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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Our Loss of Ron Walters -- 1938-2010: A Major Contributor to the Blog No More

Wichita East Drum Section, Fall 1952

   The following are my remarks at the funeral service for Dr. Ronald W. Walters.  My perspective was that of a lifelong friend.  The memorial service at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium was a wonderful celebration of Ron's life workThe more personal side of Ron's life was the central theme of his funeral service.  Ron's overall contributions were enormous -- nationally and internationally.  Walters was rocognized to be "The Tallest Tree."   Having been appropriately recognized and honored for his professional life, my reflections were an extension of the family, more personal, specifically our friendship growing up.  My remarks were made at the funeral.  Since my time was limited to three minutes, my remarks were edited to fit the those constraints.  Here are the comments in full.  With Walters being a regular contributor to the blog, this tribute is a recognition of his insight on black politics.  RGN

Reflections on a Lifelong Friendship: Remembering Ronald W. Walters, Ph.D.
Robert G. Newby. Ph. D.

Ron Walters was my friend, my best man, my brother. We exchanged the Best Man role in each other's weddings.  Being an only child, when I say he was my brother, he was my brother. Pat asked me to make a few remarks about our growing up. My bond with Ron began at the end of my junior year at Wichita High School East in the spring of 1952. For the next year, my senior year, I was to be the head drummer in the marching band. At the behest of the band director, Kenneth Thompson, I recruited Ron to join our drum section at East as opposed to our cross-town rival, North. He chose to join me in that drum section and we have been more or less joined at the hip ever since.

Another aspect of that bonding was our respective identities were often blurred, since we were the only two blacks in this band of about 80 musicians and we both played the drums. About the second football game of the season I was injured in a freak accident and missed a game, which meant to all those white students in stands, he became “Newby.” To many of them he remained Newby for the next two years after I had graduated. I must say that our band director, who was very much ahead of his time, for not only was I the head drummer, he broke precedent to appoint me the first student, black or white, to be director of the pep band. When Ron became a senior two years later he had those same responsibilities. An interesting side point about Ron and I sharing the East High band together: When the picture of the drum section was taken -- note now I was the senior and I was the head drummer -- we were arranged for the photo shot. Of the nine members of the drum section along with our drums and symbols, there were two black faces in the photo. Ron is placed front row center. I am on the second row at the end. I assume the photographer thought Ron to be more photogenic. For those of you who have seen Ron’s captivating smile, you know the photographer was right.  As it turned out over the course of those early years, I may have run interference for Ron, but make no mistake, he was always the star.

During Ron’s hospitalization, I had the stark reminder of one of the jobs we had while in college. There was a group of about five of us African American students at Wichita State University who worked in the inhalation therapy department at Wesley hospital. Ron, Syd Dobson, and I, administered inhalation therapy treatments. Syd went on to become a technician with a heart transplant group in San Diego.

The three of us formed our social clique that had to the audacity to name ourselves “Le Clique.” To display this bond, at Syd’s urging, we often wore matching blazers with a patch with overlays of a compass, a double eighth note, and a gavel. The patch was indicative of our professional ambitions. Syd at that time envisioned himself as being an engineer, the compass represented Syd’s desire to be an engineer. Ron’s aspiration at the moment to be a lawyer was represented by the gavel. The musical notes of course represented by my interest in music.  In retrospect, the whole idea seems to be rather juvenile but it sure seemed cool at the time.  With both Ron and Syd having passed in October 2009, this is truly a sad day. This formation preceded Ron’s being the founding Polemarch of the University of Wichita, now Wichita State University, Kappa Alpha Psi chapter in 1958. Needless to say, Ron had a lifetime bond with those brothers he crossed over with: Galyn Vesey, who was Ron’s closest friend from Kindergarten on, Robert Blackwell, Lenward Holness, Howard Stewart, Charles Tisdale, Earl West, Willie Williams, and Billy Alexander.

There is one story about Ron and I that really puts our University Wichita times in perspective. In the summer of 1957, we were desperate for summer jobs. For some reason Wesley Hospital was out of the equation. We had heard that "running on the road" was a great summer job for young black male college students. We were striking out when it came to decent jobs in Wichita. Recall that we were the restricted to “Negro Jobs” at the time. The word was that out of Minneapolis between the railroads, the Great Northern, Burlington Northern, and the Northern Pacific, employed young black college males to work the Pullman and dining cars. We had been told that the railroads would start hiring on about the 18th to the 20th of June. Travelling between Minneapolis and Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco sounded like a fantastic opportunity. So, to beat the onrush of competitors, Ron and I took off for Minneapolis on the 9th or 10th of June. When we got there we were informed by railroad after railroad we were about 10 days too soon.

While in Minneapolis we discovered something we had not seen before, a black enterprise whose clientele was white. I think their name was Huggy Boys or something like that. We met their son who was a Kappa and had just finished his freshman year at Howard. We thought him kind of “out there” and representative of Frazier’s writings about the black bourgeosie of the time. Seemingly, his daily dress was suit, tie, hat and cane. Nonetheless, for the time that we were there, the family was kind to us, to the point of taking our calls from prospective employers.

After a week of being told that no hiring would begin before about the 18th of the month we came to the conclusion that even though lodging was not costing us anything, my car was our lodging, we could not last for another week. Moreover, we discovered that with its 10,000 lakes, the mosquitos in the Twin Cities in early June are fierce. On a Saturday, and no job prospects at hand, we decided that if we left Minneapolis by about noon we would get back to the Esquire Club before it closed so that we could party. We danced every kind of dance to be danced that night, fast dances, slow dances, the cha, cha, cha, you name it we danced it. Because we had to be flexible when it came to job applications, we had all of right attire, but we had slept in the car for a week. Nonetheless, we must not have “offended” anyone. Thankfully, no dances were refused.

The thing I will miss most in Ron’s absence is that he and I could always laugh at the same things. In the summer of 1963, in preparation for his marriage, Ron had found a job as a orderly at Crittenden Hospital in Detroit. I was living in Pontiac. Ron spent the summer with me. Our friends were a group of African American school teachers in the Detroit and Pontiac schools. This was still a time when teaching or social work, for all intents and purposes, were the only professions for young college grads. In this group were individuals who thought that their intellectual prowess was superior to everyone, particularly these two dudes from the flatlands of Kansas. After all, their degrees were from University of Michigan. At an afternoon backyard picnic, Ron and I paired up for a game that was popular at the time, "Password." Our experiences together allowed us to defeat all comers for hours, often with one-word clues. That afternoon was a highlight that we often reflected on and brought us much delight as a confirmation of our bond.

As many of you know, Ron was an avid fan of both tennis and football. As stated, Ron was in the marching band not on the football team. He was around the game of football. Before he was a fan of that Washington NFL football team, with its politically incorrect name, he was a fan of the East Aces and after that the Wichita Shockers and I assume Fisk’s team, as well. He liked the game. When it comes to the NFL, his team was always victorious over my team in even in the playoffs and when that team had a Hall of Famer, another native Wichitan, Barry Sanders. It is not necessary that I name the team for which I have season tickets for 34 years.

Ron’s love of tennis comes not just as an observer. Our game was at the courts of McKinley park, Wichita’s largest segregated park. That park has since been renamed McAdam’s park in the namesake of Wichita’s first black park administrator. Ron and I had a pretty good game. We both dug deep to spend $35 for the top of the line Slazenger rackets. We modeled our game after the Panchos, Segura and Gonzalez. We were not in the class of Charles McAfee, however. Charlie was the first African American to get a tennis scholarship to the University of Nebraska. Notice the scholarship was not to the University of Kansas. McAfee who was one of our role models, went on to become an award winning architect. The tennis culture at the park was socialization process of its own. Apart from McAfee, we often competed with these Korean war vets who called themselves the “Hungarian Freedom Fighters.” Hours on the courts particularly in addition to the trash talking, when no women were on the courts, the conversation was just like the barbershop when it came to race and politics.

Ron’s leaving Wichita for Fisk was clearly a case of racism having done us, the nation, a big favor. As indicated by the sit-in, Ron was ahead of his time. When it came to the social side of our relationship we were equals but when it came to politics, he was the leader. He introduced me to DuBois and E. Franklin Frazier. As a high school student, Ron participated in Boys State, an activity that no black students that I know of had participated. I don’t know if Ron was a member of the national Honor Society or not, which would have been very difficult for a black student at that time. I do know that his high school grades were exemplar. Even so, when he was a sophomore at Wichita, he received a “C” on a paper for a government class. He got the “C” with the explanation from the professor that the paper was really an “A” paper but he knew no “colored boy” could write a paper of that quality.” The very next semester with my encouragement he went to Fisk, where he thrived to become the student and scholar he became. Going to black America’s academic roots and legacy helped shape him in a way he never would have developed at Wichita State.

I have always been proud to say that I was able to be a part of his really big transition in academia. From a frustrating struggle following King's assassination, as the regional director for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in Battle Creek, I came to DC to spend time with Ron and Pat and check out the “Poor People’s” campaign. The night I was to leave for DC, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. While on my visit, my brother in law at the time was a graduate student at Brandeis, was desperately hoping I could find Ron. The students at the university had just successfully negotiated for an African American studies program. Ron’s Ph.D. with an emphasis on Africa made him an ideal candidate to provide leadership for such a program. Ron became the pioneer. The real victory for the students is that with his commitment to academic excellence, the program at Brandeis gave shape to an academic mission not simply a center from which to wage protest.

As brilliant as Ron was, in about 1972, I discovered he had a blind spot, when it came to race. When I was in graduate school at Stanford, he came to the campus for a visit. Having grown up in a very white Kansas and attended school in a segregated Tennessee and attended graduate school at American University, the diversity of the Bay Area, with its large Asian and Latino populations presented a challenge to his paradigm. His question to me was “Who are all of these people?” In Wichita there were some Mexican Americans but their numbers were few. Even though there were some Chinese restaurants in town, we had no Chinese classmates. Surely, he was cognizant that people of color, other than blacks lived in America, but not in these numbers. He went on to provide international consultations on the role of white nationalism in Latin South America.

In preparation for that excellent story on Ron that appeared in the Washington Post on September 12th, and even though he chose not to include it in his story, Matt Scheur asked me a profound question about Ron: What shaped Ron’s ideas, particularly notions that he would defy well entrenched social norms? Ron’s family was not middle class or members of Wichita’s black elite but they were entrepreneurs. His grandfather was a plumber, I believe. His grandfather had brothers who were also in the trades as carpenters, brick masons, radio/TV repair, you name it. They were independent not relying on whites for their livelihood. His father was Gilmor Walters, known in Wichita for being a “race man.” He had been in the service and served as the Warrant Officer for the Army’s Black musicians. Gilmore’s organizational affiliation was primarily the “colored” Musician’s local. From that platform he would express his protest by writing letters to the editor. Once his son had a Ph.D. in "black liberation" he became unrelenting in his attack on the system. This was the family context of his socialization, independence, and a commitment to the black community.

It is important that we recognize that the Dockum Drug Store sit-in did not just fall from the sky. Ron’s family always supported his leadership in the community. Also, as Aldon Morris points out in his award winning book, “The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement,” in regional meetings of the NAACP, chapters in Kansas, Oklahoma, and other states in the Midwest shared ideas about how to attack segregation. In his capacity as President of Wichita’s NAACP Youth Chapter that Ron attended these meetings. Though not an NAACP meeting per se, it was such a meeting at the University of Illinois-Urbana that Ron met his companion for life, Pat. When he came back to Wichita, he proclaimed to all that he had met his love. A student at Philander-Smith, she was intellectually strong with a commitment to civil rights. In fact, as he described it, the two of them had stayed up all night talking civil rights. Our response was sure, talking civil rights?

From that night on, their life’s work was fused. As was said so many times yesterday [at the Howard memorial service], whatever Ron’s accomplishments, he did not do them alone. Pat was his constant support and critic. That night in Urbana led to a marriage just short of 50 years, and a commitment to the black community and black politics that has been unparalleled, and taken us to a different place. Ron will be missed but we can rest assured that in Pat his legacy will be preserved.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bob Herbert on "Post-Racial" Politics and Forgetting the Base

Bob Herbert
 Bob Herbert has cut to the quick when it comes to these so-called "post-racial" politics.  The notion of a "post-racial" society was a media construction anyway.   Gwen Ifil's "analysis" contributed to this fantasy.  She may have been correct in reporting the perspectives of some of this new generation of politicians.  But the naivete in the face of  America's deep-seated white nationalism could make these post-racial notions no more than fantasies. I never heard Obama make such a claim but obviously some bought the media hype to their peril.  The most recent case of this peril was Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington, DC.  As Herbert points out, Fenty surrounded himself with a view towards administration without a consideration for politics, particularly black politics.  An  even more arrogant case, however, was that of Arthur Davis, the Congressman from Alabama.  He ran for Governor as a "blue dog" Democrat.  We are talking Alabama here.  Davis was running against Obama's agenda to appease white voters.  Black voters were so disgusted with his  "post-racial politics," they voted for his opponent.   Problems in the black community go beyond issues of competence and rationality.  There are hostile forces out there -- white nationalist forces -- which are at the core of politics in this country.  Appeasement is not the answer.  These politics are racial to which Herbert alludes.  While blacks are positive in this age of Obama, that promise is on shaky ground when the President cannot even discuss HIS race.    RGN

September 20, 2010

Neglecting the BaseBy BOB HERBERT

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but it was striking, nevertheless.

The mayor of Washington, Adrian Fenty, one of the so-called postracial black leaders, suffered a humiliating defeat in his bid for re-election last week when African-American voters deserted him in droves. The very same week President Obama, the most prominent of the so-called postracial types, was moving aggressively to shore up his support among black voters.

Mr. Obama, who usually goes out of his way to avoid overtly racial comments and appeals, made an impassioned plea during a fiery speech Saturday night at a black-tie event sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. “I need everybody here,” he said, “to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back your workplaces, to go to the churches and go to the barbershops and go to the beauty shops. And tell them we’ve got more work to do.”

It’s no secret that the president is in trouble politically, and that Democrats in Congress are fighting desperately to hold on to their majorities. But much less attention has been given to the level of disenchantment among black voters, who have been hammered disproportionately by the recession and largely taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That disenchantment is likely to translate into lower turnout among blacks this fall.

The idea that we had moved into some kind of postracial era was always a ridiculous notion. Attitudes have undoubtedly changed for the better over the past half-century, and young people as a whole are less hung up on race than their elders. But race is still a very big deal in the United States, which is precisely why black leaders like Mr. Fenty and Mr. Obama try so hard to behave as though they are governing in some sort of pristine civic environment in which the very idea of race has been erased.

Full article

Thursday, September 9, 2010

From the Nation to Rahm: Don't Let the Door Hit You Where the Dog Bit You!!!

Ari Berman said it all by celebrating the likelihood that Rahm Emanuel will be  leaving the White House soon.  For progressive Obama supporters, this is great news.  The demeaning labeling  of the "professional left" by Robert Gibbs was the result of a Rahm White House.  It was Rahm who first called the left a bunch of f****** retards.  It was revealed recently that he shared a similar sentiment with regard to the UAW.  To not have respect for labor, the heart and soul of the working class, is beyond shameful.  He should have been gone!

As Berman points out, while there MAY have been some plusses in have someone with Emanuel's experience in both the White House and the Congress, much of his work within the party has been to turn the party to the right.  Also, his disdain for those most wanting change and having cast their hopes with Obama makes him unfit to run this White House.  RGN

The Sooner Rahm Leaves, the Better for Obama

Ari Berman
September 8, 2010

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s announcement that he will not seek a seventh term has prompted widespread speculation that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel [1] will run as Daley’s successor. "I'd be shocked if he doesn't run [2]," a senior administration official told the Washington Post.

The sooner Rahm leaves Washington, the better for Barack Obama. His White House is desperately in need of a serious shakeup, especially with Democrats facing a tidal wave of losses in the midterms. Replacing Rahm is the best place to start.

I’ll never quite understand why a transformational candidate who ran under the banner of a new style of politics chose the ultimate old-school inside operator to control his administration. Rahm isn’t solely to blame for diluting Obama’s unique outsider brand, but he’s a major reason why. After all, in the Clinton White House and in Congress, Rahm was often at odds with the very grassroots activists who powered Obama’s presidential campaign. As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in ‘06, he famously clashed with party chair Howard Dean and recruited conservative Blue Dog candidates at the expense of legitimate progressive challengers [3]. Rahm brought his corporate centrism to the White House, pushing for a smaller-than-needed stimulus bill, urging Obama not to pursue healthcare reform [4], watering down the bill when he did and calling progressive activists who wanted to pressure obstructionist Democrats “fucking retarded [5].” He later apologized to Sarah Palin but not to the Democratic activists he insulted.

Rahm’s alleged biggest asset—his ties to Capitol Hill and intricate knowledge of Beltway politics—paid few dividends for Obama. The president’s legislative agenda has hit a brick wall in the Senate and the dysfunction of the Democratic Congress, which Emanuel has done little to tame, helps explain why voters are set to punish the party in power this November. “If picking the leading practitioner of the dark arts of the capital was a Faustian bargain for Obama in the name of getting things done, why haven’t things got done?” asked Peter Baker of the New York Times in a profile titled “The Limits of Rahmism [6].” In other words, if you sell your soul, you better get something good for it in return. Instead, Obama is facing the prospect of a Republican Congress and an uphill re-election bid. No wonder Rahm is so eager to get out of town.

For full article: click here

Monday, September 6, 2010

Funding the “birthers” and the Tea Bag movements: Kansas’ White Christian Nationalism Contends for America Hegemony

By now most have heard rumors about the Koch Brothers being a power behind the smear campaign and degradation of the office of the presidency by the Tea Baggers. Rachel Maddow did a report on the brothers’ support of extreme right wing – white nationalist – politics. Koch Industries is based in Wichita Kansas. Having been born and raised in Kansas, I am not embarrassed about being from Kansas (home is home), but I must say I am embarrassed for Kansas. I left Kansas in 1961, thank goodness. I had my issues with its racism to the point of being a part of a sit-in at Dockums Drug Store in 1958, but Kansas was not Mississippi. More recently, however, Kansas backward political climate was revealed by the State Board of Education’s requirement that creationism be taught right beside evolution in school curriculum.

This fact alone proved Thomas Frank’s point in his award winning book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” He concluded that the reason these working class and farm communities did not vote their economic interests was for cultural reasons. White Christian Nationalism has been at the center of the anti-abortion debate. With Bill O'Reilly and Fox News fanning the flames, Wichita was storm center for the anti-abortion movement that led to the assassination of Dr. Howard Tiller in his church.

With bizarre coincidence, one of the nation’s more infamous serial killers terrorized and killed at least 10 people, mostly women, in Wichita from the 1974 to the 1991. The BTK killer for “Blind them, Torture them and Kill them.” He committed these heinous acts as he terrorized that city of 300,000. The interesting thing about Dennis Rader, the serial killer, was linked him to this White Christian Nationalist culture as President of his fundamentalist Lutheran congregation.  He was not arrested until 2004 when his ego got in the way of his secret.  He thought someone was going to steal his story. Another personal coincidence when it comes to my Kansas connection, it was my cousin, Judge Greg Waller, who sentenced Rader to 175 years in prison.

When I attended my 55th high school reunion in October 2008, the Obama supporters were an intimidated minority. Of the over 90 alums in attendance, about 10 or 12 supported Obama. They formed their own little quiet campaign. After announcing at the dinner that I had informed the Obama campaign that the class of ’53 was behind him, I was booed. Even though a few of these Republicans did whisper to me later that they were going to vote for Obama, the husband (Class of ’51) of one of my classmates vowed that if Obama won he was leaving the country. Often I get email from distribution lists of classmates. Like Koch’s campaign, ridiculing the President is the order of the day. One thing this shows is that race trumps respect for the institution of the presidency.

Is it any wonder that major funder of the Tea Party comes right out of this milieu. The Koch brothers are putting their libertarian ideology to work to demonize the President just because he is African American. The brothers are underwriting the so-called “grassroots” Tea Party movement. While that may not be a surprise, what is more likely to be very illuminating is how connected they are to America’s elite, sharing the spotlight with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg at the Metropolitan Opera. These connections are buying legitimacy for their criminal behavior. There is a consistency between their racist politics and their anti-government capitalist class interests. Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said:

“The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”

Remember the Birchite billboards denouncing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as Communist? These are the same people who are pushing the white Christian Nationalist Tea Bagger, “birther,” anti-immigration, and “Ground Zero” anti-Muslim sentiment. Now they are exposed. Jane Mayer is a must read. RGN


The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.

by Jane Mayer AUGUST 30, 2010

David H. Koch in 1996. He and his brother Charles are lifelong libertarians and have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes.

On May 17th, a black-tie audience at the Metropolitan Opera House applauded as a tall, jovial-looking billionaire took the stage. It was the seventieth annual spring gala of American Ballet Theatre, and David H. Koch was being celebrated for his generosity as a member of the board of trustees; he had recently donated $2.5 million toward the company’s upcoming season, and had given many millions before that. Koch received an award while flanked by two of the gala’s co-chairs, Blaine Trump, in a peach-colored gown, and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, in emerald green. Kennedy’s mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had been a patron of the ballet and, coincidentally, the previous owner of a Fifth Avenue apartment that Koch had bought, in 1995, and then sold, eleven years later, for thirty-two million dollars, having found it too small.

The gala marked the social ascent of Koch, who, at the age of seventy, has become one of the city’s most prominent philanthropists. In 2008, he donated a hundred million dollars to modernize Lincoln Center’s New York State Theatre building, which now bears his name. He has given twenty million to the American Museum of Natural History, whose dinosaur wing is named for him. This spring, after noticing the decrepit state of the fountains outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Koch pledged at least ten million dollars for their renovation. He is a trustee of the museum, perhaps the most coveted social prize in the city, and serves on the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where, after he donated more than forty million dollars, an endowed chair and a research center were named for him.

One dignitary was conspicuously absent from the gala: the event’s third honorary co-chair, Michelle Obama. Her office said that a scheduling conflict had prevented her from attending. Yet had the First Lady shared the stage with Koch it might have created an awkward tableau. In Washington, Koch is best known as part of a family that has repeatedly funded stealth attacks on the federal government, and on the Obama Administration in particular.

With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

For the full article click here

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Haley Barbour: White Nationalist Revisionism

Lies, damned lies and white nationalism.   Haley Barbour has come under heavy criticism for lying about his personal and Mississippi's racist history.   Speaking as a Republican, as opposed to those Jim Crow Southern Democrats, Barbour claims that when he attended Ole Miss race "we never thought twice about it."   He attended Ole Miss in the mid-1960s.  He left in his senior year to be a part of Richard Nixon's white nationalist Southern Strategy for his 1968 presidential campaign.  Recall that in 1964, civil rights workers were being killed in the State's "legal" and illegal acts to protect segregation.  Just prior to these deeds, in 1961, there was a riot on Ole Miss' campus in which a French journalist was killed as a part of the protest attempting to block the enrollment of James Meredith, the first African American to attend Ole Miss.  It was this hostile context in which Haley Barbour claims that the University of Mississippi was integrated and which he "never thought twice about [race]."  The facts on race in Mississippi in the mid 1960s betray Barbour's revisionist history.  Other voices about the desegregation of the Ole Miss Medical School attests to some smooth changes but lots of maintenance of segregation which Barbour says he never gave a thought about.  See also: Rachel Maddow on Haley Barbour on the lack of racism of his Mississippi generation.  RGN

BARBOUR EXPLAINS THE SOUTH WITH BASELESS, REVISIONIST HISTORY.... For much of the 20th century, America's Southeast, now the Republicans' strongest region, was closely aligned with Democratic politics. The shift began quickly after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, culminating in the Republican stronghold we see today.

As far as likely presidential candidate Haley Barbour of Mississippi, the corporate-lobbyist-turned governor, is concerned, the transition can be explained as a matter of generational change. Barbour's version of events, though, is so wildly ridiculous, it bears no resemblance to reality.

Barbour has invented his own sanitized, suburb-friendly version of history -- an account that paints the South's shift to the GOP as the product of young, racially inclusive conservatives who had reasons completely separate and apart from racial politics for abandoning their forebears' partisan allegiances. In an interview with Human Events that was posted on Wednesday, Barbour insists that "the people who led the change of parties in the South ... was my generation. My generation who went to integrated schools. I went to integrated college -- never thought twice about it." Segregationists in the South, in his telling, were "old Democrats," but "by my time, people realized that was the past, it was indefensible, it wasn't gonna be that way anymore. So the people who really changed the South from Democrat to Republican was a different generation from those who fought integration."

This is utter nonsense.

This comes up from time to time, especially when Republicans are feeling defensive about race (or when right-wing Mississippi governors prepare to run against the nation's first African-American president), so let's set the record straight.

The Democratic Party, in the first half of the 20th century, was home to competing constituencies -- southern conservative whites with abhorrent views on race, and white progressives and African Americans in the north, who sought to advance the cause of civil rights. The party struggled, ultimately siding with an inclusive, liberal agenda.

It wasn't easy. As Steve Kornacki reminds us, "When the party ratified a civil rights plank at its 1948 convention, Southern Democrats staged a walkout and lined up behind Strom Thurmond, South Carolina's governor and (like all Southern Democrats of the time) an arch-segregationist. Running under the Dixiecrat banner, Thurmond won four Deep South states that fall."

As the party shifted, the Democratic mainstream embraced its new role. Republicans, meanwhile, also changed.

In the wake of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party welcomed the white supremacists who no longer felt comfortable in the Democratic Party. Indeed, in 1964, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater boasted of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and made it part of his platform. Other than his home state, Goldwater won exactly five states in that race: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. To pretend this had nothing to do with race -- we're talking about states that hadn't backed a GOP candidate since the Civil War -- is absurd.

This was, of course, right around the time when figures like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond made the transition -- leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP.

In the ensuing years, Democrats embraced their role as the party of diversity, inclusion, and civil rights. Republicans became the party of the "Southern Strategy," opposition to affirmative action, campaigns based on race-baiting, vote-caging, discriminatory voter-ID laws, and politicians like Helms and Thurmond.

Indeed, as the chairman of the Republican National Committee recently conceded, his party deliberately used racial division for electoral gain for the last four decades.

Matt Finkelstein, who noted that Barbour's version of history "is so grossly distorted that it's tough to decide where to start," added, "Barbour says that he was raised an 'Eastland Democrat,' but fails to mention that Jim Eastland once said that 'segregation is not discrimination,' but rather 'the law of God.'"

Barbour, a man who placed a Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis in his office, surely knows his historical perspective is radically untrue. He's just hoping the public doesn't know better. It's ugly and cynical ... and par for the course for one of America's least honorable politicians.

—Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink