The Supreme Court: The Ultimate Protector of White Exceptionalism

” The Supreme Court has never met a Civil Rights Act it didn’t ultimately weaken or reject.”

 

 

In the last few days, we’ve seen a Federal Judge uphold the highly restrictive Voter ID laws in North Carolina and the Supreme Court let stand (for now) the restrictive Texas laws that were implemented the day after the Supreme Court gutted the Voter Rights Act of 1965.

I’m in the process of writing a book on-line about “The History of American (White) Exceptionalism” and what I learned that I didn’t know before was that the courts and most importantly the Supreme Court, has always done its best to protect white privilege at the expense of minorities. Congress passed a Civil Rights Act in 1866 which the Supreme Court later found unconstitutional. Another Civil Rights Act in 1871, again gutted by the Supreme Court. The Civil Rights Act of 1875… partially unconstitutional according to the Supreme Court. During 100 years of Jim Crow, the Supreme Court said nothing. They tempered Brown vs. the Board of Education with requiring implementation, “at all deliberate speed”. Meaning states could take as long as they want, which most of them did. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had no enforcement teeth but did provide the framework for the Voter Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Supreme Court gutted the preventative portions of the 1965 Act and instead will wait until several elections are influenced by restrictive laws and perhaps then take a second look. The Supreme Court has never met a Civil Rights Act it didn’t ultimately weaken or reject.

The Supreme Court gave us Citizens United allowing unlimited anonymous corporate donations to influence our elections. Reworded, white businessmen will be able to influence elections far beyond their individual votes possibly could. Add to this redistricting and gerrymandering designed to give white people greater representation and control of state government and we have a mechanism for the white power structure to continue to reign long past its demographic decline would suggest.

It’s clear that the Supreme Court does not protect the interests of all Americans. Until its membership reflects the citizenry it will continue to mainly serve those that placed them there. The Court’s reliance on precedent gives them liberty to continue to do what they have always done which is to serve white people, with corporations and the rich at the top of the hierarchy. It’s time to consider televised proceedings, term and/or age limits and a selection process where approval is not dependent on the almost all-white Senate.

The History of American (White) Exceptionalism: Chapter Eight

The period of Jim Crow was neither brief nor just a phase. It was how White Exceptionalism manifested itself between 1865 and 1964. Before that, it was called something else and afterwards new names have not yet stuck but it exists all the same. The Supreme Court has recently done what the Supreme Court has always done which is to weaken the rights of blacks and other minorities to preserve the power of white America despite its decreasing representation in the population.

Chapter Eight: The History of American (White) Exceptionalism

“As a southerner born after the epic events of the civil rights movement, I’ve always wondered how on earth people of good will could have conceivably lived with Jim Crow – with the daily degradations, the lynchings in plain sight, and, as the movement gathered force, with the fire hoses and the police dogs and the billy clubs”.  Jon Meacham

Jim Crow laws existed as a means to come as close to maintaining the status of blacks in America as slaves as could be done both legally, and outside the law. To be clear, Jim Crow has not been eliminated, it has merely adapted so as to be more palatable to the part of society that needs that system in place to maintain its own status. Michelle Alexander wrote a heavily acclaimed book, “The New Jim Crow” in which she describes how systemic are the policies destructive to black people.

The doors were initially opened when the Supreme Court found the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was not Constitutional. The act forbade discrimination in hotels, trains, and other public places. When it was struck down, it guaranteed discrimination could and would take place and the law would say nothing. The efforts of the current Roberts court to water down Civil Rights is but another cycle of white protectionism that the Court has always moved toward “with all deliberate speed” despite occasional lapses where it did the right thing.

Jim Crow did not begin immediately after the end of the Civil War. The end of slavery begat the Black Codes which begat Jim Crow which begat the current system which includes redistricting designed to maintain white strongholds, gerrymandering, mass incarceration and voter suppression. Throughout history as one system was outlawed it was replaced by one that accomplished as much of the same as before as it could, just sounding better. The Black Codes were simply revisions of the Slave Codes. Establishing protections for the masters and defining the lack of rights of the slaves. The Black Codes prohibited free black people from voting, compelled them to work for low wages. Black people could not bear arms and were sometimes prohibited from pursuing an education. The true intent of the Black Codes was to duplicate slavery and limit the influence of black people, particularly in areas where they were in the majority. The forces that during the war supported black people were the very enforcers of the “new” codes that maintained the old status quo. The U.S. Army enforced the rules and the Freedman’s Bureau helped implement them. The white agenda was to get the Southern economy jump started and to maintain the cheap labor that gave them an advantage in the first place. The war was all about slavery and the inherent economic advantages enjoyed by the South but was never about freeing the slaves.

The Republican Congress reacted to the Black Codes with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, ratification of the 14th Amendment and a Second Freedmen’s Bureau Bill. While blacks were still subject to all manner of persecution. There were also gains. During Reconstruction, blacks were elected to Congress and Mississippi sent a Senator to Washington as well. There was the hope of steady progress until The Compromise of 1877 which led to Federal troops withdrawing from the South. Southern states immediately began implementing new laws, designed to protect white interests by limiting black ones.

You could easily be confused by references to the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which was destroyed by the Supreme Court. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 which protected blacks from the violence of the KKK  became unenforceable when the troops left in 1877 and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which was ruled partially unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. All you need to know is that for every law protecting the lives and rights of black people, the Supreme Court has been there to void them. This is as true today as in the period just after slavery. Another thing to know is that Jim Crow laws were not merely the immediate byproduct of the end of Reconstruction but were the laws that governed black people in the South until 1964 and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Civil Rights Act was in some ways an attempt to restore rights granted in previous Acts that the Supreme Court ultimately wiped away. It would not be unreasonable at all to state that historically, the Supreme Court has done more to preserve white privilege than any other institution in America.

The period of Jim Crow was neither brief nor just a phase. It was how White Exceptionalism manifested itself between 1865 and 1964. Before that, it was called something else and afterwards new names have not yet stuck but it exists all the same. The Supreme Court has recently done what the Supreme Court has always done which is to weaken the rights of blacks and other minorities to preserve the power of white America despite its decreasing representation in the population.

A Black Man’s View of “Lemonade”

“Becoming a strong, faithful black man is about unlearning the messages received since youth regarding measuring your manhood in conquest. It’s about giving yourself permission to turn down a pretty woman because the value fleeting and the cost great. It’s about recognizing that it’s not what you once thought, “it was something you did for yourself and not to your lover” but now knowing it is something you did to your lover. Whether or not you got caught. Growth comes, manhood comes, when you accept the values of friendship, monogamy and mutual respect in place of those you held before. It comes from vulnerability and walking in truth, sharing your pain and weaknesses rather than hiding them and holding them in.”

 

 

I’m supposed to be writing something else today. Perhaps I still will but not before I exorcise myself of the “Lemonade” demons infiltrating my thoughts. Much has been written that Lemonade is of and for black women and white people, particularly white men and presumptively black men should just sit this one out and let black women have their day. I would do that, but for the demons that won’t let me move on.

Rightly or wrongly I read many of the reviews of Lemonade, some from total strangers and others from women I know (or at least follow) and respect in an Internet kind of way like Awesomelyluvvie and Ijeoma Oluo along with a Very Smart Brotha  Damon Young. So I viewed Lemonade with an expectation of what I’d find and for the first twenty minutes or so I was impressed with the visuals, understanding of the message and trying to see the many things that a black woman might identify with. I didn’t expect to feel all the things I felt as a black man and father, imperfect at both. I won’t even attempt to describe what Lemonade means to black women. Perhaps I shouldn’t attempt to describe it as a black man, but the demons…

Some of my “black man view” is generational. I’m four years younger than Matthew Knowles who I played with on the same college basketball team for a year at Fisk University. The Matthew in the video playing with young daughter Beyoncé is the one I know rather than the music mogul he became. I’m 14 years older than Jay-Z who has faced different pressures than I because of his wealth and fame. That which faces black men in their teens, twenties and thirties may vary but there will be commonalities that we all have to deal with. Side chicks have always existed. One difference is that today it seems more acceptable for side chicks to operate openly instead of behind the scenes, sometimes glorified in urban literature. I’m not absolving black men. Sometimes the attention you get is in direct ratio to the signals you’re sending.

Becoming a strong, faithful black man is about unlearning the messages received since youth regarding measuring your manhood in conquest. It’s about giving yourself permission to turn down a pretty woman because the value fleeting and the cost great. It’s about recognizing that it’s not what you once thought, “it was something you did for yourself and not to your lover” but now knowing it is something you did to your lover. Whether or not you got caught. Growth comes, manhood comes, when you accept the values of friendship, monogamy and mutual respect in place of those you held before. It comes from vulnerability and walking in truth, sharing your pain and weaknesses rather than hiding them and holding them in. Black men are taught to be stoic and proud and those protections may indeed be their downfall until they learn to let others in. Sometimes their defense mechanism instead of sharing with the one you love is trying to maintain the respect of your lover and escaping with another. The end result is destruction, the only variable is degree.

Lemonade also spoke on fatherhood. There is no greater feeling than being perfect in the eyes of your little girl (or son). Perhaps no greater loss when she discovers your flaws and failings and your fear she’ll never see you the same way again. If lucky, you’ll find that the love was strong enough that it will even exceed what existed before. I pray for Matthew and Beyoncé, perhaps because I recognize it could have been me.

Lemonade is powerful. Both poetry and pain. It’s  universal and individual and will require further watching and listening to peel back the layers. Maybe one day I’ll watch it and merely be entertained. The demons are quieted, for now, perhaps gone. Besides all the messages for black women which I may never be qualified to describe. There are those for black men also, deserving discussion as well.

Today I Am A Dinosaur Fairy

 

 

Yesterday I was a princess

The day before a pirate

Today I am a dinosaur fairy

 

I build robots

The teachers need my help sometimes

The cheerleaders need me too

I’m three years’ old

 

Tomorrow is too far away to decide what I’ll be

I can be anything I can imagine

Today I am a dinosaur fairy

 

 

The History of American (White) Exceptionalism: Chapter Seven

“Right now I’m thinking a good deal about emancipation. One of our sins was slavery, another was emancipation. It’s a paradox. In theory, emancipation was one of the glories of our democracy – and it was. But the way it was done led to tragedy, turning four million people loose with no jobs or trades or learning. And then in 1877 for a few electoral votes, just abandoning them entirely. A huge amount of pain and trouble resulted. Everybody in America is still paying for it.”

The History of American (White) Exceptionalism: Chapter Seven

 

“Right now I’m thinking a good deal about emancipation. One of our sins was slavery, another was emancipation. It’s a paradox. In theory, emancipation was one of the glories of our democracy – and it was. But the way it was done led to tragedy, turning four million people loose with no jobs or trades or learning. And then in 1877 for a few electoral votes, just abandoning them entirely. A huge amount of pain and trouble resulted. Everybody in America is still paying for it.”
― Shelby Foote

 Emancipation loosely translated means Freedom. In terms of how emancipation of American slaves was arrived at and implemented things are less clear. Emancipation was a strategy. Its purpose was to keep France and England out of the war and from establishing direct ties to the Confederate States of America. It was a plan to reduce the strength of the South and its economy by enticing the people that were literally feeding the Southern troops to escape to the North and even take up arms against their former masters. It was a direct attack on the economic advantage which gave the South its strength. All the moral arguments that the war was fought to free the slaves are dismissed when we note that no slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation outside of the rebellious states.

Emancipation was about politics. Lincoln had to maintain an alliance between his Republican Party  (not to be confused with the Republican Party of the present) and Democrats (again not to be confused with Democrats today) who generally had no issue with or strongly supported slavery. Once the war ended there was the real possibility that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which was only an unchallenged Executive Order, would be reversed either by the Courts or by Congress which created the push to pass the 13th Amendment. It is interesting to note that Lincoln paid reparations to Washington D.C. slave owners of $300 per freed slave for their loyalty to the Union and offered $100 for each slave emigrating outside the United States. The 13th Amendment although easily passed by the Senate had trouble in the House and only thru selective pressures and enticements were enough Democrats persuaded to either abstain or vote for the measure and allow for passage just before the end of the Civil War. After the war, Southern states had to accept the 13th Amendment as a condition of re-admittance to the Union. The Union states that had to end slavery were Kentucky and Delaware finally ending slavery and most indentured servitude in the United States. Three years later came the 14th Amendment whose purpose was to ensure the Civil Rights of the former slaves. It took another twelve years for passage of the 15th Amendment guaranteeing the right of blacks to vote. That guarantee has shown great flexibility from its passage in 1870 until the present when literacy tests and poll taxes and lynchings have been replaced by redistricting, gerrymandering, different poll taxes, unequal access to polling locations and selectively restrictive voter suppression laws. Progress was being made however and we entered the age of Reconstruction.

There were two forces conspiring to help the freed slaves once denied the right to read under penalty of death in some cases, to get an education. In 1862, prior to the war, the Morrill Act was passed granting land to colleges which they could sell to finance educational activities. The early recipients of this funding were primarily state schools although Yale once held that designation. The schools were focused on practical skills like agriculture and military science as opposed to liberal arts. In 1890, a second Morrill Act was passed aimed at the former Confederate State which required then to demonstrate that race was not a criterion for admission. It was this act which gave us some of the larger predominantly black state schools in the South like Tennessee State (formerly Tennessee A&I), Alabama A&M and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical (FAMU) as legislators preferred to establish separate black institutions rather than integrate.

Well before the war in 1846, the American Missionary Association was formed with the purpose of abolishing slavery, educating blacks, promoting Christian values and promoting racial equality. They began forming camps in the South even prior to the war which included teachers and after war’s end formed over 500 schools and colleges for the freedmen including Fisk University, Hampton Institute, Lemoyne-Owen College, Dillard University and Howard University. The AMA has been mostly absorbed by the United Church of Christ which maintains some ties to those institutions until today.

On the political front. After the war, Lincoln was interested in reintegrating the South into the Union as quickly as possible. His moderate view would have left the South much as it was before the war but it was radical Republicans who insisted on rights for the freedmen and harsher punishments for the slave-holders and Confederate leaders. Lincoln’s assassination led to the ascension of Andrew Johnson who continued Lincoln’s moderate policies. The next Congressional elections saw a takeover by the radical Republicans (think of the Tea Party if they were motivated for good) who took over policy, removed former Confederates from power and enfranchised the freedmen. They were backed up by the U.S. Army and the Freedmen’s Bureau to assist the freedmen with their assimilation. Thousands of northerner’s, including teachers and missionaries, came South to assist in the effort. Named “carpetbaggers” they soon found the resistance to change from their Southern neighbors. Meanwhile, Congress passed bills to lengthen the term of the Freedmen’s Bureau and establish Civil Rights which Andrew Johnson vetoed. Congress overrode the veto making the bills law. They also impeached Johnson and the vote to remove him failed by one vote in the Senate. The relationship between the President and Congress was never repaired.

The next President, Ulysses Grant was in favor of the radical reconstruction policies and real change was being made. Most of the Confederate governments in the CFA states were dissolved and new districts formed and elections held. Many of these districts had majority black populations and in alliance with the Republican Party, there were numerous blacks elected to the House and Mississippi was the first state to elect a black Senator to represent them. In the North, support for reconstruction was dwindling as they thought the war over and the slaves free. In the South, the backlash was building and we saw significant growth of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and implementation of literacy tests, poll taxes and violence as a way to limit the power of the black vote to influence elections. Then came the Presidential Election of 1876.

Think Bush v. Gore on steroids. Democrat Samuel J. Tilden of New York won the popular election and over 50% of the vote. There was a dispute however in the Electoral College which Tilden led 184 to 165 over Republican Rutherford B. Hayes with 20 disputed outstanding votes. In three Southern states, both parties claimed their candidate had won. After negotiations between Republican and Democratic factions, all 20 outstanding votes were awarded to Hayes giving him the Electoral College victory and the Presidency by a single vote. You might ask why Democrats would cede the Presidency given they had the clear advantage of having the better claim having won the popular vote? It’s because they got perhaps more in negotiation than they could ever have gotten thru Congress. In the Compromise of 1877, all Federal troops were removed from the South with President Hayes completing the process shortly after the election. The South was given economic assistance to pick itself back up from the war and sympathetic Northerners soon made their way back home with no military support. Black voters were discouraged by a number of means up to and including violence. Black legislators felt betrayed and in the next elections they were relegated to things of the past. Democrats took control of the South. This would last until the 1960’s when with the passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1965, sent whites scurrying to the Republican Party and as Lyndon Johnson famously quoted about hid Democratic Party, “We have lost the South for a generation”. Thus began the transformation of the Republican Party from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Trump and Cruz.

Just as Emancipation was in reality a matter of practicality and expediency. The era of black political freedom was negotiated away when convenient. For every law passed to provide rights, another was passed to dilute them. America has always been about the needs of powerful white men who as the victors were allowed to write the history to their own liking.

She Tried to Get Up

A woman was in her home last Saturday evening. In recent years, she tended to other people’s children during the day in addition to two of her own. One of those other children was my granddaughter.

The woman loved all the children she cared for. She spent more than she should, buying gifts and treats, making sure they knew they were appreciated. They loved her back. My granddaughter was introduced to her as Miss Tanya. After a time, she took to calling her “My Tanya” as if she were hers alone.

Tanya’s middle child is twelve years old. She was in the kitchen with her mother last Saturday when bullets rang out in her neighborhood. One person was pronounced dead on the scene. Four others suffered superficial wounds. Tanya was struck by a bullet in her head and fell to the ground in front of her daughter.

Tanya Skeen was rushed to the hospital and was listed in critical condition. She was sedated because she kept trying to get up. She had children to raise. She tried to get up. She had meals to prepare. She tried to get up. She had a life to lead. She tried to get up. After five days in intensive care, she could rise no more. Tanya Skeen passed away.

The time will come to tell my granddaughter what happened to her Tanya. An inquisitive child she will ask why? She will ask who will take care of the youngest children. She will learn a lesson about this world we were not yet prepared for her to learn.

I hope to tell her that people helped. I hope to tell her that strangers reached out in this family’s time of need and did what they could. I hope that something positive can be salvaged from this tragic incident. Please go to the GoFundMe account at  https://www.gofundme.com/28bcpg8s  and do what you can. Lastly, share this with others that they might do the same.

 

My Prince Connection

 

 

I thought I was the biggest Prince fan ever. I found out I wasn’t even close. The last Prince concert I attended was at an arena in Tampa, FL. Because I was a member of the NPG Club I was able to purchase better seats and found myself on the floor about 10 rows back from the stage, surrounded by other NPG Club members who were able to buy seats there. These people, mostly white, stood for the entire show. Sang along to every song which they knew every word of. Now I knew all his hits. I had, “The Black Album” and “The Vault” which included some pretty obscure Prince songs. In a long set he played a couple songs I’d never heard before and those people didn’t flinch, they might have sung harder as if to prove they knew Prince better than I did. I got over it but knew there were bigger fans out there than me.

What can’t be taken from me is all the memories associated with his music and the connections with people underscored by his songs. Prince was a road trip from Tampa to Miami in the middle of the night thru Alligator Alley. Pitch black with only the headlights, 4:30 in the morning. Nobody sleeping because… Prince. Riding in the car with my youngest daughter, playing “Dirty Minds” at the highest volume, rocking out, causing other drivers to stare, and us not caring. The dance music; put your foot down on the two, jump up on the one, now you’re having fun. The introspection, the romance, the sex.

Did I mention we’re from the same town? Him North side me South. He was a few years younger and our paths seldom crossed. Once while his fame was still building I ran across him in a club, he appeared to want to be left alone and I did so. Another time in a restaurant, again no words were spoken. We have friends in common, I could have met him, but his music was enough for me. Fortunately, there is so much that remains that the loss will be bearable. I think. Miss you Prince