Sunday, October 1, 2017

Separate but Superior

I have said repeatedly since relocating to Nashville that this is not a blue city in a red state it is a pink city in a deep red state.

I was asked again today if I liked Nashville and my response is "It's interesting" and I leave it at that.  No one has ever asked me to explain what I do find interesting as that is a twofold reason:  That Southerners loathe negativity or any kind of directness, the other being they are utterly devoid of intellectual curiosity.  Yes I know that is harsh but the degrees and scholastic achievement justifies that comment.  I work in the Schools so I have another level of insight that again confirms my worst fears and deepest sadness.

I read the below op ed today and thought the insight from the writer comes from a place of first hand knowledge and experience and that despite all the rhetoric this is the New South and as Nashville calls itself the City of Now, the now is not in the now it is in the past.  That for many residents of many colors the reality is that they want to take America back to 1950.  That despite all the efforts of progress there is nothing to show for it and the segregation and resentment that was fought with all the efforts and lives of many who marched, protested, sat in, bussed in and were jailed or killed for those efforts truly little has changed.  There was something about having a community of like that serves like and as long as no one gets killed in the process that is progress.

I believe that is why many of the Black residents of Nashville resent the Latin community as they are utterly insular as our many of those from largely Muslim countries, with their own languages and businesses that serve them.  The children can go to school and barely learn English and get passed on to work in the family businesses or those that serve their "kind."  This is why there is resentment as if a Gay person set up a shop and said it is for Gays only there would be a riot.  The same goes for those of color.  We can all go to the Patel Brothers or to Maz Fresco but we are the outsiders and we have to accept that they don't need us nor care but we need them.  It is an odd codependency that leads to massive resentment and frustration as our own Black Americans cannot do the same.  Much is made here of Slim and Husky's pizza restaurant and I applaud that they opened a black restaurant in a black community and hire black neighbors to work there.  That is what defines separate but superior so why are there not more of those?  Well loans, access and of course a desire to do as such requires time and energy that a community struggles to find.

Much is made about Reparations so why not low interest loans, tax assistance and business management help made in the same efforts that allow any small business to thrive but only for those of color.  The reality is that they need the help and yes it needs to be "segregated" in a way to build independence and not co-dependence.  That is the resentment and anger that seems to truly be a problem when it comes to race relations. We have not resolved it and won't so why not let people go to schools with their own kind and fund equally and let the community decide how they should spend the money, what programs they need and in turn fund raise to build the schools they want.  Yes the white schools will be disproportionately well off but  they already are so accept that and open the process for those schools in poorer hoods to find inventive ways to build community.  Open doors and not shut them.

And this goes for bakers or florists who don't want to serve Gays or those whose lives or beliefs are not those to be clear up front who or what they serve and let the free market make that decision.  I would rather not have a cake by a hater and would travel to get one from one whose goal is to serve all versus some.  That was the intent to not be shut out, to not be allowed to enroll into a school you wish, to sit at a lunch counter and to vote.  Those are valuable and important civil rights.  We should marry whom we love and in turn eat cakes made by people who love us, who wants to eat something made by someone who doesn't.

I heard today an interview with the Author who wrote the book "Seven Restaurants that Changed America" and one was Sylvia's in Harlem.   The esteemed restaurant critic at the time, Gael Greene, reviewed the restaurant after taking "a risk" to go there.  No cabs would take her and the Police intervened to compel a driver to take her.  She had a great time and enjoyed the food and was surprised and pleased about her welcome and the reception she received from the owner and staff. As this was the 70's and the issues surrounding race were at a high point it is not surprising but that is the real issue - fear.  And we have a Government that while on one hand tried to change that perception on the other utterly confirmed it. So there is your Community Policing and the idea that Chinatown, Latinville or Vinegar Hill is open and ready to serve.  The Police in turn protect and serve versus shoot and ask questions later.   Going to someone's home as a guest is a great way to learn the customs and the people and with that fear goes out the window.

I have given up here trying to explain my concept of separate but superior as everyone is sure it will go back to the way it was.  Funny looking at some of the thriving black communities of the past I don't see the black people as the problem.

Want to Know What Divides This Country? Come to Alabama

SEPT. 30, 2017

“Just wow,” Peggy and Mark Kennedy said to each other last week in Montgomery, Ala. On the TV, Roy Moore had just pulled a little pistol from a pocket of his cowboy costume to show his love for the Second Amendment. The next night he won the Republican nomination in the race to be their next senator.

Peggy, née Wallace, braced for a new round of interviews, having often been asked during the presidential campaign to compare Donald Trump with her father, the segregationist governor George C. Wallace. “But my daddy was qualified” for office, she would say, long since a supporter of Barack Obama.

She and Mr. Kennedy, a predecessor of Mr. Moore on the state Supreme Court, represent one current of Alabama history — a slice of the population yearning against the “fear and anger and hate” that Ms. Kennedy says her father exploited, and ultimately repented of. An irony of Southern history is the pride we take in the progress we tried so hard to thwart, whether it’s to cheer the Crimson Tide’s star-quarterback-who-happens-to-be-black, Jalen Hurts, or to give awards to native-born civil rights leaders like John Lewis, to whom Wallace famously apologized for the Selma bridge beating.

Partly this pride is a self-preservation mechanism of the Chamber of Commerce, which in Wallace’s heyday cringed at the uncouth antics of his largely rural supporters and ultimately joined the civil rights movement’s call for desegregation. So what’s remarkable today is the degree to which the classic Republican establishment has been captured by those mutant politicians — like Mr. Trump and Mr. Moore — recombinantly engineered by the party’s social Darwinist policies and id-emotion demagogy.

The Republican Party has long preyed on the shame of dispossessed white voters. But that shame — over “being viewed as second-class citizens,” Mr. Kennedy said — has converted into a defiance that the party doesn’t yet seem to grasp.

“Populism” has become a convenient shorthand for the nihilistic backlash, and the term has come to invoke a collection of largely irrational cultural tropes. But this doesn’t do justice to the critique of capitalism at the heart of the insurgency.

Original, post-Reconstruction populism was the crucible in which the elite deformed the have-nots’ economic urgency into racial anxiety. Alabama yeomen had returned from the Civil War to face a sea change in agriculture, with those formerly independent farmers joining former slaves in peonage to the large landholders. By the 1880s, under the Farmers Alliance, they were mounting a struggle of what one member called “organized labor against legalized robbery.” In 1892 they seceded from the Democratic Party. Strikingly, the new People’s Party, or Populists, included former slaves.

Realizing they had a revolution on their hands, the Democratic Party’s wealthy ex-Confederates and newly arrived Northern industrialists swiftly put this cross-racial revolt down. They cut off credit to Populist activists and expelled them from their churches; lynchings spiked. They also patented the timeless rejoinders to “class warfare,” calling the Populists a “communistic ring” and, crucially, as one Alabama publication put it, “nigger lovers and nigger huggers.”

The power of racial shame ensured that this thwarted biracial uprising would be a fluke of history. When the white have-nots revolted in successive decades, they appropriated the elite’s racist shibboleths — and took them so much further than the haves ever intended. In 1926 they sent Hugo Black, the candidate of the resurgent Ku Klux Klan, to the Senate, where he became an architect of the New Deal (he later became a staunch civil libertarian on the Supreme Court).

And even when the elites were in charge of the racism, they could not always control the monster white supremacy they had created. In Birmingham, the fire hoses and police dogs of Eugene Connor, known as Bull, a city commissioner installed by the “Big Mules,” not only hastened the end of legal segregation but also made his city kryptonite for economic development.

The axiom of unintended consequences is the same today, and explains why populism remains ideologically incoherent: Caught up in feel-good spasms of nativism, the base is willing to overlook the Trump administration’s elite, kleptocratic culture. And the tax-cut-hungry Republican establishment keeps sowing the whirlwind, under the assumption that, in Mr. Kennedy’s words, its base “would rather be poor than not be proud.” Though the party — and Mr. Trump — backed Mr. Moore’s button-down runoff opponent, Luther Strange, it has shown no hesitation in pivoting to the winner.

But the Alabama psyche is complex, and Mr. Trump may have misread it at the now legendary rally in Huntsville where he tore into knee-taking black N.F.L. players — many of whom come out of Alabama football programs and therefore, Mr. Kennedy dryly observed, “are family.” Not surprisingly, it is in the biracial character of modern football that Alabamians feel comfortable expressing their redemptive impulses, so much so that Mr. Trump received a mild rebuke from the state’s spiritual leader, the Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

Also important to that redemption narrative is the South’s belated prosecution of civil rights era crimes, and one of its major protagonists is Doug Jones, Mr. Moore’s Democratic opponent for the Dec. 12 special election. As the United States attorney for North Alabama under Bill Clinton, Mr. Jones brought murder charges against the last two living suspects in Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which killed four black girls in 1963. (I have been friends with Mr. Jones since covering the two trials, in 2001 and 2002, at which the two defendants were convicted.)

While his appeal to black voters is self-evident, Mr. Jones is also culturally correct by Southern-white standards, a deer-hunting, bourbon-drinking, “Roll, Tide!” product of a Wallace-supporting household in Birmingham’s steel-mill suburbs, who did well as he did good. He is inarguably less “embarrassing” than Mr. Moore to the polite circles frequented by Mr. Strange, whose sister-in-law, Murray Johnston, a vocally anti-Trump quilt artist with whom I grew up in Birmingham, is working enthusiastically to elect Mr. Jones.

Not long ago, the path of progress seemed inevitable. At the time of the church bombing, after which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told Wallace that “the blood of our little children is on your hands,” the governor seemed to be the toxic tribune of a fading order. That arc of the universe seemed on track 23 years later when Alabama’s Democratic senator Howell Heflin, Mr. Jones’s old boss, cast the decisive vote against a federal judgeship for Jeff Sessions. In 1986, Mr. Sessions was considered beyond the moral pale.

Now Mr. Sessions is the attorney general, having vacated Mr. Heflin’s old Senate seat (the same one Mr. Moore and Mr. Jones hope to fill), and his zealous nativism set the scene for a winning presidential campaign. Donald Trump has upended the reconciliation script, recasting white nationalists as the victims — of an elite that includes an Ayn Rand-reading Republican House speaker as well as an arugula-eating black Democrat.

Defiance is now an epidemic as pervasive as opioids, and Alabama has transformed from backwoods to bellwether. While the press plays the defeat of Mr. Trump’s tepidly endorsed candidate as a debate over the prestige of his coattails, the president has swung the sacred trust of his office, the legacy of Lincoln, behind a candidate whose very existence confirms a republic in peril.

Meanwhile, Doug Jones studiously rejects the pressures of destiny, sticking to “kitchen-table issues” and staking his hopes on the voters’ “strong streak of independence” and a sense that “the health care debate has changed some dynamics down here.” After all, to this red state the most important tide of history is crimson.

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