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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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Senator Who Fought KKK Says Trump Encourages Violence Against LGBTQ

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones says the hatred promoted by Trump and Mike Pence is giving a “green light” to violent bigots to commit hate crimes.

In an interview with Newsweek published Tuesday, the Democratic senator was asked about his February tweet that praised actress Ellen Page for passionately condemning Pence and the Trump administration for their anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

Jones was asked if he worries about “the Trump administration inciting hatred and violence against the LGBTQ community.”

“Yes,” Jones replied. “I do think sometimes people get so caught up in their own zealousness about an issue that they forget how much words matter. They have a pulpit by which people can take things the wrong way, and there’s a lot of people out there looking toward them for a green light to do bad things.”

He added that he does not believe Trump officials are “intentionally trying to incite violence.” But, he said, “I do believe that some of their words unintentionally can give a green light to people, and that’s what we’ve got to be careful of.”

Before he was elected to office, Jones led the successful prosecution of Ku Klux Klan members who planted a bomb that killed four black girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, nearly 40 years after they committed the crime.

Jones understands how violent bigotry works, and he is correct that it doesn’t matter whether Trump officials intend to incite violence. They are still doing it — and are still refusing to change course despite mounting evidence that their actions are causing harm.

Since Trump’s election, the FBI has found that reports of hate crimes have increased in America. Despite this data and the moral crisis it has provoked, Trump’s fellow Republicans have largely chosen inaction on hate crimes legislation.

Trump has also refused to stop calling journalists the “enemies of the people,” despite evidence that his words have specifically incited violence and attempted violence against journalists. He continues to spread dangerous lies about Democrats supporting “infanticide,” despite America’s decades-long history of violent anti-abortion terrorism. And he has only reluctantly condemned white supremacy, despite a recent surge of white supremacist terrorism.

Specifically on the issue of LGBTQ equality, Trump and Pence have been trying to turn the clock back. The administration is currently trying to overturn the right of transgender service members to wear the military uniform, after President Barack Obama changed policy to allow equal service.

Trump is also plotting to manipulate federal law so that LGBTQ people are no longer protected by anti-discrimination laws.

These actions are a clear attempt to hold on to the loyalty of anti-LGBTQ voters, who support the Trump presidency in part thanks to Mike Pence, a long-time homophobe.

Trump and Pence have embraced hate and even made it official government policy. Violent bigots have taken their words to heart, and hurt and killed innocent Americans.

And Jones is calling them out for the harm they are causing every day.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

Alabama Newspaper Calls For Ku Klux Klan ‘To Night Ride Again’

On February 14, the Democrat-Reporter, a local newspaper in Linden, Alabama, ran a hideous editorial calling for the return of the KKK. On Monday, publisher Goodloe Sutton confirmed that he was the author of the racist screed, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” wrote Sutton. “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama … this socialist-communist idealogy [sic] sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple minded people.”

“Slaves, just freed after the civil war, were not stupid. At times, they borrowed their former masters’ robes and horses and rode through the night to frighten some evil doer. Sometimes they had to kill one or two of them, but so what,” continued Sutton. “Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there. They call them compounds now. Truly, they are the ruling class.”

When confronted by the Advertiser, Sutton was completely remorseless and actually doubled down, suggesting the KKK should start lynching people again.

“If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we’d all been better off,” said Sutton. “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.” The population of Washington, D.C. is 48 percent African-American.

It’s not bad to lynch people in D.C., said Sutton, because “these are socialist-communists we’re talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?” The KKK, he added, “didn’t kill but a few people” and “wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”

Sutton depicts the Klan as if they were just a bunch of economic populists sticking it to the man, supported by former slaves. In fact, they were quite the opposite  a racial terrorist organization founded in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War to intimidate newly freed slaves trying to exercise their civil rights.

The KKK existed in three “phases”. The first KKK in the 1860s was a paramilitary group in the South that enforced white supremacy with murders and assaults; the second KKK in the 1920s was a political movement of millions across the whole country that rallied to oppose (and often turned violent against) anything that wasn’t traditional, white, Protestant dominance of American culture; and the third KKK in the 1960s arose to oppose the civil rights movement, and relied on firebombings of black churches and the homes of activists to spread fear. The KKK continues to this day, albeit as a few thousand scattered members of disjointed, often opposed groups.

American society had supposedly moved, if certainly not beyond racism itself, then at least beyond the expression of overt support for white supremacy. Unfortunately, as Sutton demonstrates, some people yearn for the days when racial terrorism was a constant and ever-present force.

Oust Ralph Northam? Most Black Voters In Virginia Wouldn’t

 I have long loved the Commonwealth of Virginia, and everything else being equal might have chosen to live there. The sheer beauty of the state’s pastoral and mountainous landscapes soothed a New Jersey boy’s heart. Walking across the University of Virginia campus along the white-pillared porticoes on The Lawn afforded me a glimpse of an ordered life I’d hardly dared imagine.

And then I met this Arkansas girl at a reception in one of Thomas Jefferson’s serpentine-walled gardens, and never looked back. We went to hear Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys at a high school gym in the Nelson County boondocks. The music, see, bluegrass and blues, had drawn me southward. It would be years before the Arkansas girl confessed that she’d never really liked either one.

But I digress. “Mr. Jefferson’s academical village,” as it’s called, stands as a sort of eighteenth century theme park—a monument to a serene life its creator idealized but never lived. As a slave owner who wrote the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was one of the great men of the age; also among history’s great hypocrites.

Yet today, his white and African-American descendants—cousins all—meet yearly to acknowledge and celebrate their mutual heritage.

That’s Virginia.

So no, it’s not astonishing to me that a Washington Post poll reveals that Virginia’s African-American voters favor giving Gov. Ralph Northam the benefit of the doubt by 58 to 37 percent. They’ve been dealing with history’s brutal ironies for 400 years. Virginians overall are evenly divided at 47-47 percent about whether Northam should be forced to resign in the wake of that dreadful blackface/KKK photo in his medical school yearbook.

As an historical artifact, the offending photo is both sickening and absurd. Sickening in the unspoken assumption behind “blackface”: that African-Americans are essentially clownish and inferior, figures of fun. Also in the understanding that the Ku Klux Klan in their hoods and robes are an equally comical lot, socially inferior to very clever medical students playing dress-up at a Halloween party.

Absurd too in that as recently as 1984, intelligent white people would not only think it appropriate to wear such demeaning costumes, but to publish the photos memorializing the event. Amazing.

However, it was also amazing to me, as a Virginia grad student at the same age Northam was when the offending photo was taken, that just south of the James River, Prince Edward County closed down its public schools altogether rather than integrate. “Massive resistance,” they called it, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch was all for it. Most white Virginians were.

The way I saw things, it was a bit like living in a foreign country: not my responsibility. I do recall once making a remark in a class on Southern literature to the effect that I was getting tired of lamentations for the Confederacy. A high school teacher in the front fixed me with a glare.

“Ever since the war,” she began, “and there was only one war…”

She pronounced it “woe-ah.”

OK, enough nostalgia. The point is that Virginia has been a very different place within living memory. Actually, several different places, and the Eastern Shore, where Gov. Northam grew up on a farm outside the rural community of Onancock has never been a hotbed of social justice. Separated from mainland Virginia by the Chesapeake Bay, it struck visiting reporters from the Post last week as “a place apart from the rest of Virginia, yet a place where the history of black and white is as painfully enduring as anywhere.”

But, see, there’s also this other yearbook photo of Ralph Northam, depicting him as one of two white players on the Onancock High School basketball team. When the local schools integrated during his sixth grade year, Northam’s family disdained the private seg academies that sprung up. Nobody there depicts him as either a saint or an ogre, but neither does anybody recall his using racial slurs—ever in his life.

No rebel flag for him, he once told a friend: Because that war is over.”

“Friends, neighbors and schoolmates—liberal and conservative, black and white,” the Post reported, “rallied around Northam last week, not simply because he is from their town, but because they believe he is not what his yearbook page implies.”

For the past 13 years, Northam and his family have attended a black-majority Baptist church down the highway in Capeville, VA. A pediatric neurologist who long volunteered at a children’s hospice in Portsmouth, Northam ran for governor on a platform of racial reconciliation and Medicaid expansion, issues that earned him 87 percent of the African-American vote.

Northam made an ugly mistake 35 years ago, and he’s made a downright hash of explaining himself. Even so, it would be heartening to see a seemingly decent man survive one of these made-for-TV festivals of recrimination that have turned American politics so ugly.

The ‘Lost Cause’ Is Fake History

If your precious “Southern heritage” includes Swastikas, you may as well quit reading right here. But odds are astronomically high that it doesn’t. The vast majority of Southerners are as repelled by those goons as everybody else.

Rebel flags, in comparison, strike me as merely adolescent. Yee haw!

Well, it’s time to grow up.

If that annoys you, answer me this: Since when is Southern history strictly white history anyway?

Most of these Confederate monuments commemorate not so much the South’s glorious history of slavery and rebellion, but the bloody advent of Jim Crow laws between 1895 and 1925 or thereabouts. A time of “race riots”—i.e. black citizens massacred by white mobs across the region from Atlanta (1906) to Elaine, Arkansas (1919) to Tulsa (1921)—and of widespread lynching.

A time when the Klan-glorifying epic Birth of a Nation (1915) was screened at the White House for President Woodrow Wilson.

Ironically, rebel soldier statues were a Yankee industry. A factory in Connecticut manufactured the fool things by the hundreds and shipped them south to stand guard facing north on courthouse squares. A pointed reminder of exactly who was in charge. Specifically, the Ku Klux Klan.

There was nothing subtle about it. Photographs of Charlottesville’s equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee being dedicated in 1924 show that many in attendance wore KKK regalia. Contrary to the art critic in the White House, the statue’s not being destroyed. Plans are to relocate the monument to a park on the outskirts of town—just as Confederate statues taken down at the University of Texas will be placed in a museum, where they belong.

Latter day Confederate sympathizers who feel the need to genuflect to Fake History can visit them there. (Fake horsemanship too. I have a friend indignant about the bronze Gen. Lee’s cruelly over-cranking the bridle, something the real Lee—an excellent rider—would surely never have done.)

But make no mistake: Fake History it is. The treasured myth of the “Lost Cause” of freedom-loving patriots fighting bravely for self-determination and “states’ rights” can’t survive even a cursory reading of secessionist documents.

Here’s Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, arguing that its “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Nobody talks that way anymore except guys with Swastikas. It’s no exaggeration to say that the virulent racism they preach was invented precisely to rationalize the evil of slavery. Nevertheless, that’s what the Civil War, the bloodiest tragedy in American history, was all about. Protecting and defending chattel slavery, a grotesque remnant of human history. There’s nothing to be gained by pretending otherwise.

That said, I think there’s also no point in a struggle to tear down every half-forgotten Confederate memorial across the South. The war’s over and Jim Crow is gone; millions of Americans now living in the region have little interest in this aged feud. Besides, people have a right to their illusions.

As somebody who had no ancestors living in the United States at the time of the Civil War, maybe that’s easy for me to say. However, as an Irish-American who has always thought St. Patrick’s Day was nonsense (especially the vomiting in the gutters part), I’ve no sympathy with tribalized politics of any kind. Certain aspects of everybody’s past, their historical “identity” if you will, are best forgotten. Fighting over symbols gets you nowhere.

Writing in The Guardian, Lincoln biographer Sidney Blumenthal has a good idea. Instead of tearing monuments down, why not build new ones up?

“States and localities,” he suggests, “should establish commissions to build new monuments, statues and memorials, particularly across the South, to commemorate the heroes of the anti-slavery struggle, the unionists during the civil war, advocates for Reconstruction, foes of Jim Crow and champions of the civil rights movement.”

An example of what he means can be found in Arkansas, where I live. Yes, the State Capitol grounds feature the traditional monument to Johnny Reb. But also a striking monument to the Little Rock Nine, a group sculpture depicting the brave African-American students who defied a segregationist mob to enter Little Rock Central High School under the protection of the 101st Airborne in September 1957—Arkansas’ most historically significant event of the 20th century.

People visit the memorial from far and near. To my knowledge nobody finds it controversial.

Cemeteries too are appropriate places to memorialize the Union and Confederate dead. Meanwhile, if it’s history and heritage you want, visit Gettysburg, Vicksburg Memorial National Park, or Appomattox Courthouse among many others. Carefully-preserved Civil War battlefields are scattered across the South: real history, and solemn remembrance.