I got an email from Justin Elliott earlier this week inquiring about “The Will to Secede”, a post about Rick Perry’s ties to neo-Confederate groups I published a couple of years ago. The post, which to date has received just under 10,000 hits, highlighted the work of Dallas researcher and neo-confederacy expert, Edward Sebesta who has documented the Texas Governor’s close ties to unabashedly racist groups like the The Sons of Confederate Veterans.
By Alan Bean
On Saturday, June 18th, Friends of Justice joined dozens of civil rights veterans in honoring the memory of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. For those who worked in Mississippi during the 1960s, the cruel and cowardly murder of three civil rights workers epitomizes a painful period.
The Mississippi phase of the civil rights movement doesn’t get nearly as much attention as corresponding events in nearby Alabama. There was plenty of terror in Alabama as well; but it was offset by triumph. Apart from the freedom rides of 1961, Mississippi didn’t produce a lot of victories. Passionate support for segregation was almost universal among white folks. In many counties, not a single black voter was registered when the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965. In Mississippi, two armies, one dedicated to “state’s rights” (full-blown Jim Crow segregation), the other dedicated to Civil Rights (racial equality reinforced by racial justice) fought to a bitter standstill. (more…)
I have been too busy to blog this week, but I couldn’t resist this story. You may ask what a royal tour has to do with criminal justice reform. Very little, I expect, although I am clever enough to come up with something if I had a mind to.
I am blogging about Kate and William’s royal tour because it pleases me.
For one thing, Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne a few years before I was born and, though I am 58 years old, she has been the only British monarch I have known. When you grow up singing "God save our gracious Queen, long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen(to the tune of My Country ‘Tis of Thee) it gets into your bones (whether you like it or not).
This lovely photographic essay from the Washington Post shows the royal couple taking in a little calf roping at the Calgary Stampede and attending the Dene Games in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. I was born in Calgary in 1953 and the Bean family moved to Yellowknife three years later. I remember my dad taking my sister and I to the Calgary Stampede during a summer vacation when I was a little kid. He wouldn’t spring for cowboy boots, but I did get a cowboy hat, and I wore it to bed that night.
I remember William’s grandfather, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, creating quite a stir a generation ago when he was presented with the inevitable cowboy hat during a visit to Calgary. “Thank you very much," said the Prince. “I think I have six or seven of these now. Perhaps I’ll use this one for a planter.”
That didn’t go down well in Cow Town.
There is another story about Prince Phillip dining at Calgary’s glorious Palicer Hotel back in the mid fifties (when he was about the age William is now). According to legend, a hotel waitress, while removing Phillip’s dinner plate, whispered, “Keep your fork, Prince, we’re havin’ pie.”
I don’t get back to Canada much these days. My parents are both long dead and my sister, Carol, spends half the year in Texas. But everyone needs a sense of home, and places like Calgary, Edmonton and Yellowknife are about as close as I can get. A return visit to Yellowknife after almost fifty years is high on my bucket list.
Last year, while in Calgary for the funeral of my aunt, Iris Garner, I stopped by the old home of the now defunct Baptist Leadership Training School, an institution I attended in 1971. It had been fully forty years since I last walked to the nearby park overlooking the gorgeous Bow River valley. The view of the river hadn’t changed a bit, but I hardly resembled the callow youth who once looked out over the scene. I have rarely felt more orphaned and adrift.
So I guess, in the end, these rambling thoughts do relate to this blog’s primary theme. Everybody needs a sense of place, everybody needs to belong to a people. Friends of Justice works in the American South, a region occupied by rooted people with a strong sense of belonging. What happens when a proud people is made synonymous with bigotry and hate? Issues of culpability aside, how deep does the fear, loss and resentment go?
The spirit and spirituality of mass incarceration is a plant native to the southland that has been nourished for decades by the deepest kind of alienation and outrage. People felt as if the glorious narrative that had given them a sense of people and place had been desecrated. The sense of loss was palpable. This is why Ronald Reagan launched his election campaign in 1980 in Neshoba County, the place where, 16 years earlier, three civil rights leaders had been murdered. Reagan was opposed to the civil rights movement, but he was hardly a son of the South. His advisers knew, however, that a rich deposit of racial resentment was waiting to be mined in places like Neshoba County. People had lost their story and they desperately wanted it back. Reagan promised to deliver. The promise was kept.
I understand these emotions. I grew up in one country and I live in another. Calgary, Alberta and Fort Worth Texas have a lot in common, but I never really feel at home in Texas. Nor would I feel at home if I returned to my native Canada. Like Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.”
When Tea Partiers say they want their country back they are longing for an old, old story. They want to feel part of an exceptional, virtuous and boot-leather-tough nation where everyone shares the same values and pursues the same goals. That kind of America never existed in reality; but it lives in memory nonetheless. The nation people want to regain exists in the form of narrative mythology, and this story about restoring a noble, resolute and unified America is the most potent force in contemporary politics.
Prince William praised Canada’s “extraordinary potential” and the nation’s values of “freedom and compassion” at the end of a nine-day tour of the country with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge. “Canada is not just a great union of provinces and territories, it is a great union of peoples from many different backgrounds who have come together to make this a model — and a magnet — for those who value freedom, enterprise, tolerance and compassion,” he said today in Calgary.
I’m not sure Canada, or any other country, deserves such high praise. The prince was being complimentary. But don’t we want to live in that kind of country? When we tap into that desire, the movement to end mass incarceration will begin.
A monument to “The memory of Carroll’s Confederate Soldiers who fought in defense of our constitutional rights from Bethel to Appomattox” stands in front of the Carroll County courthouse in Carrollton Mississippi. No surprise there; virtually every county courthouse in Mississippi constructed before 1920 sports a civil war memorial. But few of these monuments are accompanied by the Confederate flag. We’re not talking about the Mississippi state flag that incorporates the stars and bars–this is the genuine article. (more…)
By Chelsea Zamora
As Friends of Justice prepares for our Civil Rights Tour in the Mississippi Delta, we are spotlighting some of the civil rights activists that have helped change the future for African Americans and minorities across the United States. Medgar Evers, Mississippi NAACP field secretary and civil rights martyr, heads the list.
Medgar Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur Mississippi. He grew up on a small farm with his parents and five siblings. While Evers was still young, several of his close friends were lynched, a devastating experience for the local black community. Yet this tragedy made Evers even more determined to finish school, a rare achievement for African Americans in Mississippi. (more…)
By Alec Goodwin
On May 7, The United States Sentencing Commission released some surprisingly unsurprising statistics. According to the commission, we’re locking up far too many Latinos because of immigration crimes. Almost half of all federal felony convictions come from Latinos now, with 16% of the prison population being Latino. Many would argue that the convictions would be drug or violence related, but studies show now that that’s not the case. In 1991, 60% of Latinos convicted of federal offenses were put away for drug related crimes and 20% were put away for immigration related crimes. Now, that number is nearly reversed, with 37% being drug crimes and 48% being immigration crimes.
There are so many convictions because of speedy hearings where immigrants are tried and convicted en masse. They simply plead guilty and are immediately placed in prison. Thousands are being placed in prison each year because of this process. (more…)
I’m not suggesting anything conspiratorial here—Heaven forbid!—but it does seem mighty suspicious that school funding is being decimated at a time when Texas schools are “browning” at a rapid pace. In the last decade, Hispanic enrollment in public schools jumped by 50 percent, with 775,000 more students. Meanwhile, 6 percent fewer Anglo students are enrolled, as well-off whites opt for private schools. Why is public-school funding less of a priority for Anglo legislators nowadays? You do the math. (Bob Moser, Texas Observer)
Teachers in Texas are sighing with relief now that the Texas Legislature has cut “only” $4 billion from the public education budget. That doesn’t sound so bad when some were forecasting cuts in the $8 million range. But Mob Moser, writing in the Texas Observer, says the spirit of the current legislative session reflects a new and pernicious species of white supremacy.
Published on: Monday, May 16, 2011
Back in February, at a rally protesting anti-immigrant legislation, state Rep. Lon Burnam raised some eyebrows by letting loose with the “R” word. “You are here,” he told the crowd at the Capitol, “to say no to the most racist session of the Texas Legislature in a quarter of a century.” The Fort Worth Democrat had in mind such bills as Voter ID, which suppresses minority votes, and “Sanctuary City” legislation, which would legalize racial profiling. It had been decades, Burnam argued, since so many laws were aimed at putting non-whites, you know, in their place. “All of this legislation is really directed that way,” he said. “Everybody knows it.” (more…)