white
15
Jan

U.S. Senate favors Whites

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It’s election season, and though three weeks is an eternity a picture of the upcoming midterms is beginning to emerge. The Blue Wave talked about for a year, may happen, but likely only in the House of Representatives. While it’s increasingly likely that the Democrats will flip the House, it’s also likely that Republicans could increase their advantage in the Senate, according to electoral number cruncher Nate Silver.

In the New York Times, David Leonhardt makes the case that the U.S. Senate is very unrepresentative of the nation as a whole. In short, it skews rural and white:

First, the states whose populations have grown the most over time, like California, Texas, Florida and New York, are racially diverse. By contrast, the smallest states, like Wyoming, Vermont, the Dakotas and Maine, tend to be overwhelmingly white. The Senate, as a result, gives far more special treatment to whites than it once did.

The second reason is even more frustrating, but it would also be easier to fix. Right now, about four million American citizens have almost no congressional voting power, not even the diluted power of Californians or Texans. Of these four million people — these citizens denied representative democracy — more than 90 percent are black or Hispanic.

His remedy for the second problem is to grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico. The District of Columbia, for the entire life of the nation, has had no Senate representation. D.C., by the way, was 51 percent black as per the 2010 census. That’s down from 70 percent in 1980. Five referenda have been held on statehood in Puerto Rico, most recently in 2017. The population of the island 2015 was over 3 million people. That’s larger than 21 states. With statehood, Puerto Rico might not have suffered from the terrible rescue and recovery efforts after hurricane Maria, efforts that FEMA admits were a failure.

06
Jan

Racism’s New Normal

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RFK

Robert Kennedy, building a Rainbow Coalition

Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, minutes after he was projected to win the California primary and was – maybe, we’ll never know – on a path to securing the Democratic nomination for President. It’s just anecdotal, but in my experience, people who were alive and aware at that time, and who were Kennedy supporters, still tear up when they speak of him. Even more so than the reaction of those who remember where they were when his brother, JFK, was killed. They believe that hope was killed on that June day in 1968.

There’s an excellent documentary on Netflix right now, “Bobby Kennedy for President,” which chronicles RFK’s awakening to racial issues of the 60s. The film makes note that he started off that decade as his brother’s Attorney General, wiretapping Martin Luther King and being highly resistant to making overtures to communities of color. Near the end of the decade, and his life, he strongly embraced Black and Latino communities. We can credit Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders for his change of heart. But whether it was political calculation or a sincere evolution – many historians come down on the latter – he was the first politician running for President to not ignore communities of color or at least pay them lip service. Historian Richard Kahlenberg superb has written an excellent paper, “The Inclusive Populism of Robert Kennedy,” making the case that RFK was building an alliance of working-class whites and minorities, a coalition that just might have won.

Fast forward to 2018. Where are working class whites now? Oh yes. They helped propel Donald “Mexicans are rapists” Trump to the White House.

Remember when Presidents of both parties, at least in words, tried to appeal to our better natures? What happened? Was a half-century of progress wiped out with one divisive campaign and one highly divisive and bigoted President. Yes, some of it, at least, we can hope, temporarily.

A recent Washington Post editorial stated that everything we’ve witnessed recently, from the ugly Roseanne tweet that ended her show, to the rise in open racists running for office, are predictable and predicted byproducts of the hate spewed from the resident of the Oval Office:

Can I prove that Trump’s hate-mongering is infecting the culture? No, I can’t, but it stands to reason — and there are signs that it is. This year, there are at least 10 white supremacists running for office — and that doesn’t count failed West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship, who excoriated “China people,” and failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams, who campaigned in a “deportation bus.” Organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, and the Southern Poverty Law Center report that the number of hate crimes and hate groups has increased since Trump became president.

I can’t prove that the rise in overt racism is a direct result of Trump’s hate-mongering. But if not that, then what has precipitated it’s ugly rise?

I think reasonable people can agree on a few things. Racism never really left the U.S. It’s just that many racists and bigots were, for a while, afraid to say what they really thought. During that shining illusory interregnum in blatant racism –how quaint the term post-racial society sounds – people with racial animus – as opposed to racial bias, which, sadly affects a much wider swath of America – became resentful about feeling like they had to moderate their views. What was happening was, they were keeping the views out of sight, but within their bubbles, they were free to not only say what they wanted, their sense of white victimization grew. Hey, bubbles reinforce beliefs, don’t they?

Speaking of bubbles, we all live in our own. Here in southern California, a melting pot, salad, whatever metaphor you want to use, of every race, bigotry is generally not cool. Because I live in this region, which is relatively free of overt racism – oh it’s likely there, but tamped down by social norms – I’m left astounded and a little depressed every time I see support for Muslim travel bans, racist rallies, and polls where whites say they’re victims of discrimination.

And now, here we are, in a time where racism, for the time being in at least in a too-large part of the population, is normalized again. We’re a much more diverse nation than 50 years ago, and on the verge of, as you’re probably aware, of becoming a nation where whites are not the majority. And yet, we have an occupant in the White House who has, time and again, shown more racial animus than any major candidate for President since George Wallace, a man who doesn’t use coded dog-whistle terms to speak to racists, but rather, a bullhorn. It should be noted that George “Segregation Forever” Wallace didn’t come close to winning any of his Presidential races. Pendulums swing back and forth. We may be seeing a certain percentage of the white population unleashed and angry that they’ve had to keep their racism under wraps for so long. But it’s pretty clear that Trump gave them the freedom to unwrap it.

Still, America is changing, and it will not become whiter. I fear that America will always have a problem with race. But with more time, and with leaders who, at the very least, accept that this is a multicultural nation, we’ll keep making progress.

While I’m on the RFK-Trump comparison, one more thing. Charles Blow, opinion columnist in the New York Times, has an excellent piece today outlining what he sees as the darkness in Trump, and concludes:

He always disguises his hatred, often as a veneration and defense of his base, the flag, law enforcement or the military. He hijacks their valor to advance his personal hatred.

So I remember that. I center that. I hear “I want to hate” every time I hear him speak. And I draw strength from the fact that I’m not fighting for or against a political party; I’m fighting hatred itself, as personified by the man who occupies the presidency. That is my spine stiffener.

Surely RFK had his detractors. But I seriously doubt anyone made the case fifty years ago that he was a “hater.” Maybe that’s why he’s still beloved by so many who were adults at the time. And I’m trying not to be mean here, but I can’ help wondering how many people get weepy at the memory of Gov. George Wallace, who, to be fair, recanted on much of his racial animosity at the end of his life. And I can’t help wondering, after all the ways Trump has taken us backward into bigotry, after he’s gone, how many people will choke up at the memory of him?

 

 

 

 

07
Jan

White people and misplaced nostalgia

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This article from the Washington Post is another in a long and continuing line of How Did This Happen analyses of the presidential election. This one uses the theory that nostalgia for White Christian America – presumably in the 1950s, whether or not they actually lived through the 50s – drove so many Americans to vote for Trump. Because nothing says nostalgia for a simpler time like a thin-skinned man with a fragile ego who tweets out provocations to foreign countries before he’s inaugurated and dismisses the entire intelligence community. Just like Eisenhower, right?

Sorry. Back to the race issue. White resentment is a real thing, and it’s been reported on in many outlets and researched by Pew and others. But the framing of the article, that all these voters wanted was a return to Andy Griffith America – Andy Griffith was a TV SHOW – sorry – shows that either these people are suffering from the worst case of cognitive dissonance ever, or the author is treating their racism with kid gloves. Here’s a key passage:

Seventy-four percent of white evangelicals believe American culture has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s — more than any other group of Americans — compared with 56 percent of all whites, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. In sharp contrast, 62 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic Americans think the culture has changed for the better, the survey said.

With his promise to “Make America Great Again,” Trump appealed directly to this sense of dispossession, and 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for him, according to exit polls.

Make America Great Again is about racism. Say it, Washington Post. Well, the writer sort of gets real with some fact-based history about the town The Andy Griffith Show was supposedly based on, Mount Airy, North Carolina:

Not everyone is nostalgic for the 1950s.

Ron Jessup, 68, who grew up in Mount Airy during that era, found the place generally friendly then, he said — as long as he and other blacks obeyed the racist laws and social mores of the time.

If African Americans went to the theater, they sat upstairs, he said. If they went to the restaurants, they avoided the counter. “We understood what was considered our place,” said Jessup, who is retired from his job as a high school principal in nearby Winston-Salem. Even now, all five Surry County commissioners are white.

Fictional Mayberry only represented part of the Mount Airy story because it only portrayed a white America, Jessup said.

And the article is still skirting the glaring truth: many of these voters don’t care just about the Bible or gay marriage or lower taxes, they want a White dominant America.

They’re not going to get it. It’s simply not possible. And they’re going to be very angry if and when they realize this.

07
Jan

Higher middle-aged white deaths = Trump support

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Whitedeath3

 

Here’s another political post, though really the interesting part is about the demographics of death in the U.S.

The immediate story is that Donald Trump’s margins of victory in the primary elections have been highest in states where the rate of deaths among middle-aged white Americans is going up. According to the Washington Post:

We’re focusing on middle-aged whites because the data show that something has gone terribly wrong with their lives. In a study last year, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton pointed out that mortality rates for this group have actually been increasing since the ’90s.

That fact becomes more alarming when you look at the context. Over the past decade, Hispanic people have been dying at a slower rate; black people have been dying at a slower rate; white people in other countries have been dying at a slower rate.

What’s most interesting, from a demographic perspective, is why  death rates for middle-aged whites are going up. The study mentioned by the Washington Post didn’t point definitively to any causes, but the researchers suggested  that alcohol abuse, suicides and the opioid epidemic have something to do with it.

The rate of fatal “poisonings” for instance — a category that includes drug overdoses — more than tripled among middle-aged whites since 2000.

Good grief. So that Make America Great Again slogan, to some ears might be “Help Us White People Stop Dying So Fast.” Doesn’t make a great bumper sticker though.

For more information on the demographic study showing higher middle-aged white deaths in the U.S., go here.