An Ode to Bigotry

American conservatism is a farce. It is and has been the wealthy paying politicians to protect their wealthy interests (i.e. less worker’s rights and tax cuts), hiding behind the vote of one of the largest constituencies in the country: poor and middle class white people. We know this because Republicans (although it’s more about the ideology of American conservatism than the party name) have been utilizing a documented strategy of bigotry since at least 1968, the Southern Strategy. Let’s walk through the Southern Strategy and what it means quickly:

1968_large

 

Above is the electoral map from 1968. As you can see much of the Deep South voted third party, an anomaly in the history of American politics. Who was this third party candidate that resonated with Americans in the South at the end of the most radical decade in modern American History? George Wallace, running as the candidate of the American Independent Party. You know what his platform was? Segregation. He didn’t win, but his impact was staggering. Winning 5 states and a rogue elector from North Carolina. The Democrats had staked their claim as the progressive (for the day, relative to America) party and Republicans saw an angry and left out group for the taking, racists in the South. From 1968 Nixon and Republicans appointed segregationist judges to federal positions, advocated for law and order in response to the protests from oppressed groups and antiwar college students and delayed desegregation efforts in the South with his outright opposition to busing, all while never admitting to the existence of a Southern Strategy. He made appeals to racists without ever saying “I’m a racist”. Sound like any other presidents we know? In 1972 Nixon won in a landslide, and the states that Wallace won in 1968, along with much of the South have gone Republican in the majority of state and federal elections since.

So now that we understand what Republicans do and historically have done to continue winning the South, and by accident much of the similarly branded Midwest, we can talk about how the Republican message has evolved over 50 years. Republicans used to be the party of small government and fiscal conservatism, they’ve morphed into the party of “social conservatism”. Fiscal conservatism does little to help anybody but the most wealthy, which of course means it hurts the majority of their voters (see the masses crying about the health insurance they’re losing after asking for 8 years for it to be stopped then repealed). Many of their voters aren’t actually fiscally conservative. Poor white people use their share of social welfare programs and never seem to decry the bloated military budget which makes up more than half of discretionary spending. They aren’t truly believers in small government or personal liberty because they beg and plead the government to stretch its powers on the grounds of Christianity or for the bold outright bigotry to make it illegal for Americans to have abortions and access birth control if they want, marry who they want, do what drugs they want or believe in who they want. So what makes them conservative? Why do they vote Republican? Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. That’s it. The american political spectrum is so skewed right that our party on the “left” isn’t decidedly pro universal healthcare, criminal justice reform or free or subsidized post-secondary education. In the real world, according to the real political spectrum Democrats are political  moderates. What does that make Republicans? It makes them stand on the border to right wing and under Trump they’re flirting hard with fascism. The bigotry, masked as misunderstanding, religion and family values keeps their voters ready and active. They’re not FOR fiscal conservatism or FOR small government, just against whatever they perceive to be liberal, which in America has become the word for not a bigot.

Now comes the fun part. We know Republicans have had poor white people voting against their interests for decades, the real question is how? How has it been 50 years and half the country still flocks to the polls to vote against all of their own interests? Let’s talk about it.

States run by Republicans tend to be among the worst nationally in health, education, and access to the internet. They are the best at being religious and/or bigoted. Republicans flood them with propaganda via Fox News, Breitbart and other conservative “news” outlets, continually worsen their schools and health so they don’t know any better and have left much of the rural South and Midwest out of the broadband internet boom so while the rest of us are fact checking Donald Trump and Paul Ryan to the minute, they eat up their lies and propaganda. The people with the least access to quality education and information, the most background in racism, sexism and homophobia and the deepest religious ties, see this combination of social circumstances manipulated by the wealthy/Republicans to keep them voting against science, statistics and data, against reason, logic and humanity. The reaches of the propaganda machine go beyond bigotry and teach myths about scientific phenomena like global warming or to feed irrational support of the military. Quite literally Republicans sell the perspectives of their voters to the highest bidder. Alongside these voters red states are full of suppressed voters kept from polls due to over the top requirements, restrictions for felons and the closing down of polling stations and locations to get valid identification in and around black and brown communities*. When you restrict the vote to only your own deceived voters and redraw the lines so they run every district, well, you win.

Now what do Republicans gain from this? Are they just evil to be evil? Of course not. What they get is job security, their pockets lined by the extremely wealthy who vote for and pay Republicans to see their their own taxes cut (i.e. the backside of the Republican healthcare bill that will strip millions of healthcare is it also cuts taxes for the extremely wealthy). Those same extremely wealthy people who run multinational corporations that employ mostly underpaid minimum wage workers ALSO get a tired, stupid and sick workforce who have limited rights in the workplace and can work until they die early from limited healthcare access and never collect the Social Security they pay into (that the government borrows from until it bleeds dry). This is the picture perfect scenario for extremely wealthy capitalists as it maximizes profit while using people as a disposable resource, another number on the books. As I mentioned in my Black Dollar blog, capitalism doesn’t have a human element, it puts profit over function.

Now this is not an excuse for Republican voters. They are adults and have a responsibility to critically think for themselves, but choose the easier route of blaming their financial and social woes on whatever group Republicans have designated the enemy, today it’s Muslims, Mexicans and Black Lives Matter thugs. This is also not a pat on the back for the moderate Democrats who have kept the vote of the left purely by being the only “liberal” option. This is merely an explanation for why we’re here. It’s the evolution of 50 years of bigotry masked as “social conservatism” becoming the only identity for a political party that is very much for sale, even to the Russians apparently. This is so why we can stop asking “who are Trump voters?” and stop calling them the economically anxious (as if we aren’t ALL economically anxious). They are a product created by extensive market research, a group whose identity and sense of self-worth comes from their social status above oppressed groups. Many of them can’t explain policy to you and most repeat the same rhetoric when they argue. They believe their propaganda more than history or data. How do we stop them? Can we save them? I don’t know. I’m a cynic so I doubt it. 60 million people willing to vote for a bigot who mocked a disabled man and laughed about sexual assault aren’t going to be swayed now if they weren’t swayed before. We can only identify them and try to keep their politicians out of office because they stand for nothing but opposition to progress and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Bigotry is NOT a political stance. Racism and sexism aren’t political opinions, that includes the wave of Blue and All Lives Matter defenders, the vocal opposition to abortion, planned parenthood and voting rights for minorities. Homophobia and an irrational belief in some “gay agenda” is also not a political stance. These are social beliefs. Wherein an even semi-functional government should not be enforcing oppressive social beliefs, America historically specializes in it. Under Obama we claimed to be post-racial and to have made bigotry into a social stance worthy of exclusion. Well here we are, polarized as ever and watching bigotry be given the spot on the platform that is should be assigned to whatever actual conservatism should be (looking at you guys libertarians).

Sidenote: Watch Democrats over the next 4 years closely. Watch if they try to inch themselves to the right to attract this passionate voting group or if they commit to being progressive and make attempts at inspiring the 90 million Americans who did not vote at all or defending their millions of voters who have had their votes suppressed. Watch to see if the Party splits over it. We live in a politically exciting time and I’m eating my popcorn from the sidelines hoping not to get caught in the crossfire.

*for example, in Florida https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2017/06/21/voter-suppression-and-election-integrity-commission/

 

“This is business: no faces, just lines and statistics. From your phone, your zip code to to SSI digits. The system break man, child and women into figures. 2 columns for ‘who is” and “who ain’t niggas’. Numbers is hard and real and they never have feelings. But you push too hard, even numbers got limits.”

-Yasiin Bey, Mathematics

Can You Hear Us?

The Democrats are running Hillary Clinton today. We all expect and hope Trump loses, I guess. If Clinton loses, Trump has four years to fuck up the country. *shrug* I don’t have any particular enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton’s campaigning, despite her best attempts to nae-nae into my heart. Having Beyonce, Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper endorse her didn’t move me. Seeing her pull hot sauce out of her purse almost got me, if nothing else for the laugh. A narrative is being spread that minorities, young black people specifically, will not turn out for Clinton in the same numbers as for President Obama. To that I say, DUH. At least with Obama there was symbolic victory. Clinton brings that as well (if not more so for white women). Not actually speaking to black issues has been the liberal jig for decades. Pander to us, and hopefully we turn out to vote, and when they pass social and economic reforms the rising tide will raise all ships. By default we can only benefit from their victories, right? The problem is slow-moving progress isn’t working for us. Especially not the young. Can you blame us, we grew up on broadband. Student debt is mounting, police are shooting down men and women who look like us at disproportionate and alarming rates, the prisons are running over with people who look like us and jobs are scarce for people who look like us. But as usual the GOP has nominated a racist, this time more open and dramatic, but as usual they don’t want our vote and won’t get it (see Trump’s 0% polling numbers with African-Americans). We can vote third-party to keep it interesting, but the likely result is Clinton is our next president. The American left (the real world’s middle) will do what it can to drag their feet to progress, and hopefully none of us will get shot, evicted or fired in the meantime.

America’s liberal politicians have a history of assuming they can figure out what black people need instead of just asking us. Then we tell them, and they still decide to work it out on their own. I opted not to include the dramatic conservative setbacks we received, as we expect them to worsen our condition in this country. However, those who claim to fight for us have also done little. This is a brief and vague history of our requests and their actions over time. Our history is deep and rich and I encourage any reader to do some Googles and look deeper into our role in this country’s political landscape. 

1776-1865: FREE US

Black People’s Actions: Running away from plantations via underground networks, inciting violent rebellions, purposefully destroying property/equipment, creating a culture of resistance.

Black People’s Words:

I’ve heard Uncle Tom’s Cabin read, and I tell you Mrs. Stowe’s pen hasn’t begun to paint what slavery is as I have seen it at the far South. I’ve seen de real thing, and I don’t want to see it on no stage or in no theater.” – Harriet Tubman

“The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery”. – Frederick Douglas

White Liberal Political Responses:

-Missouri Compromise in 1820 allows only slavery in the south

-1860 Republican Platform: No slavery in any new states (leads to Civil War)

-Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (this one is fun) tells the Confederacy they have 100 days to cease rebelling OR their slaves will be freed. Yes, Lincoln tried to levy our freedom for an end to the war, save the union sacrifice the slaves.

-Then finally as a war tactic, Lincoln signs the final Emancipation Proclamation, which only really counts if the Union wins because the Confederacy sees themselves as a separate country with their own president anyway.

Former slave Felix Haywood said “The War didn’t change nothin’. Sometimes you didn’t knowed it was goin’ on. It was the endin’ of it that made the difference.”

We ask for freedom for centuries, the liberals of the day fall into it by accident.

1865-1877: Have Our Backs

Black People’s Actions: Political participation, found organizations dedicated to social and economic advancement, sharecropping, wealth accumulation and cultural progress despite legalized racism

Black People’s Words:

“I stand today on this floor to appeal for the protection from the strong-arm of the government for her loyal children, irrespective of color and race, who are citizens of southern states, and particularly in the State of Georgia.” -Hiram Rhodes Revels, first African-American senator

White Liberal Political Responses:

13th, 14th and 15th Amendments outlaw slavery (except in prison labor, THE JIG), grant black people citizenship and given African-American men the right to vote. Most of these are not fully granted or imposed by the federal government because of:

-The Election of 1876, in which the (at the time liberal) Republican Party, the party of Lincoln that “freed” us, sold black people out for the presidency. There was dispute over the election, and the Republicans struck a deal to pull the military out of the south (black people’s only line of defense) in order for Hayes to take office. A century of lynchings, violence (Google Black Wall Street in your spare time) and economic disenfranchisement would follow.

We are promised equality under the law and citizenship, the Republicans sell us out and abandon us in the Deep South to fight for ourselves.

1877-1964: Stop Your Citizens from Lynching Us, Stop Giving Us Second Hand Education, Resources and Political Power

Black People’s Actions: Developed our own community and culture out of segregation, invented jazz and rock and roll, created our own Black Wall Street, got college degrees, established black schools and universities, served in the WWII, tried to buy homes, still denied access to full rights as Americans, spend two decades protesting (Civil Rights Movement) to end housing, workplace and academic discrimination

Black People’s Words:

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” – W.E.B. Dubois

“Knowledge is the prime need of the hour” – Mary McLeod Bethune

“Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people.” – Marcus Garvey

White Liberal Political Response:

-The federal government didn’t intervene in lynchings for decades because murder was already illegal. Multiple bills were presented and not passed. For context: From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people who were lynched 3,446 were black.

-1954 Brown vs. Board of Ed SCOTUS decision outlaws segregation in public education. Equal funding was not (and is still not) allocated to schools in majority black areas, instead bussing moves students out of their school zones to schools in other single-race dominated neighborhoods.

-Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 outlaw discrimination in employment and housing, respectively

We spend a century being lynched, excluded and denied our rights.

After decades of vocal and visible protest, we are given federal intervention to outlaw Jim Crow laws.

1964-?: Stop Using the Police to Kill Us, Still Stop Economically Disenfranchising Us

Black People’s Actions: Greater political action following death of MLK, found multiple organizations including Black Panther Party for Self Defense,

Black People’s Words:

“America preaches integration and practices segregation.” – Malcolm X

“In a sense the quest for the emancipation of black people in the U.S. has always been a quest for economic liberation” – Angela Davis

“And still [police] have been killing people at higher rates than even last year, for example. July was literally the deadliest month of 2015. And that’s a problem.” – Johnetta Elzie (2015)

“We should not have to protest.” – Deray Mckesson (2016)

White Liberal Political Response:

Nixon drags his feet on desegregation and uses busing to send some black students to white schools rather than providing equal funding and resources for black schools

-The federal government starts Cointelpro via the FBI to infiltrate and destroy black power movements, particularly the Black Panthers

-Bill Clinton passes ’95 Crime Bill, arresting black and brown people at historic rates for non-violent offences

-The police continue to kill unarmed black men and women

-Our first black president, Barack Obama signs into law a Blue Alert bill (albeit it has no teeth to this point)

Statistics show black people receive fewer opportunities for employment, harsher sentences in the judicial system, have less access to quality education and continue to have their culture socially stigmatized by the white majority. Same shit different decade. We ask for our rights as citizens under the law, and our black president tells us to respect the police. His successor in Clinton opts to (attempt to) culturally relate rather than promising to fix the issues plaguing our communities.

Now, another generation of young black people are still demanding the same rights our white counterparts have had since America’s founding. Some of us will begrudgingly vote for Hillary out of fear of Trump. Others of us will withhold votes or vote third-party in rebellion of the usual two-party system. What we will do enthusiastically is protest for equality under the law or look for other options as our rights promised to us by the Constitution continue to be violated on the local, state and federal level. It took months for Clinton to say Black Lives Matter. Why? Because she, like every other liberal politician in this country’s history has a fundamental misunderstanding of what we need and want, despite our best efforts to vocalize them. Be angry if we don’t vote as expected, but don’t you dare fix your mouth to ask us why.

“The black experience is black and serious. Cause being black, my experience is no one hearin’ us. White kids get to wear whatever hat they want. When it comes to black kids one size fits all.”

-Childish Gambino, Hold You Down

Trump’s Rebellion

The election is Tuesday. Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. We all know how we got here, no need to carry on about what a crazy year, because we’re here now. Much has been said of the “Deplorables” who are carrying Trump here. They’ve been labeled xenophobes, racists, misogynists, assholes and ignorant. I’m not here to dispute any of those claims, or even humanize them, not knowing you’re a racist doesn’t excuse your being a racist.

What I am intrigued by is the historic role of the group that has become the face of Trump’s campaign: the poor and white, the oft-ignored subgroup of the American political landscape. Often left to make their choice (Republican for the last 5 decades) based on conservative social values because nobody really cares about their economic existence. The reason is because in America’s white-centered society, if you’re white, and especially a man, your poverty is “justifiable”. Translation: there’s jobs for mediocre white people. If you’re white and unintelligent or just not driven, you can settle into a decent middle to lower class life without much strife. It is worth mentioning that the way economic mobility is set up (or not set up), if you’re poor and white, you’re likely to remain poor most of your life unless you’re exceptionally intelligent and can figure out how to use those damn bootstraps to pull yourself up (the jig for minorities is that we don’t get bootstraps). So Democrats cater to the rich liberal who feels sympathy for the disenfranchised minority and Republicans cater to the rich with a passing social appeal to the (likely Christian) poor and white. Trump has gone a step further, he’s speaking directly to the poor and white.

Donald Trump has used their language, he’s acknowledged their (irrational) fears and he’s promised to revive the dream they were promised, a blue collar union factory job to live a decent middle class life (special shoutout to Republicans for destroying those unions and still keeping those voters*). Now, the problem is the poor and white are often the relatively uneducated. The relatively uneducated don’t often participate in safe and peaceful political action. It’s not the rich man who burns down a city or takes up arms when he needs to get a point across, he has too much to lose. In the Civil War, the plantation owners weren’t doing the bulk of the fighting. State pride got the poor white man to serve in his army. It isn’t not hard to get a poor man to fight in a war (against his economic interests, as slavery took jobs from poor white people) for his state. Now, I by no means expect the fallout (or continuation, who knows honestly) of Trump ideology to lead to Civil War, definitely nothing so dramatic. I do expect civil unrest.

Shay’s Rebellion happened shortly after the Articles of Confederation were ratified and the United States began. Before we had a Constitution, we had the Articles. Super short version, not

enough federal power, taxes weren’t being paid, poor white people suffered the most when it was time to pay up on debt during an economic downturn. In comes Daniel Shays, a former soldier from Massachusetts who saw his fellow veterans returning to nothing. He participated in the armed Northampton uprising and began to be more vocal in the violent protests. They began in August of 1786 and weren’t fully quelled until February of 1787. Only a few thousand people were involved, and it by no means tore the country in half. It was eye opening though. The federal government knew it needed dramatic change to address the country before them. When Trump loses Tuesday, I expect some hotbeds of his support to react. I would never advocate for violence, but I won’t deny the possibility. Trump has the usually ignored and disenfranchised feeling like this is a make or break election (continue on with lol “Obama’s America” or make America great again). They also happen to be the most heavily armed, and have been told by their leader Trump that the election is rigged implying the federal government is invalid if he loses (!!!). America traditionally doesn’t usually take big steps unless violence is involved. While everybody keeps waiting for Black Lives Matter “thugs” to start killing cops and burning down grand ol flags, Trump is stirring up a group much more inclined to political violence to partake in whatever political action they feel appropriate. Shay’s Rebellion led to the scrapping of the Articles of Confederation and writing of the Constitution. I don’t think we’ll hit reset on the entire government, but it will inspire dramatic and swift action in a way only white tears and violence can. That’s all assuming he loses. I won’t even write into the universe what happens if he wins.

Oh, and to every Republican politician and party member who has not disavowed Trump, even though we KNOW you know better, whatever happens is also directly your fault.

“Human beings in a mob, what’s a mob to a king, what’s a king to a god, what’s a god to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything? Alright, alright, no church in the wild”

-Jay-Z and Kanye West (feat. Frank Ocean), No Church in the Wild

*did a Google for you: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/30/ronald-reagan-middle-class_n_6578130.html

More Malcolm, than Martin

ASIDE *I’ve been wanting to write this for about four weeks. But quizzes, papers and finals happened and true to the student life, emotional expression ranks below my GPA. Finals are done now. That being said, I feel a need to explain something in detail via a blog. Once. Hopefully once is sufficient.*

I don’t hate white people.

I know, that should be fairly obvious. But recently, more than one person has suggested or outright asked if I do. I was taken aback. Then I thought about it more and I wasn’t. Over the course of less than eighteen months I went from Uncle Ruckus Lite to Huey* and that was a lot for people to take in. I found a pride in myself, then mixed that with three different classes in one school year on American History, two specifically from the perspectives of minority groups (African-Americans and Native Americans). I took in a lot of information and mixed it with a lot of information I had compartmentalized and defined as “yeah, but not me” over the years.

It’s been a lot. I see things in my life growing up and things now through a different lens. Things that bothered me before but I decided I could ignore aren’t so easy to ignore anymore.

 

One of the most important terms I learned in school this year was “double-consciousness”. I learned there’s a word for what every single minority I know has done their entire lives. There’s a sociological term (dating back over a century) for “don’t be acting up in front of these white people.” I was shocked. I almost wanted to cry. I felt less ashamed of the years I spent trying to ask for a place in mainstream culture and for ignoring offensive things for the sake of fitting in. We have all done it, so much so that W.E.B. Dubois coined a term for it in 1903.

I could never unlearn it. I could never stop seeing myself acting different in white spaces. Like a flashback in a movie, twenty-two years of memories flooded my mind. I didn’t feel ashamed. I just acknowledged them. But with acknowledgement came transition. A phrase I’ve seen thrown around a lot recently.** “Unapologetic Blackness.” My African-American History professor said it when she told us about the first activist to say “Black Power” (Stokely Carmicahel). About the afros and bright colors of the 1970s. The boldness to be black in front of white people (an era I believe we are cycling back to Harlem Renaissance, Black Power, whatever they inevitably name my generation). It made me beam with pride. Generations past have decided they don’t want to apologize for the cultural differences we didn’t’ ask for or create, but they would wear them proudly.

That comes with a price. When you inhabit mainly white spaces for the majority of your week, not laughing when somebody mocks patois comes off as an assault, acknowledging that there are cultural differences between you and those around you, and not wanting to be part of their culture is firing shots on Fort Sumter***. The right to be offensive in “their” spaces (which is most of the academic/career/social spaces in the United States) free of guilt has been challenged. You also learn to not correct or try to educate everybody around you. That’s not my role unless addressed or asked. So to simply ignore those things which offend you and revel with the one other worker who looks like you over how amazing Lemonade was is seen as social violence. But, none of those perceived slights are my problem.

I’m not sorry. It doesn’t mean I hate white people, or have some deep bitterness against anybody. People build relationships with those they have things in common with. I don’t care what color or background you have, if you fuck with Kendrick and Beyoncé, we have something to talk about. But don’t demand I learn to like what you like to appease you. I’d sooner not be your friend. The interests that connect people (music, sports, politics, hobbies) are valid for anybody of any background. If the people who believe Ultralight Beam was gospel, that crazy dunks require equally wild responses, that Black Lives do Matter, and also like to freestyle, roast each other and look at sneakers for fun happen to be the same color isn’t racism. They are cultural differences created BY racism. Created by a history of being excluded from mainstream culture and being forced into segregated neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.

America STILL is one of the most segregated places in the world****. Even I, growing up in predominantly white spaces (special shoutout to the other 3 black kids who by dice roll might end up in one of my classes) had one best friend over everybody else, and he was black. We would hang out and do all the things other black teenagers did: marvel over beats in hip hop songs, debate Chris Brown’s place in R&B and dance greatness, watch movies where the main character looked like us, Stomp the Yard still being a favorite etc, and then turn it off when it was time to go back to our respective schools on Monday.

Double consciousness is a burden to bear. I will not anymore. Just know it isn’t racism. Racism is about hating others. In this case, it would be centering whiteness. I would be acting with white people in mind. But I’m acting with me in mind. Centering my experiences and my race for once. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, I’m probably not going to be a fun friend in the first place.

Know that not every black person feels the same as me. Martin Luther King, Jr. was just as important as Malcolm X. Both views were necessary, as we are not a monolith. I speak for me. I’ve been told this isn’t a progressive way to view the world, but I disagree. It centers on perception and what we’re trying to progress towards.

 

“Channel 9 News tell me I’m movin’ backwards. Eight blocks left, death is around the corner. Seven misleadin’ statements ‘bout my persona.”

“But mama, don’t cry for me, ride for me, try for me, live for me, breathe for me, sing for me, honesty gudin’ me, I could be more than I gotta be. Stole from me, lied to me, nation hypocrisy.”

“Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression. Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs.”

-Kendrick Lamar, feature on Beyonce’s Freedom

 

 

*Go on Netflix and watch The Boondocks.

**Mainly online spaces such as Twitter, BuzzFeed, Washington Post etc.

***The Confederacy fired shots on Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, unofficially beginning the Civil War

****http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150625-data-points-racial-dot-maps/

The New Slur

Privilege.

Privilege.

Privilege. Privilege. Privilege. Okay, got that out of the way. A few people will have closed the page already because they hate this word, so I figured I would just give them an easy exit now. People see privilege as more offensive than any of the actually offensive slurs used so flippantly. The irony though is that I don’t want to talk about privilege. Well sort of. If you go on BuzzFeed, Hufington Post, Twitter or any other site whose readership is made up primarily of millennials, you’ll see articles, studies, data, thinkpieces, mathematical equations, soliloquies and limericks explaining privilege and what it is. If you’re not sure, please refer to Google for a relatively free education. We can all agree (if you’re still here and not on Google) that in American society certain groups succeed at a higher rate than others. It’s easier to be: white than of color, straight than LGBTQ, a man than a woman, rich than poor, cisgendered than transgendered; and if any of those things intersect, even worse. And so on and so forth. Marginalized communities have been very vocal in recent years in explaining what America is like for them. So we all keep talking about privilege. We are generally learning what it means. Why are people afraid of it?. When you mention privilege, the immediate deterrent is

“well maybe some white people have it, but not me. My family struggled.”

“being a man is hard too though.”

“…” Actually, you get the point.

People rush to defend themselves when you credit their success to privilege. This seems deterring or obnoxious, until you put it into the context of the American Dream. The narrative of being an American is to build. To own something. The value of a name (see Donald Trump). To come from nothing like their forefathers and build a new country out of “nothing”. To overcome, to triumph. So when you accuse somebody of having an unfair advantage built into the system, their only response can be to defend because your accusation of privilege is an attack on their narrative, on their tale of triumph. It’s not actually that hard to understand. It’s a built in mechanism to defend your privilege.

American history is largely taught from the perspective of us, as Americans, overcoming. The tale opens with pilgrims escaping religious persecution. Then skip past a little bit of theft and genocide, we get to the tale of persecuted colonists being unfairly treated by their government in the British monarchy (African-American slaves roll their eyes), so they declare independence, fight a war and are now a free people. Then over the next one hundred years, American innovation and ingenuity developed technological advances that tamed the wilderness that was North America. Venturing into the wilderness to the west, the bold and brave Americans created the economic powerhouse that is the United States of America (again African-American slaves and the Indigenous peoples who remain after acts of genocide roll their eyes).

Then Civil War and Rec…wait we don’t talk about that. Then Civil War because of some stuff, and then the Roaring Twenties because to be honest most people I’ve interacted with have no idea what happened in America from 1866 until about 1917 when we joined World War I (see Google for labor union assaults, Jim Crow, the lynch mobs, women’s suffrage battles etc.). So, America comes to the aid of Europe and helps end WWI. Then due to all of our greatness, the Roaring Twenties. Then the Great Depression. In the midst of one of the great lows in American History, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. So to defend our honor we skip to WWII and America is bailing out Europe (after using socialist programs and the profits from WWII to end the Great Depression) again. The Make America Great Again era follows where Mr. and Mrs. Smith built the suburbs and created the greatest and most moral era of American history (eye rolls from everybody). Then the liberals (see communists, hippies, minorities and women) destroyed America up to the present day. Pause for Reagan attempting to fix it for those eight years. Bill Clinton caught cheating on his wife. 9/11 by B…during the Bush administration, and now we’re here.

That summarizes how a large portion of the American population views American History. It’s mostly “our” forefathers building this country off of blood, sweat and tears (just not theirs), then minorities, the LGBTQ community, women etc started asking for rights and tearing everything “we” had built. If you click around this blog a few times you’ll see some historical evidence to the contrary, but that doesn’t matter. The narrative of the American Dream requires oppression. It requires overcoming to build. So even when there is virtually nothing to overcome, the default reaction to being told you had advantages is to deny at the cost of what you believe to be the American Dream being deferred. We can’t work towards dismantling oppressive systems if we each our afraid to acknowledge that some of those BuzzFeed and Huffington Posts lists include us. If each of us continues to view the world through only our own experiences, we can’t work towards something that allows an equal playing field.

P.S. For the various members of marginalized groups who may read this: There’s levels to this. It’s not just on white people to acknowledge their advantages. It’s also on men, straight people, cisgendered people etc. It’s on black men to acknowledge that black women are running with ankle weights and a backpack. That gay minorities run with the backpack and have to jump hurdles. That intersectionality matters. We’re not in a race to see who can take power and oppress others next. But to see that we all get free.

 

 

“Inter century anthems based off inner city tantrums based off the way we was branded. Face it, Jerome gets more time than Brandon.”

     -Kanye West, Gorgeous

“Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho trying to make a sister feel low, you know all that gots to go”

     -Queen Latifah, U.N.I.T.Y.

“Walk outside, he whole world hate me. Nervous stares at the thoroughfare, surveilance cameras, police tracing. Poor so hard, this shit weird, we be home and still be scared.”

     -Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Niggas in Protest

“When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless, rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen. I might not be the same, but that’s not important. No freedom ‘til we’re equal, damn right I support it.”

     -Macklemore, Same Love

My President is Trump

With all of the mayhem surrounding Donald Trump and his bid to represent the Republican Party in 2016, there’s been this rush to denounce Trump by the faces on news stations, celebrities on Twitter etc. The phrase is familiar, “I just cannot believe in 2016 we’ve let Trump get this far. That this would be accepted in America in this day and age.” Pretty standard. How in this great land of freedom and equality can a candidate run on a platform of white nationalism, with a smidge of sexism and homophobia? As a student of history, this questioned is a little stupid. How is this not MORE common? Trump has been the President of the United States of America multiple times.  When people cite America’s history with (insert group that isn’t straight, white males), we avoid the pieces of legislation that encouraged violence and hate. The individuals who were in charge. The Donald Trumps.

 

  1. Andrew Jackson, POTUS 1829-1837.

Andrew Jackson was a jackass. He is easily one of the most racist commanders this country has ever had. The fame that led him to the presidency can be found in his time destroying Seminole and runaway slave villages in Florida, and illegally seizing Spanish territory (occupied mainly by women and children) in Pensacola. What a hero huh?  He can be credited with signing into law the Indian Removal Act, one of America’s many, many racial blunders. This act essentially gave President Jackson the power to grant “unsettled lands west of the Mississippi” (WHICH DID NOT BELONG TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT) to tribes in exchange for their lands in American territory. Unsettled land assumes nobody lived west of the Mississippi. The hundreds of Plains tribes living in those “unsettled lands” would disagree, and would showcase their disagreement by warring with tribes that were placed on their lands.

In attempting to remove tribes, Jackson would famously, and publicly, disregard a Supreme Court ruling (Worcester v. Georgia) dealing with the Cherokee Indians. Gold was found on Cherokee land in Georgia. The Cherokees refused to move, but had Americans come on their land and fight/kill for the gold. The Supreme Court sided with the Cherokee Indians. Jackson said their decision would fall “stillborn” because he had no intention of enforcing it. Instead, he would have representatives sign an illegal treaty with an unelected group of Cherokees signing away their land. When the Cherokees leader sent a petition with 16,000 signatures stating this treaty was illegal and was not representative of their government, the federal government ignored them. The Trail of Tears would follow.

  1. Andrew Johnson, POTUS 1865-1869

When the Civil War ended, and slavery was abolished, it would have made sense to see multiple generations of former slaves be granted rights over time. Equality shouldn’t take but a generation or two to phase in right? WRONG. Because we had Andrew Johnson. Johnson should have never been President. He was only Vice President because Lincoln wanted a southerner on his ticket to make sure he would win the 1864 election. Then he was assassinated. So Reconstruction, the period where America would try to repair itself after the Civil War was left to a southern man who had previously owned slaves. If the mountains of irony are not apparent, let me spell it out for you. By 1866, Andrew Johnson had pardoned 7,000 Confederate soldiers and officers and returned all of their property. Seven. Thousand. Pardons. Half of the country committed treason and waged war with the federal government. Former governors and congressmen leading Confederate troops against the United States. We blow up countries just for thinking about warring with the U.S. These men who had just attempted to create their own country and destroy the United States, had just been put back in power by Andrew Johnson. Very few of them saw trial for their treason.

Let that sink in. A series of events would lead to former slaves being lynched and burned, former slaves who, per the Constitution, were American citizens as was their birthright. This series of events begins with Johnson’s presidency. Many former Confederate officers and soldiers would go on to form hate groups targeting black politicians in the South. The Klu Klux Klan was one of many. What better way to mobilize a group of racist white men in the south than to pardon them and their former Confederate leaders. Now military bands could change their name from Confederate Army to Klu Klux Klan, the Red Shirts, White Knights of the Camellia etc. and so forth.

  1. Woodrow Wilson, POTUS 1913-1921

How did we go from freeing the slaves in 1863 to not having basic civil rights promised by the Constitution until 1957? For this one, we can look to the famously religious man that was President Wilson. Under Wilson, the federal government would copy southern policy and enact segregation in many of its departments, including in Washington D.C. Jim Crow had spread to the capital. The government in the land where all men are created equal was reinforcing the racial hierarchy.

Wilson had met with many black activists during his run for presidency, and was thought to be an ally to the black community. Many activists were now being called traitors to their people as Wilson not only did not help black Americans, but made their situation worse. Now, the blame could be spread around and Wilson may not even be labeled a racist by historians had he pleaded ignorance. But, when meeting with civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter, Wilson famously told Trotter that segregation was best for everybody. It kept white people happy, and black people safe. Wait, pick your jaw up. He’s not done. He also told Trotter that the humiliation black people felt at being treated as second class citizens was up to them, they didn’t have to take it as embarrassing. Yes. Yes he did, and no this is not conspiracy. It was plastered on the front pages of newspapers nationwide. While black bodies were being mutilated and economic advancement was being made impossible, Wilson told a group of Americans to suck it up because he didn’t want to make white people mad.

  1. Roanald Reagan, 1981-1988

Reagan. Reagan strikes a chord with most minorities and poor people (see “welfare queen”). Conspiracies run rampant, some even believe he was the Anti-Christ or the Devil. But, none of those have stable enough ground for me to argue without mountains of research, obviously. No, Reagan’s Trump-like move would actually be against a different subset of American society, the LGBTQ community.

HIV/AIDS struck like a plague in the late 1970s. Researchers rushing to figure out what was killing off men and women, and looking frantically for a cure. When a disease begins to spread globally, America has often sent help or offered support. When that disease touches American soil however, we have historically done all that is needed to keep our citizens’ safe (see Bird Flu, Ebola etc in the last decade). HIV/AIDS was treated a little bit differently. Actually a lot bit differently. Think back to how many Americans had Ebola before a cure was discovered. 2, maybe 3? 16,301 Americans had died, not just been diagnosed, but died from complications related to HIV/AIDS by the end of 1986. Reagan’s first time ever saying the word AIDS in a public forum was in February of 1986 to Congress (as part of a greater speech, not the main topic), it wouldn’t be until April of 1987 that Reagan would address the American people regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A plague was spreading amongst the LGBTQ community, not that the disease was exclusive to them but they were hit the hardest. Now people will argue for ignorance on Reagan’s part, that he wasn’t ignoring them. But how much leeway does he get? People knew about AIDS, not much, but they knew it existed. Organizatons for research and funding were popping up nationwide to save American lives. A damn play was written about AIDS. All before Reagan would ever mention the disease. An accident? Maybe, but this is the same man who said American society could not condone the gay lifestyle. The same man who’s communications director said AIDS was “nature’s revenge on gay men”. In 1983. In the New York Post. Reagan knew about AIDS and what it was doing, he didn’t care.

 

 

Now, with the exception of Andrew Jackson (who also owned slaves), each of these presidents either targeted, or ignored certain sects of American society. That’s what we usually lose in the shuffle. The LGBTQ community inside our borders, are all Americans. Former slaves after the Civil War, all Americans. Black people seeking protection by their Constitution from Jim Crow and the lynch mob, all Americans. The President of the United States is the President of ALL Americans.

Take any of these situations and insert Donald Trump as president, would you expect him to do anything different? Could he have done anything worse? Trump’s rhetoric has inspired a fervor of white nationalism. Making America great again right? Let’s go back to the days when a president could tell black people that their bodies don’t matter or could play ignorant to the cries for help by gay men. Let’s turn the clock back, and make sure everybody knows their place, that the hierarchy is as it was before we had a President who culturally resonated with a group that wasn’t white dudes. That is what I hear from Donald Trump when he speaks. President Obama seemed to be a turning point for us as a country, hopefully the first of many to right the centuries of wrongs done by this country to its own citizens and those tribes with whom we share this land. Donald Trump is asking to be put in the lineage of men who have done the opposite. He isn’t the first, in fact he’s probably the 20th or 30th if we start doing our Googles. Any member of a marginalized community in America will tell you that Trump is only reflecting the hate American society has for them. He is only a shock to those who believe in the “post-racial society” and those who don’t know he has run this country for most of its history.

“Our history, black history, no president ever did shit for me”

-Nas, My President (By Young Jeezy)