America and I especially mean white America has always been quite comfortable with racism. There is now a dichotomy where the worst thing in the world is to be “called” racist. However being racist is not much of a problem.
It struck me while listening to all the Senators explaining their support for Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General. To a person they remarked on their personal relationship. They consider him a “good friend.” They point to a couple meaningless votes where he joined the majority and his name on a couple documents where he played no significant role as proof he’s no racist. They ignored a lifetime of support for Voter Suppression and persecution of immigrants and minorities. They praise his work to reduce the inequity of Crack Cocaine sentences vs. Powder (used mainly by white people) down to a mere 18:1. Instead of praising the improvement. Why not decry why minorities receive sentences 18 times the length of whites for the same approximate offense?
Jeff Sessions is just an obvious example. America has given us a President who had rental applications for properties he owned marked “C” for colored so that he could discriminate. Working alongside his father Fred who was in the Klan, he implemented these policies whether or not they were his idea. He’s discriminated or promoted hate against Black people, Mexicans, Asians, other Hispanics and Native Americans. He calls Elizabeth Warren, “Pocahontas.” He’s winking to white people while calling a Muslim ban by another name. White America knows who and what Trump is… and doesn’t care.
Trump has given us Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, and placed him next door to the Oval Office. He gave us Jeff Session and put him in charge of law enforcement. Ready to restore “Stop & Frisk” and crack down on the “inner-cities.” Sessions is bringing us his friend Chuck Cooper as Solicitor General. Cooper defended laws blocking same sex marriage in California and Bob Jones University’s right to block interracial dating. White America knows who these people are… and doesn’t care.
It has always been acceptable to be racist in America. Racism has always occupied high places of power. Racists have been your Mayor’s, your Sheriff’s, your Governor’s and your President’s. Even Abraham Lincoln who personally opposed slavery was perfectly content to let it exist. The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to those states seceding from the Union and didn’t apply to Kentucky and Missouri. It wasn’t about freeing the slaves but about keeping Britain and France from joining with the South. It was a strategy to win a war. Freed slaves was just a byproduct.
The Supreme Court has always protected the rich and the white. Always! It gave us Dred Scott and Ferguson vs. Plessy. It weakened Brown vs. Board of Education with its “all deliberate speed” clause. Should you think those examples are too long ago. They gave us Citizens United and gutted the Voter Rights Act. As little as Congress has historically done to foster equality. The Supreme Court has often come behind to weaken what was legislated. There has never been a Civil Rights Act or Voter Rights Act that was not ultimately diluted by the Supreme Court.
The reason white people are able to be so comfortable with racism in their midst and in the seats of power is because there is no penalty. The “Southern Strategy” is odious but it has elected the last few Republican Presidents. Our purported allies in the struggle for equality are at best “changeable.” White women are more than willing to seek minority help for their causes yet they are there for us on a case by case basis. Women’s Suffrage wanted Ida B Wells on their side but they weren’t on hers. White women decried Trump’s misogyny but voted for him anyway. I can offer no explanation other than their whiteness was a bigger factor than their disgust. Now, after the fact they’re outraged. Hopefully not too little too late but definitely late.
The way to change the comfort level white America has with racism is to make the price of such comfort too high. The one thing elected officials respond to is their fear of being voted out. Because of gerrymandering, too many people have “safe seats” where there is disincentive to take a stand against racism. Hopefully the Obama/Holder effort to fight gerrymandering will have some effect. Despite that, voter turnout in America is so low that no seat need be safe if a concerted effort is directed. We must call out the friends of racists who offer cover and support. If their actions allow for the continuation of racism, they must become targets as well.
The demographic make-up of this country is reaching a critical mass if you are white. Those in power are using every means to hold it. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, Citizen’s United, propaganda campaigns to keep you from voting. Something given little notice is the rate at which they are arming themselves, forming new right wing militias and advocating guns everywhere. The people promoting this are the same ones promoting the rest. Don’t assume it to be unrelated.
What is clear is that racism will not go away on its own. Instead the fear of a large portion of white America has propelled it to the heights of power. We must respond, and the penalty must be severe.
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