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More Than One in Three Black Students in the South Attend an Intensely Segregated School

Mother Jones

More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the progress made toward dismantling segregated schools in the South, once the most integrated region in the country, seems to be steadily falling apart.

A report released this week by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project and Penn State University’s Center for Education and Civil Rights finds that in 2014, more than one in three black students attended a school in the South that was intensely racially segregated, meaning a school where 90 percent of students were racial minorities—a 56 percent rise from 1980. The report also finds that the number of Latino students enrolled in public schools in the South surpassed black enrollment for the first time ever, making up 27 percent of the student body. That’s significant, as the percentage of Latino students in the South attending an intensely racially segregated school is also on the rise—42 percent in 2014, up from 37 percent in 1980.

The result, the report notes, is that the typical student faces decreasing exposure to a race other than his or her own. The average black public-school student in the South in the 2014-2015 school year went to a school that was 27 percent white, while the average white public-school student attended a school where black students made up 15 percent of those enrolled. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, segregation doesn’t get any better when poverty is taken into account: Black, Latino, and low-income students saw a rapid increase in exposure to poverty in the last decade as compared to their white and Asian peers.

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While the problem is getting much worse in the South, it’s far from confined to the region. Last year, a US Government Accountability Office report concluded that nationally the number of high-poverty public schools—or those where at least 75 percent of students were black or Hispanic and at least 75 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-lunch—more than doubled between 2001 and 2014. The GAO report also found that the country saw a nationwide rise in the percentage of schools separated by race and class, from 9 percent to 16 percent, in the past decade and a half. These stats are further supported by a new report released on Thursday by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, which finds that black and Latino students in the 2014-2015 school year disproportionately attended high-poverty schools; while 8 percent of white students attended high-poverty schools across the country, nearly half of black and Hispanic students did so.

This is a massive problem as research has shown that students who attend integrated schools score higher on tests and are more likely to enroll in college. Moreover, as the GAO report notes, high-poverty schools have tended to provide fewer resources and opportunities to minority students.

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Erica Frankenberg, co-director of Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights and the co-author of the report, says that as court oversight of school districts has diminished, some have returned to relying on neighborhood schools, an act that could perpetuate segregation if housing around the neighborhood is also divided. Consider a place like Charlotte, North Carolina, where a 1971 Supreme Court decision resulted in the implementation of a mandatory busing program for kids in Mecklenburg County in an attempt to make schools there more racially balanced. Over three decades, the district became a model for integration across the country. That lasted until 2001, when a legal challenge resulted in the program’s end. The district turned to a student-assignment plan that let students attend schools in their neighborhoods, confining them to institutions in areas long shaped by housing segregation.

Making matters worse are recent efforts from communities to break away from larger metropolitan school districts. The break-away communities tend to be whiter and wealthier than the larger district, and when they leave, they take funding gained from property taxes, in turn negatively impacting the students left behind. Most recently, for instance, a federal judge in Alabama allowed members of the city of Gardendale to establish its own school district, beginning with two elementary schools, despite concluding that race motivated the community’s actions. A forthcoming report by the non-profit EdBuild finds that of the 45 successful attempts to split from larger school districts since 2000, 17 occurred in the South.

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What sticks out most to Frankenberg, however, is the rapid growth of charter schools in the South. She noted that growth of enrollment in charters in the region outpaced that of the rest of the country. The number of charter schools in the region has actually quadrupled to more than 700,000 in the past decade, enrolling 4.4 percent of all students in the South in 2014. While black and Latino students make up most of the students enrolled in charters in the region, the percentage of charters’ white students has fallen over the past decade. Mirroring what’s happening in traditional public schools, black and Latino students in charters are, on average, less exposed to white peers. The average black student in a charter school, for instance, attends a school with 16 percent white student enrollment.

That lack of exposure, coupled with the pace of charter-enrollment growth, Frankenberg says, has helped drive the overall pattern of segregation in the region. In the 2007-2008 school year, just Florida and Louisiana had more than 3 percent of students enrolled in charters in the region. Now, they are joined by North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina. And though private school enrollment in the South and nationally has been declining since 2001, 1.2 million kids in 2011, the most recent year of available data, were still enrolled in private schools in the South—70 percent of whom were white.

So, as the Trump administration doubles down on an investment in promoting school choice nationally—at the expense of after-school programs, subsidized loans, and other deep proposed cuts—the report recommends state officials not let communities break away from school districts and suggests policymakers ensure school-choice programs are implemented in such ways that encourage integration. Unfettered choice without careful design could lead to further segregation, just like it did in the South decades ago and, more recently, in Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ home state of Michigan.

“Our lost progress on segregation for southern black students, and our failure to ever confront segregation for Southern Latino students, has to be a wakeup call for the region’s leaders,” Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and a co-author of the report, said in a statement.

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More Than One in Three Black Students in the South Attend an Intensely Segregated School

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How Ann Coulter and the Far Right Are Using the Lefty Playbook to Troll Berkeley

Mother Jones

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Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals, published in 1971 at the height of the counterculture movement, has long been required reading for community organizers on the left. It inspired activists with the labor movement, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. A young Hillary Clinton wrote her senior thesis on Alinsky and fawningly corresponded with him. But recently Alinsky has drawn a less likely group of devotees: the white nationalists and other bigots who make up the so-called alt-right.

After the white nationalist figure Nathan Damigo was filmed punching a female counterprotester at a provocative “free speech” rally this month in Berkeley, California, fueling a backlash online, his fans on the fringe message board 4chan/pol/ turned to Alinsky’s playbook. “Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals is like Antifa’s Quran,” one 4channer wrote. “They follow his rules explicitly and inflexibly. Why not turn them back against them?” Everyone agreed that at the next scuffle they should spray female counterprotesters with silly string—an idea inspired by Alinsky’s Rule 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

“The Left is getting massively out-Alinskyed, and the hilarious thing is that this band of withered hippies, unemployable millennial safe-space cases, and unlovable + unshaven libfeminists don’t even know it,” wrote right-wing columnist Kurt Schlichter recently in TownHall. “Thank you, Andrew Breitbart. You yelled ‘Follow me!’ and led a movement that had previously been dominated by doofy wonks and bow-tied geeks over the top in a glorious bayonet charge against the paper tiger liberal elite.”

Begrudging respect for Alinsky and the leftist protest tactics he inspired is nothing new on the right; FreedomWorks, the Koch-funded political organization, reportedly handed out Rules for Radicals to tea party activists. But the alt-right appears to have really taken Alinsky’s strategic thinking to heart—or at least when they are not just straight-up hyping their next opportunity to beat the hell out of some antifa.

“A lot of the strategy of this site is based on it,” Andrew Anglin, the publisher of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, wrote in September, urging his followers to read the book. In November, another neo-Nazi site, The Right Stuff, published a detailed analysis of Alinsky’s rules, concluding that “the Alt-Right is already in something of an unholy alliance with (((Alinsky))).” (The “echo” parenthesis are used by white supremacists to single out Jews.)

Far-right provocateur Gavin McInnes, whose “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys were among those who waged bloody fights with antifa in Berkeley, described Alinsky to me as “an immoral human being”—but nevertheless professed to be a student of his writings. “This isn’t us taking on a brilliant book because we admire the guy,” he told me. “It’s us seeing what your tactics are and using them against you.”

Nowhere has that strategy more clearly been on display than in Berkeley, where supporters of Trump-boosting media provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter have gleefully taken their cue from the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. Although the University of California-Berkeley canceled each of their planned speeches over mounting security concerns—exacerbated by the mayhem around Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance in March—officials worked to reschedule Coulter’s speech. She declined. On Monday, conservative student groups filed suit against the university, arguing that canceling Coulter’s talk violated their free-speech rights. Then Coulter vowed to show up anyway. Then she vowed not to come—on Wednesday the New York Times reported she was out. “Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away,” Coulter declared. (Alinsky’s Rule 4: “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.”) Then she told Fox News that she might still come: “I think I am still going to Berkeley, but there will be no speech.”

Though most of Alinsky’s devotees on the left eschew violence and laud, as he did, the passive resistance techniques of Mahatma Gandhi and the civil rights movement, his writings are not necessarily inconsistent with the alt-right’s and antifa’s embrace of street battles. “The future does not argue for making a special religion of nonviolence,” he wrote. “It will be remembered for what it was, the best tactic for its time and place.”

The alt-right’s repeated physical clashes with counterprotesters in Berkeley and elsewhere represent an evolution in tactics for what had been mostly an online movement. They also dovetail with the alt-right’s penchant for generating viral memes: An image of Kyle Chapman (a.k.a. Based Stick Man) pummeling an antifa counterprotester in Berkeley made him an alt-right celebrity and led to the birth of his own anti-antifa Proud Boys militia group, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights. (Chapman was arrested in Berkeley in mid April on an outstanding warrant for battery.) Thanks to additional publicity whipped up by Coulter, discussion and planning for the next Berkeley showdown has consumed 4chan since last week, with more than 100 recent posts dedicated to the subject, including talk of busing people in from around the country. No one seems deterred by Coulter’s waffling. “Folks are still going to Berkeley as a protest against the Domestic Terrorist Organization known as BAMN,” began one 4chan thread on Wednesday. “Spread the word. This changes nothing.”

“She’s apparently still going,” said another 4channer, “so we’re still on to bash some Antifa.”

“Regardless of Ann Couture’s (sic) decision,” Chapman wrote on Facebook, “we will have our rally. We will go back to MLK Civic Center Park and stand against these demons.”

“The whole idea of having Trump/free speech rallies in Berkeley is the historic nature of it,” a 4channer wrote earlier this month. “In 1968 the free speech movement happened in Berkeley to support communism. Now it is happening again in 2017 to support anti-communism, in hostile territory. It’s a battle on the front lines and the lefties help us make fun memes for the ages.” (Alinsky’s Rule 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”)

Activists on the right have much less experience than leftists with turning street protests into media tools. The civil rights, anti-war, and Occupy movements rose to prominence with the spread of photographs and videos documenting police brutality against protesters, from the use of fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, to pepper spray by a police officer at the University of California-Davis. The viral video of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer getting punched is a relatively rare example of the radical left celebrating violence. Yet for the meme-makers of the far right, humiliating their rivals by presenting their street brawlers as physically dominant is the preferred theme: “We’re just braver, and that makes for better jokes,” says McInnes. “The left are the new Church ladies. They’ve been sheltered in their own bubble for so long, they don’t know fun.”

An alt-right meme based on the Damigo punching video

Few people on the far-right have done more to turn the ideas of the left against it than Yiannopoulos, who enjoyed a rising career of co-opting “identity politics” in the interest of white males, before a pedophilia scandal knocked him from his perch. On Friday, he doubled down on the strategy of appropriating leftist concepts, announcing that he will host a “free speech week” this year that may include “a tent city on UC-Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza.” The idea repurposes an approach last seen on a large scale in 2011 at UC Berkeley and other university campuses in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street—but this time, in service of the right to say nasty things about women, people of color, and Muslims.

Which points directly to another Alinskyism that the alt-right is now testing: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” As one proponent of the idea explained on the neo-Nazi site The Right Stuff: “We want to get to the point where being labeled by the establishment as a racist, sexist, or antisemite (sic) is a sign of having done something correct.”

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How Ann Coulter and the Far Right Are Using the Lefty Playbook to Troll Berkeley

Posted in bigo, Everyone, FF, Gandhi, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How Ann Coulter and the Far Right Are Using the Lefty Playbook to Troll Berkeley

Inside the Underground Anti-Racist Movement That Brings the Fight to White Supremacists

Mother Jones

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At lunchtime on May 19, 2012, 18 masked men and women shouldered through the front door of the Ashford House restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois, a working-class suburb of Chicago. Some diners mistook the mob for armed robbers. Others thought they might be playing a practical joke. But Steven Speers, a stalactite-bearded 33-year-old who had just sat down for appetizers at a white nationalist meet and greet, had a hunch who they were. The gang filing in with baseball bats, police batons, hammers, and nunchucks were members of Anti-Racist Action (ARA) and the Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement (HARM), two groups dedicated to violently confronting white supremacists.

“Hey, bitches!” one of the anti-racists shouted before charging Speers’ table. “ARA is going to fuck this place up!”

Speers stood up and warned his seven companions to prepare to fight. His girlfriend, Beckie Williams, who had organized the lunchtime gathering on the white supremacist website Stormfront, grabbed a butter knife. Francis Gilroy, a homeless man who had driven up from Florida to find “work for whites,” as an online ad for the meeting promised, tried to pull the attackers off his companions. Williams was clubbed on the arm. Speers was hit on the head so hard he vomited.

An 80-year-old woman celebrating her granddaughter’s high school graduation at a nearby table was also pushed to the floor. A retired cop who believed he was witnessing a terrorist attack used a chair to knock out one of the masked intruders. That’s when they ran off, dragging their dazed companion.

In less than two minutes, the anti-racists had unleashed a flurry of destruction. A mosaic of smashed glass covered the floor. Blood polka-dotted the ceiling. Three people required medical care.

One group of attackers raced away in a cherry red Dodge Neon. Jason Sutherlin, a 33-year-old with the words “TIME BOMB” tattooed across his knuckles, rode shotgun. His half-brother Dylan drove, and his half-brother Cody, along with their cousin John Tucker, squeezed into the backseat with 22-year-old Alex Stuck, who’d been decked in the restaurant. They sped toward Interstate 80, which would take them home to central Indiana.

An off-duty police sergeant who’d heard a radio call about the attack spotted the Neon and turned on her siren. When she looked inside the parked car, amid the sweaty men she saw a baton, a baseball cap that said “Anti-Racist,” and a black and red scarf spelling out “HARM.” The men were arrested and charged with felony mob action and aggravated battery, which together carried up to seven years behind bars. (Speers and Gilroy were also arrested—Speers for a charge of possessing child pornography.)

Jason Sutherlin Andrew Spear

Sutherlin and his four compatriots would soon come to be known as the Tinley Park Five. Though they had launched the Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement just six months earlier, the attack would make them the public faces of a small yet militant movement that had been waging war on right-wing extremists for decades. HARM was part of Anti-Racist Action, a national group that had spent more than 20 years trying to expose and combat radical right-wing activity with tactics that ranged from counseling kids in neo-Nazi gangs to harassment and physical violence. Most of their actions received little attention, though they occasionally made headlines, like after the 2002 Battle of York, where ARA members attacked a white supremacist march in a Pennsylvania town, or the time in 2009 when pepper-spray-wielding ARA members broke up a New York City speech by the British Holocaust denier David Irving. But mostly, this war was invisible beyond the predominantly white working-class youths caught up in it.

As the election of Donald Trump has ushered white supremacists and their ideas from the fringes to the mainstream, their most militant foes have also come out of the shadows. On Inauguration Day, Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right,” was punched in the face on a Washington, DC, street corner. The blow was caught on video, spawning countless remixes and a debate over the ethics and efficacy of “Nazi punching.” That same night, a Trump supporter shot and wounded an anti-fascist, or “antifa,” who was protesting a speech by Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of Washington in Seattle. Less than two weeks later, “black bloc” protesters in Berkeley, California, helped force the cancellation of another Yiannopoulos speech, setting fires, smashing windows, and punching a Milo fan. Nationwide, new militant groups like Redneck Revolt are recruiting the next generation of activists who believe that white liberals are not up to the challenge of beating back right-wing extremists. The story of HARM’s rise and fall is a prequel to this moment, and a revealing tale about an underground war that’s been simmering for years and may now be poised to explode.

The seed for HARM was planted in People’s Park, a tangle of trees and footpaths in downtown Bloomington, Indiana, where in 1968 an African American graduate student named Clarence Turner opened a small store called the Black Market. In a state with a long history of white supremacism (in 1925, nearly one-third of all adult white males there belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and the governor was a sympathizer), the shop celebrated African and African American culture by selling dashikis and Malcolm X speeches. A few months after it opened, two Klan members firebombed it on Christmas. “This will not be an open season on niggers,” Turner shouted during a rally in front of the ashen skeleton of his shop.

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By the 1990s, People’s Park had become a hangout spot for punks, ravers, hippies, petty drug dealers, and college kids looking to score. It was there around 1996 that Jason Sutherlin met Telly, another teen from a nearby town. Telly introduced Sutherlin to Nomad, a hulking, half-Puerto Rican tattoo artist. (These names are aliases that they asked me to use to avoid being targeted by white supremacists; the investigation into the Tinley Park assaults is ongoing.) Long before they would become leaders of the local anti-racist movement, the three teens “chased the same cute punk girls,” Sutherlin recalls. “At first, they were my competition, but then we became pals.”

The trio shared a love of hip-hop and punk and a hatred for bullies. It was at house parties and concerts that they got their first introduction to Indiana’s numerous white supremacist gangs—specifically, the Hammerskins and the Vinlanders Social Club. Sutherlin recalls attending a show where a Hammerskin stabbed a Latino kid. At another show, concertgoers tried to kick out a group of neo-Nazis, one of whom fired a gun into the air. (More recently, three Vinlanders nearly beat a homeless black man to death in Indianapolis in 2007.) Sutherlin was shocked by the neo-Nazis’ boldness, but he was just as impressed by how the older punks stood up to them. “That culture of not taking any shit seeped into my consciousness.”

A rampaging neo-Nazi shot Won Joon Yoon outside the Korean United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1999. Andrew Spear

Sutherlin had grown up in a diverse, working-class family that moved frequently between Indiana, Texas, and Florida. “We were crazy white trash, but my mom ran a very multicultural household,” he said. He had a gay Latino babysitter and his younger sister’s dad is black. Sutherlin recalled walking down the street with her near their home outside Bloomington when she was four. “Look,” a man shouted from the window of his pickup. “He’s got his own little nigger!” When the 14-year-old Sutherlin launched a bottle of Snapple at the truck, the man jumped out and beat him up. “In that moment, I realized that if there’s anything in life worth throwing down over,” he said, “that was it.”

In July 1999, a 21-year-old Indiana University student who had fallen under the sway of a neo-Nazi cult called the World Church of the Creator went on a two-state, three-day shooting spree, wounding nine people and killing two, including a Korean graduate student in Bloomington. Still, Sutherlin and his friends weren’t overtly interested in politics yet—they just liked hanging out in the park, going to shows, drinking, and getting into fights. Sutherlin describes himself during his teens and early 20s as a “hoodrat.” One night in 1999, after he’d dropped out of school, he burglarized a house, stealing several computers to get money to buy cocaine. He was sentenced to two years. An acquaintance who was also an inmate at the same facility later joined the prison branch of the Vinlanders Social Club. “He wasn’t even racist,” Sutherlin said, “but I think the power of the group appealed to him. If you’re a disaffected young man, any strong masculine identity will hold sway over you.”

Sutherlin became active in politics after getting out of prison and having a child. “Bringing a son into this world made me feel like I had to make things better for him,” he said. Punk, rap lyrics, and his family’s diversity had fostered his interest in left-wing ideas, but now he read voraciously about slavery, capitalism, and sexism. Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, which documents the link between race and mass incarceration, “blew my mind.” He became fascinated by the militant 19th-century abolitionist John Brown. He went on a diet and lost nearly 150 pounds.

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Sutherlin took it as a sign that America might finally be reckoning with its racist past. “He was the first president I ever believed in,” he says. “Like, I was telling my family to vote for him.” But after Obama’s election, the political climate seemed to sour and the racial progress Sutherlin had hoped for never materialized. “America just would not accept a black man as its leader. It enraged me to fully realize that.”

Fanning the flames of Sutherlin’s anger was the emergence of the tea party and birtherism, and the “failure of mainstream Democratic or Republican politicians to aggressively challenge” these movements’ racist and nativist messages. This frustration led him to People’s Park, where a small crowd gathered at the former site of the Black Market one night in October 2011. Just three weeks after Occupy Wall Street took over New York’s Zuccotti Park, Occupy Bloomington was born. Sutherlin helped build a kitchen and cook communal meals, and he didn’t sleep for two days. He was thrilled to be involved in activism of some kind, even if it wasn’t directly addressing racism.

Toward the end of the year, Thomas Buhls, a former Marine and organizer for the Knights, the public wing of the Ku Klux Klan, showed up around People’s Park handing out recruitment pamphlets and talking about “white genocide.” Buhls was part of a new wave of young white supremacists who pioneered the recruitment approach since adopted by the so-called alt-right: rebranding white nationalism not as a philosophy of racial superiority, but as a common-sense extension of identity politics in which the white working class is portrayed as victims of immigration, affirmative action, and multiculturalism. In this world-view, white anti-racists were an especially loathsome threat to racial solidarity. “If I tell the obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews,” wrote Robert Whitaker, a former Reagan administration aide, in his “Mantra,” a mini-manifesto that appeared online in 2006 and has served as a touchstone for white nationalists. “They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white. ‘Anti-racist’ is a code word for anti-white.”

“Buhls was telling people the recession happened because of the Jew bankers, because the Latinos were stealing jobs,” Sutherlin remembers. He and Telly would confront Buhls when they got the chance, and Sutherlin told him not to bother people in the park. “His audacity, man, of showing up at the spot where the Black Market had been firebombed.”

“I wasn’t sure if I was racist or anti-racist,” recalls Alex Stuck. “I just knew I was pissed off.” A high school dropout from Terre Haute, Indiana, who also participated in Occupy Bloomington, Stuck worked at a pizza shop beneath the pub where Sutherlin was a bartender and bouncer. Stuck had a cockatiel Mohawk, a teardrop inked beneath his right eye, and an underbite reminiscent of a French bulldog. “I was your average dumb kid,” he says. “I’d tell a racist joke or use a racist slur.” But Sutherlin began to school him about white privilege, sexism, and structural racism. “Before that, I was a muggle,” Stuck says, referring to the term for Harry Potter characters without magical powers.

The magic Sutherlin introduced him to was the history of the secret war between anti-racists and white supremacists. Like most wars, this one had its own martyrs and heroes. There was the tragedy of Greensboro, North Carolina, where in 1979 Klansmen and neo-Nazis opened fire on a “Death to the Klan” rally, killing five participants. There were the Baldies, a 1980s Minneapolis street crew, whose shaved heads, bomber jackets, boots, and braces mirrored the attire of the racist skinheads they booted out of town. And then there was Anti-Racist Action, which merged the moralism of America’s abolitionist tradition with the nihilism of punk rock and viewed the culture war as a literal war on racists, sexists, and homophobes, whom they denounced as fascists. “Racism is an idea,” an anonymous ARA member said in the 2000 documentary Invisible Revolution, but “fascism is an idea mixed with action. It took fascism to establish Jim Crow and before that, slavery…Anti-Semitism has been around a long time, but it took fascism to make the Holocaust…When you cross that threshold, you negate your rights to a calm, collective conversation.”

If ARA was the brawn of the anti-racist movement, its most prominent brain was Noel Ignatiev, a Marxist, an ex-steelworker, and a former lecturer for Harvard University’s African American studies department. He founded a journal, Race Traitor, as a vehicle for his theories about how to attack and erode white privilege. Anti-racist whites must commit “treason to whiteness” by rejecting the benefits skin color confers upon them, Ignatiev argued. “Be reverse Oreos,” he told the New York Times in 1997. “Defy the rules of whiteness—flagrantly, publicly. When someone makes a racial slur in your presence, say, ‘You probably think I’m white because I look white.'” He added that “challenging people on their whiteness can lead to harsh confrontations, even blows.” Breitbart described him as the “Harvard professor who calls for the ‘destruction’ of the ‘white race.'”

White Nationalists See Trump as Their Troll in Chief. Is He With Them?

Sutherlin, Telly, and Nomad cited this legacy as inspiration for the group they formed in the winter of 2011, just before Occupy Bloomington was evicted from People’s Park. “The feeling was that Occupy had been too moderate and unfocused,” says Sutherlin’s cousin John Tucker, who worked with Sutherlin as a bouncer. He credits his interest in HARM to teenage run-ins with neo-Nazis and to the times he heard his mother, who has a dark complexion, being called “wetback” and “squaw” by strangers in Bloomington. “This was going to be something more effective,” Tucker said. “Protesting and camping is nice, but this was going to have results.”

At HARM’s first official meeting, a few dozen people showed up at Sutherlin’s apartment with potluck dishes and beer. Telly stood before the crowd and announced the new group’s name and mission. Adopting Anti-Racist Action’s four-point platform, HARM promised to fight racists with direct action, eschewing protests or legislative efforts in favor of, say, hacking neo-Nazis’ email accounts, providing security at gay pride parades, and exposing the shady pasts of bigoted candidates. “This is a war,” Telly said, “and we intend to win.”

That’s when all but about 10 people left. “Some of them were hipster liberals,” said Stuck. “Once it came down to the nitty-gritty and we started discussing tactics, they were like, ‘We don’t wanna be a part of this.'”

Those who stayed included Tucker, who’d never been involved in politics before, and Sutherlin’s affable 23-year-old half-brother, Cody. Nomad arrived later that night. Stuck recalls seeing him—muscular as a middleweight, his head Bic-razored, his throat adorned with a tattoo of a switchblade—and thinking, “That’s who I want to be.” “I was a disenfranchised white youth,” Stuck says, “and thank God that HARM got to me first. I could have easily went the opposite direction.”

Nomad had that exact fear about his 14-year-old son, who had recently come home with a neo-Nazi recruitment flyer. White supremacists had even shown up at the tattoo parlor where Nomad worked and tried to recruit him, not realizing he was a militant anti-racist—and half Puerto Rican. “They are poisoning these kids,” Nomad said.

Telly was particularly alarmed by the growing acceptance of extreme right-wing ideas and figures. “It was terrifying,” he said. The birther movement and Arizona’s 2010 anti-immigrant law were “barely veiled racist sentiments that sounded like stuff white supremacists would advocate, not what members of the Republican Party would typically find acceptable.” Telly recalled J.T. Ready, an Arizona Republican committeeman and a former member of the National Socialist Movement who killed his family and himself after the FBI began investigating his border militia group for the murder of undocumented immigrants. There was also Jack Hunter, who had worked as an aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) until it came out that he’d made pro-Confederate statements and written that “John Wilkes Booth’s heart was in the right place.” These people didn’t have much influence, Telly acknowledged, but “it was fucking insane that they had any influence whatsoever. Things had gone so far to the right, and we wanted to pull them back to the left.”

With its core members assembled, HARM planned an action: It would confront Buhls, who was holding a “European Heritage” rally in downtown Bloomington. In preparation, the activists lifted weights in Sutherlin’s garage “to beef up so we could break bones better,” says Stuck, half-seriously. On the day of the rally, in April 2012, more than 100 people came out to protest Buhls, who showed up with just one friend. The HARM members didn’t have a concrete plan to challenge Buhls, and before they could do anything two protesters ran up and punched him. His “Celebrate White Heritage” sign capsized into a sea of counterprotesters. Police whisked him away in a patrol car for his own safety.

A few weeks later, HARM stormed the restaurant in Illinois. While Sutherlin and the rest of the Tinley Park Five sat in jail, their comrades found their next target: the newly formed White Student Union at Indiana University. Matthew Heimbach, a white nationalist leader from Maryland, had pioneered the first White Student Union at Towson University outside Baltimore before helping spread the concept to other schools. Bloomington’s White Student Union announced its presence on campus by planning an “American White History Month.”

But less than a week after the White Student Union made its debut, a disturbing notice was posted on the group’s Facebook page by its founder, an IU undergrad:

I just spent all night in the hospital.

While walking down 10th…a blue van pulled up and four figures poured out of the vehicle…All of them wore all black clothing and had either ski masks or bandanas covering their faces…

What’s up…? That’s the only thing they said. I got hit in the head with something from behind. I fell down and told them that was enough. At this point all…of them proceeded to kick me for what felt like hours. At some point I passed out. I didn’t think I would ever wake up again.

None of it was true—it was an elaborate psyops scheme. HARM had plastered flyers all over Bloomington denouncing the White Student Union’s founder as a racist and then promised to stop only if he handed over access to the group’s Facebook page. Amazingly, he did. Then HARM invented the story of the beating to elicit notes of sympathy from other white supremacists. Once the post was up, they “doxed” those who replied, posting their real names and email addresses online.

“Though we support direct action against white supremacy,” an anonymous HARM member gloated on the group’s website after revealing the hoax, “we also believe in proportional responses and it is our belief that this fictitious action would have been overkill.” In other words, actually beating up the college kid who started the White Student Union would have been a step too far, but harassing him and outing his sympathizers was not. Heimbach “found a young naive conservative kid and turned him into the next battle in the war against racial supremacy,” the HARM member wrote, adding that the student had agreed to disband the White Student Union as a result of the hacking. “White supremacists are like rabid dogs…Just like rabid dogs, putting them down is always the most humane approach.”

I met Telly and Nomad in Columbus, Ohio, several months after the Tinley Park attack. Sutherlin and his brothers, his cousin, and Stuck were in Chicago awaiting trial, and Telly and Nomad were participating in a fundraiser to pay bail. They led me to a carriage house behind a “big-ass, beautiful mansion,” as Nomad described it, where a crowd of about 50 people greeted us. Many were HARM and ARA members, and I wondered if any of the remaining 13 fugitives were among them. (I never found out.) They were dressed in Mad Max-style punk garb—black jeans, black hoodies, bomber jackets, and combat boots, with neck and face tattoos, septum piercings, and rainbow-colored bandannas. They included a few African Americans and a dozen women. As Bob Fitrakis, a political-science professor and voting rights activist who hosted the event, wrote, they “exuded an aura that made the Weathermen look like the Brady Bunch.”

We Talked to Experts About What Terms to Use for Which Group of Racists

Fitrakis, a paunchy man with a ducktail mullet, was running for Congress as the candidate of the Green Party, which had co-sponsored the evening with ARA. His supporters, who had paid $25 to attend, mingled awkwardly with the radicals. Circulating among them was the Green Party’s then-vice presidential candidate, an anti-poverty activist named Cheri Honkala. “Dude,” Nomad said to me after a woman wearing a pearl brooch offered him a glass of zinfandel on a silver tray. The switchblade tattooed across his throat wiggled as he spoke. “This is a little out of my league.”

“These kids are the future,” said a sweaty, elderly man who asked that I not use his name because he was a “prominent professor.” He wore a black blazer over a T-shirt with a peace sign. “This is what the left needs—working-class, radical youth who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and scare the bejesus out of the teabaggers!”

“I guess there’s a time and a place for everything, even electoral politics,” Nomad said as he handed me a PBR, glaring at the clean-cut and middle-aged partygoers around us. He took a swig from a bottle of Southern Comfort he’d stashed in his back pocket. “But—and I hate to use gendered language like this—liberals are fucking pussies, man. Sometimes you’ve got to put on the big-boy boots and stomp through some mud.”

After Honkala made a speech about her work as a housing activist in Philadelphia, Telly and two other ARA members sat at the front of the room and described what had happened at the Ashford House. Nomad, standing beside me, snorted tearfully into a red handkerchief when Telly read a letter Jason Sutherlin had sent from jail. “People might think our actions are extreme,” Telly told the crowd, “but these guys”—neo-Nazis—”are often so far beyond the law that they don’t respond to legal appeals. They don’t care if hate crime legislation is enacted; it makes no difference to them. The situation in America has reached a critical tipping point, and we need to fight back with whatever tactics are effective at sending these guys back into the caves they crawled out of.”

“Right on, brother,” a snowy-haired man said.

Other Green Party members golf-clapped. The professor in the black blazer raised his champagne glass.

A hand suddenly shot up in the crowd. “Am I hearing you right?” asked an elegant African American woman with a bundle of silver-streaked hair and a “No War in Iraq” button on her straw purse. “You guys advocate violence?” She’d never heard of HARM or ARA and had been attracted by their names, she explained, but weren’t they just as bad as the people they were fighting? “Doesn’t your approach make you just like the Nazis?”

“Bullshit,” an ARA activist fake-sneezed, flashing a shit-eating smile. The questioner stormed out of the room. Telly ran a hand over his shaved head and sighed. “We’re not remotely the same,” he told the remaining crowd. “We support a diversity of tactics.” He reminded listeners that most of ARA’s actions were nonviolent—removing swastika tattoos from ex-convicts, counseling juvenile offenders, providing security at protests. “Violence is never our default response, and it’s a tiny fraction of what we do,” he said. “But it is one weapon in our tool kit. We’re not afraid to acknowledge when nonviolence is obviously not working. What you’re doing, what the liberal left is doing, frankly isn’t working.”

Five months later, I met Jason Sutherlin at East Moline Correctional Center, a turreted fortress circled by razor wire rising out of the cornfields of western Illinois, where he’d been sentenced to six years following a plea deal. His brothers, his cousin, and Stuck were sent elsewhere in the state to serve terms ranging from three and a half to six years. (A sixth Ashford House attacker, 28-year-old Jason Hammond, was later arrested and sentenced to three and a half years. His twin brother, Jeremy, is serving a 10-year sentence for hacking the security company Stratfor.) The rest of the Tinley Park attackers remain at large and are unknown.

Sutherlin shook my hand, the T-I-M-E on his knuckles interlacing through mine, as he sheepishly slipped the B-O-M-B hand into the pocket of his prison denims. “That guy acts tougher than he is,” he said, nodding toward a beefy prisoner sitting near us in the visitation room, bouncing his son on a leg adorned with a large swastika tattoo. Sutherlin’s eyes are cottonseed blue and heavily lidded, and his slightly upturned nose gives him a wary, porcine appearance. On his bicep is a tattoo that says “Fools Rush In,” and he has the physique of a dead lifter, a huge torso held up by a pair of tiny sawhorse legs. “My best friend in here is a queer black dude,” he told me, grinning. “But the Nazis don’t mess with us.”

How Trump Took Hate Groups Mainstream

White supremacist gangs have an active presence in some Illinois prisons, and Sutherlin told me a story about a white guard who had approached him one day and said, menacingly, “I know why you’re in here.” Later, Sutherlin found himself alone with the same guard. The guard walked up to Sutherlin and flashed a photo of his wife, who is African American. “I think you’ll be all right in this prison,” the guard said. “I totally misread the dude,” Sutherlin told me. “He was congratulating me.”

Why risk so much to fight racism? I asked. Is this even his fight?

“My sister is black,” he said, “and that gave me a different experience of growing up in Indiana. Today, racism has reached a whole other level. It literally makes me sick to my stomach.”

“But why is violence necessary?” I pressed him. “You seem awfully preoccupied with morality—isn’t violence wrong?”

“Part of me feels bad for the whole attack,” he said. “Some central part of me thinks that all violence is oppression, and it’s never, ever right to oppress another person for their beliefs, identity, sexuality, or any other reason, no matter how heinous. But another part of me thinks that these guys aren’t worth that consideration—they’re such scumbags. All you can do is stop them from influencing others at this point.”

“Is it a danger to dehumanize them?”

“Yeah, man, it is. I think about that every day. I don’t want to dehumanize anybody.”

I later spoke with Brandon Spiller, whom Sutherlin had hit in the head with a steel baton at Tinley Park. He told me that being attacked had strengthened his conviction that whites are under siege in America. In the months after the assault, he said he’d received dozens of threatening phone calls from ARA members at his home in Wisconsin. “It’s definitely made me more likely to use my gun next time,” he said.

This is one of the paradoxes of militant anti-racist tactics: Attempting to stop hate crimes by policing thought crimes may reinforce the narrative of victimization that radicalizes some extremists in the first place. Research also suggests that violent protest may drive would-be allies toward more reactionary positions. Even Ignatiev, the anti-racist intellectual, doubts the efficacy of attacks like the one at the Ashford House. Activists should focus on dismantling the institutions and social structure that perpetuate racism, he has written. “Race is not the work of racists.”

Heimbach, now the head of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, told me that groups like ARA help his cause. (Heimbach was filmed shoving a protester at a Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, in April 2016.) “They help reinforce our narrative of white victimization and make recruitment easier.”

Beckie Williams, however, wrote two weeks after the attack that the incident had caused her to abandon the white power movement. “Because of the relentless harassment by the ARA TERRORISTS,” she posted on Stormfront, “my already tenuous health is being impacted in a extremely severe way. My only recourse is to step away from activism for the sake of my continued survival.” (The other targets of the Tinley Park attack could not be reached for comment.)

After buying Sutherlin another microwave cheeseburger, I suggested that, while his actions might be appropriate in a society like Nazi Germany, in a democracy like ours, maybe they’re not. But he didn’t buy that; he believes it’s the responsibility of groups like HARM to police the boundary between democracy and fascism, keeping right-wing extremists in check, disorganized and unable to spread their ideas in public or harass people. “We’re not living in a fascist society,” Sutherlin said. “I know that. But it’s happening all around us, in fits and starts.”

As Sutherlin scarfed down a third vending-machine cheeseburger, I asked him about Tony Horwitz’s book Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, which I’d mailed him. “I feel like that book found me at just the right moment,” he said, a bead of grease dribbling down his chin. We’d been discussing the lesser-known details of Brown’s life, like his murder of slavery advocates at Pottawatomie Creek in Kansas in 1856, and the fact that his raid on Harpers Ferry was widely denounced as fanatical violence, even by President Abraham Lincoln. “I don’t know if we’re headed for a similar moment in American politics,” Sutherlin continued. “But if we are, I want to be someone who did something to stop it, not someone who played it safe and stood by.”

Ten feet away, the guy with the swastika tattoo kissed his son goodbye, and a guard led him away. The brawny, bearded Nazi could have been mistaken for one of Sutherlin’s brothers, the resemblance was so strong.

In January, just before Trump’s inauguration, I spoke with Sutherlin and Telly. All six of the Tinley Park attackers had been released from prison and HARM had gone dormant. Telly lives on the East Coast and has helped create a new group, the Torch Network, which combines several of the most radical ARA chapters, including those in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Central Texas. It promises to be just as militant as ARA, if not more. “New groups call me up and ask for advice,” Telly said. He cited the emergence of anti-fascist groups like the John Brown Militia, Redneck Revolt, and the Bastards Motorcycle Club as reasons to be optimistic, but otherwise he was gloomy. “I don’t know what to tell them,” he said. “We lost. Someone like Trump is what we were trying to prevent from happening.”

“I thought we were being alarmist,” Sutherlin said with a chuckle when I called him at his home outside Bloomington, “but it turns out things were way worse than even we imagined.” He’s no longer on parole and has been lying low, taking care of his six-year-old son and going to anti-Trump rallies but avoiding more militant activism. Since the election, he said, he’d also heard from people who were inspired by his example and seeking his advice. One was a childhood friend, a “gun-loving backwoods survivalist” who had never been political until Trump was elected but recently bought more weapons and talked about defending himself against the radical right wing. “I think a lot of people are now realizing that you can’t be neutral,” Sutherlin said. “A lot of people are suddenly realizing you have to pick a side and go to war.”

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Inside the Underground Anti-Racist Movement That Brings the Fight to White Supremacists

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This Epic PBS Documentary Shows How Creepily Little Has Changed Since World War I

Mother Jones

I was never that much of a history buff, so it’s pretty rare for me to sit down and watch a documentary about a war that ended before my mom was born. But I’m rethinking my slacker ways after watching The Great War, a captivating new series premiering April 10 on PBS’ American Experience.

The history of this nation’s involvement in World War I is as fascinating as it is unsettling. The Great War also was our global coming of age, the beginning of America’s transformation into a nation deeply engaged in world affairs and conflicts. Perhaps what struck me most about the three-part, six-hour series was the familiarity of so many of its themes—a sense of déjà vu that left me feeling like even those of us who know our history are doomed to repeat it.

Here are 10 big takeaways from the series to accompany this exclusive clip (above) about the wartime crackdown on dissent.

1. America was as polarized a century ago as it is today. In 1917, the country was split over race relations, voting rights, domestic politics, our place in the world, and whether we should be fighting foreign wars at all.

2. The “great” war was so not great. Like all big conflicts, World War I had its inspiring tales of duty, bravery, and heroism, but the primary narrative was one of staggering deprivation and devastation. By the time America came in, some 15 million soldiers and civilians were already dead. (The 1918 flu pandemic, made worse by the war, would kill millions more.) Beyond the bullets and shells, the Germans introduced frightening new weapons including mustard gas, which was soon adopted by the Allies. During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, US soldiers fighting the Germans lost an average of 550 men per day for 47 straight days. Three times that many were wounded. “It was, and remains,” notes one commentator, “the bloodiest battle America has ever been involved in.” But the longest conflict we’ve ever been involved in is still happening—over in Afghanistan.

“First to Fight” US Marines in 1918 U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Publicity Bureau

3. Immigrants were scapegoated. Sound familiar? With Americans being shipped overseas to backstop French and British forces against the Kaiser’s army, German Americans became the bad guys at home. They were forced to register with the federal government. German language and songs were banned from schools. There were stein-smashing events, and citizens were encouraged to report those they suspected of disloyalty. Anyone deemed pro-German might be beaten, tarred and feathered, hauled to an internment camp, or even lynched. Now we have anti-Muslim travel orders, rising hate crimes, and an anti-immigrant president who supports the notion of a Muslim registry—during the campaign, a Trump surrogate cited internment camps as a precedent. This is a slippery slope, people.

4. You were either with us or against us. Remember how the politicians who refused to fall in line with George W. Bush’s post-9/11 crackdown on civil liberties (and his move to invade Iraq) were attacked for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Rewind to 1917: At first reluctant to enter the war, President Woodrow Wilson went all in, brooking no dissent from the public. Conformity was enforced by means of federally funded propaganda, as well as vigilante groups that, with the blessing of the Department of Justice, conducted “slacker raids.” Police, too, conducted mass roundups, locking up draft evaders, conscientious objectors, and war critics such as socialist leader Eugene Debs. Hutterite religious objectors were tortured (some to death) at Leavenworth military prison.

New York City Preparedness Parade (May 1916) Library of Congress

5. Laws were passed to justify repression. With today’s Republican lawmakers proposing harsh penalties for peaceful protest activities such as blocking traffic, it’s instructive to recall the Espionage and Sedition acts that Congress passed in 1917 and 1918 at the urging of President Wilson. (One of the film’s featured historians, Michael Kazin, calls Wilson “both the great Democrat and one of the most oppressive figures in American history.”) Used to prosecute more than 2,000 Americans, “these two acts really become tools to shut up people who refuse to be quiet about their opposition to the war, especially left-wing organizations—socialists, the IWW International Workers of the World,” historian Jennifer Keene explains. Simply griping to a colleague about food rationing might get a man locked up. “For every prosecution,” adds historian Christopher Capozzola, “there may be tens, hundreds, thousands of ‘friendly’ visits by government agents warning someone not to say what they said or write what they wrote.”

6. World War I spawned a huge propaganda machine. Wilson enlisted marketing guru George Creel to sell the war and made him the head of a new federal Committee on Public Information. Creel was masterful in controlling the narrative of the conflict at home and spreading the view that if you weren’t actively down with the war effort, then you were disloyal. Years later, the administration of George H.W. Bush relied on PR firms to gin up public support for Operation Desert Storm. You might recall the fabricated story of Iraqi troops ripping babies from their incubators at a Kuwait hospital and leaving them to die—brought to you by a Kuwaiti government front group that hired companies such as Hill & Knowlton to make its case for America to go after Saddam.

A 1917 propaganda poster James Montgomery Flagg/Library of Congress

7. America betrayed her black soldiers. The documentary, whose commentators include several black historians, does a fabulous job of showing how the war was transformative for African American soldiers. Handed over to fight hellish trench battles under French command, they were treated, if not as equals, then at least as worthy comrades by their white French counterparts. The returning veterans were no longer content to accept the racist status quo in America; hundreds were lynched for resisting white supremacy. The “red summer” of 1919 was “a wave of racial violence unparalleled in United States history,” notes historian Chad Williams. “It was a horrific statement about how the aspirations of African Americans were going to be met with violent resistance from white people.” Thousands of blacks wrote to the White House begging for help, but they were given the cold shoulder. President Wilson, at once a global visionary and a small-minded bigot, refused to acknowledge the slaughter, and America remained as violently racist as it ever was. But the new perspective and sense of entitlement among black veterans planted seeds for a civil rights movement yet to come. America, of course, is still pretty darn racist.

The Harlem Hellfighters land in New York City. National Archives

8. The war was a turning point for women’s voting rights. The suffragists of the time, led by Alice Paul, were deft at turning Wilson’s war rhetoric against him: Even as young Americans died to “make the world safe for democracy,” they said, Wilson was stifling democracy at home. Anti-government protests had all but evaporated once America declared war, but Paul and others continued their daily vigil outside the White House gates. Even after Wilson had the women locked up, they continued to make him look bad by launching a hunger strike. Wilson eventually capitulated. Congress approved the 19th Amendment in 1919—the states ratified it in 1920. (Now it’s people of color who are stuck fighting—yet again—to protect their voting rights.)

9. Petty bipartisan squabbling ruined everything. After the immense effort of negotiating the terms of peace in Europe and selling the treaty to the American public, the president let his petty rivalry with Republican Henry Cabot Lodge doom the treaty’s ratification by the Senate. What if Wilson had let the pact proceed with Lodge’s inconsequential amendments attached? Or what if he’d brought the Republican leader along with him to Paris when he negotiated the treaty? What if America had ratified the treaty and stayed intimately involved in the postwar order? “Just what if?” asks historian Margaret MacMillan. Her implication is clear: World War II might never have happened.

A women’s peace parade in 1914, before America joined the war Library of Congress

10. Hillary Clinton actually would have been our second female president. Shortly after Congress nixed Wilson’s hard-fought treaty, the president suffered a massive stroke. His inner circle covered up the severity of his condition for a year and a half, while first lady Edith Wilson essentially served as a covert chief executive: “A handful of people in the White House,” says Wilson biographer A. Scott Berg, “engaged in the greatest conspiracy in American history.” Yet.

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This Epic PBS Documentary Shows How Creepily Little Has Changed Since World War I

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

Mother Jones

In Shots Fired, the buzzworthy police drama premiering March 22 on Fox, federal agents investigate a black cop who has gunned down a young, unarmed white man. By the numbers, police actually kill more white people than they kill black people, but they kill black people at a far higher rate. Using population data from the Census Bureau and police shooting data from the Washington Post‘s 2015 database, we calculated that black men between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.2 times as likely as white men the same age to be killed by a police officer. And while black men make up only about 6 percent of the US population, last year they accounted for one-third of the unarmed people killed by police.

We’ve obviously got some policing issues, but the Trump administration seems inclined to look the other way. Last month, in his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions made clear that his Justice Department will curtail the monitoring of problem-plagued police departments that the Obama administration used as a tactic to combat civil rights violations by police. (Sessions suggested the monitoring had undermined “respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult.”) Lest readers have forgotten just how divisive the racial disparities in law enforcement have been, and continue to be, we put together this brief history of recent police violence and backlash to it.

July 2013
Sickened by the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, labor organizer Alicia Garza writes on Facebook, “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter.” Her friend Patrisse Cullors turns the last bit into a hashtag.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire via AP Photo

March 2014
In a Pew poll, 46 percent of Americans agree that “our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.”
July 2014

Eric Garner is choked to death by an officer on Staten Island, New York. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” become a civil rights slogan.

Bruce Cotler/ Globe Photos/Zuma

Aug. 2014
A white cop in Ferguson, Missouri, kills black teen Michael Brown, sparking weeks of protest. Police deploy riot gear, armored vehicles, and sniper rifles, while demonstrators adopt a “hands up, don’t shoot” posture based on claims that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. On Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter takes off.
Oct. 2014
A Chicago cop shoots Laquan McDonald 16 times. Police officials claim the teen was approaching officers with a knife—a union rep says he “lunged”—but the city won’t release dash-cam footage.
Nov. 22, 2014

Tamir Rice, 12, is killed by a Cleveland officer as he plays with a toy gun in a park.
Nov. 24, 2014
A Ferguson grand jury declines to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Michael Brown‘s killer. More protests. Critics of #BlackLivesMatter respond with #AllLivesMatter.

Darren Wilson St. Louis County Prosecuter’s Office/Reuters

Nov. 30, 2014
Five St. Louis Rams players walk onto the field for a game in the “hands up” position.
Dec. 3, 2014
The NYPD officer who choked Eric Garner escapes indictment. Days later, LeBron James and other NBA players don “I Can’t Breathe” shirts at pregame warmups.

Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire via Zuma Images

Dec. 18, 2014
The White House announces a new task force to “strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Dec. 20, 2014
Two NYPD officers are ambushed. Their killer, a black man, had posted a photo of his gun on Instagram: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today.”
Jan. 2015
#BlackLivesMatter tweets average 10,000 a day.

Erik McGregor/Zuma

March 2015
A Department of Justice report says Ferguson police employees sent racist emails and targeted black residents with nuisance citations to generate revenue.
April 2, 2015
A white sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shoots black suspect Eric Harris after a foot chase. “I’m losing my breath,” Harris pleads in a video. “Fuck your breath,” another officer responds.
April 4, 2015

Walter Scott is fatally shot as he attempts to flee from Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Walter Scott in his Coast Guard days Courtesy of the Scott family

April 19, 2015
Freddie Gray dies of his injuries after a “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van.
May 2015
“I have heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace,'” prosecutor Marilyn Mosby says as she announces charges against six officers in the Gray case. The White House task force releases its report: Police must “embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset.”

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

June 2015
Rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video depicts him being shot by police. It garners about 70 million YouTube views and wins two Grammys.

July 2015
BLM activists seize the mic at a Democratic candidate forum to grill Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders on police violence.
Oct. 2015
Rapper Vic Mensa’s video for “16 Shots,” a song about Laquan McDonald, goes viral.

Nov. 19, 2015
A judge orders the release of dash-cam footage that appears to show McDonald walking away from police when he was shot. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires his police chief the next month.
Nov. 22, 2015
Presidential candidate Donald Trump tweets out a chart of fabricated crime statistics suggesting that black criminals are responsible for the vast majority of homicides against white people. It’s entirely bogus. Here’s Politifact’s summary:

Feb. 7, 2016
Beyoncé’s dancers adopt a Black Panther look for the Super Bowl halftime show. Police unions call for a boycott of the star.

via GIPHY

Feb. 24, 2016
BLM activists disrupt a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, demanding she apologize for her racially charged comments about “super predators” during the 1990s. Clinton appears irritated, but the next day she does just that.
May 2016
The first state “Blue Lives Matter” bill passes in Louisiana. Attacking a cop is now a hate crime.
June 2016
The police-van driver in the Freddie Gray case is acquitted.
July 5, 2016

Alton Sterling is fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while officers have him pinned to the ground.
July 6, 2016
During a traffic stop, a Minnesota cop shoots Philando Castile as he reaches for his wallet—that’s according to Castile’s girlfriend, who livestreamed his demise on Facebook: “You told him to get his ID, sir!”

July 7, 2016
A black gunman kills five cops at a Dallas protest against police violence. He holes up in a parking garage, where police kill him with an explosives-bearing robot.
July 12, 2016
President Barack Obama defends Black Lives Matter at a memorial for the slain officers. “We have all seen this bigotry in our lives at some point,” and “none of us is entirely innocent,” he says. “That includes our police departments.”
July 17, 2016
A black military vet who ranted online about the treatment of black people by police assassinates three officers (one of them black) in Baton Rouge.
July 18, 2016
At the Republican National Convention, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who is black, proclaims that “blue lives matter.” In an op-ed the same day, he calls Black Lives Matter the “enemy.”

Mike Segar/Reuters via ZUMA Press

July 18, 2016
A police officer in Florida shoots a black caregiver who was lying in the street with his hands up. A union rep explains that the officer had been aiming at the man’s autistic patient, whose toy truck he mistook for a firearm.
July 27, 2016
After further acquittals in the Freddie Gray case, charges are dropped against the remaining officers.
Aug. 2016
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick starts sitting out the national anthem to protest police violence. A few pros and countless high school and college athletes follow suit.

Kevin Terrell/AP

Sept. 2016
Clinton debates Trump: “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” she says. Critics pounce. “Yes, Hillary Clinton called the nation racist,” writes a Washington Times columnist.
Oct. 2016
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the DOJ will (finally) start collecting national data on police use of force.
Dec. 2016
A jury of 11 whites and one African American deadlocks in the trial of Michael Slager. A retrial is scheduled for late August 2017. A separate federal trial, to determine whether Slager violated Walter Scott’s civil rights, is slated to begin in May 2017.

Mic Smith, File/AP Photo

Feb. 2017
In his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions suggests that the Justice Department, under his watch, will discontinue its practice of monitoring police departments suspected of violating people’s civil rights.
March 2017
A new drama series, Shots Fired, debuts on Fox. “There were a lot of people who never saw Trayvon Martin as a kid,” one of the show’s co-creators tells Mother Jones. “He was painted as the victimizer, and Zimmerman Martin’s killer got donations from all over the country. So in doing a show that deals with police violence, the question was how do we make those people who sent in the donations see this kid as a human being? One of the things we came up with was to make one victim white.”

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

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Kellyanne Conway’s White Nationalist Retweet Is No Mistake

Mother Jones

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Late Monday, coming off a long evening of responding to Gen. Mike Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway found solace in a tweet from a user named Lib Hypocrisy:

Conway not only retweeted the message but also wrote, “Love you back,” and wished her “Hapless Haters” a happy Valentine’s Day.

But there was just one problem: Lib Hypocrisy is an explicit promoter of white nationalism and other bigotry. This is evident from the account’s profile, which includes the hashtags “#WhiteIdentity” and “#Nationalist.” It features a cartoon image connoting Pepe the Frog, the adopted mascot of the racist “alt-right” movement, and a shout-out to Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who wants to shut down mosques.

These are some of Lib Hypocrisy’s recent tweets and retweets:

Asked about her retweet of Lib Hypocisy by BuzzFeed on Tuesday, Conway implied that she hadn’t been in control of her account at the time. She said she “obviously” had no idea who Lib Hypocrisy was, adding, “I denounce whoever it is.” The tweets were soon deleted.

Conway’s move continues a long-standing pattern of Trump and his inner circle engaging with white nationalists and then claiming ignorance when confronted about it—as Mother Jones documented in multiple investigations since last summer. Other such “mistakes” include:

Trump failing to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when asked about it repeatedly on CNN, and then blaming a “bad earpiece.”
Trump appointing a white nationalist leader as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and then blaming a “database error” for the move.
Trump tweeting an image of himself superimposed over a picture of WWII-era Waffen-SS soldiers, and then blaming a mistake by an intern.
Gen. Michael Flynn sharing a #NeverHillary tweet that said, “Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore,” and then claiming it was a mistake.

Those are just the cases in which Trump and his backers have backpedaled. There are many other similar instances in which they haven’t even bothered to explain or apologize:

Trump twice retweeting @WhiteGenocideTM
Trump retweeting @EustaceFash, whose header image at the time also included the term “White Genocide.”
Trump tweeting an image of himself as Pepe the frog
Trump tweeting an image of “Crooked Hillary” superimposed over a pile of cash and the Star of David
Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous Skittles tweet
Trump tweeting blatantly false and racially inflammatory crime statistics

The most charitable interpretation of this behavior is ineptitude. Regardless, the result is clear: According to one study of 10,000 Twitter accounts that followed Trump, more than a third also followed the account of at least one prominent booster of white nationalism—a movement now widely regarded as having a direct line into the Oval Office.

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Kellyanne Conway’s White Nationalist Retweet Is No Mistake

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Peter’s Choice

Mother Jones

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This past October, I taught a weeklong seminar on the history of conservatism to honors students from around the state of Oklahoma. In five long days, my nine very engaged students and I got to know each other fairly well. Six were African American women. Then there was a middle-aged white single mother, a white kid who looked like any other corn-fed Oklahoma boy and identified himself as “queer,” and the one straight white male. I’ll call him Peter.

Peter is 21 and comes from a town of about 3,000 souls. It’s 85 percent white, according to the 2010 census, and 1.2 percent African American—which would make for about 34 black folks. “Most people live around the poverty line,” Peter told the class, and hunting is as much a sport as a way to put food on the table.

Peter was one of the brightest students in the class, and certainly the sweetest. He liked to wear overalls to school—and on the last day, in a gentle tweak of the instructor, a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. A devout evangelical, he’d preferred former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at the start of the primary season, but was now behind Donald Trump.

One day the students spent three hours drafting essays about the themes we’d talked about in class. I invited them to continue writing that night so the next morning we could discuss one of their pieces in detail. I picked Peter’s because it was extraordinary. In only eight hours he’d churned out eight pages, eloquent and sharp.

When I asked him if I could discuss his essay in this article, he replied, “That sounds fine with me. If any of my work can be used to help the country with its political turmoil, I say go for it!” Then he sent me a new version with typos corrected and a postelection postscript: “My wishful hope is that my compatriots will have their tempers settled by Trump’s election, and that maybe both sides can learn from the Obama and Trump administrations in order to understand how both sides feel. Then maybe we can start electing more moderate people, like John Kasich and Jim Webb, who can find reasonable commonality on both sides and make government work.” Did I mention he was sweet?

When he read the piece aloud in class that afternoon in October, the class was riveted. Several of the black women said it was the first time they’d heard a Trump supporter clearly set forth what he believed and why. (Though, defying stereotypes, one of these women—an aspiring cop—was also planning to vote for Trump.)

Peter’s essay took off from the main class reading, Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Its central argument is that conservative movements across history are united in their devotion to the maintenance of received social hierarchy. Peter, whose essay was titled “Plight of the Redneck,” had a hard time seeing how that applied to the people he knew.

“We all live out in the wilderness, either in the middle of a forest or on a farm,” he wrote. “Some people cannot leave their homes during times of unfortunate weather. Many still dry clothes by hanging them on wires with clothespins outside. These people are nowhere near the top, or even the middle, of any hierarchy. These people are scraping the bottom of the barrel, and they, seemingly, have nothing to benefit from maintaining the system of order that keeps them at the bottom.” His county ended up going about 70 percent for Trump.

Concerning race, Peter wrote, “In Oklahoma, besides Native Americans, there have traditionally been very few minorities. Few blacks have ever lived near the town that I am from…Even in my generation, despite there being a little more diversity, there was no racism, nor was there a reason for racism to exist.” His town’s 34 or so black people might beg to differ, of course; white people’s blindness to racism in their midst is an American tradition. As one of the African American students in the class—I’ll call her Karen—put it, whites in her town see “racism as nonexistent unless they witness it firsthand. And then it almost has to be over the top—undeniable acts of violence like hate crimes or cross burnings on front lawns—before they would acknowledge it as such.” But it’s relevant to the story I’m telling that I’m certain Peter isn’t individually, deliberately racist, and that Karen agrees.

Still, Peter’s thinking might help us frame a central debate on the left about what to make of Trump’s victory. Is it, in the main, a recrudescence of bigotry on American soil—a reactionary scream against a nation less white by the year? Or is it more properly understood as an economically grounded response to the privations that neoliberalism has wracked upon the heartland?

Peter knows where he stands. He remembers multiple factories and small businesses “shutting down or laying off. Next thing you know, half of downtown” in the bigger city eight miles away “became vacant storefronts.” Given that experience, he has concluded, “for those people who have no political voice and come from states that do not matter, the best thing they can do is try to send in a wrecking ball to disrupt the system.”

When Peter finished with that last line, there was a slight gasp from someone in the class—then silence, then applause. They felt like they got it.

I was also riveted by Peter’s account, convinced it might be useful as a counterbalance to glib liberal dismissals of the role of economic decline in building Trumpland. Then I did some research.

According to the 2010 census, the median household income in Peter’s county is a little more than $45,000. By comparison, Detroit’s is about $27,000 and Chicago’s (with a higher cost of living) is just under $49,000. The poverty rate is 17.5 percent in the county and 7.6 percent in Peter’s little town, compared with Chicago’s 22.7 percent. The unemployment rate has hovered around 4 percent.

The town isn’t rich, to be sure. But it’s also not on the “bottom.” Oklahoma on the whole has been rather dynamic economically: Real GDP growth was 2.8 percent in 2014—down from 4.3 percent in 2013, but well above the 2.2 percent nationally. The same was true of other Trump bastions like Texas (5.2 percent growth) and West Virginia (5.1 percent).

Peter, though, perceives the region’s economic history as a simple tale of desolation and disappointment. “Everyone around was poor, including the churches,” he wrote, “and charities were nowhere near (this wasn’t a city, after all), so more people had to use some sort of government assistance. Taxes went up as the help became more widespread.”

He was just calling it like he saw it. But it’s striking how much a bright, inquisitive, public-spirited guy can take for granted that just is not so. Oklahoma’s top marginal income tax rate was cut by a quarter point to 5 percent in 2016, the same year lawmakers hurt the working poor by slashing the earned-income tax credit. On the “tax burden” index used by the website WalletHub, Oklahoma’s is the 45th lowest, with rock-bottom property taxes and a mere 4.5 percent sales tax. (On Election Day, Oklahomans voted down a 1-point sales tax increase meant to raise teacher pay, which is 49th in the nation.).

As for government assistance, Oklahoma spends less than 10 percent of its welfare budget on cash assistance. The most a single-parent family of three can get is $292 a month—that’s 18 percent of the federal poverty line. Only 2,469 of the more than 370,000 Oklahomans aged 18 to 64 who live in poverty get this aid. And the state’s Medicaid eligibility is one of the stingiest in the nation, covering only adults with dependent children and incomes below 42 percent of the poverty level—around $8,500 for a family of three.

But while Peter’s analysis is at odds with much of the data, his overall story does fit a national pattern. Trump voters report experiencing greater-than-average levels of economic anxiety, even though they tend have better-than-average incomes. And they are inclined to blame economic instability on the federal government—even, sometimes, when it flows from private corporations. Peter wrote about the sense of salvation his neighbors felt when a Walmart came to town: “Now there were enough jobs, even part-time jobs…But Walmart constantly got attacked by unions nationally and with federal regulations; someone lost their job, or their job became part-time.”

It’s worth noting that if the largest retail corporation in the world has been conspicuously harmed by unions and regulations of late, it doesn’t show in its profits, which were $121 billion in 2016. And of course, Walmart historically has had a far greater role in shuttering small-town Main Streets than in revitalizing them. But Peter’s neighbors see no reason to resent it for that. He writes, “The majority of the people do not blame the company for their loss because they realize that businesses are about making money, and that if they had a business of their own, they would do the same thing.”

It’s not fair to beat up on a sweet 21-year-old for getting facts wrong—especially if, as is likely, these were the only facts he was told. Indeed, teaching the class, I was amazed how even the most liberal students took for granted certain dubious narratives in which they (and much of the rest of the country) were marinated all year long, like the notion that Hillary Clinton was extravagantly corrupt.

Feelings can’t be fact-checked, and in the end, feelings were what Peter’s eloquent essay came down to­—what it feels like to belong, and what it feels like to be culturally dispossessed. “After continually losing on the economic side,” he wrote, “one of the few things that you can retain is your identity. What it means, to you, to be an American, your somewhat self-sufficient and isolated way of life, and your Christian faith and values. Your identity and heritage is the very last thing you can cling to…Abortion laws and gay marriage are the two most recent upsets. The vast majority of the state of Oklahoma has opposed both of the issues, and social values cannot be forced by the government.”

On these facts he is correct: In a 2015 poll, 68 percent of Oklahomans called themselves “pro-life,” and only 30 percent supported marriage equality. Until 2016 there were only a handful of abortion providers in the entire state, and the first new clinic to open in 40 years guards its entrance with a metal detector.

Peter thinks he’s not a reactionary. Since that sounds like an insult, I’d like to think so, too. But in writing this piece, I did notice a line in his essay that I had glided over during my first two readings, maybe because I liked him too much to want to be scared by him. “One need only look to the Civil War and the lasting legacies of Reconstruction through to today’s current racism and race issues to see what happens when the federal government forces its morals on dissenting parts of the country.”

The last time I read that, I shuddered. So I emailed Peter. “I say the intrusions were worth it to end slavery and turn blacks into full citizens,” I wrote. “A lot of liberals, even those most disposed to having an open mind to understanding the grievances of people like you and yours, will have a hard time with your words.”

Peter’s answer was striking. He first objected (politely!) to what he saw as the damning implication behind my observation. Slavery and Reconstruction? “I was using it as an example of government intrusion and how violent and negative the results can be when the government tries to tell people how to think. I take it you saw it in terms of race in politics. The way we look at the same thing shows how big the difference is between our two groups.”

To him, focusing on race was “an attention-grabbing tool that politicians use to their advantage,” one that “really just annoys and angers conservatives more than anything, because it is usually a straw man attack.” He compared it to what “has happened with this election: everyone who votes for Trump must be racist and sexist, and there’s no possible way that anyone could oppose Hillary unless it’s because they’re sexist. Accusing racism or sexism eliminates the possibility of an honest discussion about politics.”

He asked me to imagine “being one of those rednecks under the poverty line, living in a camper trailer on your grandpa’s land, eating about one full meal a day, yet being accused by Black Lives Matter that you are benefiting from white privilege and your life is somehow much better than theirs.”

And that’s when I wanted to meet him halfway: Maybe we could talk about the people in Chicago working for poverty wages and being told by Trump supporters that they were lazy. Or the guy with the tamale cart in front of my grocery store—always in front of my grocery store, morning, noon, and night—who with so much as a traffic violation might find himself among the millions whom Trump intends to immediately deport.

I wanted to meet him halfway, until he started talking about history.

“The reason I used the Civil War and Reconstruction is because it isn’t a secret that Reconstruction failed,” Peter wrote. “It failed and left the South in an extreme poverty that it still hasn’t recovered from.” And besides, “slavery was expensive and the Industrial Revolution was about to happen. Maybe if there had been no war, slavery would have faded peacefully.”

As a historian, I found this remarkable, since it was precisely what all American schoolchildren learned about slavery and Reconstruction for much of the 20th century. Or rather, they did until the civil rights era, when serious scholarship dismantled this narrative, piece by piece. But not, apparently, in Peter’s world. “Until urban liberals move to the rural South and live there for probably a decade or more,” he concluded, “there’s no way to fully appreciate the view.”

This was where he left me plumb at a loss. Liberals must listen to and understand Trump supporters. But what you end up understanding from even the sweetest among them still might chill you to the bone.

Read Peter’s full essay at motherjones.com/oklahoma.

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Peter’s Choice

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At His Inauguration, Trump Signals No Break From His Politics of Fear and Loathing

Mother Jones

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Today, as of noon, the president of the United States is a man who boasted of sexually assaulting women. The nation’s leader is a purveyor of fake news and conspiracy theories who led the racist birther campaign. The commander in chief in charge of the US nuclear arsenal is a fellow who was unfamiliar with the nuclear triad but who is obsessed with revenge. The head of the federal government is a businessman who vowed to “drain the swamp” but who has taken office loaded with troubling conflicts of interest and flouting multiple ethics norms. The defender of the Constitution is a record-setting prevaricator and fabulist who has repeatedly attacked journalists who challenge his false assertions. The guy who oversees national law enforcement is a dishonest developer who was sued for racially based housing discrimination and who lied about his mob ties. The person in charge of US national security is a foreign policy novice who has called for enhancing relations with a foreign power that covertly worked to subvert American democracy in order to benefit him and whose associates are under investigation by agencies he now oversees for possible contacts with that foreign power. The most powerful man in the world is a thin-skinned, arrogant, name-calling, bullying, narcissistic hotelier.

Thank you, America. Or, that is, the 46 percent of the electorate who voted for Donald Trump.

Their view of the nation and its current condition was diametrically opposed to the perspective of the majority, who voted for Hillary Clinton. Trump voters bought his spiel and his shtick. He portrayed the United States as a declining hellhole, a dystopia under siege by undocumented Latino immigrants, criminals, and ISIS, with Middle America workers played for rubes by uncaring, screw-you political, corporate, and media elites in league with international bankers. And Trump was the tough-guy white knight who would do whatever it took—disruption! chaos!—to restore the lives and dreams of hardworking folks and bring about the return of some mythical (whiter?) American greatness. (Details to come.)

And when he gave his first speech as president—his inaugural address on a dismal and gray day—Trump, no surprise, stuck with the simple and bumperstickerish themes that had brought him to this once improbable point: There is “carnage” across the land, the American people have been betrayed by a small group of elites, and it’s time for America First. Speaking to a sea of white people—who were being protected by a police force that is mostly black—Trump peddled the same big and bold promises he slung during the campaign: “America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.” The crowd cheered wildly for the nation’s No. 1 salesman. And they hooted when Clinton appeared on the big screen, and many in the VIP section toward the front of the crowd jeered when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the speakers before Trump, referred to gender identity equality.

Trump turned hate into a political tool. He’s not the first. But he effectively fueled and exploited long-established conservative hatred of Latinos, Obama, Clinton, the media, Muslims. He mocked a disabled reporter. He derided a federal judge who had ruled against him in the Trump University fraud suit as a “Mexican.” He described black communities as nothing but crime-infested and burned-out ghettoes. He encouraged voters to detest Washington and government. He made common cause with conspiracy nut Alex Jones. He won the support of the Ku Klux Klan and the alt-right (the fancy name for white nationalists). He encouraged violence at his rallies. He denounced his opponent as a treasonous criminal and called for her to be locked up. He obnoxiously insulted and openly feuded with, well…just about everyone: Miss Universe, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Carly Fiorina, Rosie. Spite was his meme.

Worse, Trump hitched hate to fear. He claimed that the nation was gripped by a crime spree (which didn’t exist), that ISIS was on the verge of invading the United States (not really), and that hundreds of millions of undocumented immigrants were poised to “pour” across the border (nope).

Most people who behave in such caddish and uncivil ways are dismissed as jerks—not embraced as the embodiment of the nation and its hopes and aspirations. In modern times, no candidate who campaigned so angrily has ever won the presidency. But early in the race, Trump’s team concluded that Trump was already widely known for his crass and abrasive public persona. (This was well before he was caught on video boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy.”) What was most important, one of his strategists told me this summer, was whether voters accepted Trump’s pitch that the country was in free fall (terrorism! no jobs! immigrants invading!) and were sufficiently freaked out to embrace a political novice who would promise extreme measures to deal with all this crap. Were the voters pissed off enough to accept a TV star businessman (forget the bankruptcies or mob ties—look at that jet) who didn’t give a damn about niceties and who would screw anyone who disagreed with him or got in his way? His only chance, his strategists knew, was if enough Americans wanted an asshole as president. As it turned out, a majority did not, but 63 million did—and that was enough for Trump to bag a win in the Electoral College.

After the election, Trump continued to act and tweet like Trump. As if the act had to continue. With inane tweets, he repeatedly dumped on Alec Baldwin and civil rights icon John Lewis. He referred to Americans who voted against him as the enemy. He compared the intelligence community—which concluded Vladimir Putin had meddled in the US elections to boost Trump—to Nazis and continued to make nice with Putin and to demonize Clinton. Having won the grand prize, Trump showed not a smidgeon of graciousness. He fibbed about matters large and small. (He claimed all the ball gowns were sold out in Washington because so many people would be celebrating his inauguration. High-end clothing outlets told reporters they had plenty of inventory.)

Trump demonstrated that his campaign trail populism was no more than an artifice. He appointed billionaires and Goldman Sachs vets to the Cabinet and did little to clean up the swamp he had denounced. His plan to deal with his own conflicts of interest was a sham. (He begins his presidency in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.) Trump empowered Republicans aiming to privatize Medicare and eviscerate Social Security—notions Trump opposed during the race. He vowed that his Obamacare replacement would entail “insurance for everybody”; then he backtracked. He demonstrated no core ideological convictions. He showed once again that he is 100 percent situational.

His approval rating plummeted to a record low for a president-elect. Yet congressional Republicans stood by him and waved a rubber stamp for his appointees. And it was unclear whether any of his missteps tainted him in the eyes of his die-hard supporters. At the inauguration, his supporters gasped with excitement when he gave the crowd a thumbs-up. Well-heeled folks in the big-donor section applauded his denouncement of the establishment and his vow to give government back to the people. Many went gaga when Melania Trump appeared on the television screens, wearing a fashionable blue coat.

During the campaign, one Trump aide told me that the Trump camp understood that many of his supporters were low-information voters. “They mainly just see the headlines,” he said. So if a headline said, “Trump Vows to Make America Great Again,” that was the message many of these people absorbed. By speaking in slogans and memes—”Lock her up!”—Trump was effectively communicating and connecting with a large group of voters. The specifics didn’t register—or matter.

This has continued during the transition period, with Trump issuing bold promises and boasting that his efforts have already saved American jobs. (The details, often more complicated, don’t reach many of his voters.) He did the same with his short inaugural address, which was light on compound sentences or sophisticated ideas. Consequently, there is no telling if his folks will sour on him, if he keeps insisting that he is doing one helluva job.

Trump now shifts from campaigning to governing. It’s unlikely he will change his tactics. He will continue to praise himself and his efforts and declare every step he takes a gargantuan win for America. He will continue to blame others, if anything falls short or goes wrong. He will keep on picking Twitter feuds and behaving in a juvenile and puerile manner—perhaps as a strategic distraction or perhaps because he simply cannot help himself. He certainly is not embarrassed by his behavior—and a man who cannot be embarrassed is a dangerous man.

So for the American majority who voted against Trump and his keep-it-simple politics of fear, hate, and insult, the nation begins the Trump era with no silver linings. A vain, vengeful, and erratic celebrity who has often acted in crude, bigoted, and ignorant fashion is in control. And, ultimately, he is not the problem. The real trouble is with the 63 million who voted for him. How long will they stand by him and buy his easy-answers, reality-defying pitch? In front of the Capitol, Trump told his supporters, “Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.” They have already made great progress on that path of hate and fear.

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At His Inauguration, Trump Signals No Break From His Politics of Fear and Loathing

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Michael Eric Dyson Wants White People to Step Up and Actually Do Something About Racism

Mother Jones

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St. Martin’s Press

The election of Donald Trump sent things spinning in America and got people talking about “whiteness.” Did Democrats ignore the white working class? Was Trump making a legitimate appeal to rural America, or was his rhetoric a thinly masked courtship of white racists? If progressives want to win the next presidential election, do they need to abandon identity politics?

As befuddling as it all seems, the author Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor and Baptist minister, has a pretty simple message: If America is to improve racial harmony, then white people—all of them—will need to get on board.

In Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, out this week, Dyson doesn’t sugarcoat what he expects from “white brothers and sisters.” He demands action, not just empathy. The book calls on all whites, urban and rural, to get involved, and Dyson even offers a list of ways to do so. You might start reading notable black authors (James Baldwin is a favorite), create an “individual reparations account,” or find another way to pay a “secular tithe” that helps young black people in your neighborhood. He even calls on whites with social-media savvy to use their resources for good: If young whites were to tweet, for example, every time a cop let them off the hook for a minor infraction that a minority kid might have been punished for, it might help highlight policing disparities.

Not everyone, as Dyson is well aware, will be receptive to his ideas—in fact, he might just piss some people off. But minority voices in America can’t be buried, Dyson writes, least of all during a Trump administration

Mother Jones: Tell me a little bit about your childhood in Detroit.

Michael Eric Dyson: I grew up on the West Side—the “near West Side,” as they say—in what would be considered now the inner city. I had an exciting, interesting childhood, to be sure, with all of the challenges that ghetto life provides—but had loving parents. I was born in ’58, so the riot in Detroit in 1967 was a memorable introduction to the issue of race and how race made a difference in American society. And then the next year, of course, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. And the Detroit Tigers winning the World Series. All of that made a huge impression on my growing mind.

MJ: Why the World Series?

MED: It introduced me for the first time to a team with a lot of black players. Detroit had about three of them: I think it was Willie Horton, Gates Brown, and Earl Wilson—might have been one or two more in ’68. But the St. Louis Cardinals, the team we were facing and eventually beat in a seven-games series, had Lou Brock and Bob Gibson, who just mowed down 17 batters in that first game and made me want to become a pitcher. To see all those beautiful black ballplayers in one place and thriving and doing so well made a huge impression on me.

MJ: So you were a good student? A big reader?

MED: Yep.

MJ: You have a great list of black authors at the end of your book. When did you start reading their books?

MED: Mrs. James, my fifth-grade teacher, introduced us to some of the great literature of African American culture. I won my first blue ribbon reciting the vernacular poems of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, in particular “Little Brown Baby.” She introduced us to these authors early on and taught us that their literature is important. Langston Hughes—we read his poetry. We studied who W.E.B DuBois was. And so she whetted our appetites.

And then I went to the library and began to read some of this stuff on my own. My discovery of James Baldwin was life-changing. I read Go Tell It on the Mountain first, and that was hugely impactful. The beauty of the literary art, the grappling with the black church, the wrestling with one’s identity in the bosom of a complicated black community that was both bulwark to the larger white society as well as a threshing ground, so to speak, to hash out the differences that black people have among ourselves.

MJ: You were ordained as a minister pretty young, right?

MED: Yeah, I grew up in the church and began to recite set pieces at the age of four and five, like many of the other kids. We began to connect literacy and learning and the lively effects of biblical knowledge and preaching pretty early. That was a tremendous impact. When I was 12 years old, my pastor came to the church: Dr. Fredrick Samson. And that was revolutionary because he mentored me and I got a chance to see up close the impact of a rhetorical genius. I received my calling and accepted it at around 18. I went to school four years later than most people because I was a teen father, hustled on the streets, worked, lived on welfare and the like, and didn’t get to college until almost 21. That’s when I officially got licensed and ordained, right after that.

MJ: You note in this book that you felt a sermon coming—as opposed to a sociological work.

MED: I was trying to write a straightforward book of sociological analysis, or at least cultural criticism, and I failed. I’ve written a lot of other books and this book was different. I couldn’t just say what I wanted to say in the same style that I said it in those other books. I felt compelled to preach.

MJ: You also write that Trump’s victory was America’s response to eight years of Barack Obama. In terms of racial attitudes, do you think his victory uncovered something new—or merely revived things that never went away, but that many of us had forgotten?

MED: I think it’s both. When people are not sure about their future, when their economies are suffering, when their personal fortunes are flagging, we have often in this country turned to nativism and xenophobia and racism and anti-immigrant sensibilities and passions to express our sense of outrage at what we can’t control—and to forge a kind of fitful solidarity that turns out to be rather insular—we look inward and not outward.

As a result, the demand for racial (and sexual) justice gets reduced to politics of identity—and excoriating the so-called perpetrators of the identity politics. What the left ends up missing is that politics have always been at the heart of American culture; it’s been a white identity that’s been rendered invisible and neutral because it’s seen as objective and universal. As a result, we don’t pay attention to how whiteness is one among many racial identities, and that identity politics have been here since the get-go. But they only become noticeable when the dominant form gets challenged—when the invisible is made visible, when the universal is seen as particular. That’s what people of color do when they challenge white privilege and unconscious bias. In that sense, it’s an ongoing process.

MJ: One line that really stuck with me came when you were talking about urban white people looking down on rural whites as “poor white trash.” You write, “In the end, it only makes the slaughter of our people worse to know that your disapproval of those white folks has spared your reputations but not our lives.” Are you basically saying to the “good” white people who didn’t vote for Trump that not being racist isn’t enough?

MED: Right. It’s not enough to be against something. What are you for? It may be, to a degree, consoling that white brothers and sisters did not vote for Trump, and do not participate in that brand of animus, that gas-bagging of enormous bigotry. But the problem is we are left only with empathy—which is critical, if it can be developed—without substantive manifestations of that empathy. It’s one thing to attain it intellectually, but it’s another thing to do something about it. To challenge norms, presuppositions, practices in communities across this country—where the unconscious valorization and celebration of whiteness and conscious resistance to trying to grapple with black and brown and other peoples of color’s ideas and identities—makes a huge difference.

MJ: So you would say that’s one of the more important roles for an enlightened white person?

MED: Yeah, that kind of peer learning, that peer teaching, that peer evaluation, and then administration of insight. That is an extremely important role: how white brothers and sisters laterally spread knowledge, insight, and challenge in a way that white brothers and sisters will not hear it from a person like me, necessarily. I hope they read this book and engage with it, but other white people have a better chance of speaking more directly to the white folk they know, because they’re less likely to be subject to ridicule. They’re insiders, so to speak.

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Michael Eric Dyson Wants White People to Step Up and Actually Do Something About Racism

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How the LGBT Community Can Fight Back Against Trump

Mother Jones

After every major LGBT rights group in America campaigned in support of Donald Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, it came as little surprise that Trump won just 14 percent of the LGBT vote on November 8. Yet, one of Trump’s most vocal and controversial cheerleaders has been a gay man, political provocateur and Breibart News writer Milo Yiannopolous. Yiannopolous—who has penned columns such as “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “The Conservative Father’s Guide to Cutting Off Activist Children”—repeatedly made headlines last year for his inflammatory rhetoric. At his gays-for-Trump event at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer, Yiannopolous argued the Democratic Party was “nannying us about transgender pronouns” while “pandering to an ideology that wants me dead”—his take on Islam as an anti-gay religion. He declared Trump “the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history,” arguing Trump would be great for gay people.

Last July, Yiannopolous was banned from Twitter after inciting his followers to make racist attacks against black actress Leslie Jones. More recently, he mocked a transgender student at a college campus where he was giving a speech. Stops on Yiannopolous’ campus tour have regularly been met with protests and calls for university administrations to cancel his appearances.

When gay magazine Out put Yiannopolous on its cover last summer, the backlash was fierce and swift—especially from LGBT people of color, who recognized all too well the dangers of “normalizing” champions of bigotry.

So how should queer folk react to Yiannopolous’ hatred, and what can we do to combat it? I talked to Preston Mitchum, an LGBT rights and racial justice advocate, to find out. Mitchum—whose writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Ebony, and more—is also a policy analyst at the Center for Health and Gender Equity and a legal research professor at Georgetown University.

What follows is our conversation about racism and sexism in the LGBT community, and what queer solidarity looks like in the face of hatred.

Mother Jones: Milo is an admitted troll, and his rhetoric is over-the-top. Should we even take him seriously?

Preston Mitchum: Queer people of color have always taken those kinds of hateful ideas—and the actions that flow therefrom—seriously. Bias is not new to the LGBT community. Our community is racist, sexist, and transphobic. But Milo feels different because of the extreme nature of his statements. His views aren’t common. But he is setting the stage for what vitriol can look like in the community if left unchecked.

Preston Mitchum

MJ: Queer folk—even white ones—are marginalized too. Why would some be receptive to ideas like Milo’s?

PM: Racism, sexism, and transphobia are foundational to this country. Queer people didn’t invent them, but we can’t separate them from the LGBT community. We internalize what we see every day. I think about people like Ben Carson, who pushes ideas that have been popularized by racists. We also learn from our experiences. So Milo being a gay man does not mean that he’s going to believe everything that I believe, because I am a black man who experiences racism and homophobia at the same time. Milo doesn’t have that experience. Part of fixing this is to first recognize that we are predisposed to discrimination and then intentionally work to undo what we have been taught about racism and misogyny.

MJ: A lot of people don’t get that.

PM: They don’t. They might understand what their own oppression looks like as a white gay man, but systemically that looks different for someone who is a woman and black and gay. People who are part of multiple marginalized communities face harsher treatment just because of their intersections. Many people don’t understand privilege. What’s worse is they don’t recognize that they contribute to other queer people’s oppression, either. The same goes for a lot of mainstream white-led LGBT organizations.

MJ: Talk about that.

PM: Mainstream white individuals and white-led organizations are oftentimes the ones who sweep statements like Milo’s under the rug. A lot of it has to do with responding to donors’ demands. If your donors are sending you money to advocate for marriage equality, that’s what you’re going to do. But there are other communities who also need the support of those groups but who have been made invisible because they don’t have the money to give them to focus on their needs. It’s incumbent on those organizations who say they care about all LGBT people to find it within their capacity to still do work on behalf of black and brown LGBT people even if they’re not paying for it. That’s what solidarity looks like.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed a more concerted effort to address certain racism, certain violence against black trans people—mainly black trans women. But I’m ready to see what that can look like big picture. What does it look like to have a black trans person on your board? What does it look like when you are actually starting something separate for black trans people in your organization? That is what I have yet to see.

At the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was led immediately by black queer and trans folk, you didn’t hear much from many white-led LGBT organizations, which was frustrating because a lot of the immediate leaders of the movement were black queer and trans people. And earlier than that, when there was a campaign to repeal DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, many white-led orgs sought the support of the NAACP. But when the crux of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the Supreme Court that same year, there was silence from those same groups. I talked to people in LGBT organizations who were immediately defensive when that critique was brought to their attention. We have to be willing to have these conversations about racism that require us to be critiqued.

MJ: Why are those conversations difficult to have?

PM: Part of the problem is that progressives are so focused on unifying against conservatives. Unity is good, but it often silences more marginalized groups. We have to be honest about what’s happening within our own community if we want to push back against Trump. It’s easy to point out people who don’t identify as you and say, “You’re the bad person here.” It’s more difficult to look within our own community and say, “We identify and have some common ground, but there’s something about you that I know is vehemently opposed to me.”

MJ: How has this bias been manifest within the LGBT community historically?

PM: It’s hard to say. LGBT people have vocally been discussed only for the past 40 years. But even in that, the way we talk about our history is racist. Only in the past couple years have we started to mention some of the black and Puerto Rican trans women who were really at the start of Stonewall. Or acknowledge people like Bayard Rustin, who was the architect of the 1963 March on Washington. We know that is the whitewashing of history. LGBT history is no different.

MJ: How are queer people of color pushing back on that exclusion—and how can the larger community root out the bias that drives that exclusion?

PM: Black Youth Project 100—which I’m a part of—has been challenging that erasure of black queer and trans folk for the past two and a half to three years, and making sure that people who are marginalized within the LGBT community are centered and that work is done to organize around their needs. There are others doing this work. But there are things that everyone can do—and that many people have been doing. One is to come prepared with information to push back on racist and sexist rhetoric. Social media is a huge way people have been doing that. Black and brown people also need to be very blunt about how oppression treats us as queer and trans folk.

One of the things that I always want to discuss is believing the experiences of people of color. We often aren’t believed until a white person confirms our stories. I would also encourage people to donate money to organizations that do this work. That’s what people can do to help fix the problem.

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How the LGBT Community Can Fight Back Against Trump

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