Chris Hayes had a perfect subject for his podcast, “Why Is This Happening?” that fit well with Black History Month. A few weeks ago, Hayes dropped an interview with Minnijean Brown-Tricky, one of the Little Rock Nine.
The Little Rock Nine were the nine Black students who integrated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. It was a momentous occasion in America’s civil rights struggle. Images of white people openly screaming racial slurs at high school kids trying to get a good education are undeniable. Racism was strong in America, and making changes to break the structure of racism, such as segregation, was going to be difficult and long-lasting.
Brown-Tricky’s interview with Hayes covered a lot of ground, including what it was like for her to be faced with daily emotional and physical abuse, and how she uses these experiences to talk to school students about how these moments force us to make choices to be good, or bad, in life. But she also said something that stopped me in my tracks.
“Well, when I wake up every morning, I’m not sure if I’m in Little Rock in 1957 or not. I look around and I feel the same things happening.”
That should make everyone who thinks of themselves as non-racist stop in their tracks, too. With good reason.
If it seems like racism and other forms of hate are more open these days, that is because it is. It is not just on Twitter or on your worst uncle’s Facebook page. There are real-world consequences and people are getting hurt or killed.
The recent “war on woke” that has absorbed the Republican Party has no doubt led to this entire mess. You might have noticed that a prominent cartoonist, Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, went all in on the racism. That earned him Adrastos’ Malaka of the Week, so if you want to learn more about exactly what Adams did to get his sorry ass canceled from many many newspapers, go forth and read.
It is not just famous members of the Republican rank-and-file getting in on the bigotry act. Another First Draft colleague of mine, Cassandra, covered how Alleged Reasonable Republican Nikki Haley kicked off her 2024 presidential campaign with a few words of prayer from a raging bigot.
The news media has, with notable exceptions, not been great with all of this. The New York Times seems to be deeply focused on attacking trans people and giving voices to the people who want to eliminate them, as I wrote about here.
Media outlets are also still reluctant to call racists what they are, as they avoid the “r” word with impunity. Writer Dan Desai Martin has a great example here:
Point in fact: No media outlets are calling the recent attack by Rep. Gooden against Judy Chu "racist" even though they were. Instead, they note that Chu called them racist.
CBS called them "heritage-based" attacks:https://t.co/uvYs48W4BC
— Dan Desai Martin (@DanMartinTalks) February 27, 2023
It is a little maddening to see CBS News seem to put the onus on Chu to prove that the racist attack on her was racist.
Making it easy for bigots to be bigots by tearing down guardrails is why we are here. These guardrails appear in various forms. It can be raising concerns about our journalism outlets. It can be the basic and very American right to protest, such as Colin Kaepernick and the George Floyd protests of 2020. There are various ways these guardrails are removed, and sadly, it includes efforts by lawmakers.
In First Amendment news: Every Tennessee GOP senator has signed a letter that encourages chancellors and presidents of the state's universities to punish student athletes who protest while at sporting events. #tnleg https://t.co/Zbnm9fd1Fu
— Sergio Martínez-Beltrán (@SergioMarBel) February 23, 2021
There is a fight right now for what kind of nation we will have in the future. The good people can definitely win it, and there is no reason why bigots cannot stop hating. But this fight will not be easy. The battle begins by acknowledging there is a fight, and listening to people like Minnijean Brown-Tricky when they ring alarm bells.
The last word goes to the irrepressible Nina Simone on these last few days of Black History Month.