The Heritage of Hatred

Confederate flag

 

I have been watching and listening with interest to the conversation surrounding the Confederate flag. Whites (and some blacks) who want to keep the flag on the grounds of the State Capitol keep talking about the flag representing their heritage, and they say that heritage is about the bravery of the Confederate sons who died defending the Confederacy and what it stood for.

It stood for slavery and for hatred of black people.  The heritage which so many are trying to preserve was based on and infused throughout with, hatred.

The heritage of the Confederate South was based on its refusal to let go of the “right” to own black people. The heritage held that “negroes” were the property of white people, and could thus be treated in any way the master saw fit. The heritage included the need for the white supremacist South to hold onto and to increase its number of slaves so that the economy of the South could continue to flourish. The heritage and the subsequent fight was about the right to own slaves, and about preserving the inequality between white and black people.

The heritage which so many want to preserve and remember included lynching black people for nothing, for crimes of which they were accused but which they had not committed. The heritage was about raping black slave women while putting out the “word” that black men were raping their women. The heritage was about ripping black families apart, ignoring the screams and wails of mothers as their children were ripped from their arms; it was about splitting apart black husbands and wives.

The heritage was about making it illegal for blacks to learn to read and write; it was about allowing black children to go only so far in school, because their owners wanted them in the fields, making them money.  The heritage was about using all-white juries to convict black people of crimes, about keeping silent when a black person was accused of a crime that everyone knew had been committed  by a white person. The heritage was about white law enforcement officers either staying quiet about a lynching, or taking part in the lynching …or both.  The heritage was about a federal government which did little to protect African-Americans, about a United States Supreme Court which did more to squelch the rights of black people than to increase and protect them.

The heritage was about white people doing what they did to black people because they did not consider black people to be fully human. Indeed, Charles Carroll wrote a book which was a favorite back then, The Negro, a Beast.”  The heritage was about using the Bible to justify racist beliefs and practices; the heritage, in effect, used God’s name in vain.

This heritage had no compassion, no conscience, no desire for noble and, dare I say it, Christian behavior for or toward black people.  This heritage was marked by narcissism, seeking to protect the interests of a people called white, who elevated themselves to have dominion over any people they wanted.

This heritage allowed black people to be lynched, allowed white mobs to storm jails and drag blacks accused of crimes out, only to take justice into their own hands. This heritage had no mercy, no love, no human decency.

So, yes, that flag represents heritage …but that heritage is one of hatred and degradation of a people.

That, my dear friends, is what you are talking about when you talk about “heritage.” Your ancestors fought that war and died …to perpetuate inhuman treatment of one people by another.

Tell the story…hold onto your heritage, but do it in a museum. Remember your heritage in private and don’t make those whom your ancestors died to keep enslaved and degraded, have to look at and remember that heritage on a daily basis.

It is only right that the flag come down. Heritage defined, and that heritage notwithstanding.

A candid observation …

“Meanness” an Attribute for GOP

I heard this morning that what Conservatives most want is someone who is “mean,” someone who can beat the president in this fall’s general elections.

That’s why issues about Newt Gingrich‘s marriages and his alleged desire for an open marriage, just wasn’t an issue in the South Carolina primary. There is a “national conversation” that is in place, one ABC reporter said, and in order for Mitt Romney to regain a bit of the ground he has lost, he has got to tie into that conversation.

Included in the conversation is anger amongst the GOP.  The successful GOP candidate must connect to that anger, and run a campaign that addresses the “politics of resentment.” It seems, according to some, that a large part of the GOP base is angry at the “elite media,” the  economy, of course, and the fact that Barack Obama is in the White House.

When Newt Gingrich did his “Contract with America” some years ago, the issue of anger was addressed; specifically it was the anger of white men. Is that the same crock pot that Newt has identified and is adding ingredients to – this pot of stew, brimming with elements of white anger?

This election cycle is a bit scary to me; for the party of “faith and values” to be willing to abandon that platform just so they can elect someone they think can get the president out of the White House makes me wonder about the validity of their claim to be so above it all. The recent YouTube video of the young man giving a spoken word about how he hates religion but loves Jesus, then, seems so appropriate. This young man sees the disconnect between what religious people say and do, and it bothers him.

It bothers me, too.

It seems that if the faith and values people are just looking for someone to go on the attack, and be “mean” enough to get President Barack Obama out of office, then something is askew. If the Evangelical, pro-life base is willing to remain silent on what appear to be obvious moral breaches on the part of Newt Gingrich, just because they think he can beat President Obama, then something is wrong.

When it no longer becomes important that a presidential hopeful at least appear to be concerned for all of God’s children, when it becomes OK for a man who’s marital and extramarital indiscretions are not important (when in the past, such indiscretions were enough to knock any candidate out of the ball park), then we Americans need to stop and pause.

We are in a very dangerous place.

I suspect that the next few weeks leading up to the Republican convention are going to be painful, because the campaigns will be so nasty and so “mean,” that the real issues will be lost. Politicians are good at manipulating the emotions of Americans, and Newt Gingrich is one of the best.

If it is true that what GOP voters are looking for most is someone who is “mean,” it’s likely they won’t be disappointed.

But at the end of the day, what in the world will it mean for our country?

A candid observation…

Such Thing as Racially Coded Language?

I got into a rather lively debate with a (former) Twitter follower of mine.

She had seen the title of my post entitled “Newt Gingrich Owes African-Americans an Apology” and had taken issue. Her response to the tweet announcing the blog post was “no he doesn’t.” She said I was playing “the race card” and that “it doesn’t work.”

Later in the evening, she and I started an exchange. I said that Newt had played the race card by referring to President Obama as “the food stamp president.” Though statistics show that more whites than blacks receive food stamps, what many “hear” when they hear “food stamps” is “black people are getting food stamps” because they are lazy and do not want to work. It’s an underlying thought in this country, and, I argued, Newt knows that very well.

I said that Newt was playing to his base. I also, erroneously, said that he had earlier said that “poor black children” don’t have a work ethic,” and my friend quickly corrected me and said he had only said “poor children.” She was right and I admitted it as such.

But she was angry. She said I was racist and that I was calling HER racist for saying that Newt Gingrich was playing to his base. And she said that people like me are the ones who keep the races divided. She “unfollowed” me.

She is not the only one who would agree with me, and clearly, not every African-American would agree with me. Just this morning, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and Roland Martin were talking about this very same thing with former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who vehemently rejects the idea that there is such a thing as racially coded language.

But that’s all right. Back to my little encounter with my Twitter friend, I was sorry that she “unfollowed”  me because I enjoyed tweeting with her. She and I obviously have different ways of seeing things, but that’s good; one learns from talking with people who are different.

But what bothers me is that she really thinks that there is no such thing as racially coded language. She accused me of  “race baiting,” and if bringing up that Newt was playing the race card to appeal to his mostly white, South Carolina audience, then that’s what I was doing.

But it seems a bit naive to really believe that there is no such thing as racially coded language. It has always been done. President Reagan, the GOP iconic hero, did it when he used the phrase “welfare queen.” I am quite sure that the image that most people had, black and white, was that of a black woman with too many kids who refused to work but who kept having children so she could get more money from the government.

It is a despicable image, and an inaccurate one. Yes, there are people of all races who abuse the system, and yes, it is true that if one keeps getting hand-outs, he or she might be less inclined to look for work, but that doesn’t apply to everyone or even to the vast number of people who are on public assistance.

Rick Santorum, at least, was forthright in his comments which were not all that complimentary toward black people.  He said, outright, that he didn’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and make their own money…” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/rick-santorum-entitlements-black-people_n_1181212.html)

It was a straight up statement; you didn’t have to guess about what he meant. He later tried to back out of it and said he didn’t say “black” people, but he did. He was standing on the long-held stated and believed myth, again, that “black people” are lazy, that “black people” are the ones who are using and abusing the welfare system. It was insulting, but the language was not racially coded.

Gingrich, on the other hand, did use coded language when he said that President Obama is the “food stamp president.” He was more honest when he said that the “African American community should demand pay checks and not food stamps.” It is still insulting; it is still a statement that upholds and supports a myth that black people are the ones driving the growth of “big government,” and that is just not true. You can read what Gingrich said at (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/newt-gingrich-paychecks-food-stamps_n_1188193.html).

I will probably never re-connect with my former Twitter friend – she won’t have it – but I cannot let this discussion slip into nothingness. She called me a racist for saying that Newt was and is playing the race card and for sticking to my guns. That’s rather like one who has been beaten being blamed for the beating. African-Americans, and many whites, have “been in the storm too long” not to recognize when they are being targeted for someone else’s gain.

Newt Gingrich is a master politician and a very smart man. Trust and  believe that he knew what he was doing when he said President Obama is the “food stamp president” to that roomful of white people in South Carolina. If saying that makes me a racist, then so be it. The truth is the truth.

A candid observation…

Is the Church Failing?

I had a conversation this morning with a friend who is a Conservative and who takes issue whenever I talk about race, on any level; this morning she and I were talking about race and the church.

I mentioned that some 40 Catholic leaders had written a letter asking Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to back off using racial stereotypes as they talk about poverty, and I said that the church has too long been silent, not holding politicians to a moral and ethical standard, even during political campaigns.

I said that the church has allowed racism to simmer, all in the name of Jesus, for far too long.  And I’m not talking just churches in the South. “The Church,” north, south, east and west, Conservative and Liberal, has been culpable.

Well, my friend hit the roof.

It wasn’t so, she said.

I countered; the church, I said, has used the Bible to justify racism and slavery from the time this country got its feet firmly established in American soil.  She charged that that was my opinion …and on and on…

But after we talked, I thought about it. The Church really is and has been too silent when it has come to allowing politicians to do and say what they want, especially as it pertains to race. Hooray for the brave Catholics who wrote the letter asking Gingrich and Santorum to pull back on the heinous language they are using…but where are the other religious leaders, the so-called moral and ethical leaders of this great nation?

Someone said that Gingrich stood to lose the Evangelical vote as details of his first marriage were revealed by his ex-wife. Surely that would have been the case, or should be the case, if the Evangelicals were as bound to Godly morals as they claim, but alas, the Evangelicals, the trumpeters of morality and family values, have been silent…Why? Because the Evangelicals want Barack Obama out of office, so it doesn’t matter, Newt’s marital, or apparent marital, indiscretions.

The Church, the established Church, has been failing in so many ways – saying one thing but doing another. The Church has been responsible for leading too many people away from the Christ instead of toward Him. The Church seems to have a very selective range of issues on which to comment and be vocal about – but racism isn’t one of them!

It’s too bad. One of the reasons racism has flourished in this country for as long as it has is because the Church has failed; it has been silent when it should have been clanging the cymbals proclaiming injustice and vowing to fight it!

Newt Gingrich will probably win the South Carolina primary, because he pandered to a group of people in that state who are still raw with racial resentment. Nobody quite cares about anything else other than their belief that a great wrong was done when America elected an African-American to be president and that it is their civic duty to get him out of the White House.

Church leaders have been largely silent on Newt’s (and Rick Santorum’s) racially coded language. It is not surprising, but it is disappointing.

A candid observation…

No Time to Go Backwards

By now, everyone knows that seven states have passed laws that compromise the ability of some people to vote; the feeling is that the laws unfairly impact minority voters.

Seven states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and Maine, have passed laws that prevent early voting, and at least 15 states have passed laws that require voters to have a photo ID. States requiring photo identification include Texas, South Carolina, Kansas, Floria, Wisconsin, Rhode Island,Mississippi and Kansas.(The states with new voter ID laws include Kansas, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin.)

Civil rights organizations are concerned that these new laws, which have been adopted in so-called “battleground” states, will unfairly impact minority voters. It is estimated that about 5 million voters will be negatively impacted by the new laws. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University,  states that about 18 percent of seniors and 35 percent of African Americans do not have the proper photo identification.

This, after so much blood was shed by black and white people, during the 60s, to give African Americans the right to vote.

In October of 2011, a 96-year-old Tennessee woman, having learned of the new photo ID requirement of her state, was denied a photo ID because, in spite of having an envelope full of documents which affirmed her identification, including her birth certificate, she didn’t have her marriage license.

That was a problem, said the clerk, because the name on her birth certificate and on her old voter registration card was different from the name she currently has.

That sounds like something from the days of poll taxes, where clerks denied African Americans the right to vote for all sorts of contrived and dastardly reasons.

GOP presidential candidates, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich say the new laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud.

That is GOP-speak for “we-didn’t-like-the-huge-voter-turn-out-in-2008-that-helped-put-Barack-Obama-in-the-White-House.

The United States Justice Department is looking into these laws, but the slowness of “the system” is a tad worrisome. It is January, sure, but before we know it, we will have gotten through what is sure to be a lurid election campaign season and November will be upon us.

I am sure there are nice, compact “directions” on what people should do in order to make sure they have the correct identification come November, but folks who make laws know how people work. They know that a great number of people will either remain uninformed about the new laws, or will wait until it’s too late to get the needed photo identification, and then, come voting day, tear-tear…they will not be able to vote.

The Justice Department has locked horns with South Carolina over their new law. Some Republicans say that its “intrusion” into South Carolina’s business is just another example of  “big government,” and is proof of why President Obama, dubbed by some as “the most liberal president in United States history” needs to be out of the White House.

But, no. I would have to disagree. In its history, the United States government has been either slow or absent in matters pertaining to protecting or ensuring the rights of African Americans far too often. A government that said nothing about what’s going on to compromise the right to vote for African Americans and others would be a government that would not be worthy of respect.

This is not the time to go backwards.

A candid observation…