Category: racial history

The Lion and the Hyena

By Alan Bean

I received this graphic from a Facebook friend.  I clicked on “like”.  My friend probably wondered why.  I’m not sure.  Something about the image appeals to me.  The “conservative” is literally lionized, an invisible force for good.  The “liberal” is a scavenger, an impostor, a hyena attempting, in this case unsuccessfully, to feast on the carcass when he didn’t make the kill.

I have often felt like the hyena in the picture, a hapless liberal do-gooder confronting  the conservative juggernaut.  Nonetheless, I feel compelled to mouth off several sentences too many.

Some conservatives would reverse the image.  They see themselves as a lion surrounded by a pack of liberal hyenas.

These savanna fantasies obscure more than they illuminate.  “Liberal” and “conservative”, two grand words with a goodly heritage, are now debased currency.  When liberalism is associated with superficiality, debauchery, and profligate sentimentality, who wants to be a liberal?  When conservatism becomes a code word for racial bigotry, intolerance and privilege, who wants to be a conservative? (more…)

American slavery persisted until the Second World War

By Alan Bean

You need to read Douglas A. Blackmon’s article on 20th Century slavery in the American South.  The evidence, contained in thousands of letters preserved by the National Archive and the NAACP, is irrefutable.  But Blackmon says that’s just the beginning.

Dwarfing everything at those repositories are the still largely unexamined collections of local records in courthouses across the South. In dank basements, abandoned buildings, and local archives, seemingly endless numbers of files contain hundreds of thousands of handwritten entries documenting in monotonous granularity the details of an immense, metastasizing horror that stretched well into the twentieth century.

We will never know how many African Americans were forced into lifetimes of unpaid servitude under appalling conditions, but Blackmon, who has researched and written a book on the subject, says the numbers are staggering. (more…)

Winkler: The Secret History of Guns

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA law school, wrote this piece for the Atlantic in September of 2011.  The National Rifle Association has been roundly vilified in recent days.  In the wake of the Sandy Hook slaughter of the innocents, an organization that opposes even the mildest attempt to regulate the sale, ownership and use of firearms comes off as insensitive and out of touch.

But why is the NRA so adamant on this issue?  And has it always been so?

Winkler argues that until the late 1970s, the NRA gave a grudging blessing to gun control legislation, especially in the wake of the wave of political assassinations in the 1960s.  Historically, he says, gun control enthusiasts have been primarily motivated by a desire to keep guns out of the hands of black people and that was especially true when leaders of the Black Panther Party made the most of their right to tote weapons in public.

But by the late 1970s things had changed.  Ronald Reagan, once a proponent of legislation designed to limit the right of the Black Panthers to carry guns in public, had changed his tune.  His new position was remarkably similar to the current policy of the NRA.

What accounts for this dramatic shift?  And why have proponents of gun rights, black and white, taken a dim view of government and law enforcement?  It has frequently been argued that the NRA is a racist hate group, and it is certainly true that the organization’s membership is overwhelmingly white and rural.  But listen closely to the rhetoric of many gun rights people and you will hear a distinctly anti-government message.  These people fear their government and insist on the right to arm themselves against it.

In short, American conservative have moved from the law and order rhetoric of the 70s and 80s to a new form of anti-government paranoia.  Is this largely a function of having a black man in the White House?  Is it a legitimate response to the kind of authoritarian overreach represented by the Patriot Act?  Or might it be an complex combination of a multitude of factors?  Those wishing to pursue this question should read Mr. Winkler’s remarkably evenhanded essay and the book he has written on the subject.

The Secret History of Guns

The Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and, for most of its history, the NRA all worked to control guns. The Founding Fathers? They required gun ownership—and regulated it. And no group has more fiercely advocated the right to bear loaded weapons in public than the Black Panthers—the true pioneers of the modern pro-gun movement. In the battle over gun rights in America, both sides have distorted history and the law, and there’s no resolution in sight.

By Adam Winkler

THE EIGHTH-GRADE STUDENTS gathering on the west lawn of the state capitol in Sacramento were planning to lunch on fried chicken with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, and then tour the granite building constructed a century earlier to resemble the nation’s Capitol. But the festivities were interrupted by the arrival of 30 young black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols. (more…)

Lies, Damn Lies, and . . .

By Alan Bean

Like they say, you can prove anything with statistics.  I got an email this morning pointing out the ten American cities with the highest rates of poverty all have Democratic mayors.

Here’s the list:

1. Detroit , MI              32.5%
2. Buffalo , NY               29.9% poverty rate
3. Cincinnati , OH         27.8%
4. Cleveland , OH         27.0%
5. Miami , FL                26.9%
6. St. Louis , MO           26.8%
7. El Paso , TX              26.4%
8. Milwaukee , WI         26.2%
9. Philadelphia , PA        25.1%
10. Newark , NJ             24.2%

And the moral of that is:

It is the poor who habitually elect Democrats yet they are still POOR!

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence.

You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.”

I have seen similar lists of American cities on racist websites.  There, the moral is that many poor cities have black mayors which shows that black people are incompetent.

Now let’s consider the opposite indicator: the ten American cities with the largest concentration of high net worth individuals.  These happen to be:

  1. New York (currently the mayor is independent, but NY historically favors Democrats)
  2. Los Angeles (Democratic mayor)
  3. Chicago (Democrat)
  4. Washington, D.C. (Democrat)
  5. San Francisco (Democrat)
  6. Philadelphia (Democrat)
  7. Boston (Democrat)
  8. Houston (Democrat)
  9. Detroit (Democrat)
  10. San Jose (Democrat)

How do we account for the fact that the American cities with the highest rates of poverty and the highest net worth individuals tend to have Democratic mayors?  (Detroit, by the way, makes both lists because it’s economy, after several years of free fall, recovered remarkably last year with the rebirth of the auto industry.)

There are two reasons. (more…)

Learning from Joe Paterno

By Alan Bean

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Penn State University stands to lose a large chunk of the institution’s $1.8 billion endowment to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abusive behavior.  A scathing report issued by a group headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh alleges that Football coach Joe Paterno and other senior Penn State officials “concealed critical facts” about Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse because they feared negative publicity.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that Penn State football, symbolized by the revered Joe Paterno, was such a central part of life in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that any threat to the reputation of the institution, the Nittany Lions, or the iconic coach who symbolized the university and its beloved football team was doggedly resisted.    It wasn’t just that Paterno had won two national championships; he was part of America’s love affair with college football.  Paterno pacing the sidelines was a familiar and reassuring part of Saturday afternoons for decades.  You couldn’t tell the truth about Jerry Sandusky  without making Joe Paterno look bad; you couldn’t damage Paterno’s reputation without besmirching Penn State University; and you couldn’t drag the alma mater through the mud without driving a stake through the heart of Keystone State.  Everything was connected. (more…)

Anticipating a non-white America

By Alan Bean

Peter Laarman speaks what every honest historian knows to be true: America was founded by white Protestant males for white Protestant males.  The conservative movement has made modified this stance in modest ways, but the older view has never been repudiated–you just can’t talk about it in public anymore.  So what happens to these United States white folks no longer form a majority of the population?

We may be a long way from finding out.  In Texas, white folks will no longer comprise a majority of eligible voters by 2020, but since Texas Democrats refuse to celebrate their party’s diversity (for fear of offending white voters) it could be a long time before theoretical electoral advantages translate into electoral power.

Nationally, the shift will take longer still.  Laarman reminds us that white babies are now in the minority, but, at 59, I likely won’t live to see the day when the American population (cradle to grave) is less that 50% white, and I certainly won’t be around to celebrate when the majority of voters become non-white.

In states like California, Arizona and Miami, the Hispanic vote can no longer be ignored by either major party.  But money talks in politics and in 2050 the big money will still be controlled by the white tribe.  Prosperous people understand the importance of voting and can always be counted on to vote their interests. (more…)