Saturday, June 27, 2015

Dumping the flag only a first step

It was amazing how fast that GOP politicians backed off of their Confederate dog-whistles once white supremacist Dylann Flood massacred 9 black parishoners in a church in South Carolina. Faux News' lame attempts to trot out a token to say that Flood was trying to attack Christianity was quickly given a "HELL NO" by the vast majority of people outside of bubble-world, and there does seem to be a sense that this incident has driven a lot of people to say "NO MORE" when it comes to blowing off the Confederate flag as merely "Southern heritage," and instead recognizing it as the racist symbol which promotes white supremacy that it is, and always has been.

But it's still not enough, and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's support for taking down the flag is a whole lot different than having the State Legislature follow through. Which is why it took an everyday person to take matters into her own hands today, climb the flagpole atop the Confederate Soldier Monument at the South Carolina Statehouse, and take the flag down herself.
Bree Newsome, 30, dressed in climbing gear and helmet, removed the flag just after 6 a.m., about four hours before a pro-Confederate flag rally was set to take place at the monument.

Newsome and James Ian Tyson, 30, also of Charlotte, were taken into custody by Department of Public Safety officers as soon as Newsome touched ground. The two were later charged with defacing a monument. Tyson was inside the wrought-iron fence surrounding the 30-foot pole helping Newsome climb....

The group that helped organize the climb said in a release that it was an effort “to do what the SC legislature has thus far neglected to do.”

“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer,” Newsome said in the statement. “We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”
And building toward true racial justice and equality goes well past just getting rid of the "Stars and Bars" in public. This was eloquently summed up by State Rep. (and the newly-elected 1st Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin) David Bowen. Bowen is a Milwaukee native and former Milwaukee County Board Supervisor who has witnesses first-hand the effects of the racist overtones frequently given out by Governor Scott Walker, the Wisconsin GOP, and their spokespeople on AM radio. Bowen also notes what people like Dylann Flood said was his motivation for committing mass murder didn't sound very different than what is frequently heard from GOP politicians and talk radio hosts.
Unlike most of the perpetrators of mass violence in recent years, the killer behind last week’s shooting was very clear what his motivation was. He was quoted as saying to one of his victims, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” The manifesto he posted online contained similar thoughts, like “[African-Americans] are stupid and violent. At the same time they have the capacity to be very slick.” While we don’t often see such sentiments expressed so nakedly, the ideas behind them are all around us, while advocates against them have been ignored. Those ideas show up in rhetoric of mainstream conservative media, and they are reaffirmed by our elected officials.

For example, when conservatives in the media refer to our nation’s first black President, Barack Obama, as the "Food Stamp President" and politicians treat FoodShare recipients like they’re drug addicts trying to game the system, it reaffirms the idea that black people are lazy but slick. When unarmed black residents are treated differently than their white counterparts by law enforcement--and many times killed—and politicians seeking to be tough on crime are arresting protestors calling for change, it reaffirms the idea that black people are "lawless" and "thugs". When they tell stories of people being driven up from Chicago by the busload to vote in our elections in order to pass unnecessary voter ID legislation to make it harder to vote, it reaffirms the idea that black people are stealing the country away from law-abiding white people. And when the leaders of our state blame Milwaukee for Wisconsin’s budget problems and call it a drain on the rest of the state, it reaffirms the idea that black people are not just a burden to our state but to the larger narrative that black people are destroying this country. Once we are honest about how much of the Charleston killer’s rhetoric is reflected in conservative policy and conservative Fox News talking points, then we can move forward to ensure we all are willing to stand up to hate that kills black people praying in a church. This request for accountability also includes liberals who fail to call out and act against racism at every chance they can. Gov. Walker did the right thing by donating $3,500 of campaign funds from the leader of the racist hate group that inspired Dylann Roof's manifesto. The Republican Governor of South Carolina did the right thing by finally proposing to take down the confederate flag. But they are short-sighted if they truly believe this is the end of their contribution to this discussion and action to reconcile this hate. The next steps must include taking a hard look at policies, lack of resources, and rhetoric that oppress black people and devalues the contributions of their ancestors to build this nation. Racist ideas and oppressive messaging don’t need to inspire a mad man with a gun to hurt people. They can do just as much damage in the long run by encouraging politicians to pass oppressive policy.”
RIGHT ON THE FUCKING MONEY. Now is not the time to settle for the taking down of the Confederate flag in public, but to demand true equality and respect for African-Americans in all walks of life. That includes calling out the racism that is part and parcel of the GOP's electoral strategy and policy choices, standing up to the voices of right-wing hate that pollute AM radio and political discourse, and to send the message that going along with this regressive garbage will make you pay a heavy price at the polls.

A few GOP legislators in Wisconsin responded by trying to claim fauxtrage over Bowen's accurate remarks, but methinks those GOPs are protesting a bit too much (hi there, Adam Jarchow! I hear what you're whistlin'!). I think the events in Charleston has led to a heightened sense with the average American that the GOP is a racist party that wants to play "divide and conquer" to gain political advantage, no matter what damage it does to the country economically or socially.

A frequent Dem mistake is to let things drop in the desire to seem like nice people. But there's nothing nice about allowing repression and bigotry to go unanswered, and even though Dems don't have 9 hours a day on the public's airwaves to pound home the message that GOP Confederates are racist bastards, that still shouldn't stop them from speaking up at every turn, and exposing the double-standards that allow for Scott Walker's Wisconsin to micro-manage what food stamp recipients can purchase, but will allow $124 million in taxpayer dollars to go out the door to corporates without adequate oversight.

If the opinion that "GOPs = racist, bigoted views of the past" clicks with voters, and there should be plenty of opportunity to do so as GOP presidential candidates like Scott Walker are openly using Confederate "states rights" language to court bigots, the GOP will be wiped out in the 2016 elections. And they definitely would deserve the ass-kicking.

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