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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Nation on Frances Fox Piven

The danger of the Glenn Beck attacks on Frances Fox Piven cannot be overstated.  With the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, we can see the dangerous climate that has been promoted by America's white nationalist politics.  Besides Bill O'Rielly and Rush Limbaugh, the Pied Piper for this movement is Glenn Beck.  Among his targets is Frances Fox Piven.  The Editors of The Nation provide an excellent analysis of Beck and the climate to which he contributes.  RGN

Glenn Beck Targets Frances Fox Piven

The Editors
The Nation 
January 20, 2011

On the afternoon of January 6, Frances Fox Piven, a distinguished professor, legendary activist, writer and longtime contributor to this magazine, received an e-mail from an unknown correspondent. There was no text, just a subject line that read: DIE YOU CUNT. It was not the first piece of hateful e-mail Piven had gotten, nor would it be the last. One writer told her to "go back to Canada you dumb bitch"; another ended with this wish: "may cancer find you soon."

Piven was unnerved but not surprised. These are not pretty e-mails, but they appear positively decorous compared with what has been written about her by commentators on Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, where she's been the target of a relentless campaign to demonize her—and worse. There, under cover of anonymous handles, scores of people have called for Piven's murder, even volunteering to do the job with their own hands. "Somebody tell Frances I have 5000 roundas [sic] ready and I'll give My life to take Our freedom back," wrote superwrench4. "ONE SHOT...ONE KILL!" proclaimed Jst1425. "The only redistribution I am interested in is that of a precious metal.... LEAD," declared Patriot1952. Posts like these are interwoven with ripples of misogyny, outbursts of bizarre anti-Semitism and crude insults about Piven's looks (she's actually a noted beauty) and age (she's 78).

This fusillade was evidently set off by Piven's recent Nation editorial calling for a mass movement of the unemployed ["Mobilizing the Jobless [1]," January 10/17]. But Beck has had Piven in his cross-hairs for some time. In the past few years he's featured Piven, along with her late husband, Richard Cloward, in at least twenty-eight broadcasts, all of which paint them as masterminds of an overarching left-wing plot called "the Cloward-Piven strategy," which supposedly engineered the financial crisis of 2008, healthcare reform, Obama's election and massive voter fraud, among other world-historical events (see Richard Kim, "The Mad Tea Party [2]," April 12, 2010). Cloward and Piven, Beck once argued, are "fundamentally responsible for the unsustainability and possible collapse of our economic system." In his most recent diatribe against Piven (January 17) he repeatedly called her "the enemy of the Constitution." In Beck's telling, because Piven and her comrades on the left support civil disobedience in some circumstances, it is they—not the heavily armed militias of the radical right—who threaten Americans' safety.

It's tempting not to dignify such ludicrous distortions with a response. But in brief: Piven, throughout her career as an activist and academic, has embodied the best of American democracy. It has been her life's work to amplify the voices of the disenfranchised through voter registration drives, grassroots organization and, when necessary, street protest. The way economic injustice warps and erodes our democracy has been a central preoccupation. But passive lament has never been her game. Recognizing the leverage that oppressed groups have—and working with them to use it—is her special genius.

It's perhaps not surprising, then, that the pseudo-populist right finds her so threatening. The highly personalized and concerted campaign against Piven, already unsettling, takes on added gravity in the context of the recent shootings of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, federal judge John Roll and eighteen other people in Arizona. But while commentators debate whether the killer in that case—the mentally disturbed Jared Loughner—was inspired by the ravings of right-wing demagogues, the forgotten story of Byron Williams provides a straightforward example of the way hateful rhetoric fuels violence.

In July, Williams, a convicted bank robber, put on a suit of body armor and got in a car with a 9-mm handgun, a shotgun and a .308 caliber rifle equipped with armor-piercing bullets and set off for San Francisco. His destination was the Tides Foundation, which had been mentioned at that point in at least twenty-nine episodes of the Glenn Beck show, sometimes along with Piven. His goal, as he later told police, was to kill "people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU" in order to "start a revolution." Williams's mother said that he had been watching TV news and was upset at "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing-agenda items." Or, as Williams himself put it, "I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind." California Highway Patrol officers pulled Williams over for driving erratically and, after a firefight, subdued and arrested him before he could blow anyone else's mind away.

For a responsible journalist and a responsible media outlet, such an incident would have spurred a process of intense self-scrutiny. But this is Glenn Beck and Fox, and as is evident from the campaign against Piven, nothing of the sort occurred. In the hundreds of posts about Piven on The Blaze, there is not one admonition to tone down the violent rhetoric, not one clear instance in which an editor intervened to moderate the thread. In fact, commenters seem at liberty to egg one another on: one poster pointedly noted that Piven lives in New York City and teaches at CUNY; another then linked to a website that listed Piven's home address and phone number. "Why is this woman still alive?" asked capnjack. "Mainly because you haven't killed her, I imagine. See, someone that really cares and has the courage of their conviction must actually DO SOMETHING," responded Diamondback. And the calls for assassination are not limited to Piven. As Civilunrestnow put it in a post that perfectly captures the tenor of right-wing eliminationist fantasy, "I say bring it. 90 million legal gun owners with over 220 million legal firearms, MOST in the hands of people who claim to be center RIGHT. I think it's time to reduce the surplus population of leeches, lay abouts, left wing nut jobs, the main stream media, liberal politicians and MOST defense attorneys."

Of course, crazed right-wingers enjoy the protection of the First Amendment, too. But the overwhelming and transparent calls for murder on Beck's website, among other right-wing hot spots, can't be casually dismissed as "just talk." At one time it was all just talk for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Dr. George Tiller's assassin, Scott Roeder, too. We were lucky that police happened to pull over Byron Williams before he reached the Tides Foundation's door. In a sense Glenn Beck was lucky too. How long will this luck hold out?

Need to Fight Back in Defense of a Colleague: Frances Fox Piven

Glenn Beck is certifiable.  Yet, his outrage continues.  Over the course of his machinations, he has concocted that one of our most honored colleagues is the reason for American ruin.  Beck has singled out Frances Fox Piven to construct his grand conspiracy to destroy America.  Fox News with its dedication to white nationalism has placed Beck as its evangelist.  It is time to fight back.  Media matters is a good place to start.  RGN

Dear Friend:

Over the past year, Glenn Beck has launched numerous false attacks against renowned Sociologist and progressive civil rights chamption Frances Fox Piven.

As a result of Beck's accusations that Piven promotes violence and is an "enemy of the constitution," numerous violent threats to Piven have been posted on Beck's website.

It is absolutely irresponsible -- and dangerous -- to let Beck continue his rhetoric and false attacks against Piven.

Tell Fox News President Roger Ailes it is his responsibility to stop

Beck's attacks now:

Tea Party White Nationalism and "Social Engineering"

It is needless to say that the Tea Party movement is a white nationalist movement.  Conservatives or the right wing are in their heydey with the victories of the Tea Party movement.  Their economic policies of tax cuts for the rich are winning the day due to the widespread Tea Party victories in the 2010 elections.  As opposed to its racist reputation, there is an attempt to make the case that the Tea Party movement is an economic formation.  While to SOME degree that may be accurate, the driving force of the Tea Party is white nationalism.  They were formed to oppose America's first African American president.  Arizona's white nationalist laws, including those that would permit a Jared Loughner to purchase his gun and clips, are a prime example of Tea Party governance.  The story below by Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post on a North Carolina Republican school board is about the district's integration policy of longstanding being overturned by its Tea Party members.   RGN

Republican school board in N.C. backed by tea party abolishes integration policy

By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 12, 2011; 12:38 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. - The sprawling Wake County School District has long been a rarity. Some of its best, most diverse schools are in the poorest sections of this capital city. And its suburban schools, rather than being exclusive enclaves, include children whose parents cannot afford a house in the neighborhood.

But over the past year, a new majority-Republican school board backed by national tea party conservatives has set the district on a strikingly different course. Pledging to "say no to the social engineers!" it has abolished the policy behind one of the nation's most celebrated integration efforts.

And as the board moves toward a system in which students attend neighborhood schools, some members are embracing the provocative idea that concentrating poor children, who are usually minorities, in a few schools could have merits - logic that critics are blasting as a 21st-century case for segregation.

The situation unfolding here in some ways represents a first foray of tea party conservatives into the business of shaping a public school system, and it has made Wake County the center of a fierce debate over the principle first enshrined in the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education: that diversity and quality education go hand in hand.

The new school board has won applause from parents who blame the old policy - which sought to avoid high-poverty, racially isolated schools - for an array of problems in the district and who say that promoting diversity is no longer a proper or necessary goal for public schools.

"This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s - my life is integrated," said John Tedesco, a new board member. "We need new paradigms."

But critics accuse the new board of pursuing an ideological agenda aimed at nothing less than sounding the official death knell of government-sponsored integration in one of the last places to promote it. Without a diversity policy in place, they say, the county will inevitably slip into the pattern that defines most districts across the country, where schools in well-off neighborhoods are decent and those in poor, usually minority neighborhoods struggle.

The NAACP has filed a civil rights complaint arguing that 700 initial student transfers the new board approved have already increased racial segregation, violating laws that prohibit the use of federal funding for discriminatory purposes. In recent weeks, federal education officials visited the county, the first step toward a possible investigation.

"So far, all the chatter we heard from tea partyers has not manifested in actually putting in place retrograde policies. But this is one place where they have literally attempted to turn back the clock," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP.

School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta referred questions on the matter to the district's attorney, who declined to comment. Tedesco, who has emerged as the most vocal among the new majority on the nine-member board, said he and his colleagues are only seeking a simpler system in which children attend the schools closest to them. If the result is a handful of high-poverty schools, he said, perhaps that will better serve the most challenged students.

"If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need to make it successful," he said. "Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it."

So far, the board shows few signs of shifting course. Last month, it announced that Anthony J. Tata, former chief operating officer of the D.C. schools, will replace a superintendent who resigned to protest the new board's intentions. Tata, a retired general, names conservative commentator Glenn Beck and the Tea Party Patriots among his "likes" on his Facebook page.

Tata did not return calls seeking comment, but he said in a recent news conference in Raleigh that he supports the direction the new board is taking, and cited the District as an example of a place where neighborhood schools are "working."

Beyond 'your little world'

The story unfolding here is striking because of the school district's unusual history. It sprawls 800 square miles and includes public housing in Raleigh, wealthy enclaves near town, and the booming suburbs beyond, home to newcomers that include many new school board members. The county is about 72 percent white, 20 percent black and 9 percent Latino. About 10 percent live in poverty.

Usually, such large territory is divided into smaller districts with students assigned to the nearest schools. And because neighborhoods are still mostly defined by race and socioeconomic status, poor and minority kids wind up in high-poverty schools that struggle with problems such as retaining the best teachers.

Officials in Raleigh tried to head off that scenario. As white flight hit in the 1970s, civic leaders merged the city and county into a single district. And in 2000, they shifted from racial to economic integration, adopting a goal that no school should have more than 40 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the proxy for poverty.

The district tried to strike this balance through student assignments and choice, establishing magnet programs in poor areas to draw middle-class kids. Although most students here ride buses to school, officials said fewer than 10 percent are bused to a school to maintain diversity, and most bus rides are less than five miles.

"We knew that over time, high-poverty schools tend to lose high-quality teachers, leadership, key students - you see an erosion," said Bill McNeal, a former superintendent who instituted the goal as part of a broad academic plan. "But we never expected economic diversity to solve all our problems."

Over the years, both Republican and Democratic school boards supported the system. A study of 2007 graduation rates by EdWeek magazine ranked Wake County 17th among the nation's 50 largest districts, with a rate of 64 percent, just below Virginia's Prince William County. While most students posted gains in state reading and math tests last year - more than three-quarters passed - the stubborn achievement gap that separates minority students from their white peers has persisted, though it has narrowed by some measures. And many parents see benefits beyond test scores.

"I want these kids to be culturally diverse," said Clarence McClain, who is African American and the guardian of a niece and nephew who are doing well in county schools. "If they're with kids who are all the same way, to break out of that is impossible. You've got to step outside your little world."

'Constant shuffling'

But as the county has boomed in recent years - adding as many as 6,000 students a year - poverty levels at some schools have exceeded 70 percent. And many suburban parents have complained that their children are being reassigned from one school to the next. Officials blame this on the unprecedented growth, but parents blame the diversity goal.

"Basically, all the problems have roots in the diversity policy," said Kathleen Brennan, who formed a parent group to challenge the system. "There was just this constant shuffling every year." She added: "These people are patting themselves on the back and only 54 percent of [poor] kids are graduating. And I'm being painted a racist. But isn't it racist to have low expectations?"

As she and others have delved deeper, they've found that qualified minority students are underenrolled in advanced math classes, for instance, a problem that school officials said they've known about for years, but that strikes many parents as revelatory. Some have even come to see the diversity policy as a kind of profiling that assumes poor kids are more likely to struggle.

"I don't want us to go back to racially isolated schools," said Shila Nordone, who is biracial and has two children in county schools. "But right now, it's as if the best we can do is dilute these kids out so they don't cause problems. It sickens me."

In their quest to end the diversity policy, the frustrated parents have found some influential partners, among them retail magnate and Republican operative Art Pope.

Following his guidance, the GOP fielded the victorious bloc of school board candidates who railed against "forced busing." The nation's largest tea party organizers, Americans for Prosperity - on whose national board Pope sits - cast the old school board members as arrogant "leftists." Two libertarian think tanks, which Pope funds almost exclusively, have deployed experts on TV and radio.

"We are losing sight of the educational mission of schools to make them into some socially acceptable melting pot," said Terry Stoops, a researcher at the libertarian John Locke Foundation. "Those who support these policies are imposing their vision on everyone else."

'Disastrous' results

Things have not gone smoothly as the new school board has attempted to define its vision for raising student achievement. A preliminary map of new school assignments did not please some of the new majority's own constituents. And critics expressed alarm that the plan would create a handful of high-poverty, racially isolated schools, a scenario that the new majority has begun embracing.

Pope, who is a former state legislator, said he would back extra funding for such schools.

"If we end up with a concentration of students underperforming academically, it may be easier to reach out to them," he said. "Hypothetically, we should consider that as well."

The NAACP and others have criticized that as separate-but-equal logic.

"It's not as if this is a new idea, 'Let's experiment and see what happens when poor kids are put together in one school,' " said Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that advocates for economic integration. "We know. The results are almost always disastrous."

Many local leaders see another irony in the possible balkanization of the county's schools at a time when society is becoming more interconnected than ever.

"People want schools that mirror their neighborhood, but the bigger picture is my kid in the suburbs is connected to kids in Raleigh," said the Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh. "We're trying to connect to the world but we're separating locally? There is something wrong."

Karenga on the Tea Party, the Constitution, and Black America.

In this Tea Party era there is a lot of talk about the Constitution by right wing Tea Partiers who lack understanding of the document.   There is a "faith" endorsement.   Like they love the Bible they love the Constitution, even when they have no idea what it says.  Representative Michelle Bachman recently stated that the Founding Fathers, including John QUINCY Adams, wrung slavery right out of the Constitution.  Dr. Maulana Karenga puts this white nationalist offensive in perspective.  RGN

Quoting the Constitution in Public: Whistlin’ Dixie in the Dark

Dr. Maulana Karenga

It is a sign of the rough and jagged edges of the times in which we
live, this surreal juncture of history where we encounter and are
cultivated to accept, with minimum and often misguided response, various
forms of fear-and-hate mongering, lies, illusions and political
lap-dancing – all deceptive by nature, diversionary by design, and
ultimately unfulfilling. Passed off as a time and arrival of a new
politics, it is a time and context in which hype and hypocrisy are
packaged and peddled as patriotism; the reform and reality of universal
health care is portrayed as something akin to sin; and corporate funding
and manipulation of anti-government sentiment is camouflaged as
constitutional concern and love of country.

For all this flag-draped drama and related talk of constitutional tests
and of turning the country back over to the American people, hides the
continued strengthening of corporate power, evident in the increased
funding of candidates, including Tea Party members; proposed
deregulation; rampant privatization; an ever-growing military budget and
prison-industrial complex; tax preference for the rich and continuing
foreign aid to friendly dictators and brutal allies in open and
unannounced wars and occupations around the world.

It is a time and context in which gun-totin’ and gun talk of “targeting
and taking out” opponents serve as both appetizers and main meal on the
menu of rightwing radio, and their political discourse and campaigns,
and where such vicious rhetoric and social craziness mix and merge with
personal anger and insanity to provoke and produce tragic results as
recently witnessed in Tucson. For in spite of denials, such a context
gives company and confirmation to the mentally disturbed and violent who
put in practice the right wing’s irresponsible and provocative call for
“Second Amendment remedies”.

Last week, the new colonists came to Washington town, Constitution in
hand, corporate interests in mind and chaos in their announced
intentions. Indeed, they came wildly dedicated and determined to
disrupt, reverse, repeal and otherwise neutralize the laws, legislative
initiatives and any and all efforts of President Obama to successfully
govern – a concentrated hostility which, in spite of ritual denial,
suggests racial implications. Thus, it is seriously suspected that they
quote the Constitution in public and whistle Dixie in the dark. Like the
original colonists, whom they seek to model and mirror in their confused
and fantasized conceptions of history, they are in acute and constant
denial concerning the contradictions in their beliefs, behavior and
exalted claims. And likewise, they are woefully unwilling to concede the
destructive and divisive nature of their self-righteous and exclusionist
ideas and activities, which foster and fuel racist and nativist hatred
and violence.

They began their public show, lining up like elementary school children
to read the Constitution on the House floor in deference to their doting
Tea Party foster parents. It was for the true believers a religious
ritual, the reading of a sacred text with related claims of the
brilliance and anointment of the Framers. But to hold to the myths, they
had to call for an amended version of the Constitution. For the original
version of the Constitution, like the men who wrote it, was too flawed
to justify the flowery claims made for it. It, like its writers, needed
to be remade into a more acceptable image, free of the racism, sexism
and classism that stained it. Indeed, the original version sanctioned
African enslavement, denied the wholeness of African humanity, setting
it as 3/5 of a person and rejecting our right of freedom even thru
escape. It also denied women the right to vote, favored property owners
and set aside the Senate for the more noble White men among them. It is
these inconvenient and uncomfortable facts in the Constitution’s
original construction that the new colonists sought to erase and not
reveal by reading a revised and sanitized version of it with its
corrective reconsiderations called amendments.

Such immature and uncritical conceptions of the document and attempts to
talk about it as a holy writ, unchanged and unchangeable, and to force
others to accept it is both self-deceptive and dangerous. It calls for a
paper patriotism devoid of real people with real problems and real
struggles to solve them. In other words, such an approach to the
Constitution denies its original flaws and the flaws of its Framers;
denies the changes made to correct these flaws; denies the history and
the life-and-death struggles required for the changes; and denies the
ongoing need to constantly reinterpret and change the document in light
of deeper and more ethical understandings of how we ought to live
together and relate.

The late and renowned Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, in his
1987 Bicentennial Speech, urged us to move beyond such mindless and
uncritical celebration of Constitution and country. He noted that such a
celebration cultivates a tendency “to oversimplify and overlook the many
other events that have been instrumental to our achievements as a
nation.” Moreover, it “invites a complacent belief that the vision of
those who debated and compromised in Philadelphia yielded the ‘more
perfect union’ it is said we enjoy now.” For Justice Marshall, the
Constitution was not “forever fixed” at Philadelphia. And he noted, he
did not “find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by
the Framers particularly profound.”

Indeed, he states “To the contrary, the government they devised was
defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and
momentous societal transformation to attain the system of constitutional
government and its respect for individual freedoms and human rights we
hold fundamental today.” Thus, in recognizing the progressive changes
made from enslavement and exclusion to our unfinished struggles for
freedom and inclusion, “the credit does not belong to the Framers. It
belongs to those who refused to acquiesce to outdated notions of
‘liberty’, ‘justice’ and ‘equality’ and who strived to better them.” He
concluded that a rightful reading and a “sensitive understanding of the
Constitution’s inherent defects” will let us “see that the true miracle
was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life, a life nurtured
through two turbulent centuries of our own making.”

Justice Marshall argued that this history requires more than
“festivities with flag-waving fervor.” Rather, it calls for
commemoration of “the suffering, struggle and sacrifice that has
triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document.” And
it deserves our viewing the document and its history “with hopes not
realized and promises not fulfilled” and therefore, with a commitment to
ongoing and increased struggles to achieve the hopes and promise, and
open up new horizons of human life and history.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor of Africana Studies, California State
University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural
Center (Us); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of
Family, Community and Culture and Introduction to Black Studies, 4th


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cunnigen: On Haley Barbour on Race and Racism in Mississippi (Revised)

Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi, has made absurd assertions that in his experience racism was no longer an issue.  Professor Donald Cunnigen sets the record straight.  He challenges Barbour's recollection of the times. RGN

The White Citizens Councils and Haley Barbour

The White Citizens Councils and Haley Barbour

As Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson has stated accurately, the White Citizens Councils members were no more than Klansmen in business suits. Unlike Joe Scarborough who attended schools in Mississippi from 1969-1974 and was oblivious to the existence of the White Citizens Councils, I grew up in Mississippi during the heyday of the White Citizens Councils from the late 1950’s through my high school years in 1970’s Mississippi. It was a powerful group that had a strong impact on the lives of African-Americans and whites in Mississippi.

When I conducted research for my dissertation on white southern liberals in Mississippi, I discovered the impact of the White Citizens Council. One of my research subjects was a racially progressive Jewish businessman. His business was boycotted by the efforts of the White Citizens Council. The boycott was a result of his decision not to fire African American workers in his dry cleaning establishment who planned to enroll their children in the newly proposed integrated Jackson (Mississippi) Public Schools. The boycott was so effective that he lost his business. As a man of conviction and integrity, he felt it was not his role to dictate to his workers the appropriate racial position regarding the education of their children. In his mind, American citizens had a right to provide the best education available for their children.

In the case of African-Americans, the White Citizens Council sympathizers published the names of African-American students who opted to participate in the integration of public schools via the new “Freedom of Choice” program. It was a program designed to prevent the massive integration of schools by allowing only a limited number of students to enroll in the local white schools, i. e., those students and their parents signed a consent form. The forms provided the names of the students and parents to local authorities who often used the information in nefarious ways. Consequently, their families were harassed and many parents lost their jobs. Personally, this activity had a direct impact on my own attempt to enroll in the local white high school. After I covertly submitted a form to enroll in the white high school, my mother’s fears for my physical safety and my father’s fear of job loss as a public school teacher resulted in their insistence that I remain in the African-American high school. My father personally contacted the school district to inform the authorities that I would remain in my present all-African American school rather than join a small group of students who integrated our local white high school. The White Citizens Councils were not viewed by my parents as a mild-mannered group of whites who were adverse to destroying the lives and livelihoods of African-Americans.

Mississippi tax payers, African-American and white, witnessed the White Citizens Councils take a pseudo-state sponsored role in the governmental affairs of Mississippi. The White Citizens Councils had an office located in close proximity to the state Capitol. The organization produced slick television presentations to support their segregationist point of view. In addition, it created a network of segregationist academies to thwart school integration. There was no doubt in the minds of any African-American of the period that the White Citizens Councils were more than benign middle-class whites who provided “segregationist leadership” in the period. The White Citizens Councils represented a powerful force in the arsenal of the segregationists throughout the South.

The impact of the White Citizens Councils continues to have an impact on the state because many of the old segregation academies have become critical elements in the state’s educational system. As a result, many communities have poorly funded segregated public school systems due to the middle-class white exodus from the systems. The grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren of the old White Citizens Council stalwarts are now the students in those academies. While the old racist rhetoric and ideology which was the basis for the formation of the schools may not be obviously present, the underpinnings of a racist history may still linger in other ways. On the national scene, “racial events” in southern states do not capture the attention of the media; for example, many African-Americans in Mississippi were well aware that former Senator Trent Lott spoke at a White Citizens Council event long before the infamous Strom Thurmond incident.

While the South has made tremendous strides in race relations, it is unfortunate that some individuals have chosen for political expediency to “whitewash” reality by creating a false racial narrative that does not vaguely resemble the life experiences of many African-Americans, especially in Mississippi. Progress can be made in American race relations when all parties acknowledge and appreciate the complex racial history that has made our nation great.

Donald Cunnigen, Ph.D.