What I’m Reading, September 22, 2015

Nativism: Everywhere the Enemy of Human Rights, Jack Healey, Huffington Post, September 17, 2015

Though we are a nation of immigrants, a segment of the American people has always wanted to walk through the door and then close it behind them, keeping everyone else out. This segment dates back most clearly to the nativist movement that took place in the years leading up to the Civil War. When the nativists have their way, the US stops being a nation united by principles of freedom and justice. We are unfortunately witnessing a resurgence of these politics. An understanding of their history, and the history of their defeat, could help to embolden the contemporary generation.

Only a few decades after the American Revolution, the “bad’ folk were the Irish escaping from the famine and British oppression. Many of the nativists of that time were Protestant, mostly Presbyterian and Lutheran, living in Ohio, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. One of the strangest parts of their story was their flag, which carried the banner “Native Americans Beware of Foreign Influence.” Of course, none of the nativists were American Indians. In fact, Indians were branded as “bad’ folks as well.

“Lean the f*** away from me”: Jessica Williams, “impostor syndrome” and the many ways we serially doubt women, Katie McDonough, Salon, February 18, 2015 Continue reading


The Battle for Our Own History

No one* wants to be seen as the bad guy.

In many other cases, however, justifications of slavery seemed primarily like an attempt by white Americans to avoid feelings of guilt for the past. After all, for many people, beliefs about one’s ancestors reflect one’s beliefs about oneself. We don’t want our ancestors to have done bad things because we don’t want to think of ourselves as being bad people. These slavery apologists were less invested in defending slavery per se than in defending slaveowners, and they weren’t defending slaveowners so much as themselves. Continue reading


Casus Belli, 1861

Tell me again how the American Civil War somehow wasn’t about slavery:

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.” Continue reading


The Truths We Hold

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

U.S. Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, February 2, 1861 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 28, 2015

‘Selma’ and the woman who should have made history: Ava DuVernay, Nicole Sperling, Entertainment Weekly, January 21 2015

[T]he real reasons behind the Selma snubs are more complex than race alone. They speak to the entrenched nature of Hollywood politics, the intricacies of Oscar campaign strategies, and the simple power of perception to define a filmmaker’s place in history.


As production on Selma, her 1960s civil rights drama, began in Atlanta last year, DuVernay was determined to keep a promise to herself. “It was important to me that my voice, my vision, stayed intact,” she says. “Because if this movie failed, then it did so based on what I truly liked rather than on some compromise someone got me to make. I would have never forgiven myself because I knew there was not going to be another chance.”

So she fought for what was hers, and it worked. What we see on screen in Selma is entirely her vision. “So much of it is real,” says Congressman John Lewis, who marched with Dr. King. “The first time I went to see it, I cried to be reminded of what happened on Bloody Sunday.”

That refusal to yield created one of the best films of the year, but on the Oscar-campaign trail it would prove to be a double-edged sword.


Race continues to be a thorny issue for the Academy. “We are committed to do our part to ensure diversity in the industry,” Cheryl Boone-Isaacs, the Academy’s current and first black president told the New York Times. “We are making great strides, and I personally wish it was moving quicker, but I think the commitment is there and we will continue to make progress.” As of 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times, voters were 94 percent white, and 77 percent male. Still, in the last 15 years that membership has awarded more nonwhite actors and films about people of color (e.g., Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave) than in previous 60 years combined. When it comes to racial issues, they like to think they’re the good guys. Confronting them on that topic can backfire. “The Academy loves to be liberal,” says one member. “But they like to be nice and comfortably liberal.”

Azealia Banks vs Iggy Azalea: ‘Privileged white people shouldn’t steal hip-hop’, Reni Eddo-Lodge, The Telegraph, December 23, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 23, 2015

Why Mitt Romney’s tax returns are the most important historical document of the 21st century, LOLGOP, EclectaBlog, January 18, 2015

has given us all a tremendous gift by not giving us something — his complete tax returns. The fact that he’s only the second presidential candidate in the last three decades to not release them — the first was fellow Republican multimillionaire John McCain — makes them all more valuable as symbol.

Now when President Obama proposes ending an array of tax breaks for high earners and their heirs, it isn’t a vague proposition. We see Mitt Romney who amassed a great fortune, often by chewing up companies and spitting them out, paying lower tax rates for collecting checks than some pay for collecting bedpans.

It will also be great context when his old running mate Paul Ryan continues to propose cutting Mitt’s taxes during the next Congress.

Who Regrets Slavery? Not Steve Scalise, BooMan, Booman Tribune, January 15, 2015 Continue reading


My Take on “Abolitionist Porn”

SlavesForSaleNewOrleans1861John Derbyshire and I have something in common: I haven’t seen the movie 12 Years a Slave, either. I suspect that is where our similarities end, though.

If you are not familiar with Derbyshire’s work, the National Review fired him last year, essentially for being too much of a racist hack. That should really speak volumes. I’m not going to waste any significant time or bandwidth on Derbyshire’s rantings about 12 Years a Slave, except to summarize that he has identified a genre he calls “abolitionist porn” that overstates how bad slavery was. For some good takedowns of his hackery, see Brian Tashman, Ed Brayton, and PZ Myers.

We do have one additional, very superficial, similarity that I might mention. Derbyshire concludes his “abolitionist porn” screed with a statement that, minus the specific context, I find to be valid and truthful:

In the matter of slavery, though, I already feel sure that the shallow good North, bad South simplicities of Abolitionist Porn and popular perception bear little relation to the thorny tangles of reality.

I suspect that Derbyshire is trying to say that the South wasn’t really that bad, and that’s where I strongly dissent. I would instead posit that the North, applying the standards of today, wasn’t really that good. Continue reading


The Civil War Really Was About Slavery. Who Knew?

Out of a snarky Twitter exchange, a small research project was born. A fellow who tweets under the name @defendheritage tweeted the following:

…which led to an appropriately snarky response from JC Christian:

That got me thinking about how people try to say the Civil War was about almost anything except slavery. The most common alternative rationale for the Civil War is “states’ rights [to allow slavery],” which I took the liberty of amending just now. 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.