The Book We Need Now

by nflanagan
Had I known when I was younger what these students were sharing, I would have been liberated from a social and emotional paralysis–a paralysis that arose from never knowing enough of my own history to identify the lies I was being old: lies about what slavery was and what it did to people; lies about what came after our supposed emancipation; lies about why our country looks the way it does today. (Clint Smith)

In this shocking era, when states are passing ill-advised, deceptive laws to prohibit K-12 students from knowing about the sickening, wounding realities of their own history, we truly need a book like Clint Smith’s How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America.

The students Smith is referencing, above, are performing as part of a rich Juneteenth celebration on Galveston Island, TX. They were part of a six-week summer program sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, designed to teach children the real story about where they live and what happened there.

Don’t all children need to know about the place they come from? Its triumphs and failures? In the book, Smith—then a doctoral student at Harvard—visits a number of historical sites around the country that chronicle the record of slavery and its impact on every aspect of American life.

He begins at Monticello, sharing his conversations with two white women in his tour group who had no idea who Sally Hemings was– the enslaved woman who gave birth to four surviving children by Thomas Jefferson. These older women, interested in ‘seeing history,’ are astonished to hear about the 600 human beings owned by the great statesman.

Each of the chapters is distinct, featuring plantations, graveyards and annual memorials.

The chapter on Angola Prison, in Louisiana, is grim, beginning with its original purpose, in the Reconstruction era: to round up, then house, a low-cost workforce for plantation owners who can no longer rely on the enslaved.

The chapter on New York City makes clear that nobody north of the Mason-Dixon line can claim that slavery only existed in the South.

The chapter on Goree’ Island takes us to coastal West Africa, where captured Africans were sent off to their new lives (or deaths) as enslaved workers, and includes this quote from the curator of the House of Slaves, a museum on the Island: After the discovery of America, because of the development of sugarcane plantations, cotton, coffee, rice cultivation, they forced the [Native Americans] to work for them. And it was because the Natives died in great number that they turned to Africa, to replace the Natives with Africans.

And there it is—this is and always has been about gross economic development. How to make money off exploitive and unpaid labor of others, and the ugly rationalizations used to defend such ugly practices. And how far back this goes—long before the Middle Passage.

In a time when employers are begging for workers after a deadly pandemic (that some employers denied or downplayed), this is a particularly resonant message. This is, indeed, the book we need now.

Smith tells us, in an Afterword, that he went to many more places than the seven he describes in great detail in this volume. That suggests that there are always places nearby—places where students have been, places they are familiar with—that can serve as testimony and memory of our local history.

As educators, it is up to us to teach that history.

This is what all the anti-‘CRT’ protestors fear: the truth.

Smith illustrates that learning the truth is never divisive. It may be painful, and may produce rage—but knowing how this country was built, whose backs and hands produced the wealth and power only some of us enjoy is the cornerstone of building a more equitable society. The truth can unite us, over time. But we have to listen to each other.

Clint Smith is a published poet, and he writes like a poet and storyteller–there is lots of detail and description. Once you get past an expectation of fact-based academic writing, you begin to appreciate his nuanced depictions of people and places, the colorful, palm-strewn islands and damp, gray prison cells.

Smith adds only enough data and dry content to enrich, not drown, the narration. The book is easy to read. I read it one chapter at a time (which I recommend), pausing between to absorb and think, because each segment shares a unique perspective. Smith reiterates, in a dozen ways, that slavery didn’t start in Africa, and African-American history didn’t begin with the capture and selling of human beings. It was a global wickedness, economically driven, but it still impacts America–the idea and the reality of America–deeply.

We can’t get past it until we know the history.

Read this book.

Martin Luther King a Communist?

Recently someone asked in Quora why history has hidden the fact that Martin Luther King Jr was a communist.

He wasn’t.

But:

From 1900 through 1965, almost the only ‘White’ people willing to speak out, mobilize, and demonstrate against the viciously racist Jim Crow segregation of those days were American socialists, anarchists, a few of the farthest-left labor leaders, and communists. Some of those people were members of organized parties either for a long time or a short while, some never joined any group.

Obviously the core of the Civil Rights movement was Black folks, in particular some of the bravest Black clergymen. It is striking to watch old newsreels and see how *few* White allies they had.

These days, most people forget how profoundly and overtly racist this nation was, in those days. People forget how violent the racist forces were, and how many ‘White’ folks used to utter the vilest slurs against all Black or Brown people. And Jews. And Asians. And so on.

I had some elderly relatives like that, now all deceased, as well as some classmates of the same racist bent who are probably still alive today. If I recall correctly, they were all opposed to the Civil Rights Movement and they all hated Dr King and the NAACP. I recall arguing with them about the topic at the time, but who knows what I actually said?

If you read the documented history of the OPPOSITION TO the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) back then (i.e., speeches, editorials, letters to the editors, and comments to reporters) you find powerful racists like J Edgar Hoover of the FBI, the KKK, the White Citizen’s Councils, Liberty Lobby, the John Birch Society, and many White clergymen, along with State, local and Federal mayors, governors, sheriffs, police, senators and congressmen. They often attacked MLK and the CRM as being communist.

Despite a number of Supreme Court decisions and Congressional legislation that banned official segregation, those racists were pretty successful in their propaganda attacks on Martin Luther King, the NAACP, and the activists defying Jim Crow in both the South and the North. Right before King was assassinated by a vicious racist in 1968, he had a 75% disapproval rating in a Harris poll.

While King worked closely with a lot of Black, White and Brown activists, a good fraction of them sympathetic to the CP and/or the Soviet Union at one time or another in their lives, to my knowledge MLK never joined either the CPUSA nor the SPUSA nor any of the other competing, left wing groups that existed back then.

On this matter (but obviously not on everything), those White, Black, and Brown American communists, anarchists and socialists were definitely on the correct side of history!

MLKing was grateful for their help back then, and we today should be grateful that those socialists, anarchists, and communists — and the Civil Rights Movement itself — helped change this country for the better.

EDIT: I realized that I had left out the anarchists, such as the Wobblies (IWW).

EDIT: I should acknowledge that I also joined some left-wing organizations starting when I was 17, but not any of the ones listed above. I’m glad I did. I think we were on the right side of history in opposing the American war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, as well as American interventions in Central America and South African apartheid, and the hegemony of the American ruling class over workers everywhere, even though we were definitely wrong on a number of things.

Disturbing Racist Clauses Found in Early NCA Constitutions & Bylaws

By Guy Brandenburg

Recently, while preparing to give a talk at this year’s Stellafane telescope-makers’ convention, I was disappointed to discover that the National Capital Astronomers (NCA), which I’ve belonged to for about 30 years, specifically excluded Black members for nearly 3 decades: from about 1940 all the way up to1969.

But NCA didn’t start out being overtly racist. Our original 1937 founding document has no such language. It reads, in part,

“The particular business and objects of [the NCA] shall be the education and mutual improvement of its members in the science of Astronomy and the encouragement of an interest in this science among others. (…) The activities of this Association are designed for the enjoyment and cultural profit of all interested in astronomy, whether the member be a beginner, an advanced student, or one whose pursuit of the science is necessarily desultory.”

And today’s NCA home page reads, “All are welcome to join. Everyone who looks up to the sky with wonder is an astronomer and welcomed by NCA. You do not have to own a telescope, but if you do own one that is fine, too. You do not have to be deeply knowledgeable in astronomy, but if you are knowledgeable in astronomy that is fine, too. You do not have to have a degree, but if you do that is fine, too. WE ARE THE MOST DIVERSE local ASTRONOMY CLUB anywhere. Come to our meetings and you will find this out. WE REALLY MEAN THIS!”

But in the 1940’s, the original open-minded and scientific NCA membership policy changed. The January 1946 Star Dust listed a number of changes to be voted on by the membership in the club’s founding documents. (See https://capitalastronomers.org/SD_year/1946/StarDust_1946_01.pdf ) The organization voted to change article III of its constitution as follows:

From:

“only Caucasians over 16 years old are eligible for membership.

To this:

“to include all ages (see by-laws), exclude only the Black race.”

While it may be shocking that a scientific organization like NCA had such a policy, people often forget how racist a nation the USA used to be, and for how long. If you look up actual pages of DC area newspapers from the 1950s, you will note that the classified advertisements were largely segregated both by race and by gender – want ads would very often specify male or female, single or married, White-only or Colored-only jobs, apartments, and so on.

Schools in DC, MD, and Virginia were mostly segregated, either by law or in practice, up until the late 1960s or early 1970s. The 1954 Brown v Board decision had very little real impact in most areas until much, much later. Queens (NYC), PG County (MD) and Boston (MA) had violent movements against integrating schools in the 1970s. I know because I attended demonstrations against those racists and have some scars to prove it.

While the Federal and DC governments offices were integrated immediately after the Civil War, that changed for the worse when Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1912.

Many scientists in the USA and in Europe believed the pseudo-scientific ideas of racial superiority and eugenics that arose around 1900 and were still widespread 50 years ago – and even today, as recent events have sadly shown.

In The War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, Edwin Black explains how august scientific institutions like the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW), the American Natural History Museum in New York, and a number of eminent statisticians and biologists for many decades supported the Eugenics Records Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor. So did the fabulously wealthy Rockefeller and Harriman Foundations.

The ERO pushed the concept of the genetic superiority of the ‘Nordic’ race and helped to pass State laws sterilizing the ‘weak’ and forbidding interracial marriage. They were also successful in passing the 1924 Federal immigration law that severely cut back immigration from parts of the world where supposedly ‘inferior’ people lived – e.g. Eastern and Southern Europe. As a result, many Jews who would have loved to escape Hitler’s ovens by crossing the Atlantic never made it.  

Hitler and his acolytes always acknowledged their ideological and procedural debt to American eugenical laws, literature, and propaganda. As we all know, Germany’s Nazis put those ideas to work murdering millions of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and others.

It took more than three decades for the CIW to withdraw their support of the ERO. A CIW committee concluded in 1935 “that the Eugenics Record Office was a worthless endeavor from top to bottom, yielding no real data, and that eugenics itself was not a science but rather a social propaganda campaign with no discernable value to the science of either genetics or human heredity.” (Black, p. 390) The members pointedly compared the work of the ERO to the excesses of Nazi Germany. However, it took four more years for CIW to cut all their ties – shortly after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, starting World War Two.

I don’t know exactly when the ‘Caucasian’-only policy became part of the NCA rules, but it seems to have been between the club founding in 1937, and October 1943 when volume 1, number 1 of Star Dust was printed. At one point, perhaps around 1940, NCA decided that only ‘Caucasians’ over 16 could join. But as indicated above, in 1946, the racial exclusion policy was narrowed to only exclude Black people. Apparently Jews, Italians, young people, Latin Americans, and Asians were eligible to join NCA from 1946 to 1969. But not African-Americans.

While researching my talk, I found that the NCA held amateur telescope-making classes at a number of all-white DC, MD, and VA high schools, from the 1940s through about 1970, both during the days of de jure segregation and the merely de-facto type: McKinley, Roosevelt, Central, Bladensburg, Falls Church, and McLean high schools are listed. While Star Dust mentions a telescope-making course at (the largely-Black) Howard University in 1946, there is no mention of any assistance for that course from NCA.

I also found no evidence in any issue of Star Dust from that era that anybody at the time raised any vocal objections to racial exclusion. Not in 1946, nor 23 years later when the rule prohibiting Black members was quietly dropped (in 1969) when a new constitution was adopted.

A few current or past NCA members confirmed to me that at some point, they noticed that racist language and privately wondered about it. One person told me that they definitely recalled some now-deceased NCA members who were openly racist and not shy about expressing those views. Others told me that they had never heard any discussion of the subject at all.

 (As one who grew up in DC and Montgomery County, and attended essentially-segregated public schools there, I am sorry that neither I nor my family actively spoke up at the time, even though a farm adjacent to ours in Clarksburg was owned by a Black family [with no school-age children at the time]. Amazing how blind one can be! The racists of those days were not shy about committing violence to achieve their ends. Fear might be one reason for silence.)

One possibility is that some of the early NCA meetings might have been held at private residences; perhaps some of the racist members insisted in preventing non-‘Caucasian’ or ‘Black’ people from attending. It is too bad the other NCA members didn’t take the other route and stay true to the original ideas of the club, and tell the racist members to get lost.

Very ironic: the late George Carruthers, a celebrated Naval Research Labs and NASA scientist, and an instrument-maker for numerous astronomical probes and satellites, gave a talk to the NCA in September of 1970 – not too long after the NCA apparently dropped its racist membership rules (April, 1969). So, a mere year and a half before he gave his talk, he could not have legally joined the organization. Nor could he have done so when he was making his own telescopes from scratch as a teenager in the 1940s. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Robert_Carruthers on the life and work of this great African-American scientist and inventor.

To NCA’s credit, we have done better in the past few decades at encouraging participation in telescope viewing parties, telescope making, and lectures by members of all races and ethnic groups. However, I often find that not very many NCA members bring telescopes to viewing events, or show up to judge science fairs, in mostly-minority neighborhoods. Often, it’s just me. That needs to change. We need to encourage an interest in science, astronomy, and the universe in children and the public no matter their skin color or national origin, and we need to combat the racist twaddle that passes for eugenics.

I anticipate that NCA will have a formal vote repudiating the club’s former unscientific and racist policies and behavior. I hope we will redouble our efforts to promote the study of astronomy to members of all ethnic groups, especially those historically under-represented in science.

We could do well to note the words that Albert Einstein wrote in 1946, after he had been living in the US for a decade, and the same year that NCA confirmed that Black people could not join:

“a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes.

The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

Many a sincere person will answer: “Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

The ancient Greeks also had slaves. They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause.”

Source: http://www.kganu.net/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/alberteinsteinonthenegroquestion-1946.pdf

I am indebted to Morgan Aronson, Nancy Byrd, Richard Byrd, Geoff Chester, Jeff Guerber, Jay Miller, Jeffrey Norman, Rachel Poe, Todd Supple, Wayne Warren, Elizabeth Warner, and Harold Williams for documents, memories, and/or technical support.

The covered-up history of emancipationist* Robert Carter III

I bet you never heard of him.

At great risk to his personal safety, this Robert-Carter-the-third freed HUNDREDS of the slaves he had inherited from his grandfather, the famous Robert “King” Carter.

In Virginia. Starting in 1791.

Up until then it was ILLEGAL to give any slave their freedom, except upon death of their owner (if so specified in their will).

RCIII was one of George Washington’s neighbors, and a friend of Thomas Jefferson, but unlike his wealthy neighbors, RCIII not only freed his slaves while he was alive, but hired them as workers and gave them land.

He even helped found early local Baptist churches that had black and white members as equals.

So, not every single White American plantation owner took the same path of continuing to buy and sell people and exploiting them.

There were other choices that the Founding Fathers could have taken, had they actually meant the words of the Declaration… you know, the ones proclaiming that “all men are created equal.” If they hadn’t been so concerned about their own luxurious lifestyles enabled by unremitting exploitation of the hard labor of so many hundreds of thousands of enslaved people, they could have chosen justice.

This fellow did.

But I never had heard of Robert Carter III, before today.

Had you?

He’s in Wikipedia. Thank goodness.

And apparently CNN actually just did a feature on him, today. Kudos!

Go look him up. I’ll wait.

For his day, he was a very honorable person.

Even though I was a History major at Dartmouth College, and had helped my father on a multi-volume translation of the travel diaries of a French nobleman in the United States from 1792-1795, I don’t recall him being mentioned. I’ll go look him up in the still-unpublished MS down in my basement after I’m done posting this.

Even though I had read about the Liberation of the people of Haiti, and about Nat Turner and John Brown and the 54th Massachusetts, I never heard of the ‘good’ Robert Carter.

I lived through a good bit of the Civil Rights Movement. Even though I had worked against racism and South Afrrican apartheid. And even though I prided myself on learning about the history of anti-racist, anti-slavery, and pro-working class struggles, I had never heard of the guy. I knew about Tulsa (1921) and Wilmington (1898). I had read Foner on Reconstruction and gave reports on Benjamin Banneker’s mathematics and geometry using Bedini as a source.

Amazing. There were people willing to kill or beat RCIII for his opposition to slavery.

Here is part of his deed of manumission. Can you read it? It’s slower going that ordinary text, but interesting nonetheless.

The CNN article reads, in part,

“To grasp the oddness of his erasure, it’s necessary to understand his lofty station among the Virginia gentry of his day. He counted Washington’s half-brother, Lawrence, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as friends; he regularly dined with and loaned money to the latter. Washington himself was a neighbor, and Robert E. Lee’s mother was the great granddaughter of his grandfather, Robert “King” Carter.

The book The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter is unfortunately not in print any more. I will need to get it on Nook or something like that, I guess.

EDIT: I changed the title to “Emancipationist” rather than ‘Abolitionist’.

I found Levey’s book on him at an online used-book store and have ordered a copy.

I have just looked through my parents’ notes for their book on Larochefoucauld-Liancourt‘s (LRL) travels in America but have not yet found any mention of Robert Carter III, but certainly quite a few mentions of slavery and such. (LRL pulled quite a few punches regarding Jefferson’s treatment of his slaves, because he wanted Jefferson to write him some letters of recommendation so that he (LRL) could return to France, from which he had to flee during the most radical period of the French Revolution.

www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/living-in-the-age-of-the-white-mob

Sadly, racist White mob violence has defined this country much more than progressive movements for most of US history.

DA Never Gave Grand Jury the Option of Indicting Cops for Murder

Notoriously corrupt, convicted ex-judge Sol Wachsler once said that he could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, if that’s what the powers that be wanted the DA to do.

But as the case of Breonna Taylor shows, DA’s really, really don’t like indicting cops. As you can see by reading these details in Salon:

==========

Breonna Taylor case grand juror: We weren’t given the option of indicting the two cops who shot her

Grand juror said AG Daniel Cameron misrepresented the deliberations. Cameron agreed to release grand jury recording

IGOR DERYSH

SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 3:25PM (UTC)

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said he would comply with a judge’s order to release the grand jury recording in the Breonna Taylor case after a grand juror alleged that Cameron had misrepresented the deliberations.

The juror filed a motion calling for the release of the transcripts on Monday so that “the truth may prevail.”

“The Grand Jury is meant to be a secretive body. It’s apparent that the public interest in this case isn’t going to allow that to happen,” a spokesperson for Cameron said in a statement. Despite the concerns over the release, the attorney general’s office said it would comply with the order to release the recording on Wednesday in response to the juror’s complaint.

An attorney for the juror told The New York Times that Cameron “misrepresented” the deliberations and “failed to offer the panel the option of indicting the two officers who fatally shot the young woman.”

The attorney general’s office said it is “confident” in the case they presented but acknowledged that jurors were not given the option of indicting Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove in Taylor’s shooting.

“The evidence supported that Sergeant Mattingly and Detective Cosgrove were justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker,” Taylor’s boyfriend, the statement said. “For that reason, the only charge recommended was wanton endangerment.”

Former Det. Brett Hankison, the lone officer fired after the shooting, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment after some of the bullets he “blindly” fired into Taylor’s home struck a wall adjoining her neighbors’ apartment. None of the three officers who fired their weapons were charged in Taylor’s death, even though the city of Louisville agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.

Hankison pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Kevin Glogower, the juror’s lawyer, told the Times that the juror approached him after Cameron claimed during a news conference that state law prevented him from charging Mattingly and Cosgrove.

“While there are six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law, these charges are not applicable to the facts before us because our investigation showed — and the grand jury agreed — that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire after having been fired upon,” Cameron said during the news conference last week.

Glogower told the outlet that the juror was “unsettled” by the fact that they were only presented with possible charges for Hankison. He said in the petition that it was “patently unjust” that Cameron “attempted to make it very clear that the grand jury alone made the decision.”

“Using the grand jurors as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility for these decisions only sows more seeds of doubt in the process while leaving a cold chill down the spines of future grand jurors,” the petition said.

According to Walker, the lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family, and more than a dozen neighbors, the officers serving a “no knock” search warrant, part of a narcotics investigation targeting Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, did not announce themselves. Cameron claimed at the news conference that a lone witness corroborated the officers’ statement that they made an announcement, arguing that it was not a “no knock” warrant.

Walker opened fire on the officers, claiming he believed someone was breaking in. Mattingly and Cosgrove returned fire, hitting Taylor six times. An FBI analysis determined that Cosgrove fired the fatal shot. Hankison ran into a parking lot and shot into Taylor’s home through a sliding door and bedroom window, resulting in charges against him. Unlike the other officers, he was not shot at by Walker.

Cameron claimed at the news conference that ballistics showed that the bullet that struck Mattingly during the gunfire was Walker’s. But Vice News reported last week that the initial ballistics report did not prove the bullet was Walker’s and found that “due to limited markings of comparative value, [the bullet] was neither identified nor eliminated as having been fired from” Walker’s gun.

Vice News also published a video of body camera footage showing Hankison entering Taylor’s apartment as investigators were working the scene in an apparent violation of department protocol.

Ben Crump, an attorney for Taylor’s family, called the grand jury process a “sham proceeding that did nothing to give Breonna Taylor a voice.”

“I never had faith in Daniel Cameron to begin with,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said after the decision. “I was reassured Wednesday of why I have no faith in the legal system, in the police, in the law. They are not made to protect us Black and brown people.”

IGOR DERYSH

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

DC Women’s March – 2020 (Today!)

I am glad that my wife and I took part in today’s march. It was inspiring to us to talk with so many fine young folks (some men, too) along the march route; some of them told us that we veteran activists from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s inspired them, which was nice to hear. It was fun swapped some ideas and stories with new folks and veterans of, say, marches and demonstrations in Los Angeles and the Bay Area of California…

Some of the signs were brilliant!

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IMG_6081

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It was quite cold, and sometimes sleeting and raining; my wife and I both found our cell phone batteries dying because of the low temperatures, so I don’t have nearly as many photos as I would have liked. Fortunately w both had dressed properly – long acrylic thermal underwear, woolen sweater and socks, monk’s hood, parka hood, and umbrella for me; my wife looked a bit like an Inuit.

IMG_5996      IMG_5980

A couple of comments:

  • It didn’t look like organizers had really agreed on a common platform for chants, songs, or whatever. I persuaded someone with a bullhorn to lead a chant concerning immigration (see my last post).
  • We probably represented hundreds, if not thousands, of different organizations, but most of us only had the most tenuous links to said organizations — we had signed something online somewhere, or donated something, or maybe been to a meeting or two.
  • Definitely mostly white and middle-class, though latinxes, african-americans, and asians were definitely represented.
  • It was great that mostly young women had organized this, and I was just along an ally.
  • I didn’t hear people talking about the impeachment process, probably because we all know that there is between zip and nada percent chance that the Senate will actually convict and remove lying sack of shit #45 from office.
  • We need to acknowledge that the attacks by Arne Duncan and the Obama Administration on teachers during the 8 years they were in office — despite all their flowery, progressive rhetoric — were worse even than what Trump and Betsy Devos have been capable of doing, and were also worse than what we suffered under GWBush 2. That’s saying a lot. I think the demoralization of teachers definitely led to the election of Mango Mussolini, because so many Democratic party activists all across the country were teachers. In fact, during those 8 years, the local precinct, county, and state Democratic organizations were shredded to pieces or collapsed. The Tea Party and future Trumpsters were extremely energized and got their people out to vote at every election, and caused thousands of seats to turn Fascist Red.
  • We need to be much, much better organized. The Nazi Party in Germany before 1932 (Ie before Hitler was appointed Chancellor)had uniformed, armed, militias (Brownshirts and Blackshirts) that were equipped, trained, and funded by the German (especially Prussian) military General Staff. We don’t have that here, yet, in the USA, but we do know that neo-Nazis, Kluxers, and the like do send their young aficionados to enlist in the military, to get weapons training, and to try to incite and recruit other violent racists. Knowing that the racists are in fact emboldened, and have been in fact arming themselves and organizing, we need to be better organized and to take them seriously. When Trump and his acolytes are [I hope] thrown out in a landslide on November 3, the neo-Nazis he has emboldened may cause serious trouble. We can’t predict the future.
  • All the people I talked to agreed with me that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the smartest politicians we had ever seen, and the most inspiring and honest. We were uniformly in awe of her ability to run a House hearing and to skewer the bad guys with their own words and with facts. I hope nothing bad happens to her and that she can run for higher office and help organize a good, progressive movement.
  • I have no faith in any organization that I am aware of. I furthermore am going to state that what the Soviet Union did to its own citizens under Stalin’s watch (in particular) was absolutely inexcusable, betraying just about every single humanitarian principle that socialists, progressives, anarchists, or communists of any stripe have fought for — except for the principle of killing (mostly) imagined enemies of the people, working class, or proletariat. Think about it: though we will never know the final toll, I estimate that on the average several hundreds of people were executed or died of mistreatment or starvation every single day in the USSR during the roughly 30-year period 1923-1953. Long story.
  • IMG_6111

    My estimate of the crowd at this march is probably pretty low, since I could never see the entire march at once and don’t own a helicopter. Neither am I privy to overhead photos of the event. However, when I was at the south end of the Ellipse, I stood up on a park bench and could see a lot of it; perhaps the panorama picture I took, above, will make some sense. (As I said, my phone did NOT like the cold; in the future I’m going to need to take chemical hand-warmers to put around it)

  • That location was a fine one for giving Mr Maralago a single=fingered salute. A number of people joined me.
  • It seemed to me that in every seven-foot (or 2-meter) longitudinal section of the march, there were somewhere between 20 and 60 people (so 3 to 9 people per longitudinal foot) – we filled the streets including the sidewalks as well. (My wife and I bailed out at the intersection of 16th and H, at the north side of Lafayette Park and went to warm up with a delicious late brunch at Fiola da Mare, which was quite a nice little luxury we’d never experienced.)
  • At one point, I could see people still marching on Constitution Avenue all the way to the corner of 15th and Constitution, on the latter heading west, and then all the way up 17th street up to Lafayette Square. How many marchers there were further towards either the head or tail of the march, I could not see. It was definitely smaller than a couple of the other women’s marches I attended, if I remember correctly.
  • Using the scale on the map I’m showing you below,  I think that I myself could see about 4,000 feet worth of people marching, which would mean somewhere between 11,000 to 35,000 people. There were clearly many more, but how many, I have no idea. (I’m making this estimate because Park Service no longer provides estimates.)

women's march 2020

Anybody have a better estimate? As I said, I’m sure mine is low. The comment button below is really hard to find.

Lest we forget how bad it used to be

Daily Kos has a long article, with press clippings, about the numerous attacks by racist whites upon black people a century ago. They were called “race riots” at the time, but were actually mass violence against black people, aka pogroms, during the period known as the Nadir of racism in America. It’s absolutely appalling and shameful to see that such a large fraction of white folks, including workers and rank-and-file members of the military, fell for such racist ideas and physically attacked a minority group rather than uniting against their common exploiters — capitalists like the Rockefellers, JP Morgan, Carnegie, Stanford, and others.

https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2019/11/29/1900019/-Red-Summer-100-years-later-1919-was-a-yearlong-litany-of-white-brutality-against-black-Americans?detail=emailLL

Published in: on December 5, 2019 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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‘Why Are People Towards President Trump?’

I’m copying and pasting this response from Quora. I didn’t write it, but I agree with it. – GFB

A person asked the question, “Why are people so hostile towards President Donald Trump?”

Before you pass my answer off as “Another Liberal Snowflake” consider that
1.) I’m an independent centrist who has voted Republican way more often in my life than Democrat, and
2.) If you want to call someone who spent the entire decade of his 20’s serving in the Marine Corps a snowflake, I’d be ready to answer the question what did you do with your 20’s?

Why Liberals (And not-so liberals) are against President Trump.

A.) He lies. A LOT. Politifact rates 69% of the words he speaks as “Mostly False or worse” Only 17% of the things he says get a “Mostly True” or better rating. That is an absolutely unbelievable number. How he doesn’t speak more truth by mistake is beyond me. To put it in context, Obama’s rating was 26% mostly false or worse, and I had a problem with that. Many of Trump’s former business associates report that he has always been a compulsive liar, but now he’s the President of the United States, and that’s a problem. And this is a man who expects you to believe him when he points at other people and says “They’re lying”

B.) He’s an authoritarian populist, not a conservative. He advances regressive social policy while proposing to expand federal spending and federalist authority over states, both of which conservatives are supposed to hate.

C.) He pretends at Christianity to court the Religious Right but fails to live anything resembling a Christ-Like Life.

D.) His nationalist “America First” message effectively alienates us and removes us from our place as leaders in the international community.

E.) His ideas on “Keeping us safe” are all thinly veiled ideas to remove our freedoms, he is, after all, an authoritarian first. They also are simply bad ideas.

F.) He couldn’t pass a 3rd-grade civics exam. He doesn’t’ know what he’s doing. He doesn’t understand how international relations work, he doesn’t understand how federal state or local governments work, and every time someone tries to “Run it like a business” it’s a spectacular failure. See Colorado Springs’ recent history as an example. The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise And that was a businessman with a MUCH better business track record than Trump. We are talking about a man who lost money owning a freaking gambling casino.

G.) He behaves unethically and always has. As a businessman, he constantly left in his wake unpaid contractors and invoices, litigation, broken promises, whatever he could get away with.

H.) He is damaging our relationships with our best international friends while kissing up to nations that do not have our best interests in mind. To his question “Wouldn’t it be great to have better relations with Russia?” The answer is Yes. But it is RUSSIA who needs to earn that, who must stop doing the things that are damaging to that relationship, or we are simply weaker for it.

I.) He has never seen a shortcut he didn’t like, and you can’t take shortcuts in government. “Nuclear Option, Remove the Filibuster, I’ll change the Constitution by Executive Order…Don…what happens when you remove the filibuster and the other side retakes the majority in the Senate? Suddenly want that filibuster back? What happens if you manage to change the Constitution by Executive Order and an Anti-2A President wins the next election?

J.) He behaves and has always behaved as an unabashed racist. Yes, I’ve seen your favorite meme that claims he was never accused of racism before the Democrats…Absolutely false. Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970’s to 2019: See the Central Park 5, the lawsuits and fines resulting from his refusal to lease to black tenants, the 1992 lost appeal trying to overturn penalties for removing black dealers from tables, his remarks to the house native American affairs subcommittee in 1993. The man sees and treats racial groups of people as monoliths.

K.) He is systematically steamrolling regulations specifically designed to keep a disaster like the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis from happening again.

L.) He speaks and acts like a demagogue. He sees the Legislative and Judicial branches of government as inconveniences, blows up at criticism, no matter how deserved, and actively tries to countermand constitutional processes, not to mention attempts to blackmail and coerce people who are saying negative things about him.

M.) His choices for top positions, with the exception of Gen. Mattis, who is a gem, have been horrendous. A secretary of Education without a resume that would get her hired as a small town grammar school principal, A secretary of Energy who didn’t know the Department of Energy was responsible for nuclear reserves, an EPA head whose biggest accomplishments to date had been suing the EPA on multiple occasions, an FCC head who while working for Verizon actively lobbied to kill net neutrality, and an Attorney General who thinks pot is “nearly as bad as heroin” and asked Congress for permission to go after legal pot businesses in states where it is legal. (There goes that great Republican States rights rally cry again, right? *Crickets*) An Interim AG after Firing his First AG whose appointment is probably unconstitutional.

N.) He denies scientific fact. Ever notice that the only people you hear denying climate change are politicians and lobbyists? 99% of actual scientists studying the issue agree that it’s real, man-made and caused by greenhouse gasses. Ever notice that every big disaster movie starts with a bunch of politicians in a room ignoring a scientist’s warning?

0.) He does not have the temperament to lead this nation. He is Thin Skinned, childish, and a bully, never mind misogynistic, boorish, rude, and incapable of civil discourse.

P.) He still does not understand that the words he speaks, or tweets, are the official position of 1/3 of the US government, and so does not govern his words. He still thinks when he speaks it’s good ol’ Donald Trump. It’s not. It’s the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. You have probably spread a meme or two around talking about how no president’s every word has ever been dissected before…YES, THEY ALWAYS HAVE. It’s just that every other president in our lifetime has understood the importance of his words and took great care to govern his speech. Trump blurts out whatever comes to his mind then complains when people talk about what a dumb thing that was to say.

Q.) He’s unqualified. If you owned a small business and were looking for someone to manage it, and an unnamed resume came across your desk and you saw 6 bankruptcies, showing a man who had failed to make money running CASINOS, would you hire him? He is a very poor businessman. This is a man it has been estimated would have been worth $10 BILLION more if he’d just taken what his father had given him, invested it in Index Funds and left it alone.

R.) He is President. But he refuses to take a leadership position and understand that he is everyone’s President. Conservatives complain about liberals chanting “Not my President” while Trump himself behaves as if no one but his supporters matter.

S.) He’s a blatant hypocrite. He spent 8 years bitching Obama out for his family trips, or golfing, or any time he took for himself, and what does he do? He was already on his 20th golf outing in APRIL of his 1st year in office. He constantly rants about respect for the military, yet can’t be bothered to attend the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day because of a little rain. (And that excuse about Marine One not being able to fly in the rain is HILARIOUS.)

T.) He’s a misogynist. It’s not really ok in this day and age to be a misogynist, but it’s not a huge deal if you’re a private citizen. It’s a pretty big deal if you hate half the people you’re elected to lead. The disdain for women seeps out of his …whatever…. and he just can’t hide it.

U.) Face it. In any other election “Grab Em’ By the Pussy” would have been the end of that candidate’s chances. Back in the 90’s I used to marvel about how Teflon Bill Clinton was. I no longer do. The fact that he managed to slip by on that is as much a statement about how much people hate Hillary Clinton as it is about what is wrong with politics in this country right now.

V.) He has one response to a differing opinion. Attack. A good leader listens to criticism, to different points of view, is capable of self-reflection, tries to guide people to his point of view, and when necessary stands his ground and defends his convictions. Any of that sound like Trump? His default is not to Lead, it’s to attack. Scorched Earth. The Jim Acosta reaction is a good example. There was no defense of his convictions when Acosta was asking him repeated questions about his rhetoric on the caravan. His response was to attack Acosta.

W.) He takes credit for everything positive while deflecting blame for everything negative. Look at him with the Stock Market. He’s been bragging about it since day one, and to give credit where credit is due, speculation on coming deregulation early in his presidency did fuel some rapid growth, but to pretend that it’s all him, that we’re not in the 9th year of the longest bull market in history and THEN, when the standard market volatility that deregulation inevitably brings about starts to show up? Yeah. Look at yesterday. Hey! Stock Markets losing because the Democrats won! Do I need to bring out the Stock market chart for the last 10 Years again?

X.) He emboldens the worst among us. Counter-protesters are slammed into by a car while countering actual Nazi rally, and the response is there’s fault on “Both Sides” The media is at fault for a nut job sending them and Donald’s favorite targets pipe bombs. The truth is not all Republicans, not all Trump Supporters are racist, fascist lunatics. Many are just taken in by the bombastic personality and are living in an information bubble made worse by the fact that they unfollow anyone and ignore any source of information that makes them feel uncomfortable. People on the left do that too. The Biggest problem the right has right now is that the worst of the Right is the loudest and the most in your face, and the actual right, especially the Freaking PRESIDENT needs to be standing up and saying No. Those are not our values.

Y.) He seems to think the Constitution of The United States, the document that IS who we are, the document he took an oath to support and defend is some sort of inconvenience. He demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of Constitution, from believing he can alter the 14th through executive order, to thinking The free exercise clause in the first amendment somehow supersedes the establishment clause (not that he really understands either) or that the free exercise clause only applies to Christians. Or his attacks on freedom of expression and the press. He repeatedly makes it clear that if he’s read them, he does not understand Articles 1–3, and that’s something he really should have before he took the job, because they’re not going away.

Z.) I’ll use Z for something I do blame him for, but the rest of us have to carry the blame too. Polarization. This country is more politically polarized than I can remember in my lifetime. Some of you who are a few years older than I may remember how it was in the late 60’s when construction workers in New York were being applauded for beating up hippies, I think it’s pretty close to that right now, but that was before my time. And he is the cause of much of the current level polarization, but also the result. It didn’t’ start with Trump. We’ve been going down this road I think since the eruption of the Tea Party in the early years of the Obama Administration.

I do hope the tide turns before it gets much worse because the thing that scares me more than anything is what if that keeps going the way it has been?”

– Chris O’Leary

Did Restrictive Racial Housing Covenants in America Begin in Washington, DC?

I knew that my block of Randolph Street in NE DC at one point had legal, racially exclusive covenants built into the deeds of the houses, stating that the houses could never be purchased or rented by blacks, Jews, or Mexicans. I was glad that such restrictions have been swept away.

However, I didn’t realize that DC was sort of an epicenter of such racial redistributing and oppression of disfavored minorities. This article, which I found on the Ward 5 list-serve, takes the case of nearby Bloomingdale and shows how that nasty social cancer was developed and spread, with the government and white businessmen at all levels fostering it.
Kudos to the African-American folks who fought against it. It is sad that so many white folks agreed with this sort of nasty business for so long and failed to protest it alongside black people.
https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/racially-restrictive-covenants-bloomingdale/

A quote from that article:

During the first half of the 20th century, the number of areas in which black people could live in D.C. shrank as new whites-only housing, playgrounds, and schools were developed. The growth of the federal government, and corresponding demand for new buildings and infrastructure, added to the problem.

Washington had not always been so spatially segregated. In fact, African American and white families had often lived in close proximity to one another throughout the 19th century, especially within the city’s urban core and in neighborhoods along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. However, the city grew increasingly divided along racial lines through a series of city planning efforts.[4] D.C. did not legally assign neighborhoods to one racial group or another—a policy introduced in Baltimore in 1911 and copied by more than a dozen cities across the upper South—but nearly the same thing was accomplished by other means.[5]

 

By the way, my Brookland neighbor Jim Loewen is mentioned in the article: he wrote perhaps the best book in existence showing how “sundown towns” like Greenbelt and Chevy Chase were developed.
From another paper:
In its 1948 decision, Shelley v. Kramer, the U.S. Supreme Court held that racially restrictive covenants could not be enforced, but the practice of inserting such covenants into title documents remained common. Finally, in 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act made the practice of writing racial covenants into deeds illegal. However, nearly seventy years after Shelley and 60 years after the Fair Housing Act, racially restrictive covenants remain common features of deeds. This may be for several reasons. First, since covenants run with the land, they become part of the land title in perpetuity. Second, the process to remove covenants is expensive and time-consuming. Third, the majority of owners may not be aware that their properties are subject to racially restrictive covenants.
You are probably aware that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue began his career in real estate by enforcing the racist housing practices of his racist father.
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