernice King

As the daughter of a leader who was assassinated, I find #Trump‘s comments distasteful, disturbing, dangerous. His words don’t #LiveUp. #MLK

 

 

Donald Trump’s Nativist Impulse

Definition of nativism

1: a policy of favoring native inhabitants as opposed to immigrants. 2: the revival or perpetuation of an indigenous culture especially in opposition to acculturation.

20th century history

In the 1890-1920 era nativists and labor unions campaigned for immigration restriction. A favorite plan was the literacy test to exclude workers who could not read or write their own foreign language. Congress passed literacy tests, but presidents—responding to business needs for workers—vetoed them. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge argued need for literacy tests and its implication on the new immigrants:

It is found, in the first place, that the illiteracy test will bear most heavily upon the Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asiatics, and lightly, or not at all, upon English-speaking emigrants, or Germans, Scandinavians, and French. In other words, the races most affected by the illiteracy test are those whose emigration to this country has begun within the last twenty years and swelled rapidly to enormous proportions, races with which the English speaking people have never hitherto assimilated, and who are most alien to the great body of the people of the United States.

Responding to these demands, opponents of the literacy test called for the establishment of an immigration commission to focus on immigration as a whole. The United States Immigration Commission, also known as the Dillingham Commission, was created and tasked with studying immigration and its effect on the United States. The findings of the commission further influenced immigration policy and upheld the concerns of the nativist movement.

Following World War, I, nativists in the twenties focused their attention on Catholics, Jews, and south-eastern Europeans and realigned their beliefs behind racial and religious nativism.  The racial concern of the anti-immigration movement was linked closely to the eugenics movement that was sweeping the United States in the twenties. Led by Madison Grant’s book, The Passing of the Great Race nativists grew more concerned with the racial purity of the United States. In his book, Grant argued that the American racial stock was being diluted by the influx of new immigrants from the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the Polish ghettos. The Passing of the Great Race reached wide popularity among Americans and influenced immigration policy in the twenties. In the 1920s a wide national consensus sharply restricted the overall inflow of immigrants, especially those from southern and eastern Europe. The second Ku Klux Klan, which flourished in the U.S. in the 1920s, used strong nativist rhetoric, but the Catholics led a counterattack. Adapted by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nativism_(politics)

21th century history

In his 2016 bid for presidency, Republican Donald Trump introduced nativist themes hostile especially to Mexicans and Muslims. Journalist John Cassidy says Trump is transforming the GOP. into a populist, nativist party:

Trump has been drawing on a base of alienated white working-class and middle-class voters, seeking to remake the G.O.P. into a more populist, nativist, avowedly protectionist, and semi-isolationist party that is skeptical of immigration, free trade, and military interventionism.

Donald Brand, a professor of political science, argues:

Donald Trump’s nativism is a fundamental corruption of the founding principles of the Republican Party. Nativists champion the purported interests of American citizens over those of immigrants, justifying their hostility to immigrants by the use of derogatory stereotypes: Mexicans are rapists; Muslims are terrorists.

Adapted by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nativism_(politics)

The anti-immigrant focus of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign reminds historian Bernard A. Weisberger of shameful past eras that conflict with America’s self-image as a place of refuge for people from many lands.

By Bernard A. Weisberger

It has so far annoyed but not really surprised me that Donald Trump, despite being an obnoxious bully, has defied expectations with a steady rise in the public opinion polls. It may be that his buffoonery and megalomania are simply more attractive to some early voters than rival candidates, with their solemn professions that what pushes them into the grind of campaigning is their dedication to promoting the public welfare.

But I am considerably more than annoyed when Trump puts himself at the head of the armies of the new nativism by using his bullhorn to echo the warnings of the movement’s Cassandras against the supposed “hordes” of undocumented immigrants pouring through our “open southern border.” His point of attack is the so-called “anchor babies”, children of pregnant mothers who supposedly sneak into the United States so that their children will be born here and automatically become citizens.

Billionaire and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The hidden, malodorous and unproven subtext is that these children, entitled to the privileges of citizenship, will open the gates to legalizing the entry of family members, swarms of whom will qualify for welfare state entitlement programs, so that they may live in happy idleness at the expense of ¨real” American taxpayers. None of these suppositions has yet been proven by any serious evidence.

So thus far, disgusting enough. But when Trump dipped into the gutter to add to this repertory of lies and half-truths one of the oldest and rankest, namely that Mexico was emptying its prisons and asylums to let rapists and thieves run free on our streets (a charge eagerly snapped up by the likes of O’Reilly and Limbaugh, and left unchallenged by many of Trump’s rivals for the nomination) I boiled over. That’s crossing the line that separates debate from shameless indecency.

Historical Background

I am a historian of the United States and have heard it all before, sometimes almost verbatim and no less gross. Our works of history rightly celebrate our role as a land of asylum and opportunity for people from almost everywhere on the globe. It’s a pillar of our cherished self-image as exceptional among nations. But they often overlook or minimize the contrasting truth that there was always stiff resistance to that hospitality.

Listen to this: “America has become the sewer into which the pollutions of European jails are emptied.” Substitute “Mexican” or “Latin American” for “European” and it could be straight out of Trump’s latest eruption. But it’s from a newspaper published in the 1850s by supporters of an anti-Catholic and foreigner-hating movement that began as a secret society whose members were ordered, when asked nosy questions, to say: “I know nothing.”

Eventually, the “Know-Nothings” emerged into the open and organized themselves into a political organization that campaigned in 1854 as “the American Party.”

In that first off-year foray, the new entry won a number of state and local offices and some seats in both House and Senate. The basic glue that held Know-Nothing-ism together was hatred of the alien (especially the Irish). The slither of the Know Nothings into the American Party was a way of “protecting” America from the Pope’s minions and other evil foreign influences.

Happily, 1854 was only a flash in the pan. When the party ran a national ticket headed by so respectable a figure as ex-US President Millard Fillmore, they won only a single state, Maryland.

By the time Abraham Lincoln ran for the Senate in 1858, two years before his presidential campaign, as many as half of the American people were the offspring of Europeans and could not trace their ancestry back to the stirring days of 1776. But if they looked at the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln said in a campaign speech in Chicago, they found the words “all men are created equal” became “the father of all moral principle in them, and they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are.”

This self-evident truth of equal creation became the “electric cord that link[ed] the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men everywhere.” To be American was not about ancestry but to commit oneself heart and soul to the ideal of equality.

Defining Citizenship

A few years later, Lincoln was dead along with some 600,000 casualties of the Civil War, and a radical Republican Congress oversaw writing the Union’s victory into the Constitution via the Fourteenth Amendment. Its opening clause proclaimed, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

That flipped the prewar position, in which state citizenship was necessary to become a United States citizen, leaving room for states to refuse citizenship to “undesirables” like Negroes and foreigners. Now, no state could deny its born or naturalized resident citizens “the equal protection of its laws” or the guarantees of the Bill of Rights.

The Fourteenth Amendment clearly intended to make sure that the newly freed ex-slaves would have their full civil rights, though it would take a Fifteenth to specify that voting was included. The inclusion of children born in the United States to recent immigrants was almost incidental. That is the “error” that the enemies of birthright citizenship aim to correct. They argue that almost no other nations outside the Western hemisphere show such foolish generosity. Somehow, this is one issue on which they are willing to forget or forgo our proud exceptionalism.

Meanwhile, American ports began receiving the first waves of an enormous and transformative mass migration, some 31 million between 1860 and 1930. They represented a “new” immigration: Chinese, Italians, Greeks, Poles, Russians, Syrians, Slovaks, Serbs, Armenians. To many so-called “old stock” Americans, millions of these newcomers were dangerous and unworthy, and to the members of an Immigration Restriction League which included in its number many of “the best people” of New England the immigrants were of the “wrong” religions and nationalities. Poet Thomas Bailey Aldrich explained that through our “unguarded gates” pressed,

a wild motley throng Men from the Volga and the Tartar Steppes Flying the Old World’s poverty and scorn; These bringing with them unknown gods and rites Those, tiger passions, here to stretch their claws.

The same old charges were recycled, newcomers threatened the jobs of Americans; they swelled the statistics of crime, violence and dependency; they clung stubbornly to their religions, customs and languages and could neither absorb nor understand the values of genuine Americans.

Eventually, the gates began to swing shut on unrestricted immigration. There was denial of entry to those convicted of crimes in their home countries, which might include rebellion against tyrannical regimes. Then, rejection for those harboring contagious diseases.

A third barrier, literacy tests, never quite made it into law but in 1921 and 1924, laws were enacted that set overall limits on immigration, divided by “national origins” quotas that favored the descendants of pre-1860 immigrants, while sharply narrowing openings for the children and grandchildren of those who had come later. Asians were barred completely.

But those who squeezed through narrowed gates did what immigrants have always done when given a chance, assimilated the American values of the time, grabbed educational opportunities provided by the public school system, and by the millions took out the naturalization papers that gave them the ultimate step in acceptance, participating in democracy on an equal footing with the snootiest Mayflower descendant. So armed, they entered American politics and, over time, changed it for the better.

An Era of Liberalism

A three-decade period of liberalism following the Depression, World War II and the assumption of an American global presence resulted in a 1965 change to the laws that replaced national origins quotas with others based on family reunification, specially needed skills, and refugee status. They erased the barrier to Asians altogether, setting off a new and continuing wave of immigration, still in progress.

But none of this will continue if the likes of Trump and his allies can help it. The children of that slandered “new” immigration helped to build our cities and dedicated their working lives in mines, mills and factories to make us a mighty industrial power. They fought and died in our wars. But for some “real Americans” that hasn’t been enough. So here we are again, in a period of reaction, staring into the ugly face of nativism.

Trump’s announced intention to deport 11 million “illegals” while building a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico at no cost, details conveniently not provided, is simultaneously savage and ludicrous. Yet what troubles me deeply is the possibility of this kind of cesspool politics finding wider acceptance, or being ignored apathetically by large numbers of Americans.

Even more disturbing is the sluggishness of the response from Republican and Democratic opinion makers. Where is the outrage? Why is the counterattack left largely to Hispanic organizations? Why isn’t every decent media outlet shouting a few, simple home truths over the bullhorns of those insisting on their xenophobic lies? Such truths as these:

–The “illegals” are not indolent. For years now they have been picking our crops, nursing our elderly, cleaning our homes and babysitting our children. They are not freeloaders. That honor should be reserved for people like rancher Cliven Bundy who grazes his cattle on federally owned land but refuses to pay federal fees and taxes.

–They do not take jobs from Americans. Their bottom-of-the-ladder, low-wage service jobs don’t pay enough to attract American workers, white or black. Probably as many or more job losses are caused by employers moving operations abroad, or automation, which is a generic problem for all of today’s workers.

–They are not “takers.” They contribute positively to the economy through sales and excise taxes, and cannot claim Social Security, Medicare or other benefits because it would reveal their undocumented status, which makes them vulnerable to threats and exploitation by their bosses.

–Their crime rates are comparable to those of the general population, allowing for differences in income and living conditions.

It’s true that completely unregulated immigration may no longer be feasible. But the movement of people from poor and turbulent nations to wealthy, stable and reasonably free ones is happening all over the world. Our governments must come together in trade and economic treaties that level the playing field by helping to enrich and empower poorer peoples. Trade pacts need to elevate the status of working men and women rather than maximize the profits of corporations promising that some of the swag will mysteriously trickle down to “the lower orders.”

Until that miracle happens, no walls will keep desperate and courageous, motivated people from taking big risks to evade or scale them. Far better to provide our undocumented with reasonable and non-punitive paths to citizenship.

That can’t take place when truth is befogged by racist and hateful lies, which is the reason that every school should teach and every network newscast should repeat this essential reality: the story of our nation’s long practice of welcoming immigrants and opening a wide door to full rights is an American triumph, all the more so because it has been achieved over constant resistance and with many relapses and setbacks.

Should Trump and associates ever get their way, the symbol of America would change from the Statue of Liberty with her uplifted torch lighting the path through the golden door to one of the Wall, complete with searchlights, guard towers, barbed wire and watchdogs. May it never be so.

https://consortiumnews.com/2015/09/15/donald-trumps-nativist-impulse/

 

 

Why I’m a Racist…

beyondtheglasswall

quote 1I am uncomfortable with racial inequalities that exist in my country. I live my life day in and day out and only rarely am I forced to confront these realities. Certainly the media, social and otherwise, shine a light on the issue, but that is not what I mean.  Reading a powerful blog post or an inspiring tweet does not constitute confronting anything.  What I mean is that when I get pulled over, shop in a store, go for a job interview, meet a new person for the first time, etc… I expect to be judged by who I am.  Yes, I am tattooed and bearded so I’m sure that on occasion someone generalizes about me, but I don’t worry about it because I know that once they get to know me they will move beyond those judgements. And I assume that they will eventually get to know me, because even with their judgement, they will give me the benefit of the doubt.  I live my life benefiting from other people’s glass walls.  That is simply not true for people of color.  They are forced to confront it every single day.  Perhaps not in an overtly bigoted and hateful way (although I’m sure that happens too), but in the “deficit of the doubt.”  The security guard that makes a mental note that they are there, the woman who locks her car door as they walk by, and yes, the times they get pulled over for driving while black. (No matter how much or how little you think that happens, we all know it happens.)  So you see, while I am very uncomfortable when forced to confront a terrible reality that I can generally avoid, my friends and neighbors of color are forced to confront it every day.  Consequently, they have formed a thicker skin to the subject and are more free to discuss it.  This can easily be misunderstood as being rash or aggressive because it creates an uneasy feeling in me. Let me put it this way: we all have that person in our lives who always manages to say the one thing that makes everyone in the room uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a friend or coworker, maybe it’s your cousin or your sister-in-law; whoever it is, our attitude is generally that it is their problem.  We feel like they are doing something to us, because we are feeling uncomfortable with what they are saying or doing, rather than taking responsibility for our own feelings.  Until I can acknowledge that I feel more uncomfortable talking about racial inequality than people who have been forced to deal with it every single day of their lives, I will never be able to get over myself enough to be a part of the solution.  And if I’m not a part of the solution, I’m a part of the problem.

I am ignorant of the racial inequalities that exist in my country.  I was recently watching a Sunday service from North Point Church.  In the service the lead pastor, Andy Stanley, invited two African American men who were also christian leaders to be a part of a discussion about recent events and racism in general in this country.  They both explained the reality that they were taught how to behave if they ever got pulled over by the police. wallet They talked about it as if it was just another part of growing up.  An obvious lesson like don’t drink and drive or always pay your bills.  This may not seem so strange until they described exactly what they meant by “how to behave if you ever get pulled over”.  One of men relayed that he was taught that you never reach for your wallet.  Now, I understand that if you are being addressed by a police officer you don’t want to be erratic or make any sudden moves, but the degree to which this lesson was ingrained in him as an African American young man was startling.  It ran so deep in his heart that when he heard about recent events he admitted that there was a part of him the thought to himself, “Why’d you reach for your wallet? You know you’re not supposed to reach for your wallet.”  I will teach my boys to always be respectful of police. I will teach them not to resist or run if addressed by police and to always be upfront and honest, but I will not have to teach them not to reach for their wallet.  I cannot imagine feeling like I have to teach my children how to protect themselves from the people who are meant to protect them.  If ignorance is defined as lack of knowledge, education or awareness then I most certainly ignorant of the racial inequalities that exist in our country.  The beautiful thing about ignorance, though, is that it is easily remedied; but not without willingness and intention.  There is a video that has been circulating recently showing several people sitting in a diner, all of whom are white except one.  The waitress comes out and brings all the white patrons pie.  The African American man then asks the waitress, “Where’s my pie?” to which the other patrons respond, “Why are you making such a big deal? All pie matters.”  It is meant to illustrate the tension between #blacklivesmatter & #alllivesmatter.  I think it is an excellent illustration except that it misses one of the most important factors.  It would have been for more accurate if the white guys who had received their pie were blind-folded.  Because whether or not we mean to, most of us are blind-folded to the things that people of color deal with every day.  That is not our fault, but whether or not we stay that way is on us.

My discomfort and my ignorance can be attributed primarily to one thing: I am distant from the racial inequalities that exist in my country.  I live in New Jersey.  I am not someone who has gone their whole life without interacting with people of color.  I am not someone who is solely informed by the media in regard to cultures and races outside my own.  I have friends, coworkers, neighbors, mentors and family members who are people of color but I am still distant from the racial inequalities that mark their lives.  I have never made it a secret that I was a “rebellious youth”.  And by that I mean that I was a criminal.  I made very bad decisions and did a lot of awful things.  Some things that I will never be able to fully make amends for.  I have, however, never spent more than a weekend in jail.  I have always attributed the reality that I am a free man to God protecting me and allowing me to learn my lesson without prison time.  I still absolutely know that to be true.  However, I have to acknowledge that my “get out of jail free cards ” came, at least in part, due to my ability to catch a good sunburn in 15 minutes.  I also regularly share with people how grateful I am for all of the opportunities I have been given to do things I really wasn’t qualified for.  I have been allowed behind the scenes in a lot of situations that shaped who I am and developed me in my field with no explainable reason.  While I will never really know for sure, I have to wonder if my experience would have looked the same way if I didn’t.  The “deficit of the doubt” that people of color experience throughout their lives is something that I am only beginning to understand.  And that understanding is really only an intellectual one.  It is often said that the greatest distance in the world is 18″, the distance from your head to your heart.  I will always remain distant from the deficit of the doubt until I allow it be hit close to my heart.  The question then is: How?

Know someone.

I don’t mean know someone in that way that white people tend to reference when racism comes up in conversation.  That, “One of my best friends is black” way.  I mean I have to enter in.  I have to make it my business to overcome my uncomfortability;  I have to be intentional about educating myself and raising my awareness so that my ignorance can diminish; and I have make it personal.  I need to let my heart break at the fact that there are people in this country who do not receive the benefit of the doubt, ever.  I need to care enough to do something.  Something more than just write a blog post or share a powerful video clip.  I have to build genuine relationships with people of color and stop the whole ridiculous “I don’t see color” BS.  I need to see color and learn to appreciate it for what it is.  I need to allow myself to participate in and grow from and enjoy a culture that is not my own.  One that has its pluses and minuses like all others.  I need to be willing to get close enough to applaud when there is a victory, mourn when there is a loss and call it out when there is a shortcoming. I need to actually see my brothers and sisters of color as family.   I have a certain degree of power and privilege because of my skin color.  That is not something I need to feel guilty about.  I didn’t ask for it or seek it out, but I have it.  The responsibility for having it isn’t on me; but the responsibility for what I do with it is.

 

Amal Clooney

Most people know Amal Clooney as famous actor George Clooney’s wife, but she is much more than that. Born in Lebanon and raised in London, Clooney attended Oxford and NYU School of Law. She was a law clerk for future SCOTUS Justice Sonya Sotomayor. And she is now an internationally-recognized international human rights attorney with a very distinguished career.

Amal Clooney views on the “Presumptive Republican Nominee Donald Trump”

“If you actually look at what he specifically says in that now infamous speech about Muslims, he kept saying, ‘They only want jihad; they don’t believe in our way of life; they don’t respect our system.’ And when he says ‘they’ … And, you know, you watch the media coverage afterwards and people should’ve been saying, ‘Do you mean the 1.5 billion people around the world who fit that description? Do you mean the people who are U.S. citizens, who are members of your military, the vast majority of whom are not extremist or violent in any way?”

“He has a really high negative rating. I don’t think he’s going to get much of the women’s vote as a result of that.”                                          

Amal Clooney