Category: the politics of race

“The Power to Make us One”: Heather McGhee’s One-People America

By Alan Bean

heather.mcghee – Netroots NationI recently heard Heather McGhee speak at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor conference in Chicago. She began with the obvious fact that America was not created to be one people, or one public.  Some folks were clearly part of the culture; others were not.  The primary dividing line was skin color.  Up until 1965, she reminded us, American immigration policy was built around strict racial quotas.  People of African descent were practically excluded altogether.  People from Eastern Europe were also subject to severe restrictions because they were considered ‘ethnic’.

That all changed in 1965.  In the wake of the civil rights movement, mainstream America was embarrassed by the undisguised racism implicit in the nation’s immigration policy.  The rules changed in fundamental ways.  Now, when you walk through an airport, you see every conceivable shade of skin color and you hear a wide variety of accents.  We have become, in a few brief decades, the world’s most audacious experiment in cultural diversity.


The Californication of America: A review of Darren Dochuk’s “From Bible Belt to Sunbelt”

By Alan Bean

I received a copy of Darren Dochuk’s From Bible Belt to Sun Belt as a birthday present from my daughter, Dr. Lydia Bean.  She said I’d love it, and she was right.

Like me, Dochuk hails from Edmonton, Alberta, and, like me, his doctoral dissertation focused on Southern religion.  But while I was primarily interested in progressive Christians struggling for social survival in the Deep South, Dochuk turned his attention to evangelicals from states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas who migrated in droves to southern California between the dust bowl thirties to the post-war period when the counties surrounding Los Angeles were booming as a result of massive government spending on military and aeronautical projects.

As a child, Darren Dochuk was driven to the vacation spots of Southern California every summer.  I dreamed of visiting Disneyland, but I never got there.  Still, the brand of Christian Right spirituality described in his book impacted my life in significant, sometimes painful ways.  The California-inspired Jesus People movement was in full flower when I attended the Baptist Leadership Training School in 1972.  It was around that time that my traditionally Baptist parents were attracted to the charismatic movement.  My father repeatedly invited me to luncheon meetings of the Full Gospel Business Men’s International, a loose affiliation of tongue-speaking, prophesying, faith healing neo-Pentecostals founded in Southern California by a layman named Demos Shakarian.

For me, these were bewildering experiences I had largely forgotten until I read From Bible Belt to Sun Belt.  Though I never understood the appeal of this style of religion, my parents informed me that my life would be transformed if I submitted to “the baptism” and received the “gift of tongues.”  I tried my best, but it didn’t take. (more…)

Texas redistricting case: A challenge to the Voting Rights Act?

The redistricting saga in Texas is causing concern throughout the nation. Not only could the redistricting case severely diminish the impact of minority voters in the 2012 elections, but it will also likely determine which party will take the four additional Congressional seats that Texas gained as a result of population growth.

The Republican-dominated state legislature drew the highly disputed district maps. “At least three of the four new congressional districts were drawn in a way that seemed likely to favor Anglo Republican candidates,” ProPublica reports,” — Even though Latinos and African-Americans accounted for most of the state’s population growth.”

The case is currently being heard by the Supreme Court and Texas is desperately seeking a resolution before the 2012 elections.

The ProPublica report below, offers an excellent overview of the ongoing legal battle and the potential effects that redistricting could have on parts of the Voting Rights Act. MW

Will the Supreme Court strike down part of the Voting Rights Act?

By Lois Beckett, ProPublica

Yesterday afternoon, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a Texas redistricting case that could have major implications for minority voters — as well as determine which party is likely to control Congress after the 2012 elections.

Here’s our guide to why the case matters, why it could pose a challenge to part of the Voting Rights Act, and what impact the Court’s ruling could have on voters across the country.

How did this case end up in front of the Supreme Court?

At its most basic, the case is contesting which district maps Texas will use in the 2012 elections.

This seems like a dry question, but it’s not. Thanks to population growth, Texas is gaining four seats in Congress, and how the district lines are drawn is likely to determine whether those additional seats will be won by Democrats or Republicans — and how big an impact minority voters will have in deciding who the new representatives will be.

Because those four seats could help determine which party controls the House of Representatives, the Texas case is being closely watched across the country.

As it has done before, the Republican-dominated state legislature drew maps that heavily favor Republicans.

At least three of the four new congressional districts were drawn in a way that seemed likely to favor Anglo Republican candidates — even though Latinos and African-Americans accounted for most of the state’s population growth. (more…)

Pat Buchanan may be finished at MSNBC

Conservative icon Pat Buchanan may be losing his pulpit at left-leaning MSNBC.  Reports in the Washington Post, Slate, and the HuffPost indicate that MSNBC president Pat Griffin is on the verge of cutting his network’s ties to Buchanan.  Color of Change has been insisting that the conservative pundit be fired since the publication of Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025.  The book contains a chapter called “The end of white America” in which it is argued that the loss of a shared European culture and a common Christian heritage is robbing the nation of its traditional character.

This quote, recently aired on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, provides a good synopsis of Buchanan’s position

For what is a nation?

Is it not a people of a common ancestry, culture, and language who worship the same God, revere the same heroes, cherish the same history, celebrate the same holidays, share the same music, poetry, art, literature, held together, in Lincoln’s words, by “bonds of affection … mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone”?

If that is what a nation is, can we truly say America is still a nation? The European and Christian core of our country is shrinking. The birth rate of our native born has been below replacement level for decades. By 2020, deaths among white Americans will exceed births, while mass immigration is altering forever the face of America.

Buchanan says he took the controversial chapter title from an article in the Atlantic written by Vassar professor Hua Hsu.  Hsu’s lengthy piece traces a perceived white identity crisis through the 1990s and the first decade of the twenty-first century.  The article features the work of Temple sociologist Matt Wray who is paying close attention to the impact the academy’s critique of white supremacy is having on his students. (more…)

Arlington ISD turns thumbs down on Cesar Chavez holiday (yet again)

By Alan Bean

To the surprise of no one, the students of Arlington were once again denied a May holiday honoring civil rights legend Cesar Chavez. 

Last night’s meeting of the Arlington ISD school board reminded me of the climactic scene in To Kill a Mockingbird.  An all-white jury convicts the black defendant even though the case against him has crumbled to dust.  As the article below suggests, last night’s decision was a foregone conclusion.

Last year, the statements of support for a Chavez holiday, mine included, were polite and deferential.  This year was different.  

I used my five minutes to address the elephant in the room.  The school board trustees are both politicians and public servants, I said.  There is no political upside to voting to rename a generic “May holiday” in honor of Chavez.  The majority of voters in Arlington have little interest in honoring a Latino icon, and many would staunchly oppose the move.  This is, after all, one of the most conservative demographics in America. 

On the other hand, 65% of the students (and therefore a solid majority of the parents) are people of color who would love to see Chavez honored.  There is a disconnect between the political imperative to please the voters and the moral imperative to do what’s best for the children.  The heart sides with the kids; the head craves political security. (more…)

Pat Buchanan appears on white supremacist radio show

MSNBC commentator, Pat Buchanan, recently appeared on a white supremacist radio show to promote his new book, “Suicide of a Superpower.” In protest, the advocacy group organized a petition, calling on MSNBC to fire Mr. Buchanan for his “long record of bigotry.”  For more details and to sign the petition, see the below message from MW

Did you hear about MSNBC’s white supremacist commentator?

For years, Pat Buchanan has passed off white supremacist ideology as legitimate mainstream political commentary. And MSNBC continues to pay him and give him a platform on national TV to do it.

Buchanan has just published a book which says that increasing racial diversity is a threat to this country and will mean the “End of White America.”1  This weekend, to promote his book, he went on a white supremacist radio show whose host has said things like “MLK’s dream is our nightmare,” and “interracial sex is white genocide.”2

Buchanan has the right to express his views, but he’s not entitled to a platform that lets him broadcast bigotry and hate to millions. If MSNBC wants to be seen as a trusted, mainstream source of news and commentary, it needs to fire Buchanan now.

Please join us in calling on MSNBC to fire Pat Buchanan:

Here are a few examples of what Buchanan has said in the past: (more…)

“Perrymandered” electoral map could backfire

By Alan Bean

Once upon a time, the red-red state of Texas was Dixiecrat Blue.  That changed at the federal level a long time ago, but as late as 2004, the State House was still controlled by Democrats.  Recent elections have changed that in a big way–Republicans are now firmly in control of the Texas Legislature.  Texas has always been a politically conservative state; it just took a few decades for the Southern strategy to kick in.

One quick glance at the Texas Legislature’s “face-book” and the racial implications of this political re-orientation is immediately obvious: most Democrats are black and brown and the delegation boasts a large number of women; flip over to the Republican delegation and you see lots of white males, a few white females and the occasional conservative Latino who was elected with Anglo votes.

Meanwhile, the complexion of the Texas electorate has been rapidly changing.  The state population has been exploding in recent years and almost all the growth has come from the Latino segment of the population.  Thanks to this growth, Texas was recently awarded four additional congressional seats.  Here’s the problem; the Republican dominated Legislature is responsible for drawing up a new electoral map, but the folks responsible for creating four new seats rarely pull the red lever in the voting booth.

As this article in the National Journal indicates, the GOP initially looked to Rep. Lamar Smith for guidance.   Smith suggested that they create two strong Republican districts (to ensure continued GOP hegemony) while cobbling together two heavily Latino districts a to avoid questions about fairness and possible legal challenges.

Led by Joe Barton and Rick Perry, Texas Republicans decided to ignore Smith’s advice and play for all the marbles.  They controlled the Legislature, so they ought to be able to reconfigure the electoral lines in their favor.  This kind of thinking produced a “Perrymandered” map designed to give the Republicans four new seats while doing absolutely nothing to increase Latino political influence.  In fact, the new map was designed to frustrate Hispanic voters.  The snub was obvious and intentional.

Texas Democrats have only themselves to blame for these developments.  The party’s best bet (morally and politically) is to embrace ethnic diversity and market itself as “the party that looks like Texas.”  Unfortunately, many older Democrats are still mired in the bad old days when Jim Crow values dominated Texas politics.  What’s the use of fielding an inclusive mix of black, brown and white candidates, they reason, if conservative white voters rally around The Party of White?  The idea that white voters might reconsider their biased ways if presented with a compelling new vision is beyond the comprehension for most Anglo Democrats in Texas.

Latino Texans are frustrated.  For decades they have been exploited by Democrats and ignored by Republicans.  Texas Latinos have a hard time getting excited about the Democratic Party (why should they), but they do want their growing numbers to translate into real political influence (why shouldn’t they).   (more…)

Rick Perry’s curious bedfellows

By Alan Bean

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.


A mayor and a prophet lock horns in a Southern town

Diane Nash addresses crowd as Mayor Cheri Barry looks on

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…)

Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again: a Mississippi town mirrors the soul of a nation

By Alan Bean

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…)