The Oscars Love Racial Reconciliation Movies.

Wesley Morris sums up the problem with Oscar-winning movies like The Green Book for the New York Times:

The money is ostensibly for legitimate assistance, but it also seems to paper over all that’s potentially fraught about race. The relationship is entirely conscripted as service and bound by capitalism and the fantastically presumptive leap is, The money doesn’t matter because I like working for you. And if you’re the racist in the relationship: I can’t be horrible because we’re friends now. That’s why the hug Sandra Bullock gives Yomi Perry, the actor playing her maid, Maria, at the end of “Crash,” remains the single most disturbing gesture of its kind. It’s not friendship. Friendship is mutual. That hug is cannibalism.

“If I shut my eyes, I can still feel the fire from those days. And if I open my eyes, I still see the fires all around me. I didn’t like the way the world was, and I believe that there need to be some changes about the way the world is.”

John Carlos won bronze in the 200m dash in the 1968 Olympics and, along with 

with Tommie Smith,

protested against racism with a raised fist during the medal ceremony. That iconic protest moment happened this week 49 years ago. The quote is from his 2011 memoir.

Now, I can’t help but feel that the 52 percent of my fellow Ohioans who voted for Trump want my family and me out. I look at my neighborhood and this is all I can think. Because it’s predominantly white and upper-middle class, it likely leaned even more toward Trump. This is what that “silent majority,” which Trump named as his fan base, has been clamoring for: The right to screen and assess us. The right to deport us en masse. America has been yearning for a past that was as white as fresh snow before our muddy brown boots stomped through it. The country has been telling us this all along. We just didn’t want to hear it.

Muslims Have No Place In Donald Trump’s America : Code Switch : NPR 

Beenish Ahmed on Trump’s victory and the legitimization of explicit racism and islamophobia.

100 Days of Bad Ideas

The smart people at NPR Politics went through Trump’s “Contract with the America Voter,” i.e. his first 100 days plan, to see how feasible is.
For example, here is their analysis of Trump’s plan to gut the Affordable Care Act:

The GOP Congress has already demonstrated its willingness to repeal the insurance tax subsidies and Medicaid expansion portions of the Affordable Care Act, along with the requirement that all Americans have health insurance, using a fast-track legislative maneuver known as “reconciliation” that prevents a Democratic filibuster. President Obama vetoed that measure, but President-elect Trump would presumably sign it. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that could strip health insurance coverage from more than 20 million people – although the change would most likely be phased in over a couple of years. Trump’s replacement plan is less clear. Health savings accounts would allow more people to buy insurance with pre-tax dollars, and selling insurance across state lines might increase competition and reduce prices. But coverage will very likely remain out of reach for many. The requirement that insurance companies provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions cannot be repealed through reconciliation. But preserving that requirement without the individual mandate to purchase insurance could create a costly situation in which people wait until they’re sick to buy coverage.

Trump’s rejection of Obamacare without presenting a true alternative for those insured by the program alone shows that his plan only creates a government of, by and for some people.  

Donald Trump, Nativism, and Patterns in US History

In her opening segment last night, after Donald Trump’s horrifying anti-immigrant speech, Rachel Maddow put the rise of Donald Trump and the alt-right into political history context. She argues that when one of the two major parties in the US two party system collapses, and can no longer hold its own weight and position in the (flawed) system, the nasty, racist, anti-immigrant, nativists gain power. In the 18th century, after the collapse of the Whig party, it was the so-called Know-Nothing movement, viciously against the Other of that time, primarily Catholic and Chinese immigrants. Nativism means putting Americans, and only true-blooded Americans, first, above everyone else, and blaming every ill of society on immigrants. Maddow convincingly argues that is what Donald Trump is doing, and that this isn’t new but history repeating itself, and it’s equally scary. Must see TV.

There are some words that precede “Black Lives Matter,” and they go something like this: Because of the brutalizing and killing of black people at the hands of the police and the indifference of society in general and the criminal justice system in particular, it is important that we say that… “
This is, of course, far too long to fit on a t-shirt.

Law professor’s response to BLM shirt complaint.

 The law professor is Patricia Leary at Whittier Law School (I think it’s okay to share her name as this has been confirmed by the school to Inside Higher Ed.) The full correspondence can be found here, including the anonymous student complaint letter, and the full answer by Prof. Leary is worth a read.

“These Young People Are Dying to Belong.”

Walking back from the grocery store, I listened to the newest episode of the great NPR podcast Invisibilia. When I returned to my desk and skimmed through the news, I saw just how apropos the episode is. A young Afghan man, a kid really at 17 years, apparently attacked people on a train near Würzburg in Germany, injuring 4, with a knife. Police are investigating, and have found a hand-drawn “ISIS flag;” already the attack is treated

by the police, public, and media like an IS terror attack

The Invisibilia episode is about “flipping the script,” about what psychologists call non-complementary behavior. Our default reaction, our natural instinct if you will, is to respond to something in the same manner: If someone is cold, we are cold in return. If someone is hostile towards us, we respond with hostility. We respond to violence with violence. Non-complimentary behavior works against that default behavior and often leads to surprising, positive results. Non-complementary behavior is at work when it comes to non-violent protests. In the first story on the podcast, the empathetic reaction of a group attacked by a would-be mugger leads to a peaceful resolution of the situation. 

Here comes the connection between the podcast and the headline: The main story of the Invisibilia episode comes from Aarhus, Denmark, where the police and city responded to the ‘radicalization’ of young Muslims and their disappearance to Syria not with repression and stigmatization, but by reaching out to the Muslim community and by offering the young people, including those returning from Syria, a place (back) in society through mentoring, social services and a chat over coffee. They flipped the “tough” law and order script and got positive results. You can read more about the story and listen to the episode here: How A Danish Town Helped Young Muslims Turn Away From ISIS.

The ‘flip the script’ response in this case certainly isn’t perfect (nor is the Aarhus police department perfect, probably) but this solution attempt to me seems more feasible and  in line with our democratic values than war, building walls, and banning people. This method also takes the wind out of the sails of ISIS and similar groups, who are using the desperation of young Muslims (of color) and our societal rejection as a powerful recruiting and propaganda tool. After all, as one of the police officers in the story says: These young people are dying to belong. 

There have continued to be protests. There’s no reason why there should not be. But every Black Lives Matter leader of any note has spoken clearly denouncing Johnson’s atrocity. Indeed, if anything the continuing protests have been tempered calls for an end to violence on all sides. For all the horror, the outrage has spawned moments of bridge-building, unity. So these are combustible times. But they’re not the racial end times Trump is describing. Indeed, what Trump said in the passage above is something verging on the notorious “big lie”. Micah Johnson didn’t inspire any marches. No one is marching on his behalf. Even the truly radical and potentially violent black nationalist fringe groups had apparently shunned him even before the shooting. No one called for a moment of silence on Johnson’s behalf or honored him in any way. This is just an up is down straight up lie served up for the purpose of stoking fear, menace and race hate.

Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, once again makes a convincing argument why Donald Trump is “A Propagator of Race Hatred and Violence”

Ryan: “Trump is racist, but whatever. She’s not Hillary, amirite?”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan agreed that Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent comments about an US judge of Mexican heritage are “sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” Ttly. But whatevs: Ryan still supports the orange beacon of the GOP, because party unity etc. Ryan is pretty much admitting that a) party unity and remaining in power is more important than other values and b) the conservative movement accepts, if not outright encourages racism. 

 It is so incredibly frustrating that this sort of incoherent bullshit is not only alive but still kicking.

Frustrating for me. Terrifying and dangerous for those who will actually be hit by a potential Trump presidency.

In addition to the racism: At what point does it turn into a constitutional issue when a Presidential candidate tries to discredit (and influence) a judge in this aggressive, public manner? 

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ White Privilege

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis released a new song on Friday called “White Privilege II” along with a new album. It’s less pop radio friendly that his hits, and is a 9 minute reflection by Macklemore on white privilege, white supremacy, the way he benefits from it and how he is somewhat complicit in it. I think Macklemore’s strongest work is when he uses his signature flow for critical self-reflection. This is one of those songs. He wonders how he can engage in Black Lives Matter protests as a privileged white male:

You can join the march, protest, scream and shout
Get on Twitter, hashtag and seem like you’re down
But they see through it all, people believe you now?
You said publicly, “Rest in peace, Mike Brown”
You speak about equality, but do you really mean it?
Are you marching for freedom, or when it’s convenient?  

Similar to his other self-interrogating, ally-privilege song “One Love,” this is an okay track that will now be overrated. Nothing he says is radically new. At the same time, I think there is some value in eloquently talking about white privilege as a privilege white male (something I strive to do myself, something I need to get better at.)

The song is also an example of how white privilege works. As mentioned, the song is about 9 minutes long, with 4 long verses about different aspects of white supremacy. Yet, in most posts I’ve seen since the song was released, the discussion mainly  revolves around whether or not he dissed fellow white person Iggy Azalea. He does, but not in the way many think he does. He criticizes white appropriation of Black cultural forms, and uses Elvis, Miley, and Iggy as examples, but includes himself in that critique. I think the narrator’s “you” in this passage needs to be read as referring to himself:

You’ve exploited and stolen the music, the moment
The magic, the passion, the fashion, you toy with
The culture was never yours to make better
You’re Miley, you’re Elvis, you’re Iggy Azalea
Fake and so plastic, you’ve heisted the magic
You’ve taken the drums and the accent you rapped in
You’re branded hip-hop, it’s so fascist and backwards
That Grandmaster Flash’d go slap it, you bastard

In this reflection about his own problematic position within culture and society, and this pondering over the contradictions included in that, this song is similar to Kendrick Lamar’s great “Blacker the Berry.

As was the case with One Love, the song has some issues, and as a standalone is terribly presumptuous and self-indulgent (which can’t really be avoided – self-reflection usually is, and that is Macklemore’s style) but could be an introduction for many white people to the concept of white privilege and hopefully influence public conversation. Or it might be just another song by Macklemore that white people love uncritically and that puts him on an undeserved pedestal. (Something he also addresses in verse 3.)

What the outcome and half life of the track will be depends on what Macklemore (and Ryan Lewis) now do with the attention, with the success; who they support now, how they share the limelight. They had the same chance with the success of One Love and The Heist, and I’m rather disappointed what they did with it. They mainly basked in their own glow- One Love did help the great (gay) singer Mary Lambert to a greater audience. I think hite Privilege II is already a better, reflective song than One Love, that makes better arguments. I hope the song helps bring more attention to the great Chicago-based singer and poet Jamlia Woods, who contributes White Privilege II’s coda:

Your silence is a luxury, hip-hop is not a luxury
Your silence is a luxury, hip-hop is not a luxury
What I got for me, it is for me
What we made, we made to set us free

Jamila Woods already released the great song “blck girl soldier” earlier this week – and you should listen to it more often that White Privilege II. It’s better and more important. The Muse also  has a really interesting interview with Jamila Woods and Seattle musician Hollis Wong-Wear about the way they were involved in the production of the song and how Macklemore reached out to them to find out how he can help with his voice.

However, I do think there is some value to this new Macklemore & Ryan Lewis song – greatly depending on what happens with it now that it’s out. A good sign is that they launched a website for the song, that includes credits for people involved in making the song,includes links to other groups involved in anti-racism and anti-blackness, and most importantly a promise and suggestion  to support Black led organizations, so check that out. I want to additionally suggest TWIB Media, a Black-led and -owned podcast and media network by Elon James White covering all the issues mentioned here – from problematic allies, Black Lives Matter, and Iggy Azalea