Historical Illiteracy

The brouhaha over that Duck Dynasty guy losing one public forum to spew ignorance has really brought out the wacky (h/t BooMan):

Embattled “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson has been suspended from his show by A&E for his remarks about gays and African-Americans, and now some high-profile conservatives are rallying to his side and defending him. On Friday, GOP congressional candidate Ian Bayne went all in, comparing Robertson to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians,” Bayne said in an email to supporters.

“What Parks did was courageous,” he added. “What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.”

This is so beyond the realm of the merely stupid that it makes me sad. Continue reading


Now That I Mentioned the Legal Side of the Zimmerman Case…

…There isn’t much I can add to the social, societal, or sociological aspects of the case that hasn’t been said by others with greater wisdom.

“Stand your ground” laws lead to greater racial bias.

A Black woman, Marissa Alexander, who fired warning shots inside her home, allegedly in self-defense, received a twenty-year prison sentence from a Florida jury in May, in ridiculously stark contrast to the Zimmerman case.

Separating racial issues from the Zimmerman case is, quite simply, impossible. Attempting to do so is dishonest.


Also, this, from Jason Easley:

[T]he delusion that African Americans would immediately turn to violence is a symptom of the racism that conservatives like to claim does not exist.

This, from Brittney Cooper:

My rage is made all the more sure by those who are “encouraging” black people not to “riot.” They urge us to follow and respect the rule of law.

Because, of course, it is black people who need to be reminded of the rules.

Even though it is we who peacefully assembled by the thousands all over the country and marched in order to turn the wheels of due process. And it is we who waited patiently for 15 months for this case to be brought to trial. And it is we who have yet again been played for fools as we waited fervently for justice to be done.

On the other hand, George Zimmerman deputized himself, sought a confrontation and then became judge, jury and executioner for a kid who committed no crimes.

To ask black people to respect the rule of law is an exercise in missing the point, not to mention an insult.

And this, from Syreeta McFadden:

Only in America can a dead black boy go on trial for his own murder.

And most of all, this:


The Boston Marathon Bombings Brought Up a Lot of Thoughts, Mostly About Right-Wing Whininess

800px-Boston_marathon_mile_25_beacon_street_050418So far, after the horrors of what happened in Boston yesterday, hope and love are winning out over fear and hate, but only by the tiniest of ever-slimming margins. I so desperately want to strike a positive note today, to focus on the stories of selfless heroism, generosity, and compassion that are still coming out of this event. As Patton Oswalt brilliantly said yesterday, “when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.'” Julie Gillis wrote that “we know there is something better than hating and hurting, something that is just as much our birthright as our breath. Love.”

We still don’t know who is responsible for the attack, whether it is a coordinated strike by a group of pathetic sociopaths or the act of a lone pathetic sociopath. This is where the negative comes in. We seem to be wired as a species, or at least as a culture, to focus on the negative or the prurient.

News of overwhelming donations of time, supplies, and blood cannot possibly compete with frenzied, breathless accusations against anyone’s favored bad guy, especially right now, when those accusations are utterly unburdened by the weight of any evidence whatsoever. And so we have the utterly predictable chorus of rants from the usual suspects about who might be responsible. Fox News claims Muslims, without a shred of evidence. Alex Jones claims a government conspiracy, or maybe the Illuminati, or maybe the radio transmitters implanted in his skull by video games. Westboro Baptist Church continues to do everything in their power to ensure that no one except protesters will attend their own funerals some day. Finally, there is the possibility that the Boston attack was the work of right-wing extremists, who most likely are white, and probably male. And that’s where the real hysteria starts. Continue reading


Life Exceeds Art, in Terms of Racist Absurdity, at CPAC


I have no idea what conservatives think would have happened without slavery.

I’m having a hard time believing that this guy, who went on a bizarre rant in defense of slavery and only went downhill from there, is for real.

A panel at the Conservative Political Action Committee on Republican minority outreach exploded into controversy on Friday afternoon, after an audience member defended slavery as good for African-Americans.

The exchange occurred after an audience member from North Carolina, 30-year-old Scott Terry, asked whether Republicans could endorse races remaining separate but equal. After the presenter, K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by referencing a letter by Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master, the audience member said “For what? For feeding him and housing him?” Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry’s outburst.

ThinkProgress generally seems to have good reporting, so let’s assume for argument’s sake that its reporting on this story is accurate. Because that’s not all, folks:

When asked by ThinkProgress if he’d accept a society where African-Americans were permanently subservient to whites, he said “I’d be fine with that.” He also claimed that African-Americans “should be allowed to vote in Africa,” and that “all the Tea Parties” were concerned with the same racial problems that he was.

At one point, a woman challenged him on the Republican Party’s roots, to which Terry responded, “I didn’t know the legacy of the Republican Party included women correcting men in public.”

Look, I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on comedy, satire, or political subterfuge, but I’ve done a reasonable amount of comedy-related writing and performing in my life, such that I know a thing or two about creating a caricature of an opinion or attitude that you want to mock. The trick to creating a character who expresses or embodies a position that you want to lampoon is that you have to make that character over-the-top and believable at the same time. Have the character express opinions that might represent an absurd yet realistic extension of an actual opinion. The character has to be someone who could exist in our world.

At the moment, I am having a hard time believing that Scott Terry exists in our world.

By this, I mean that several possibilities occur to me:

  • Terry is an earnest, if catastrophically misguided, young man, but the depths of his depraved beliefs make me wonder how he was able to hold these beliefs, wake up and get dressed in the morning, eat food with utensils, and get to the meeting hall, all without somehow hurting himself. You know, by walking directly into a brick wall because he thought it might be a special doorway reserved for white people or something.
  • Terry is a James O’Keefe-caliber troll sent to make conservatives look like epic doucherockets. For the record, my opinion of James O’Keefe, based on what I have seen and read, rests somewhere around the level of inorganic material intertwined with forest undergrowth—no one really wants to come into contact with either it or the organic undergrowth, and unlike the organic stuff, it doesn’t even help trees grow. My point being, this is not meant to be a compliment for Mr. Terry.

I’m pretty sure this guy was for real, as much as it pains me to think that people younger than me think this way and are able to function in society. CPAC, after all, is the place where two white guys did a rap number last year and dropped an almost-N-bomb for comedic effect. The Republican Party boasts among their 2012 candidates a guy who thinks slavery was good for Africans because it meant that their descendants could live in the U.S. and not, you know, Africa. So yeah, I guess it’s plausible that a CPAC attendee would actually believe all the things that guy said.

Anyway, if an actual liberal wanted to smear conservatives by infiltrating and posing as a racist idiot, it would have been far more clever than this.

Photo credit: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


A quick thought on privilege

(This was a comment a made on a Facebook thread centered around this article, to which someone added this video, which ended up bringing in race, religion, and LGBTQ issues–in other words, a normal Friday morning for me. I figured I’d cut and paste my comments here for an inexpensive blog update! This is all verbatim what I wrote, except that I corrected a few spelling and grammar errors inherent to the Facebook commenting format.)

This will be a condensed treatment of the concept of privilege, but here goes: I’m a white, heterosexual, educated, affluent, originally-raised-Episcopalian, reasonably attractive and healthy American male. In other words, I am about as high up on the privilege ladder as you can get. About the only “minority” status I have is that of atheist, and people who don’t know me can’t exactly tell that just from looking at me. If I may borrow Stephanie for a second, if I were to tell Stephanie that sexism does not exist in America because I have never experienced it, or because her own stories of encountering sexism just don’t make sense to me, Stephanie would be within her rights to give me an epic rhetorical beatdown. As a guy, I have privilege in this society to ignore some pretty pervasive sexism. If I don’t want to see it or deal with it, it can be invisible to me. The same can be true for me about LGBTQ issues (no one has yet complained that, by advertising my engagement on my FB page, I am rubbing my sexuality in their faces. LGBTQ people don’t get that kind of deference from the whole freaking world). Christians can claim “persecution” when in reality they are just having to share the public sphere with others. Guys can claim unfair advantages for women when women haven’t even achieved parity. My actual point, though, is about the “race card.” When a person of color “plays the race card,” it is pretty much assumed that the sole purpose is to be divisive or to distract from something else, and that is a load of crap. There is racism all around us all the time, but most white (or white-identified) people do not have to deal with it as a daily fact of life. Just one example: I drove by four police cars yesterday, and in two instances I was going about 5 miles over the speed limit, but no one pulled me over. I have never been pulled over without verifiable evidence of speeding or making an illegal right turn on red, and I have never had my car searched for drugs “just in case.” For many if not most people of color in America, though, the simple act of driving a car down the street requires taking on more risk than my privileged ass can comprehend. I’m not claiming any greater knowledge of the reality of life in America, just that I get that there is much of daily life for others that I do not “get.” Claiming that a context-free allegation of racism is playing the “race card” is a cowardly refusal to even consider that the person might be correct. Note also that privilege is not limited specifically to white heterosexual males. The default setting of society is “white heterosexual male,” so nearly anything that unthinkingly falls into one of those categories can have the effect of propping up privilege, without awareness of how it might hurt others.

None of this means that I don’t get to have a say in issues pertaining to other groups. It just means that I need to listen for a change. It is really amazing how little privileged people actually listen to people without their same privilege. Google “mansplaining” if you want to have a sad chuckle.


This Week in WTF, August 3, 2012

Russia_stamp_no._1030_-_2012_Summer_Olympics_bid– Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron disses presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”

So does London Mayor Boris Johnson.

– Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) likens the Obamacare contraception mandate to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. No really, this happened.

– A former Chick-fil-A employee is suing the company because of reasons:

Former Chick-fil-A employee Brenda Honeycutt is suing the company for gender discrimination, alleging that owner and operator of Duluth, Georgia’s Chick-fil-As, Jeff Howard, fired her so that she could be a “stay home mother” despite her “satisfactory-to-above-satisfactory employment history with the company.

“During the Plaintiff’s employment, Defendant Howard routinely made comments to the Plaintiff suggesting that as a mother she should stay home with her children,” the lawsuit states.

– A church in Mississippi, one of the states composing our allegedly post-racial nation, refused to marry a couple because they are black:

A black couple in Crystal Springs, Mississippi says that a predominantly white Baptist church refused to let them get married because of their race.

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson told WLBT that the day before they were to be married, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs informed them the ceremony would have to be moved due to the reaction of some white church members — even though the couple had attended the church regularly.

“The church congregation had decided no black could be married at that church, and that if [the pastor] went on to marry her, then they would vote him out the church,” Charles Wilson explained.

We have to respect the delicate feelings of “some white church members,” amirite? I can’t wait to hear if there’s a non-discriminatory explanation.

– A small airplane towing a banner with a marriage proposal crashed in Rhode Island, after the pilot had to ditch. The pilot was found uninjured, after his apparently genius 8 year-old son helped the Coast Guard locate him. No word on whether the intended recipient of the proposal said yes.

– A puppeteer on a Christian-themed children’s show in Florida is arrested for conspiracy to kidnap children and, uh, other stuff. It sounds like police have evidence of some pretty heinous stuff, but it is not clear exactly what he actually did regarding the kidnapping conspiracy charge, versus what he just talked about doing. Technically, “extensive Internet chats about eating children” are not illegal in and of themselves without taking a furher step……you know, I don’t really want to talk about this.

– Some Breitbartian named John Nolte thinks that a new Skittles ad promotes bestiality or something. In other words don’t chase your Chick-fil-A sandwich with Skittles. Or Oreos. I’ll have to get back to you on which candies and cookies have the Almighty’s stamp of approval.

Photo credit: ‘Russia stamp no. 1030 – 2012 Summer Olympics bid’ by Russian Post/Beltyukov V., painter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


My racist high school – UPDATED

Alamo Heights Mule (Fair Use applies)I am part of the Alamo Heights High School Class of 1993. It’s a relatively small school in its own little school district a few miles north of downtown San Antonio, Texas. I got a great education there and had some amazing friends. Overall, I am very glad to have gone to school there, and to be from there. It opened up countless doors to opportunities many others have not had.

I was not always so happy, of course, while I actually went to school there. Alamo Heights is something of a bubble of wealth and privilege, where residents frequently appear in newspaper and magazine “Society” pages, and nearly everyone got a car on their 16th birthday. It is full of good people but it can brim with white racist bullcrap in a predominantly-Hispanic city.

There is very little overt racism, but anyone who actually understands racism knows that you do not have to physically harass or assault members of a different race to be racist. Racism is also not simply a matter of not liking members of another race. I have come to be a strong believer in the “privilege + power” definition, which holds that racism consists of both disdain for another race and the power to do something about it. I did not always understand that, but I am also a white male, so I have no experience whatsoever of what it is to be on the receiving end of racism, sexism, or pretty much any other kind of systemic oppression. All I can say for certain is that I get that I do not get it.

I had planned a more in-depth post to further explore issues like this. Really, the bottom line is that I do not have much of value to say about race, because I have no lived experience of it (same goes for gender, sexual orientation, even religion for most of my life). All I can really do is listen to others as they share their experiences, and reflect on what I may have done in the past and what I can do differently.

That is really all there is to say (by me) on the matter.

Of course, my high school had to go and spur me to action, so I’m writing this post off the cuff, without great deal of preparation. But this is not about my inconvenience. This is me confronting the racism of my hometown.

I’m a fairweather fan of Alamo Heights sports, in that I only tend to pay attention when they do well, and that’s only because hey cool! My high school won something!

I was excited to learn that the Mules (yes, that’s our mascot) basketball team has made it to the state finals tournament. That’s the first time this has happened since 1991 (when I was a sophomore and recent basketball team dropout). Also, the new coach is a guy I went to high school with. It’s the way the fans reacted to the latest big win that is (or should be) embarrassing to all of us.

Edison High School is only a few miles away from Alamo Heights, but it could be on a different planet. It is in a much less affluent part of town (although it does include one very well-to-do area), and the students are mostly Hispanic. When the Mules beat them the other night, securing a place in the state tournament, well, here’s what happened:

A local school district is apologizing after an apparent incident of racism at a boys high school basketball game this past weekend.

When the final whistle blew Saturday, Alamo Heights celebrated a convincing victory over San Antonio Edison.

Alamo Heights Head Coach Andrew Brewer said he was proud of his team.

“Tremendously proud,” Brewer said. “Tremendously. It’s the best group of kids.”

But it was just after the trophy presentation when the coach was not proud of the chant coming from Alamo Heights fans.

“USA, USA, USA,” they chanted.

San Antonio Independent School District officials took the chant as a racial insult to a school with all minority players from a school with mostly white ones.

I can already anticipate the reactions from Alamo Heights students and parents: something to the effect that the kids didn’t mean anything racist by it, that they were just celebrating, that it never occurred to them that this would be offensive, and that Edison’s players and others are being too sensitive. I feel fairly confident that the response (i.e. excuses) will fall into one of those areas.

The first thing to understand, drawing from the racism definition above, is that white people don’t get to decide when someone else should be offended. Second, if it did not occur to people that a predominantly-Hispanic group would be offended by predominantly white, affluent, mostly-Republican students chanting “USA,” then there is a problem, but the problem is not occurring in the Edison neighborhood. Alamo Heights has an image problem, and it has since long before I was a student there. This is Exhibit “A” as to why.

According to KSAT News, the students who have been identified as participating in the chant have to apologize to Edison and are banned from the remaining playoff games. If that seems harsh, keep in mind that kids in Alamo Heights tend to get whatever they want. Call it tough love.

UPDATE, March 6, 2012: Edison’s school district administration has filed a complaint with the University Interscholastic League:

The San Antonio Independent School District filed a complaint with the UIL on Tuesday regarding a chant by Alamo Heights students after a boys basketball game against Edison High School on Saturday.


SAISD athletic director Gil Garza filed the complaint with the University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas public schools. It was the second year in a row that a complaint about racially motivated chants was filed after the Region IV-4A basketball tournament.

A similar incident occurred last year in a game between Cedar Park and Lanier high schools.

“A bunch of kids made a poor decision, but we can’t ignore it,” Garza said. “Our community is fed up.”