The “White” Is Always Silent

Back in 2020, Joe Biden said he’d put a Black woman on the Supreme Court if he won the election. Last week he got the chance to make good on his pledge. The non-politicized (can you see my eyes rolling?) Supreme Court had been the subject of previous political pledges. Ronald Reagan vowed to put a woman on the Supreme Court. Donald Trump did the same thing, and conservatives were just fine with it and both women were confirmed with zero complaining from the right. By uttering the word “Black”, Biden transgressed the first rule of White Supremacy Club:  “The … Continue reading The “White” Is Always Silent

They Like Their Civil Rights Leaders Dead

Martin Luther King on Face the NationToday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday where we’re supposed to reflect on what King’s legacy means to our current America. Oh, there’s lots of reflection on social media and elsewhere. Unfortunately, for conservatives and some centrists, today is a day for selective “reflection.”

You’ll see a lot of quotes being shared about equality, unity, etc. But these quotes are used as a weapon to sully King’s legacy and use it as a weapon, basically as a troll. The thing is, these people would have hated King (or actually hated him if they were old enough). King was not a popular man just prior to his death, with the Harris poll putting his disapproval at 75%. Gallup found he was increasingly unpopular, going from 41/37 approval/disapproval in 1963 to 32/63 in 1966, the last time they measured his popularity. In a reflection of today’s “oh dear, don’t rock the boat” thinking by many towards civil rights protests, Gallup found that as the decade progressed, a huge majority of Americans believed that civil rights protests hurt Black people more than it helped.

As Jeanne Theoharis pointed out in Time, a large percentage of America disliked King, and the civil rights movement.

Lest we see this as Southerners skewing the national sample, in 1964—a year before the passage of the Voting Rights Act—a New York Times poll found a majority (57%) of New Yorkers said the civil rights movement had gone too far. “While denying any deep-seated prejudice,” the Times reported, “a large number of those questioned used the same terms to express their feelings. They spoke of Negroes’ receiving ‘everything on a silver platter’ and ‘reverse discrimination’ against whites.” Fifty-four percent of those surveyed felt the movement was going “too fast.” Nearly half said that picketing and demonstrations hurt the Negro cause, and 80% opposed school pairings to promote school desegregation in New York City public schools.

Sound familiar? It should. Overly Celebrated Journalist Wolf Blitzer lectured that Black Lives Matters hurt Blacks by “not living up to King’s legacy.” After the Baltimore riots we had the George Floyd protests in 2022, and again the “not living up to Dr. King’s legacy” lectures started, despite protests being overwhelmingly peaceful and plenty of evidence that violence was instigated by counterprotesters or police (one could argue this is redundant).

But now, with King dead, his memory can be used by the very people he struggled against. With that in mind, here are some quotes to use in reply to your conservative aunt posting selective quotes of King’s and lamenting about how in the good old days, he “didn’t start no trouble like they do now.”

First, one for the filibuster-defenders dropping King quotes today.

“I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting.

Next, one for the moderates.

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Then, about apathy, which is still a serious issue in America given we are pretty “what-evs” about our democracy falling apart.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy during this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only for the words and acts of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.”

Continue reading “They Like Their Civil Rights Leaders Dead”

Letter From New Orleans: A Tale Of Two Krewes

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was elected in 2017 as a progressive. After four years of an increasingly incoherent mayoralty, it’s hard to tell what if anything she stands for. She was easily reelected but without any opponent of stature with the money to mount a serious challenge. Mayor Teedy believes she has a mandate but for what? Beats the hell outta me.

I realize that this post may qualify as inside-New Orleans baseball to some readers. I started out as a hyper-local New Orleans blogger in 2006, after all. Sometimes I revert to that form.

New Orleans is among the most interesting cities in the world and Carnival is central to our local culture. I have oversimplified at points to make this post comprehensible to those who are, as we say in the 13th Ward, from away.

Carnival disputes have often served as proxies for political warfare in New Orleans. In 1992, a Mardi Gras anti-discrimination ordinance passed shaking up the staid, stuffy, and often racist Carnival order. It led some of the snootier all-white krewes such as Comus and Momus to stop parading for good. It was a much-needed shakeup that led to the birth of some new and more diverse parading krewes such as Orpheus and Muses and eventually to quirky marching groups such as the 610 Stompers, Pussyfooters, and Laissez Boys to name a few.

It’s happening again. The city has decided to press on with Carnival even with Omicron raging. Ironically, the only thing Mayor Teedy did right in her first term was combat COVID. City Hall has announced that parade routes will be compressed and altered supposedly because of an understaffed and overwhelmed police department. In fact, this is a change  that has been long sought by the NOPD and they’ve managed to accomplish it under cover of COVID. They’ve wanted to consolidate the peak parade route onto St. Charles Avenue, and they’ve gotten their way for at least 2022.

The changes directly impact the parades that roll up Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans. It means that these krewes will no longer parade around the corner from Adrastos World HQ. That’s no big whoop for me this year: I plan to stay away from the parade route. I’ve managed to go this long without getting sick during the pandemic and while I love Carnival, it’s not worth getting sick over. Nothing is.

There’s one krewe that has been rolling up Magazine Street for many decades: the Krewe of Thoth. They’ve made it a point to parade past hospitals and other health care facilities with the aim of bringing good cheer to patients and staff alike, especially at Children’s Hospital.

Thoth is the parade I will miss the most. There’s an annual neighborhood party at the corner of Valence and Magazine Streets. It was missed last year but it will be impossible this year as the parades will begin nine blocks away. I hope to feel safe during Carnival 2023 but it’s uncertain if Thoth or the other Magazine Street parades will return.

City Hall consulted with some of the parading krewes. Thoth was not among them.

One krewe that was not forced to move its route is Endymion. They parade across town in Mid-City. They’ve been allowed to stay on their customary route with a few tweaks That’s why this post is called A Tale Of Two Krewes.

Endymion is an obnoxious parading krewe with political clout and money to burn. Most of its members live in suburban Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes. The latter is the reddest and richest parish in the Gret Stet Of Louisiana. Yet, they have more clout than Thoth, which is based in the bluest parish with an allegedly progressive mayor. What’s wrong with this picture?

A personal note: I hate Endymion and the people who camp out for days on its route. Hardcore New Orleanians call these creeps the Krewe of Chad because one year some jerk named Chad painted his name on the neutral ground of Orleans Avenue. I am not making this up:

Continue reading “Letter From New Orleans: A Tale Of Two Krewes”

Saturday Odds & Sods: When Push Comes To Shove

Grand Jazz Band, New Orleans by Jean Dubuffet.

My insomnia is back so I’ll keep it short and snappy. We’re still experiencing Winter Weather Whiplash and I’m still dubious about Carnival 2021. If it happens, I may turn into a Carnival Scrooge for this year. Bah humbug.

This week’s theme song was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter for the Dead’s 1987 album, In The Dark. It’s my favorite Dead studio album and I’ve studiously listened to them all.

We have two versions of When Push Comes To Shove for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a live version from NYE 1987. Jerry was not in good voice that night, but Brent Mydland makes up for it with some pianistic perfection. The guitar player is pretty good too.

It’s time for a trip to Disambiguation City with a Van Halen tune with the same title.

Go ahead and jump to the break.

Continue reading “Saturday Odds & Sods: When Push Comes To Shove”

What America Means To Me

Multicultural America

The New York Times last Sunday ran an article about the city of Enid Oklahoma. It was very illuminating, insightful, and ultimately disturbing.

In summary the story told was ostensibly about an attempt to institute an indoor mask mandate in the midst of the pandemic we are about to “celebrate” the second anniversary of. The mandate was ultimately voted down when a group of Enid citizens, calling themselves the Enid Freedom Fighters, shouted down all attempts at institution at a city council meeting. While this group claimed to have logically and civilly presented their views on the mandate, what they really did was shout, yell, make unfounded claims about the US Constitution and the bible, invoke the names of discredited quack “doctors”, and in general parrot the talking points of the far right. That “victory” emboldened them to become a political force that forced out all those council members who voted for sanity…er…I mean the mandate, take over the city council and the school board and suddenly become a political arm of religious extremists and white supremacists.

The story asks more, though, about what it means to be an American these days. So as we slouch out of this old year (thank you Joan Didion for all you wrote)  I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on what I think it means to be an American.

First of all, being an American is a choice (ooh, that’s a word full of contention these days). There is no ethnicity called American. This country was founded, it didn’t naturally evolve as a confederation of related and or conquered tribes like Anglos, Saxons, Gauls, Gaels, et al created Britain, France, Ireland, et al. The Founders (and that right there shows you a difference) made a conscious choice to disassociate from their former country and re-associate with the folks they were living around, mostly British, but also Dutch, German, French, and yes even Africans. Since then America has been a melting pot. Or a salad. Or a quilt. Or whatever analogy you want to use to signify that we aren’t all the same. And then of course in the last several decades we have all become hyphenated Americans, even the increasing number of citizens who are multi-hyphenated because their Australian-Chinese mother married their Belgian-French father making them so many shades of humanity about the only thing they CAN be called is American. We are the mutts of the world. And proud of it.

And I like that. I’d rather live in a land where who your parents were or where they came from makes no matter. Or at least a country that aspires to be that.

Being an American means you have an opportunity to make yourself into the best self you can be. It makes no matter if your desire in life is to have a house in a small town with 2.3 kids, a spouse, a pet, and just enough to retire comfortably on or if you want to have the mansion up on the hill and own all that you can see. The opportunity is open to all who wish to take advantage of it. Your background shouldn’t matter, your family shouldn’t matter, where you grew up or went to college or even if you went to college shouldn’t matter. As long as you are willing to do the work, and do it honestly, then you should be allowed to climb as high as you want. This is an asperation for our country as we have certainly gotten closer but never reached the nirvana of complete equality. Again, this country isn’t a finished product, it’s still in the rough drafts stage. The important thing is to believe we can get there and to have the strength to help get it there.

And if you do make it there, it is your responsibility to make sure the ladder you climbed up on is still there for the next person to use.

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The He-Man Woman Haters Club

Vice President Kamala Harris has been in the news quite a lot lately. On one hand, that’s not a surprise:  she’s the VP, she’s the first female VP, she’s the first Black VP, and she’s the first Asian VP. And if you’re a regular reader, you know that that’s not where I’m going with this. Over the last few months there has been a bunch of articles published that take cheap shots at Harris. Over the weekend the Washington Post ran a story about how Harris is so mean that everyone is leaving and it’s terrible and we should be … Continue reading The He-Man Woman Haters Club

Dear White Conservatives: Stop It With The MLK Lying

  Americans continue to their mind over critical race theory, led by the Reasoned Very Serious Middle, a nest of punditry that seems to believe that being a centrist means occasionally Tweeting “tsk-tsk” about something Trump did while mostly demonstrating a deep hatred of liberals and progressives. Plus, for being the Bastions of Reason, they often demonstrate a tenuous grasp of history. A fine recent example of this is a piece over the weekend by Reasoned Conservative Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post, who raged about critical race theory, again, and did a very common thing that so many white … Continue reading Dear White Conservatives: Stop It With The MLK Lying

Judging Judges Schroeder, Walmsley & Shea

Judges are in the news right now. Judge Bruce Schroeder who is presiding over the Kyle Rittenhouse case fancies himself an insult comedian. He’s luxuriating in the national spotlight by making racist jokes and yelling at prosecutors.

Judge BS considers himself a “tough on crime” jurist but not in this case. He seems to empathize with the defendant. I think we all know why. Cryin’ Kyle is a white vigilante who shot and killed two men in defense of property that wasn’t his. Oy, just oy.

Meanwhile in Glynn County Georgia 3 white dudes are on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery. There was some racist grandstanding by one of the defense attorneys yesterday. Kevin Gough objected to the presence of Al Sharpton in the courtroom.

Upon seeing the famous activist and pastor, Gough had the vapors and objected to the presence of black pastors in a public court room. At least Gough didn’t call the Rev an “outside agitator” but the implication was there.

Mercifully, Judge Timothy Walmsley is nothing like Judge BS in Wisconsin. He handled Gough’s objection like a pro:

Walmsley said he was made aware Wednesday that Sharpton would be sitting in the courtroom instead of someone from Arbery’s family.

“And my comment to that was simply, as long as things are not disruptive and it’s not a distraction to the jury or anything else going on in the courtroom, so be it,” Walmsley said. “But if it violates the court’s rules with regard to the conduct of the trial or violates my orders with respect to how people are to conduct themselves in this courtroom, I will take it up with whomever I need to take it up with.”

Walmsley said he noticed Sharpton once “and that was it.”

“And the fact that nobody else even noticed that he was in here, means that everybody complied with this court’s rulings on sitting in this courtroom and listening to the evidence,” Walmsley said. “I don’t hear a motion and I will tell you this, I am not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom.”

“If individuals, based on the limitations that we have, in the courtroom, end up sitting in the courtroom, and they can do so respectful of the court’s process and in compliance with this court’s orders with regard to the conduct of the trial,” Walmsley said, adding that if a person wasn’t a distraction, he wouldn’t do anything about it.

The name Walmsley triggered a memory. It’s a famous name in New Orleans. T Semmes Walmsley was Mayor of New Orleans from 1929-1936. He hated Huey Long and his machine with a fine fury. The enmity was reciprocated. The Kingfish’s nickname for the mayor was Turkey Neck Walmsley. It’s a complicated story so I’ll link to a 2016 Picayune piece by my friend James Karst to tell part of this twisted tale.

The memory triggered by the Walmsley name has nothing to do with Huey Long or Turkey Neck Walmsley for that matter. It’s a Judgey memory that was also evoked by Judge Schroeder’s misconduct in the Rittenhouse trial.

Continue reading “Judging Judges Schroeder, Walmsley & Shea”