Left behind

Demographers tell us that those who identify as white will be in the minority in a few years.  If you were a political party trying to maintain power and relevance wouldn’t you be trying to court members of the future majority?  I guess not.

Frank Bruni wrote in his recent column

From proud Republican harbinger to sad Republican castaway — that’s the story of Representative Mia Love, who finally conceded her extraordinarily close House race on Monday.

It’s the story of her party, really. Of what it once realized about the future and how it slouched backward into the past. Of trading the elixir of hope for the toxin of fear.

It charts Republicans’ ugly drift under Donald Trump, who rooted for her defeat not only as the votes in Utah’s Fourth Congressional District were still being counted (“Mia Love gave me no love,” the president pouted) but with all that he said on the campaign trail and has done in the White House. Tacitly and explicitly, he has sown disdain for the likes of Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants who, in 2014, became the first black Republican woman ever elected to either chamber of Congress.

She remains the only one. When she leaves at the end of this congressional session, there will be just two black Republican men — one in the House and one in the Senate.

And then you have Cindy Hyde-Smith winning in Mississippi.  Jelani Cobb writes in the New Yorker

A series of outrageous statements, regardless of whether they were calculated or clueless, was not sufficient to alienate enough white Republicans from Hyde-Smith. She blithely stated that she would be willing to sit in the front row of a public hanging, in a state whose history is marred by the spectacle murders of black people at the hands of racist white mobs. She “joked” that she was in favor of making it more difficult for certain people to vote in the state where, in 1966, the N.A.A.C.P. activist Vernon Dahmer was killed—his home was firebombed—for the crime of registering black people to vote. Earlier, she had praised Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis, as “Mississippi history at its best!” (It was also reported last week that she had graduated from a “segregation academy,” created to sidestep the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, and sent her daughter to a school that had had the same origins.)

Mike Espy was always a long shot to win the elections, but the margin, 54 to 46, surprised me; I thought it would be closer.  And Hyde-Smith is not the only Republican to win this fall despite their racist statements.  Think of Governor-elect DeSantis in Florida and Governor-elect Kemp of Georgia.  Cobb writes

Hyde-Smith’s victory means that, this month, three Southern white Republicans used cavalierly racist rhetoric in successful attempts to defeat three black Democrats in statewide races. In Florida, Ron DeSantis warned Floridians not to “monkey this up” by electing his rival. In Georgia, Brian Kemp billed himself as a Trump-like conservativewho drove a large pickup truck so as to have room for the “criminal illegals” he might round up as he went about his day.

Trump with his implicit and explicit racism has created the atmosphere that gives other candidates cover.  On the Democratic side as Bruni points out, there is a new diversity.

Everything you heard about the exciting diversification of midterm races? About the significantly increased numbers of women running for office, of people of color, of L.G.B.T. candidates?

That was on the Democratic side. The Republicans either couldn’t be bothered, couldn’t find any takers or — my guess — both. Love called that out in a remarkable concession speech on Monday. To the victor go the spoils, but from the vanquished comes the candor.

“Because Republicans never take minority communities into their home and citizens into their homes and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats,” Love said. Democrats “do take them home — or at least make them feel like they have a home.”

Mia Love has put her finger on the Republican problem.  After Mitt Romney lost in 2008, the Republicans talked a lot about a reset to become more diverse and attract more diverse voters.  It obviously has not happened.  In fact, the Republicans have gone far in the opposite direction.  Meanwhile, the Democrats have made, in Love’s words, a diverse group feel like they have a home.  Just take a look at this New York Times piece on the new Freshmen in Congress.  The contrast is striking.  The Republican Party is being left behind.

Let me give Cobb the last word

The pre-Trump Republican Party certainly relied on the support of whites who held racially bigoted views, but it struggled for plausible deniability in such matters. With Trump, the racism is out in the open, and so, in some cases, is the willingness of the electorate to tolerate it. The Mississippi race reinforced something that has been impossible to avoid but difficult to accept: Trump’s imprimatur actually helped some Republicans win elections. Nina Simone titled her racial-justice protest song “Mississippi Goddam.” The shame isn’t just that the song remains resonant fifty-four years after it was released but that, looking at the landscape of 2018, there are still so many other places she could sing about.

Race and Gender in the Trump Cabinet

Many of us are paying a lot of attention to important things about the Trump nominees:  Do they believe in Climate Change?  Support torture?  Want to cozy up to Putin?  Create a Muslim Registry?  Know anything about the job they to which they are being appointed?  Important things.  That is why this analysis is so interesting.  It was the headline that caught my eye “Trump’s Cabinet So Far Is More White and Male Than Any First Cabinet Since Reagan.”  Written by Jasmine C. Lee the New York Times story is full of charts and pictures.

If Mr. Trump’s nominees are confirmed, women and nonwhites will hold five of 21 cabinet or cabinet-level positions. He has not yet named nominees for two additional positions.

Those five members will also be in some of the lowest-ranking positions. None of them are in the so-called inner cabinet, the four positions in place since George Washington’s presidency: the attorney general and the secretaries of state, Treasury and defense (formerly called the secretary of war).

Barack Obama had 14. Bill Clinton 12, and George W. Bush 9.  Trump is doing a little better than Reagan who only had two:  Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the United Nations and Samuel Pierce at HUD.

C487-2

The cabinet of President Ronald Reagan in February 1981.

The first cabinets of George W. Bush and Mr. Obama were both noted for their diversity. In Mr. Bush’s initial administration, 45 percent of the cabinet and cabinet-level officials were women or nonwhite men. In Mr. Obama’s first cabinet, that figure was 64 percent.

What does it mean that the clock is being turned back on diversity?  I think that diversity and inclusion are bad words to the President-elect.  They certainly are to his supporters.  But I think a great deal is lost when there aren’t persons from different backgrounds, genders, and races at the table.  If everyone is a super-rich white man, who represents the rest of us?  And who represents the Trump voter?

Official White House photo of Obama Cabinet

The cabinet of President Obama in September 2009.

Photograph of Reagan Cabinet from the Reagan Library

Photograph of the Obama Cabinet from the White House

A response to protest that makes sense

I have yet to hear any practical solutions to the problem of violence and conflict between the African-American and other minority groups and the police from Donald Trump.  Here is a response that can be made by local police all over the country.

Here is the complete text of a letter from the Brattleboro, VT chief of police published today in the Reformer.

I wanted to take this opportunity to make a few comments about the recent Black Lives Matter March that was held in Brattleboro on July 13.

There is a culture of mistrust towards law enforcement that currently exists in our country. Recent events have catapulted that mistrust to levels that exceed those of recent memory. Police interactions with citizens have been called into question resulting in anger, disbelief and frustration. These feelings have manifested themselves into protests, rallies and marches throughout the country. Some have been peaceful, others have not.

There was a march in Brattleboro that should be recognized. Unfortunately there were no national news agencies on hand to help report this story. The participants in this rally were there to express their frustration towards social injustice and police excessive use of force.

From the start I noticed members from across the spectrum of our community and many new faces. They spoke about the injustices towards minorities and police brutality but they also discussed solutions to rectify those injustices and ways of better policing.

This march was interesting to me as it not only addressed the problem but suggested ideas towards the solution. It was peaceful, respectful and informative. To sum it up in one word – positive.

I spoke to many non-participants along the route and their feelings were the same. The conduct of those demonstrating in Brattleboro drew people to them, not away. People wanted to join them, to be a part of this movement. In my opinion, that is how to make a change. Negative actions rarely produce positive outcomes.

To the organizers and to all those who participated, I would like to commend you on the overwhelmingly positive difference you made through your peaceful demonstration. It was a model for the rest of the country to emulate.

People expect the police to respond to a wide variety of situations with thoughtfulness, compassion, respect and empathy. I can assure you that every Brattleboro Police officer wishes to achieve that same goal. Many of you know our local officers personally by name and know of our desire to police in a fair and approachable way. We are engaged with the community from the officer on the street up to the chief, but we are not perfect and will always be able to learn and improve the ways we serve. For that to occur we need you, our community, to let us know how you feel.

Please call, email or stop by to talk to me about your concerns. In these challenging times, the Brattleboro Police Department remains steadfast in the commitment to the safety of all in our community.

Michael R. Fitzgerald is the chief of Brattleboro Police Department. He can be contacted at Michael.Fitzgerald@vermont.gov.

From a story in The Commons "To protect and - serve lunch!"

From a story in The Commons “To protect and – serve lunch!”

I mentioned the good community policing happening in Brattleboro in my post earlier today.  Here is more proof.  I hope more police departments adopt Chief Fitzgerald’s approach rather than going into a totally defensive mode.  As I said earlier, we need more talk and less violence on both sides.

 

The silly season begins in earnest with too many deaths and too many guns

Time to fire up the blog again after a long break.  I’ve found the world just too depressing to write about with violence and war all over the world including police shooting civilians, civilians shooting police, and too many people just shooting each other,   Yes, the major incidents we hear about are racial, but there are just too many that are not.

td160715

This Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon illustrates only too well what kind of society we seem to be rapidly moving toward.  The violence is numbing.  And our Congress seems unable to act.  We can only hope that there is not another arms race with law enforcement adding more tanks and military style equipment, but more emphasis on community policing.  Granted that Brattleboro is a small town, but our police chief started something he calls “Coffee with a Cop” several years ago.  Anyone can go to a local restaurant and talk to an officer.  Larger places can do something similar in precincts and districts.  More talk can lead to more trust.  OK.  Maybe not always, but there will never be trust if everyone is just shooting at each other.

This is the morning of the start of the Republican Convention.  The lead New York Times story begins

The attack on police officers in Baton Rouge, La., cast a grim mood over the opening of the Republican National Convention here, as Donald J. Trump responded to the killings with a stark warning that the country was falling apart.

A string of shootings targeting police officers, as well as the recent killings of two black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, had already pushed gun violence and social unrest to the center of the presidential campaign. Mr. Trump has campaigned on the theme of “law and order” since the assassination this month of five police officers in Dallas, and he is likely to amplify that message in the coming days.
“Law and Order” unfortunately doesn’t remind me of the great television series, but of Richard Nixon and the 1960s and 1970s.  They were scary times to be a protester for civil rights or against the war in Vietnam.  Unfortunately, Trump’s message is going to resonate among those who feel threatened by the changes taking place.  Changes like more gay rights, the possibility of a woman becoming president (First a black man and now a woman!), and most of all the slow change from a predominately white country to one that is more diverse.
This election is going to be a scary one beginning with the Republican Convention in Cleveland beginning tonight.  The New York Times story goes on

Cleveland has assigned about 500 police officers specifically to handle the convention, and it has brought in thousands more officers to help, from departments as distant as California and Texas.

But some local officials have expressed concern about the possibility of violence owing to Ohio’s open-carry gun laws. Though demonstrators and others in the convention district have been barred from possessing a range of items, including gas masks, there was no prohibition on the brandishing of firearms.

On Sunday, the president of Cleveland’s police union called for additional measures to protect the security of the event, and urged Mr. Kasich to suspend open-carry gun rights. The governor’s office said Mr. Kasich did not have “the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws.”

Plus

And the convention was likely to begin with a trumpeting of support for police officers. Convention organizers said on Sunday that the theme of the first day, Monday, would be “Make America Safe Again.”

Jeff Larson, the convention’s chief executive, said in a news conference that a leading speaker would be Rudolph W. Giuliani, whom he described as “the law-and-order mayor of New York.”
Mr. Giuliani has been a forceful critic of the Black Lives Matter movementand has been outspoken in his defense of law enforcement practices over the last few weeks.
I worry that Democratic calls for unity are not good enough in face of Trump and Giuliani bombast.  NPR laid out the contrast nicely.
Following the shooting death of three law enforcement officers Sunday in Baton Rouge, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump blasted President Obama on Twitter and Facebook, saying he has “no clue” how to deal with a country that is a “divided crime scene.”
while Hillary Clinton issued a statement

Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called the shooting “devastating” and “an assault on all of us.”

“There is no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities,” she said.

Clinton also called for unity:

“We must not turn our backs on each other. We must not be indifferent to each other. We must all stand together to reject violence and strengthen our communities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of the police officers who were killed and injured today.”

 

She will be speaking at the NAACP convention today and it will be interesting to hear what she has to say.

For me, the appropriate response is to begin with a ban on sales of large magazines and then move on to banning assault style weapons.  Both the Dallas and Baton Rouge shooters were trained in the military and the idea that they can easily get and use similar weapons after they are discharged is frightening.  We actually need more talk, not more guns.  Let us hope there is no violence in Cleveland.

 

 

 

Thoughts and questions about reparations

You have to admire Ta-Nehisi Coates for his persistence is getting the discussion started.  In 2014, Coates wrote a long piece in the Atlantic Magazine titled “The Case for Reparations”.  He generated a lot of buzz back then and we are still talking about it almost two years later.  If you haven’t read it, you probably should if you have any interest in race in America.

My parents were incarcerated into “relocation” camps during World War II because of their race.

In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. The legislation offered a formal apology and paid out $20,000 in compensation to each surviving victim. The law won congressional approval only after a decade-long campaign by the Japanese-American community.

Reparations were easily determined in this instance.  There was a list of everyone who was in a camp regardless of age.  Those who had died in the meanwhile got nothing and their estates and heirs got nothing.  My parents, uncles, and aunts got checks.  But the money was not enough to cover what had been lost, but was more of a token giving the apology some weight.

Coates has recently taken Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to task for not supporting reparations.

What candidates name themselves is generally believed to be important. Many Sanders supporters, for instance, correctly point out that Clinton handprints are all over America’s sprawling carceral state. I agree with them and have said so at length. Voters, and black voters particularly, should never forget that Bill Clinton passed arguably the most immoral “anti-crime” bill in American history, and that Hillary Clinton aided its passage through her  invocation of the super-predator myth. A defense of Clinton rooted in the claim that “Jeb Bush held the same position” would not be exculpatory. (“Law and order conservative embraces law and order” would surprise no one.) That is because the anger over the Clintons’ actions isn’t simply based on their having been wrong, but on their craven embrace of law and order Republicanism in the Democratic Party’s name.

One does not find anything as damaging as the carceral state in the Sanders platform, but the dissonance between name and action is the same. Sanders’s basic approach is to ameliorate the effects of racism through broad, mostly class-based policies—doubling the minimum wage, offering single-payer health-care, delivering free higher education. This is the same “A rising tide lifts all boats” thinking that has dominated Democratic anti-racist policy for a generation. Sanders proposes to intensify this approach. But Sanders’s actual approach is really no different than President Obama’s. I have repeatedly stated my problem with the “rising tide” philosophy when embraced by Obama and liberals in general. (See hereherehere, and here.) Again, briefly, treating a racist injury solely with class-based remedies is like treating a gun-shot wound solely with bandages. The bandages help, but they will not suffice.

To a certain extent Coates is correct.  Whether one uses the rising tide image or sticks with trickle down, programs begun in the 1960s like affirmative action and various anti-discrimination laws in employment and housing have helped but have not come close to solving the problem that black Americans are more likely to be poor than white Americans.  No one can deny that slaves, former slaves, and their present day descendents have not suffered every form of economic discriminations one can think of because they have.  The question is are reparations a good solution.

Bernie

Conor Friedersdorf provided some speculative reasons why Bernie Sanders is right in not embracing reparations in his recent piece in the Atlantic.

Perhaps Sanders just thinks reparations are bad policy on the merits. There are many plausible reasons that a principled radical might come to that conclusion (though it isn’t entirely clear to me that Sanders is that radical even on matters of class).

Perhaps he is convinced that the highest incarnation of justice is a government that redistributes resources toward its citizens based wholly on their need, and doesn’t want to shift the Overton Window toward any model that is predicated on dessert beyond need, or that would redistribute wealth from poor to rich in some instances.

That seems consistent with principled socialism.

Perhaps when Sanders says that reparations would be divisive, he doesn’t mean that they would damage his campaign or the Democratic coalition by dividing its supporters––the plausible interpretation that Ta-Nehisi argued against in his critiques––but that it would divide Americans of different races against one another in a manner likely to cause more harm to vulnerable minority groups than good, or necessitate a divisive process of bureaucrats defining who qualifies as black.

The Overton Window referred to above is a media pundit term meaning the range of discourse the public is willing to accept.

When I commented on a friends Facebook page during a discussion of reparations that I thought it would be difficult if not impossible to figure out who was owed, another friend commented that maybe that was what Coates was trying to do – get us to talk about the issue.  If that was his aim, to move or enlarge the Overton Window, then he has succeeded.

I have a question for Sanders.  Why not take up Coates’ call to support a study?

…For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for “appropriate remedies.”

A country curious about how reparations might actually work has an easy solution in Conyers’s bill, now called HR 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested.

Perhaps rather than demand reparations now we, Coates included, should push Congress – and all of the Democratic Presidential candidates to support HR 40.   Let’s keep talking about this.

Photograph:  huffingtonpost.com

 

 

Remembering the past

I visited Civil War battle sites on my honeymoon:  Antietam, Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg.  It was early May and they were beautiful places.  Lush fields, trees, wild flowers – and graves.  Hundreds and hundreds of men had died there fighting for both sides.  I doubt that many were particularly political.  They were recruited into adventure or a sense of honor.  Perhaps someone they admired was building a company from the small town where they lived.  Most New England towns have a Civil War monument.  I’ve seen them in Ohio and Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.  Oh, certainly the politicians and some of the men at the top – the generals – believed in the cause.  That is their job.  But the ordinary soldiers went because someone asked them or because all their friends were going or they got paid to enlist and the family needed the money.

The current desire in a lot of places, Richmond and New Orleans to name two of them, is to remove the statues of the generals and politicians.  I lived for many years just blocks from Monument Avenue in Richmond.  The large monuments stand in circles that can be difficult to get to depending on the traffic:  Jeb Stuart, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson.  Plus the explorer Matthew Maury and tennis great and local hero, Arthur Ashe.  (Ashe was added after a great deal of controversy.)  Most Richmonders probably couldn’t name all the statues and likely don’t know who any of these men are.

The Boston Globe had a feature story on July 4th.

Ana Edwards stood on Monument Avenue, one of America’s most elegant boulevards, and stared with disbelief at the inscription on the 67-foot-tall memorial to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate government that was based here during the Civil War.

“Exponent of Constitutional Principles,” the inscription said about Davis. “Defender of the Rights of States.” There were no words explaining Davis’s role in the enslavement of hundreds of thousands, no hint that much of the nation’s slave trade was conducted here in Richmond, at a time when black lives plainly didn’t matter to many, except as human chattel to be exploited or sold.

Instead, emblazoned in stone, was Davis’s assertion that he acted “not in hostility to others.”

Edwards had never read the description and I hadn’t either.  And neither had the Mayor of Richmond, Dwight Jones.  But unlike many in Richmond and other places across the South, I don’t think the statues should be moved or put in museums or crowded together in a kind of Confederate History Park.  I believe they need to be used as teaching tools.

Earlier this spring, my husband and I were in Annapolis where there is a prominent statue of Roger Taney on the grounds of the State House.  Taney was the Chief Justice of the United State Supreme Court and wrote the infamous decision in the Dred Scott case declaring slaves were not citizens and couldn’t sue in federal court.  Instead of removing the statue, there are signs that explain who Taney was, who Dred Scott was, and why the decision mattered.  I like this approach much more than taking down the statues and putting someplace where most people will not see them.  Annapolis also has a new memorial to Kunte Kinte (subject of Alex Haley’s Roots) on the City Docks where he landed as a slave.

The controversy over Monument Avenue comes at a time when there is a fight to prevent development in Shockoe Bottom where there were a number of slave jails and auctions.  I wrote about the preservation effort back in April.

dividedrichmond1

Slavery is an ugly part of our past and the men who believed in it, the Jefferson Davis’ and Roger Taneys need to be remembered.  We can’t forget who they were and what they did, any more than we should forget the slave auctions.  Richmond, and other parts of the south have a prime opportunity to educate.  Put up some markers, publish some informational materials.  Make sure that all those bicyclists and spectators at the big race in Richmond in the fall know who Jefferson Davis was and what he did, but leave the statue.  Leave the statue as a reminder of our dark past.  Leave the statue so we don’t forget.  And make sure they, and other visitors to the City know about Shockoe Bottom.

We can’t always be proud of our history, but we do need to remember it.

 

Spring in Vermont

I’ve been gardening like crazy.  My husband and I have taken out 90% of what the previous owners had planted including the trees and have replaced them with lilacs, blueberry bushes, forsythia, and a serviceberry bush.  We also replaced two maples with a stewartia tree. (I put in a link because you probably never heard of one before. We hadn’t.)  Plus annuals and lots of perennials.  I figure that you can always take stuff out next year that doesn’t work.  All of this has helped take my mind off the mostly bad news that seems to keep coming.

Our young Stewartia tree with flowers.

Our young Stewartia tree with flowers.

Last week we caught a little break.  The Supreme Court made two decisions that, contrary to the dissenters, I think will be positive in the long run.  The first upheld the subsidies for the Affordable Care Act; the second, legalized marriage for everyone in all states.

Marriage equality began here in New England as all the local media have proudly told us.  Vermont legalized civil unions and Massachusetts was the first to sanction marriage.  As one news reader noted, “Today’s decision doesn’t really effect New England as same-sex marriage in already legal in all six states.”  That is a paraphrase, but a fact of which most New Englanders are very proud and contrasts to the defiant words from some of the Republican Presidential candidates.  Reminds me of the governors who wanted to stand in front of the school house door to prevent school integration.  Conservatives are always arguing that marriage leads to more stability so I can’t really understand why they aren’t pleased that more people will be getting married.

On the ACA, I wonder if some of the New England states like Vermont that are struggling with the necessary automation and connections to the federal exchange will just move to the federal exchange all together.  And I also wonder if states that never expanded Medicare will do so now.  But with Congressional leaders and most of the Republican Presidential candidates still hoping to repeal “Obamacare”, that is probably not likely.  In the meanwhile, more people are getting insurance and as they begin to get preventative care, costs should continue to drop.  Insurance companies, like most of us, like stability something the pro-repeal Republican should remember.

As spring slowly turns to summer here in Vermont, I’ve been thinking a lot about race.  As with many things we seem to be taking one step forward and two back.  Who would have predicted in 1964 that in 2015 we would need a new voting rights act?    Or that the unspoken racism of one of the major political parties would lead to a mass shooting in a black church?  Yes, I mean the Republican party with opposition to everything proposed by President Obama.  You can’t convince me that if the current Democratic president were someone like Jerry Brown or Tim Kaine opposition would be as virulent.  Race is at the core.  All those Senate Republicans who want to be president could prove me wrong by supporting the new voting rights legislation.  As the Washington Post pointed out, they once did so.

The Sunday after Charleston my husband and I drove down to Boston to attend church.  We wanted to attend his home church, an historically black church of which he became the first white member over twenty years ago.  The service is still traditionally African-American, but the worshippers are black, white, and Asian.  It was comforting to sit with people I have known for so many years as well as with the newcomers.  The young pastor spoke first about being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and went on to talk about faith.  We were all given little packets of mustard seed by the children to remind us to keep the faith.  I’m finding that gardening is another way to find a measure of peace and faith that things change.  In the garden one can see the entire cycle:  planting, growth, blooms, death.  And then it begins again next spring.  We just need to keep the faith.

Photograph:  Bob Wyckoff