Archives for category: Racism

You may recall the iconic painting of little Ruby Bridges, a first-grader, who was the first African American student to enroll in a previously all-white segregated school in New Orleans. If you don’t, be sure to read this article, which tells what happened to the William Franz Public School.

Three scholars–Connie L. Schaffer, Martha Graham Viator, and Meg White–tell the story. The three are also the co-authors of a book titled: William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resilience, and Recovery in New Orleans, which I am reading now and expect to review.

They write:

If that building’s walls could talk, they certainly would tell the well-known story of its desegregation. But those same walls could tell another story, too. That story is about continued racism as well as efforts to dismantle and privatize public education in America over the past six decades.

When little Ruby Bridges enrolled in November 1960, she was escorted by four federal marshalls. Crowds of angry whites jeered day after day. Parents of the white children in the school withdrew their children and sent them mostly to private segregated schools.

Racism drove many white families from the neighborhoods near the school and other areas of New Orleans to abandon the city. White enrollment steadily declined throughout New Orleans’ public schools, dropping more than 50% between 1960 and 1980.

By 2005, only 3% of the students enrolled in the city’s public schools were white – far below average for midsize American cities.

Racially segregated, underfunded William Frantz Public School suffered through the imposition of standards and accountability in the 1990s, which did nothing to help the school, but did result in its being labeled a “failing” school. By 2005, the school board voted to close it.

In 2013, the school reopened as Akili Academy, a charter school directed by a private corporation. The authors wonder whether the public school system that Ruby Bridges dared to desegregate, overseen by an elected board, is “a relic of the past.”

Mercedes Schneider reviewed Douglas Harris’s book Charter City in Commonweal. As a teacher in Louisiana and a close observer of the politics of education, Schneider is well positioned to assess the claims on behalf of the all-charter NewOrleans district. Harris is a respected economist who heads the Education Research Alliance at TulaneUniversity, which received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study school choice.

Schneider writes about the determination of whites in Louisiana to block integration of the public schools after the Brown decision. When the courts struck down vouchers, “anti-Black sentiment never waned, and decades of white flight from New Orleans followed. Meanwhile, the state diligently set about eliminating economic advancement opportunities for the remaining Black population, limiting employment and housing options while cutting back drastically on education. Soon enough, the city was bereft of a Black middle class and the tax base needed to fund basic services, including public schools. And so, as one might logically expect, the public education situation in New Orleans became dire.“ She wondered whether Harris would acknowledge this history but he did not.

Harris, the director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans and a professor of economics at Tulane University, focuses instead on data—specifically, on test scores and graduation rates in the years prior to the devastating 2005 storm and in the years that followed, from 2006 to 2015. By his accounting, the numbers went up post-Katrina, which he credits to intervention by the state in the form of charter-school initiatives. Now, data can be compelling, and reformers will often point to metrics like improved test scores to make the case for charter schools. But when I look at the data Harris cites, I think of the audit that’s being conducted at the request of the New Orleans superintendent of schools because of missing test scores and irregularities in high-school transcripts and class credits. I think of the numerous lawsuits calling for the Louisiana Department of Education—which was then run by a champion of the charter reform efforts in New Orleans—to release suspect testing data for independent review. So I can’t say I have confidence in the integrity of the data that Harris has analyzed. 

But that is not my principal concern. What’s more troubling is the narrative Harris spins out about the state takeover itself. That effort was led by Leslie Jacobs, former state school-board member turned businesswoman, who with a handful of other affluent whites form the core of what Harris calls the “reform community.” It was Jacobs who instigated things by drafting legislation that classified most New Orleans schools as “failing.” From there, the reform community—working out of office space provided by Tulane University—moved to sideline the predominantly Black community of New Orleans in its planning. Even as the city’s economy was still reeling from Katrina, the group engineered the mass firing of Orleans Parish School Board teachers. Harris describes the firing as an unfortunate necessity in achieving “reform”—that is, replacing traditional board-led public schools with a portfolio of independently operated charters. But the decision was also motivated by the inconvenient fact that the teachers were unionized, and thus a potential force of resistance. 

She laments the fact that schools have been severed from their communities. Despite the celebration of “choice,” the one choice unavailable to parents is a neighborhood school. When local groups of Black parents have asked if they can apply for a charter, they find that they cannot. Community engagement is important, she says, but it is of no consequence in New Orleans.

Schneider says that the Black citizens of New Orleans have been disenfranchised for decades. The charter takeover of their city’s schools is yet another expression of disrespect for their communities.


John Merrow looks at the deeply partisan divide in our country and thinks about ways that we can communicate with each other.

Three Big Questions:  1) How many of the nearly 73 million Americans who voted for President Donald J. Trump can be persuaded to support President Joe Biden? 2) How can we connect with them?  3) Can we fix our schools so they don’t keep turning out angry and disaffected graduates who eagerly support demagogues?

I suspect that the racists, the white nationalists, the misogynists, and other close-minded bigots who voted for Trump aren’t persuadable, nor are greedy, selfish voters who care only about their finances. 

But, as I see it, that leaves many millions of Trump voters who might be open to change. Let’s not scorn or mock them but rather try to understand their position.

To change the minds of adults who voted for Trump, we have to persuade them that their government works for them. Because actions speak louder than words, I think we need drastic action, a modern-day GI Bill that includes action on at least these four fronts:

Open the link to see what those “four fronts” are.

Do you agree?

The Trump voters in my family are beyond persuasion, but I agree with John that we must do a better job of arming everyone against racism, misogyny, and demagoguery. I once had a conversation with George Lakoff about how to persuade people. We spoke for two hours. He told me that liberals make rational appeals, and conservatives tell stories. The latter works better, he said. Not because they are true but because they persuade on an emotional level.

John Young is a journalist transplanted from Texas to Colorado. He wrote this brilliant column which lucidly explains why so many people were dancing in the streets on Saturday after Biden’s victory was announced.

It begins like this. Open the link to read the dazzling ending.

This is not fake news.

            Donald Trump does not run the country.

            You say he never did. You say the Constitution does. Ah, but he was prepared to show you differently.

            When he was impeached, Republicans in the U.S. Senate told him he could. All but one of them barely flexed an eyebrow over his illegal act of extorting a struggling nation to help him torpedo a campaign rival — that rival who just became president-elect.

            After those proceedings, Trump knew he could get away with anything.

            Oh, yes, Barack Obama was right: The fate of democracy itself was at stake in this election. Democracy won.

            This just in: Vladimir Putin has no more sway over U.S. foreign policy.

            Today, like Trump, Vlad paces his quarters, steaming at what our voters have done. Vlad would never let this happen in his election.

            Russia invested so much in destabilizing this nation. The good works of the 1,000-plus-employee Internet Research Agency paid off in 2016. Now? Nyet.

            So much invested in making Americans disbelieve in their system.

            Freedom. Many a Trump supporter has sent that word ringing through hills and valleys. But what does that word represent to them? For too many, it represents the freedom to stomp around in camo, an AK slung over the shoulder.

            Freedom from fear? Don’t change the subject. The camo crowd couldn’t care less if you are a fearful person of color, or an immigrant, or if you are gay, or lesbian or transgender and fear for your rights.

            GOP support wasn’t necessarily about freedom anyway. Look at the Republican Party platform. Basically it says, “What Trump says.” 

            Now he’s bound for civilian life and the life of a criminal defendant. What does his party do now?

            Back to the Russians’ designs to mess with American voters’ minds, particularly people of color. Trump gloated over the lower-than-expected Black turnout in 2016, rightly pointing out that a no-vote by them was a vote for him.

            As his presidency seeped away it was mostly Black votes that provided the drip, drip, drip that took him down, in Detroit, in Milwaukee, in Philly, in Pittsburgh, in Atlanta, in Savannah.

            If ever an American election had a fitting coda, it was provided there in those communities.

            Trump had trashed voting by mail. We in Colorado who have been doing this for years knew he spewed bilge. Now voters in many more states fully appreciate the process.

            In the end it was mail-in votes — drip, drip, drip — that caused the waters to swell around and snuff a Trump dictatorship.  

Read on. The ending is the best!

This is an outrage. Trump’s Brownshirts harass the Biden campaign, engage in voter intimidation, block major thoroughfares—without penalty.

Now this:

GRAHAM, N.C. — The voters came in black sweatshirts emblazoned with the mantra of the late Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, who celebrated “good trouble.”


Fists and iPhones raised, they chanted “Black lives matter” and promised “power to the people,” as they made their way from a Black church to the base of a monument to a Confederate soldier. In its shadow, they paused for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, honoring George Floyd, the Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for what was later determined to be 7 minutes and 46 seconds.


The participants in Saturday’s “I Am Change” march had intended to conclude at an early-voting site to emphasize turnout in the final days of the presidential campaign.

Those plans were thrown into disarray when law-enforcement officers in riot gear and gas masks insisted demonstrators move off the street and clear county property, despite a permit authorizing their presence.


As tensions escalated, officers deployed pepper spray and began making arrests. Among those caught in clouds of the irritant were children as young as 3 years old, as well as elderly residents and a disabled woman, said participants in the march.


The episode, which was live-streamed on Facebook by the march’s organizer, the Rev. Greg Drumwright of nearby Greensboro, unfolded three days before an election that feels to many Americans like the edge of an abyss. It capped nearly a half-year of protests after the killing of Floyd. And it reflected efforts to channel indignation on the street into power at the ballot box in North Carolina, a critical battleground state, and other places deciding the country’s direction.


“

The world wants to know what’s going on in Alamance County,” Drumwright said, invoking the rallying cry of anti-Vietnam War activists.
His outrage was echoed by state and national leaders, including North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who called the incident “unacceptable.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law described the police response as a form of voter suppression.
In a statement, the Graham Police Department said its officers had made eight arrests, arguing that force had been justified by the refusal of demonstrators to disperse after the gathering had “reached a level of conduct that led to the rally being deemed unsafe and unlawful by unified command.”


The department also defended the deployment of what it called a “pepper-based vapor,” saying its officers did not “directly spray any participant in the march” — an account at odds with the statements of numerous participants.


The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office issued a one-line tweet, saying, “Unfortunately the rally in Graham ended due to concerns for the safety of all.” The office has previously faced scrutiny for what the Justice Department in 2012 called “discriminatory policing,” leading to a civil rights lawsuit against Terry S. Johnson, the county sheriff.

After a Republican-appointed federal judge dismissed the suit, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the case in exchange for revisions. Since then, Johnson has twice won reelection, both times running unopposed.


In August, a U.S. district judge in the Middle District of North Carolina blocked county officials, including Johnson, from prohibiting protests in certain areas around the county courthouse in response to a lawsuit brought by the Lawyers’ Committee and the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Jesse Jackson wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times that Black Americans will not fall for Trump’s absurd claims about the great things he claims to have done for them.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2020/10/26/21535175/black-americans-vote-trump-civil-rights-jesse-jackson

He wrote:

If a lie is repeated often enough, the truth may never catch up. Donald Trump understands this better than anyone, as he showers Americans with lies — often the same ones repeated over and over — knowing that more voters will hear him than the fact-checkers. 

One of his favorite howlers is his oft-repeated claim that “I’ve done more for African Americans than anybody, except for the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.” 

No one should fall for the con.

For example, Trump doesn’t come close to Harry Truman who desegregated the U.S. military, an act of simple justice that took immense courage. He’s done nothing as important as Dwight Eisenhower who dispatched troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to overcome resistance to school integration. He can’t hold a candle to Lyndon Johnson, who, working with Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, passed the Civil Rights Bill ending segregation in public facilities, the Voting Rights Act enforcing the right to vote, and the War on Poverty that reduced poverty to levels still not matched.

But comparing Trump to presidents who actually made things better is to fall into his trap, for Trump hasn’t done things for African Americans, he has done things to them. 

He’s embraced the Republican strategy of race-bait politics, only he’s replaced their dog whistles with a bullhorn. He celebrated the neo-Nazis and other extremists marching against civil rights protesters in Charlottesville. He’s scorned African countries and Haiti as “s…-holes,” suggesting the only immigrants he wanted were whites from countries like Norway. 

He sowed racial fears, painting the largely nonviolent Black Lives Matter demonstrators as “thugs,” and the demonstrations as “riots.” He’s tried to rouse support from suburbanites by charging that Biden’s support for affordable housing would “destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream.” He’s labeled cities with large minority populations like New York City as “anarchist jurisdictions” that should be stripped of federal support…

Trump’s Small Business Administration stiffed African Americans in dispensing loans through the Pay Protection Plan. More than 9 of 10 Black-owned small businesses that applied for loans were denied. That led directly to over 40% of Black-owned businesses shutting down in the pandemic. 

Trump measures the economy’s success not by the health of the people, but by the health of the stock market, but while 61% of whites participate in the stock market (although for most the holdings are meager), only one-third of blacks own stocks. Nearly one-half of Black women report that they are unable to pay for necessities like food and housing, even though most work. Over half have less than $200 in savings. Trump doesn’t help. He did nothing to raise the minimum wage and has been actively hostile to unions that help workers bargain a fair wage.

Essential workers are disproportionately African American. Blacks are disproportionately in low-wage jobs, often without employer-based health care. The pandemic has killed Black people at double the rate of Whites. African Americans have suffered the most from Trump’s mismanagement. Blacks have been more likely to be denied health care, and less likely to have paid sick days. 

And Trump has basically been AWOL as the Republican Senate blocked action on a relief plan as unemployment insurance was running out, and states and cities were facing massive cuts in services and jobs — disproportionately held by people of color — in the wake of the pandemic-caused fiscal crisis.

Trump touts the modest criminal justice reforms that he signed off on that will help reduce mass incarceration a bit, but he has actively undermined equal justice under the law. He encouraged police to rough up those that they arrest. He defended vigilantes shooting at those protesting the murder of George Floyd. He terminated the Obama Justice Department’s police department investigations and consent decrees that were reforming police practices. He boasts of arming police forces with military weaponry. He even terminated racial-sensitivity training in the federal government, mostly as a grandstand appeal to his base of angry White men. He’s appointed the most federal Appeals Court judges since Jimmy Carter; not one of them is Black. 

Trump not only has done nothing to revive the Voting Right Act, gutted by the right-wing gang of five on the Supreme Court, he and his party have actively worked to suppress Black voting — passing ID requirements, shutting down polling places, purging voter lists, making registration harder, limiting early voting, undermining vote by mail, gerrymandering districts and more — all designed with laser focus to reduce the Black vote.

In short, Trump has left African Americans in the deepest hole with the shortest rope. Not surprisingly, most won’t fall for Trump’s big con. African Americans — and particularly African-American women — will vote overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. The base for Trump and Republicans will continue to be those not repelled by his racially divisive rhetoric and policies. 

Periodically, however, it is useful to remind people that night is not day, that hate is not love. When Lincoln freed the slaves, they joined the Union armies in large numbers and helped save the Republic. Trump can’t be mentioned in the same breath as Lincoln, and African Americans aren’t about to save him.

James Hohmann of the Washington Post gathered interesting post-debate happenings.

Joe Biden left Cleveland on a chartered Amtrak train and made a six-city whistlestop trip through areas of Ohio and a Pennsylvania that Trump won in 2016.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to face negative responses and from Republican leaders, silence, due to his inability to denounce white supremacists, and his dog whistle that inspired the violent rightwing “Proud Boys,” which the Anti-Defamation League calls a hate group.

Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes make it one of the most critical battlegrounds, and Biden predicted that over the next month he will be able to win over more Trump 2016 voters in rural counties like the ones he visited on Wednesday. “Even if we just cut the margin, it makes a gigantic difference,” Biden said at the airport named for Murtha. “A lot of White working-class Democrats thought we forgot them and didn’t pay attention. I want them to know – I mean sincerely – that I’m going to be your president. I hear them. I listen to them. I get it. I get their sense of being left behind…”

Trump promised in 2016 to fight for “the forgotten man,” reviving a term that President Franklin Roosevelt had used during the New Deal. “But once he got into office, he forgot about them,” Biden said everywhere he went on Wednesday.

During his speech in Johnstown, Biden spoke directly to former Democrats who have perhaps grown disillusioned. He said that the debate showed that Trump is “a self-entitled, self-serving president who thinks everything is about him.”

“The truth is he never respected us,” Biden said. “Behind closed doors, it’s been reported he calls his own supporters disgusting. He looks down his nose at working families just trying to do the right thing. And it’s been confirmed by multiple sources that he thinks that those of you who sign up to put their lives on the line for our country — our veterans and service members — are just a bunch of ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’ It’s despicable. It’s not how I was raised, and I bet it’s not how any of you were raised either.”
Biden recounted how his mom used to always say to him, “Joey, nobody’s better than you, but everyone is your equal.”

“Donald Trump may think there ought to be a different set of rules for him and his rich buddies: rules that let him get out of his taxes, get out of his responsibilities and get out of the consequences for every one of his mistakes,” Biden said. “I don’t. I think it’s about time we start rewarding work in this country, not wealth. I think it’s time working families get a break and the super wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share. They’re still going to be doing just fine.”

The Democratic nominee framed the race as a choice between Park Avenue and Scranton, Pa., where he grew up. “Look, I’ve dealt with guys like Trump my whole life,” Biden told the crowd. “Guys who look down on you because they’ve got a lot of money. Guys who think they’re better than you. Guys who might let you park their car at the country club – but would never let you in. Guys who inherited everything they ever got in life – then squandered it.”

Biden said he will never raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year. “Maybe you didn’t believe me that we could do it without raising taxes on the middle class, but I bet that was before you found out Donald Trump paid just $750 in income tax,” Biden said. “If Donald Trump and his Park Avenue pals start paying their fair share, we’ll have more than enough to finally build an economy that works for everyone…”

Biden accused Trump of caring more about the strength of the Dow Jones Industrial Average than the numbers of jobless claims. “He doesn’t have a plan to help you get back on your feet or deliver relief to the people who most need the help,” Biden said in Johnstown. “He’s too busy planning his next big tax give away to the 100 richest folks in the country.”

During the debate, Trump said everyone tries to pay as little in federal tax as possible “unless they are stupid.” He even tried to blame Biden for creating the tax credits not closing the loopholes in the tax code that allowed him to reduce how much he paid. “I don’t want to pay tax,” Trump said. “Like every other private person, unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws, and that’s what it is.”

Hohmann points out that Trump got his deductions due to claims of massive losses, which undercuts his claim to be a business genius.

Meanwhile, extremists took Trump’s advice to “stand by” as encouragement for election day trouble.

The president’s “stand by” remark has already become a galvanizing movement for the reactionary right. “By Wednesday morning, the hashtag #WhiteSupremacy was trending on Twitter in the United States,” Derek Hawkins, Cleve Wootson Jr. and Craig Timberg report. “Trump’s comments were enshrined in memes, including one depicting Trump in one of the Proud Boys’ signature Fred Perry polo shirts.

Another meme showed Trump’s ‘stand by’ quote alongside an image of bearded men carrying American flags and appearing to prepare for a fight. … One prominent Proud Boys supporter on Parler said Trump appeared to give permission for attacks on protesters, adding that ‘this makes me so happy.’ … For many members, the president’s remark was the validation they craved, quickly turning into a fundraising and recruitment drive while, experts worried, legitimizing the group’s violent tactics.”

“Trump’s debate-stage call for volunteers to stand watch at voting locations has prompted an enthusiastic response from known neo-Nazis and right-wing activists, leading many state election and law enforcement officials to prepare for voter intimidation, arrests and even violence on Election Day,” Amy Gardner, Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Josh Dawsey report.

“The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee for months have promised to recruit as many as 50,000 poll watchers to monitor voting locations on Election Day. The campaign’s ‘Army for Trump’ website has contributed to that effort. … But more-extremist supporters appeared to be joining that effort Wednesday, raising the prospect for confrontation and intimidation at polling locations. ‘I got shivers,’ Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, wrote in a post Wednesday. ‘I still have shivers. He is telling the people to stand by. As in: Get ready for war.’ …The Oath Keepers, a militia group that formed more than a decade ago that comprises current and former law enforcement and military members, also has pledged to have ‘volunteer security teams’ at Trump rallies and out on Election Day. …

And Hohmann added this bit of good news:

Former RNC chairman and Montana governor Marc Racicot announced he will vote for Biden. In an interview with Yellowstone Public Radio, Racicot spoke of the need for a president to have patience, decency and openness to contrary opinion, “qualities Racicot suggested are absent in the Trump administration,” the Missoulian reports.

Fred Klonsky writes here about Illinois’ inequitable flat tax. Black and brown communities have paid $4 billion more than they would have if the state had a progressive income tax.

Yohuru Williams is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a noted scholar of Black history. And he also serves on the board of the Network for Public Education.

Dean Williams writes here about the activism for social justice in Minneapolis-St.Paul, inspired by the words of the late Congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis.

Earlier this September, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, a brave collection of principals and assistant principals banded together to take on the issue of equity and justice in education.

Lewis’s letter, though directed at Black Lives Matter activists in particular, encourages all of us to find ways to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to advance the goals of justice.
The members of the alliance, now 159 strong, have branded themselves the “good trouble” coalition after the mantra of the late Congressman John Lewis, who, before passing away in July, wrote a final letter that sought to inspire a passion for activism around racial injustice.

In his last months of life, Lewis lamented the dangerous and deadly state of affairs in the United States: persistent unjust police violence against African Americans, the failed governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued efforts to erode American democratic practice at the highest levels of government.

And Lewis’s letter, though directed at Black Lives Matter activists in particular, encourages all of us to find ways to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to advance the goals of justice—especially in tackling the most urgent issues of racial inequality, climate change, mass incarceration, economic disparities, healthcare gaps, and political division.

He also invited young people to consider how they might transform the future through studying history as a means of understanding our enduring struggles to achieve lasting peace and equality.

It is ironic that Cong. Lewis urged young people to study history as a means to “lasting peace and equality,” even as Trump demands a reactionary revision of U.S. history to glorify its “leaders” (no doubt including the Confederates who rallied to preserve white supremacy) and diminish or remove the role of African Americans in that history.

John H. Jackson is president of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, one of the few philanthropies that unequivocally supports public schools. He writes here that Trump’s efforts to suppress the 1619 Project—a history of African Americans—is “unworthy of a democracy.”

More than that, the president has no business interfering in school curriculum. Federal law specifically prohibits any federal official from interfering with curriculum or instruction. In this case, Trump is openly appealing to his white suptemacist base, encouraging them to believe that he can prevent schools from teaching black history. He can’t and he shouldn’t.