White people really don’t like being called racists

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In his defense of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani declares, “To call anyone a racist is outrageous.”

Comedian Louis CK has a bit about white privilege that includes a riff on the lack of effective racial slurs against white people. “Ruined my day,” he mockingly complains after being called a cracker. It’s an interesting observation, but CK overlooked one word that does cause white people to become uppity: the word “racist” itself. For many white people, it has become a slur in its own right.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, accusations of racism were made against Donald Trump and many of his top surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions. The allegations were well-founded: Giuliani supports stop-and-frisk policing and has been an aggressive critic of Black Lives Matter; Bannon’s fascist-lite Breitbart served as a propaganda arm for Trump and a platform for the white nationalist alt-right; and Sessions was deemed too racist for a federal judgeship even in the 1980s.

Trump’s racism has been well-documented for decades. He first attained national publicity with a housing discrimination case in 1973. In 1989 he bought ad space in New York newspapers to attack a group of black and Hispanic teenagers falsely convicted of rape, and maintains their guilt even after DNA evidence cleared them. His political career began in earnest when he peddled the racist birther conspiracy and he launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists.

In 2016 Giuliani defended Trump, saying, “To say that Donald Trump is a racist is outrageous, and to call anyone a racist is outrageous.” The second part of the statement is the real kicker – Giuliani believes that “to call anyone a racist is outrageous.” Apparently it’s outrageous, then, when Giuliani himself characterizes Black Lives Matter as “inherently racist.”

Allegations of racism cause white people great offense. Racist has become their ‘r’-word. It triggers immediate defensiveness and hostility. Even neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, who coined “alt-right” as a code term for white nationalism and calls for a “white ethno-state” and “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” denies he’s a racist. “It’s a pejorative word,” Spencer said. “It is the equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t like you.’ ‘Racist’ is just a slur word.”

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Proud that a black man attended one of his rallies, Trump proclaimed the man “My African-American.”

Being called a racist reminds white people of slavery, lynch mobs, and wars of imperialism. They reject these as crimes from the past that they had nothing to do with. What they don’t realize is that slavery still exists; it’s just moved to the penal system. Lynch mobs now wear badges and the wars of imperialism have merely shifted from the Far East to the Middle East. Racist policies continue, but to call them racist is now politically incorrect.

During congressional review of Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general, Elizabeth Warren attempted to read from a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King protesting Sessions’s then-nomination for a federal judgeship. In the letter, King accused Sessions, then a US Attorney in Alabama, of using his office to “intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.” Before Warren could read the letter, she was censured by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Warren “impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama.”

Since then, Sessions has been confirmed as attorney general. He has promised an escalation of the War on Drugs, a fundamentally racist policy that has imprisoned generations of people of color and ravaged their communities. The Trump Administration has also signaled its intention to further suppress the vote, particularly in poor and minority districts. But to label these actions and the people carrying them out as racist is, for many whites, a bridge too far.

White people’s desire to not be labeled racist is intense. On one hand, this reflects a growing recognition that racism is evil. But the effect has been white people pretending racism doesn’t exist, exemplified by Trump’s ridiculous declaration, “I am the least racist person that you have ever met.” Gripes about political correctness also stem from whites’ insistence that they not be labeled racist. The irony is that blacklisting the word “racist” is the most sinister form of political correctness yet devised.

There are degrees of racism. Many racist attitudes happen on a subconscious level, reinforced by media and cultural narratives that seem benign, and they occur in the minds of people with no active ill intent. But those attitudes, if not rooted out and honestly confronted, lead to white complacency. They lead white people to, for instance, sympathize with and exonerate a man who murdered a black teenager over his suspicious hoodie.

Above all else, white people need to learn from people of color. The best reaction to an accusation of racism is an effort to understand the charge and consider an attitude adjustment. Defensiveness minimizes the allegation and, therefore, can itself be a racist act. The essence of white privilege is obliviousness to the systemic racial oppression that touches every corner of American life. By treating “racist” as an unfair slur, white people conveniently maintain that system while removing themselves from any complicity in it.

A theory: Comey firing proves Bannon is still in charge of the White House

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Steve Bannon is the likeliest administration member to push Trump into full authoritarianism.

Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey because he was leading an investigation into Trump’s Russia connection, whatever that may or may not be. But even as Trump essentially admitted this was the reason in a TV interview, the Trump Administration made one ridiculous excuse after another. First Trump passed the buck to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But when Rosenstein passed the buck back, Trump trolled the world and said Comey was fired because of his mistreatment of Hillary Clinton.

It’s a pitiful naivety that would allow anyone to believe anything Donald Trump says, particularly about this case. What the whole episode really proves, though, is that the rumors of Steve Bannon’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The decision to fire Comey may have been Trump’s, but Bannon’s fingerprints and the fingerprints of the alt-right are all over it. Continue reading

The problem of cop-on-citizen crime is cultural

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Police use violence to contain a crowd in Anaheim protesting police violence in 2012.

Whenever a black, brown or Muslim person commits a crime, pundits spend the next news cycle trying to diagnose what it is about those communities that produces such violence. White Americans are so convinced the problem is with the groups themselves, and not individuals or social forces, that they elected a president who wants to ban all Muslims, build a wall to keep out immigrants, and instill law and order in black neighborhoods.

Yet when a police officer kills an unarmed citizen, media presents the officer’s side of the story; digs into the victim’s past for any evidence of wrongdoing, no matter how petty; and urges the public not to turn against law enforcement. When the officer is truly indefensible, he’s cast as a bad apple. But if there’s any group in America whose violence needs to be examined on a systemic level, it’s the police. Continue reading

Violence at Berkeley is less about free speech than it is white nationalism

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Gavin McInnes, founder of the political street gang Proud Boys, reads what would have been Ann Coulter’s speech at Berkeley.

On April 27, far-right polemicist Ann Coulter was scheduled to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. After a lot of back-and-forth, during which Coulter was disinvited, re-invited and rescheduled, the group that sponsored her ultimately backed out. Security concerns, including a near-guarantee of violence, prompted both Coulter and the Young America’s Foundation to decide that her appearance would jeopardize people’s well-being. In a statement, Coulter said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.” Continue reading

The Trump/Bannon Plan: Create more terrorists

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In a recent Associated Press interview, President Trump said he was 10-0 in predicting terror attacks.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump campaigned to become a war criminal. He protested the Geneva Conventions, vowed to “bomb the shit” out of the Middle East, and insisted the US had to kill the family members of terrorists. Though he’s reneged on plenty of promises so far, he has stuck to these frighteningly well. But this is far from a legitimate strategy to fight terrorism. In fact, Trump’s presidency is sure to create more of it. Continue reading

Media reinforces Donald Trump’s most dangerous behavior

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Iraqi citizens gaze at the devastation in Mosul, where Trump-authorized airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians.

For the first several weeks of his presidency, it looked as though mainstream media might hold Donald Trump at least partially accountable for his actions. Stories regularly aired that were critical of Trump’s brutal budget and discussed his pathological lying. All of it prompted Trump to label the media the “opposition party.” Then, late last week, Trump fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase. His fireworks show earned Trump bipartisan media and political praise.

Even before Trump launched the attack, Hillary Clinton called for it. Both the Democratic Senate and House Minority Leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, praised the attack, as did prominent Republican critics of Trump like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Liberal CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria declared Trump “became president of the United States” with the attack while NBC host Brian Williams described the bombing as “beautiful.” FAIR found that of 47 editorials published in major papers, only one was critical. Continue reading

Donald Trump is making bad foreign policy worse

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In the first international crisis of his presidency, Trump is failing as spectacularly as anyone might have guessed.

As many as 70 Syrian men, women and children were killed this week by what is believed to be sarin gas, and another 100 were seriously injured. The atrocity played out on news networks and social media feeds around the world. President Trump seized the opportunity to demonstrate just what kind of a leader he is and will continue to be – by blaming former President Obama. Continue reading

Internet privacy bill illustrates who Republicans really work for

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Paul Ryan shares a laugh with some fellow Republicans.

The Republican Party provides formal, governmental representation to corporate and big-money interests. While the Democratic Party is plagued by its corruption, and faces resistance from its left-wing base because of it, the Republican Party has corruption in its DNA. From top to bottom, the GOP is firmly, openly, and proudly committed to the interests of American oligarchy, starting with oligarch-in-chief Donald Trump.

At the bottom of the list you might find Louisiana Representative Clay Higgins. During his 2016 campaign, the brand-new congressman received a mere $300 from the telecommunications industry. This week, Higgins and 264 congressional Republicans scrapped regulations that prevented internet service providers from selling their customers’ web history. That $300 investment in Higgins – and much larger ones for his fellow Republicans – will pay off in the billions for corporations like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast. Continue reading

Indulging a fantasy: What comes after Trump’s impeachment?

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The First Lady and the President looking rather dour on the day of Trump’s inauguration.

To say that the first two months of the Trump presidency have been embattled would be an understatement. Several of Trump’s biggest-ticket items, including the border wall with Mexico, the replacement of Obamacare with “something terrific,” and a ban on Muslims entering the country, have been fraught with political peril and popular opposition. If that wasn’t bad enough, the extent of Trump’s connection to Russia is being examined by practically every journalist and investigative body in the federal government.

His presidency may not last long. Predictions about Trump run the full gamut, from early impeachment to a lifelong reign as America’s first Führer. It remains to be seen which will actually happen, but the way things stand now, early impeachment looks to be the odds-on favorite. But Trump’s impeachment will not solve America’s problems. Continue reading

Why we can expect political violence in the Trump era

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Neo-fascist and alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer was punched in the face at Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Last week, ultra-right radio host Michael Savage was involved in a physical confrontation in a San Francisco-area restaurant. No one was charged, but Savage insists he was assaulted because of his political beliefs. He might well have been. A prominent Donald Trump supporter who interviewed the candidate several times during the campaign, Savage is infamously outspoken about three issues: borders, language and culture. Like so much of the far-right, Savage is a crypto-white nationalist.

The incident recalls President Trump’s inauguration when Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right,” was punched in the face by a protester. Later that month, riots shut down a speaking engagement by disgraced Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley. Mainstream commentators argue these incidents stifle free speech. But what’s so often left unsaid is that Savage, Spencer, Yiannopoulos and others are figureheads of American fascism, the most violent movement in the country today. Continue reading