In Democratic Individuality, I argued that at a high level of abstraction, modern conservatives, liberals and radicals believe that the best economic, social and political institutions foster each person’s individuality. Their differences are largely empirical or social theoretical. All clash with modern authoritarians. I will take up practical issues such as torture and the lineage of the neocons and link them to larger issues in how we conceive a decent regime, locally and internationally.
When a young man, a racist, murders nine people, mainly women, at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, this is called a hate crime but not terror. ***
If he commits murder in a church founded by Denmark Vesey, leader of a great slave revolt (that was just and would have liberated America had it won) and hung by the slave-owners, in a church where Martin King spoke to launch voter registration and Coretta King led a march to support striking hospital workers, in a sanctuary for all decent people fleeing the horrors of daily American life under bondage and segregation, and where even the young white man came in and sat peacefully in a Bible Study for a time – a remarkable example of the deep Christianity and spirituality of those whom he murdered – see here – it is somehow not “terrorism.”
Mother Emanuel is a sanctuary. The racist struck at the Church itself as a symbol against violence and oppression.He struck at the very spirit of grace…
*** If a Muslim were to murder 9 white people in a Church, it would be terrorism.
When a white American murders and wounds many at a movie theatre in Denver, it is not terrorism.
When a white police officer shoots Walter Scottrunning away in the back in North Charleston 4 miles away from Mother Elmanuel and tries to plant a taser on him, it is clearly murder, but somehow not yet terror…
Ask black men about what the occupying police, by and large, represent in American ghettos – what does racial profiling and endless frisking, harassment and beating, clubbing mean? What does it mean when you are sent to jail for smoking a joint or for your stomach assaulting a policeman’s fist? – and perhaps terror will come into view…
Is there something that is more terrorism than a land which practiced lynching of some 4,000, people, the white spectators dragging their children gaily as to a picnic, but the blink of an eye ago?The indomitable Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative have tracked down an enlarged list (the Mississippi holds many more…). See below (h/t Nader Hashemi).
Is there something that is more terror than killing 9 people who have welcomed a visitor into a holy place (and there are not so many such holy places in the United States of America, beyond those fought for by indigenous people, often built over by settlers)…?
Is this not a deep American amnesia?
When the US army carried out the Sand Creek Massacre of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho, was this, too, not the paradigm of“terror”?
President Obama spoke powerfuland insightful words about how heartbreaking the murders at Mother Emanuel are. Listen here.He and Michelle Obama had known the Pastor Clementa Pinckney and others there.He spoke rightly and tiredly of a repeated murderousness in America, meaning the NRA with its minions in Congress, who make mass murder of the spiritual, the elderly, children in a kindergarten, people at a movie theater a distinctively American crime.No other advanced country has anything like it.No civilized country…
When the Israeli government murders over 500 children in its last “mowing of the lawn” in Gaza (the next is already on the “agenda”), though the world was horrified, this is not “terror.” See here for a first time State Department accounting…
A Hamas missile murders one Israeli child, and this is terrorism…
When the United States government shoots drones andmurders civilians, often children, in countries on which it has not declared war, this is not “terrorism,” When girls in Yemen hide in their parents’ bed because of the constant fear created by drones hovering over a village, when this is testified to even in Congress by people previously sympathetic to the United States, this is not terror.
Under a veil of media silence, when drones kill civilians, it is not even yet… murder.
When the American government tortures over a hundred to death by Pentagon statistics, this, too, is not terror.
When Congress reports on American torture, it must be kept secret, swept under the rug, the 600 page summary released but then disappeared, the 5000 page report still secret, banished from sight.
A laughable double standard about mass murder and terror is propagated by the American government and the commercial media: white people as well especially as the US and Israeli governments ostensibly do not do these things. State terrorism is not…terror…
Ask the victims, as my friend John Rawls might say.Put yourself – as a Christian, for example – in their shoes…
Most people in Charleston and around the country have come together. Even Senator Lindsay Graham, ordinarily a blowhard about war and initially off on the Right’s theme that the attack was on Christians, emphasized racism and began to wonder, over and over again, what it might feel like to go to a church and have this happen to you…
Governor Nikki Haley yesterday announced, surrounded by South Carolina’s senators and a bipartisan group of local politicians, that the Confederate Flag at last needs to be taken down at the State Capitol (it is a tragedy – 150 years after the end of the Civil War…- that this took nine murders in a Church…).
But the cycle will continue.There will be no healing in America or in the world, until words align more closely with the truth…
As Morris Dees and Jeff Cohen of the Southern Policy Law Center below underline, there is an international movement of racists. The murders in Mother Emanuel resemble the killings of 80 socialist youth by Anders Breivik – a self-conceived Knight Templar – in Norway.
Compare the demented Kouachi brothers who murdered people at Charlie Hebdo in France and at a kosher market in Paris. These butchers were apparently solo flyers, radicalized by a single teacher or, more likely, over the internet, but not part of a larger group. In that sense, they were like the murderer at Mother Emanuel.
In the French case, it is worth noting that an Arab-Frenchman was among those killed; another saved lives of people at the kosher market. Far from the several million oppressed North Africans in France (there because of French colonialism and genocide in Algeria), the killers were a tiny number (among a wider number of those probably tempted, but still a tiny minority). ***
The racist killer in the United States is not a typical white, but part of a minority (one could take the readership of a racist website in the Dees article – 200,000 – to get some estimate of the wider group which spawned the killer.
Racist terror and racist murders are thus, committed by a few whites, a precise analogy to the activities of Al-Qaida or the Charlie Hebdo murderers, and politicians and the press are dimwitted in their refusal to identify terror by whites (as old as America itself, as young as this year police killings and the horrific slaughter at Mother Emanuel)… They are, of course, the creation of the continued propagation of racism, say in the prison-industrial complex, and its continued profitability.
For despite this good point in Dees and Cohen’ article, there is a weakness. They suggest only that the bigoted assertion that diversity represents “genocide against whites” is today an isolated position, but they don’t say that it is the opposite of the truth. As Paul Krugman points out on the same op-ed page below, the reason America lacks an adequate welfare state to provide reasonable help for citizens in the recent depression – so most white students are forced into enormous debt for college, or health care is inflated and difficult to get in the United States, or that whites are also heavily unemployed (at about half the rate of blacks) or that the longterm unemployed cease getting help or that social security is inadequate and is under attack is racism. Divide people up – blacks are far more oppressed than whites – propagate racism from above, and it is possible to victimize both groups (or many groups – Latinos and women, for example).
Thus, most whites have an interest in fighting racism (Krugman’s point below that white workers vote mainly to the Right in the South – a heritage of the intense racism of slavery, the destruction of Reconstruction – poor black and white governments…, etc. – where they do not in the North underlines this interest as opposed to demented “whiteness”).
In addition, there is a which side are you on question here. Who wants to live in a society where killers can go into a Church and shoot people who welcome them…? To be a human being is to fight this…
“The Charleston Post and Courier has apologized to readers for running a gun range ad on the cover of Thursday’s edition. The paper ran a banner headline that read “Church attack kills 9,” but a sticker ad was placed on top of the headline, saying, “Ladies’ Night” at the ATP Gun Shop & Range in Summerville, South Carolina. The ad says, quote, “$30 gets you everything!” including eye and ear protection, a pistol or revolver, and 50 rounds of ammo for use on the shooting range.” – Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now, June 19, 2015
It is important to remember that the hangings, burnings and dismemberments of black American men, women and children that were relatively common in this country between the Civil War and World War II were often public events. They were sometimes advertised in newspapers and drew hundreds and even thousands of white spectators, including elected officials and leading citizens who were so swept up in the carnivals of death that they posed with their children for keepsake photographs within arm’s length of mutilated black corpses.
that will change if Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney, succeeds in his mission to build markers and memorials at lynching sites throughout the South as a way of forcing communities and the country to confront an era of racial terror directly and recognize the role that it played in shaping the current racial landscape.
Mr. Stevenson’s organization, the Equal Justice Initiative, took a step in that direction on Tuesday when it released a report that chronicles nearly 4,000 lynchings of black people in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. The report focuses on what it describes as “racial terror lynchings,” which were used to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. Victims in these cases were often murdered without being accused of actual crimes but for minor social transgressions that included talking back to whites or insisting on fairness and basic rights.
The report is the result of five years of hard work. Researchers reviewed local newspapers, historical archives and court records; interviewed local historians, survivors and victims’ descendants; and scrutinized contemporaneously published articles in African-American newspapers, which took a closer interest in these matters than the white press. In the end, researchers found at least 700 more lynchings in the 12 states than were previously reported, suggesting that “racial terror lynching” was far more common than wasgenerally believed.
The report argues compellingly that the threat of death by lynching was far more influential in shaping present-day racial reality than contemporary Americans typically understand. It argues that TheGreat Migration from the South, in which millions of African-Americans moved North and West, was partly a forced migration in which black people fled the threat of murder at the hands of white mobs.
It sees lynching as the precursor of modern-day racial bias in the criminal justice system. The researchers argue, for example, that lynching declined as a mechanism of social control as the Southern states shifted to a capital punishment strategy, in which blacks began more frequently to be executed after expedited trials. The legacy of lynching was apparent in that public executions were still being used to mollify mobs in the 1930s even after such executions were legally banned.
Despite playing a powerful role in the shaping of Southern society, the lynching era has practically disappeared from public discourse. As the report notes: “Most Southern terror lynching victims were killed on sites that remain unmarked and unrecognized. The Southern landscape is cluttered with plaques, statues and monuments that record, celebrate and lionize generations of American defenders of white supremacy, including public officials and private citizens who perpetrated violent crimes against black citizens during the era of racial terror.”
Mr. Stevenson’s group makes the persuasive argument that this history needs to be properly commemorated and more widely discussed before the United States can fully understand the causes and origins of the racial injustice that hobbles the country to this day.
DALLAS — A block from the tourist-swarmed headquarters of the former Texas School Book Depository sits the old county courthouse, now a museum. In 1910, a group of men rushed into the courthouse, threw a rope around the neck of a black man accused of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old white girl, and threw the other end of the rope out a window. A mob outside yanked the man, Allen Brooks, to the ground and strung him up at a ceremonial arch a few blocks down Main Street.
South of the city, past the Trinity River bottoms, a black man named W. R. Taylor was hanged by a mob in 1889. Farther south still is the community of Streetman, where 25-year-old George Gay was hanged from a tree and shot hundreds of times in 1922.
And just beyond that is Kirvin, where three black men, two of them almost certainly innocent, were accused of killing a white woman and, under the gaze of hundreds of soda-drinking spectators, were castrated, stabbed, beaten, tied to a plow and set afire in the spring of 1922.
Map of 73 Years of Lynchings
The locations of lynchings from 1877 to 1950.
The killing of Mr. Brooks is noted in the museum. The sites of the other killings, like those of nearly every lynching in the United States, are not marked. Bryan Stevenson believes this should change.
On Tuesday, the organization he founded and runs, the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., released a report on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research and 160 visits to sites around the South. The authors of the report compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950.
Next comes the process of selecting lynching sites where the organization plans to erect markers and memorials, which will involve significant fund-raising, negotiations with distrustful landowners and, almost undoubtedly, intense controversy.
The process is intended, Mr. Stevenson said, to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way.
“Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” Mr. Stevenson said, arguing that many participants in the great migration from the South should be thought of as refugees fleeing terrorism rather than people simply seeking work.
The lynching report is part of a longer project Mr. Stevenson began several years ago. One phase involved the erection of historical markers about the extensive slave markets in Montgomery. The city and state governments were not welcoming of the markers, despite the abundance of Civil War and civil rights movement memorials in Montgomery, but Mr. Stevenson is planning to do the same thing elsewhere.
Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, in front of the building, then a courthouse, where the lynching began.
Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times
Around the country, there are only a few markers noting the sites of lynchings. In several of those places, like Newnan, Ga., attempts to erect markers were met with local resistance. But in most places, no one has tried to put up a marker.
Efforts to count the number of lynchings in the country go back at least to 1882, when The Chicago Tribune began publishing each January a list of all executions and lynchings in the previous year. The Tuskegee Institute began releasing a list in 1912, and in 1919, the N.A.A.C.P. published what its researchers said was a comprehensive list of lynchings in the previous three decades. In 1995, the sociologists Stewart Tolnay and E. M. Beck researched the existing lists, eliminated errors and duplicates, and compiled what many consider the most accurate inventory to that time.
The report released Tuesday says that the new inventory has 700 names that are not on any of these previous lists, many of which Mr. Stevenson said were discovered during the compilation of the report.
Professor Beck, who teaches at the University of Georgia, has not reviewed the new list. But he pointed out that, with racial violence so extensive and carried out in so many different ways, compilers of lists may differ on what constitutes a lynching; the new list, as opposed to some previous ones, includes one-time massacres of large numbers of African-Americans, such as occurred in Arkansas in 1919 and in Louisiana in 1887.
“If you’re trying to make a point that the amount of racial violence is underestimated, well then, there’s no doubt about it,” Professor Beck said. “What people don’t realize here is just how many there were, and how close. Places they drive by every day.”
Among Professor Beck’s findings were that the number of lynchings did not rise or fall in proportion to the number of state-sanctioned executions, underscoring what Mr.
Stevenson said was a crucial point: that these brutal deaths were not about administering popular justice, but terrorizing a community.
Downtown Dallas in 1910, when Allen Brooks, a black man, was hanged from a telephone pole.
Credit via Dallas Public Library/Dallas History Archives Division
“Many of these lynchings were not executing people for crimes but executing people for violating the racial hierarchy,” he said, meaning offenses such as bumping up against a white woman or wearing an Army uniform.
But, he continued, even when a major crime was alleged, the refusal to grant a black man a trial — despite the justice system’s near certain outcome — and the public extravagance of a lynching were clearly intended as a message to other African-Americans.
The bloody history of Paris, Tex., about 100 miles northeast of Dallas, is well known if rarely brought up, said Thelma Dangerfield, the treasurer of the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter. Thousands of people came in 1893 to see Henry Smith, a black teenager accused of murder, carried around town on a float, then tortured and burned to death on a scaffold.
Until recently, some longtime residents still remembered when the two Arthur brothers were tied to a flagpole and set on fire at the city fairgrounds in 1920.
“There were two or three blacks who were actually around during that time, but you couldn’t get them to talk about it,” Ms. Dangerfield said.
She helped set up an exhibit in the county historical museum, the only commemoration of the lynchings she knows of in a town with prominent public memorials to the Confederacy. The prospect of a permanent marker had not occurred to her.
“It would be a fight,” she said. “Someone is going to have some resistance to it. But you know, I think it wouldn’t hurt to try it.”
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A VARIETY of clues to the motives of Dylann Storm Roof, the suspect in last week’s mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., have emerged. First, we saw the patches he wore on his jacket in a Facebook photo: the flags of regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia that brutally enforced white minority rule.
Then, a further cache of photos of Mr. Roof — seen in several bearing a Confederate flag — was discovered on a website, Last Rhodesian, registered in his name, together with a manifesto, a hodgepodge of white supremacist ideas. The author (most likely Mr. Roof) calls on whites to take “drastic action” to regain dominance in America and Europe.
These themes, popular among white supremacists in the United States, are also signs of the growing globalization of white nationalism. When we think of the Islamist terrorism of groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, we recognize their international dimension. When it comes to far-right domestic terrorism, we don’t.
Americans tend to view attacks like the mass murder in Charleston as isolated hate crimes, the work of a deranged racist or group of zealots lashing out in anger, unconnected to a broader movement. This view we can no longer afford to indulge.
When, according to survivors, Mr. Roof told the victims at the prayer meeting that black people were “taking over the country,” he was expressing sentiments that unite white nationalists from the United States and Canada to Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Unlike those of the civil rights era, whose main goal was to maintain Jim Crow in the American South, today’s white supremacists don’t see borders; they see a white tribe under attack by people of color across the globe.
The end of white rule in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, they believe, foreshadowed an apocalyptic future for all white people: a “white genocide” that must be stopped before it’s too late. To support this view, they cite the murders ofwhite farmers in South Africa since the end of apartheid.
In recent years, extremists have distilled the notion of white genocide to “the mantra,” parts of which show up on billboards throughout the South, as well as in Internet chat rooms. It proclaims “Diversity = White Genocide” and “Diversity Means Chasing Down the Last White Person,” blaming multiculturalism for undermining the “white race.” The white nationalist American Freedom Party has made the mantra’s author, a segregationist from South Carolina named Robert Whitaker, its vice-presidential candidate in 2016.
White supremacists across the country, some displaying the apartheid South African flag, have participated in “White Man Marches” to raise awareness of the so-called white genocide. A neo-Confederate group, the League of the South, also uses the white genocide argument to call for laws against interracial marriage.
White nationalist leaders are traveling abroad to strengthen their international networks. At the Southern Poverty Law Center, we have documented more than 30 instances in the past two years. In 2013, Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, a group that publishes pseudo-academic articles purporting to show the inferiority of black people, addressed groups of white nationalists in Britain and France on their common cause. “The fight in Europe is exactly the same as ours,” he said.
The movement is bound to produce more violence, not necessarily from organized groups but from lone wolves like Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed more than 70 people in his country in 2011 because he wanted “to save Europe from Islam.” Mr. Breivik had ties to American white nationalists as a registered user of Stormfront, a web forum founded by a former Ku Klux Klan leader that has more than 300,000 members (about two-thirds are American).
Europe has also seen the rise of a powerful, far-right political movement that rejects multiculturalism. The anti-Semitic Jobbik Party in Hungary and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn in Greece are prime examples. In Germany, there has been a series of murders by neo-Nazis. Britain, too, is experiencing an upswing of nationalist, anti-immigrant politics.
This month, S.P.L.C. staffers will join activists from the United States and Europe at a conference in Budapest about this transnational white supremacism that is emerging as the world grows more connected by technology. The message of white genocide is spreading. White nationalists look beyond borders for confirmation that their race is under attack, and they share their ideas in the echo chamber of racist websites.
The days of thinking of domestic terrorism as the work of a few Klansmen or belligerent skinheads are over. We know Islamic terrorists are thinking globally, and we confront that threat. We’ve been too slow to realize that white supremacists are doing the same.
America is a much less racist nation than it used to be, and I’m not just talking about the still remarkable fact that an African-American occupies the White House. The raw institutional racism that prevailed before the civil rights movement ended Jim Crow is gone, although subtler discrimination persists. Individual attitudes have changed, too, dramatically in some cases. For example, as recently as the 1980s half of Americans opposed interracial marriage, a position now held by only a tiny minority.
Yet racial hatred is still a potent force in our society, as we’ve just been reminded to our horror. And I’m sorry to say this, but the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy, the reason America is unique among advanced nations in its harsh treatment of the less fortunate and its willingness to tolerate unnecessary suffering among its citizens.
Of course, saying this brings angry denials from many conservatives, so let me try to be cool and careful here, and cite some of the overwhelming evidence for the continuing centrality of race in our national politics.
My own understanding of the role of race in U.S. exceptionalism was largely shaped by two academic papers.
The first, by the political scientist Larry Bartels, analyzed the move of the white working class away from Democrats, a move made famous in Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Mr. Frank argued that working-class whites were being induced to vote against their own interests by the right’s exploitation of cultural issues. But Mr. Bartels showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon — it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy.
And this party-switching, in turn, was what drove the rightward swing of American politics after 1980. Race made Reaganism possible. And to this day Southern whites overwhelmingly vote Republican, to the tune of 85 or even 90 percent in the deep South.
The second paper, by the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote, was titled “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State?” Its authors — who are not, by the way, especially liberal — explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: “Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”
Now, that paper was published in 2001, and you might wonder if things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the answer is that they haven’t, as you can see by looking at how states are implementing — or refusing to implement — Obamacare.
For those who haven’t been following this issue, in 2012 the Supreme Court gave individual states the option, if they so chose, of blocking the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, a key part of the plan to provide health insurance to lower-income Americans. But why would any state choose to exercise that option? After all, states were being offered a federally-funded program that would provide major benefits to millions of their citizens, pour billions into their economies, and help support their health-care providers. Who would turn down such an offer?
The answer is, 22 states at this point, although some may eventually change their minds. And what do these states have in common? Mainly, a history of slaveholding: Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 percent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War.
And it’s not just health reform: a history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.
So will it always be thus? Is America doomed to live forever politically in the shadow of slavery?
I’d like to think not. For one thing, our country is growing more ethnically diverse, and the old black-white polarity is slowly becoming outdated. For another, as I said, we really have become much less racist, and in general a much more tolerant society on many fronts. Over time, we should expect to see the influence of dog-whistle politics decline.
But that hasn’t happened yet. Every once in a while you hear a chorus of voices declaring that race is no longer a problem in America. That’s wishful thinking; we are still haunted by our nation’s original sin.