Category Archives: Blacks

FBI Targets ‘Black Identity Extremists’ Despite Surge in White Supremacist Violence The Trump administration is coming dangerously close to labeling Black Lives Matter a terrorist group.

A leaked FBI counterterrorism memo claims that so-called black identity extremists pose a threat to law enforcement. That’s according to Foreign Policy magazine, which obtained the document written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. The memo was dated August 3, 2017—only days before the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis killed one anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, and injured dozens more. But the report is not concerned with the violent threat of white supremacists. Instead, the memo reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Civil liberties groups have slammed the FBI report, warning the “black identity extremists” designation threatens the rights of protesters with Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many have also compared the memo to the FBI’s covert COINTELPROprogram of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, which targeted the civil rights movement. We speak with Malkia Cyril, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice as well as a Black Lives Matter Bay Area activist.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript.Copymay not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We end today’s show by looking at a leaked FBIcounterterrorism memo which claims so-called black identity extremists pose a threat to law enforcement. That’s according to Foreign Policy magazine, which obtained the document written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. The memo was dated August 3rd, 2017, only days before the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis killed an anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, injured dozens more. But the report is not concerned with the violent threat of white supremacists. Instead, the memo reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” end-quote.

Civil liberties groups have slammed the FBI report, warning the “black identity extremists” designation threatens the rights of protesters with Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many have also compared the memo to the FBI’s covert COINTELPRO program of the ’50s through ’70s, which targeted the civil rights movement.

For more, we’re going to San Francisco, California, where we’re joined by Malkia Cyril. She’s the co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice as well as a Black Lives Matter Bay Area activist.

Malkia, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this report and what your assessment is of this term they have used, “black identity extremists”?

MALKIA CYRIL: Well, thanks for having me. You know, it’s a great question. What is a black identity extremist? I think we’re all trying to figure that out. Nobody knows, in part because it doesn’t exist. It’s a term fabricated by the FBI, constructed. And it has a history. I mean, for a very long time, for many decades in this country, probably centuries, the FBI has criminalized black dissent. We saw it through the COINTELPRO, the Counter Intelligence Program, as you mentioned, in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. We’re seeing it again today. This term, this idea of black extremism are coming up by the FBI, being used as a way to criminalize democratically protected speech and activity. It’s wrong, it’s erroneous, and it should be withdrawn.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what is your understanding of where it stands now?

MALKIA CYRIL: You know, right now, we don’t know. I mean, that’s part of the problem. You know, we need some information from the FBI. It’s clear that the FBIshould provide an unredacted description. What do they mean by a “black identity extremist”? Right now that description is pretty vague. It refers to some anti-white ideologies. It compares—you know, it talks about ideologies of black separatism. But it doesn’t have anything concrete. I mean, I think that’s part of the problem, that this is a categorization that has been constructed. The definition has no—makes no sense. And we need some more information from the FBI, so that we can actually respond effectively to this categorization.

AMY GOODMAN: It doesn’t refer to Black Lives Matter specifically.

MALKIA CYRIL: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that, Malkia?

MALKIA CYRIL: Well, I mean, you know, it doesn’t refer to any specific organization, because the FBI, through its own guidelines, can’t really do that, number one. Number two, its guidelines say it can’t start investigations or investigate anyone solely on the basis of race. So what it’s done is it’s constructed, out of, you know, looking at six different cases over three years that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, of people who have committed violence against police officers. They have constructed a relationship between these cases that doesn’t exist, and then assigned some political ideology to those cases that doesn’t exist. So, anti-white feelings or sentiment doesn’t lead to police violence. Being angry as a black person in America about the—excuse me, doesn’t lead to violence against police. Being angry about police violence in America, police violence that is targeting largely people of color, also does not lead to violence against the police.

So, the bottom line here is that we have a rampant situation where white nationalism is on the rise. And yet the FBI has chosen to use its resources to construct and fabricate a threat that does not exist, instead of addressing a threat that does exist. So, whether it refers directly to Black Lives Matter as an organization or not, it’s clear this is an attempt to criminalize black dissent, which will have an outsized negative impact on those who are working in organizations like Black Lives Matter.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about another issue, about these allegations a Russian company spent more than $100,000 buying thousands of ads that sought to politicize the U.S. electorate ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Some of the allegations relate to Russian Facebook ads specifically referencing Black Lives Matter, targeting audiences in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

MALKIA CYRIL: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Google also says, quote, “suspected Russian agents,” unquote, paid for tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of political advertisements last year also aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election. Your thoughts?

MALKIA CYRIL: First of all, we have to be really clear. This is not simply about what Russia has done. This is about how Russia and the right wing of the United States has collaborated to undermine democracy. So I want to be very clear. When we talk about, you know, Russia buying these ads or using these Facebook pages, so on and so forth, what we’re really talking about is a collusion, a collaboration between a global right wing. That’s really important. We need to be really clear about that, number one.

Number two, whether the ads or the Facebook pages seem to be pro- or anti-Black Lives Matter, the fact is that these pages and these ads were anti-black. That’s what’s clear. They were using anti-black tropes of black militancy to sway an election and undermine democracy. This is not new. The CIA has done this for decades. This is a tactic that has been used by the United States internationally for decades. We should not be surprised that it is being used now. And we need to think very carefully about what is going to happen over the next several years to undermine the next presidential election. And we need to get ready.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about a CNN report, a social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the election. Again, they attribute it to two sources with knowledge of the matter talking to CNN. The Twitter account has been handed over to Congress. The Facebook account is expected to be handed over in the coming days, was the report. Your response to Blacktivist? Have you looked into this?

MALKIA CYRIL: You know, I’ve heard about it. I’ve actually seen the page in the past. You know, I spend a lot of time working on social media issues and looking at, you know, possibly fake pages that talk about black issues, trying to weed them out from pages that are related to real, on-the-ground organizations. And what we’ve seen is, interestingly, while this has come to light, you know, the Blacktivist page has come to light as being associated with this disinformation campaign, it’s clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of fake pages on Facebook, dozens of fake accounts on Twitter, that claim to be related to some black movement, but in fact are not.

What we need to be is very careful making sure that the pages we follow, the accounts we follow, are actually connected to real organizations that are doing real work on the ground. And it’s hard to do. It means that Facebook and Twitter have to take real responsibility for this kind of disinformation on their site, really do something to protect the black activists who are working on their site, and differentiate between the fake pages and the real pages, because it has real consequences for black activism.

AMY GOODMAN: Malkia Cyril, for young people who may not be familiar with COINTELPRO—you certainly are—can you talk about your own family experience? We have just about a minute. But, you know, December 4th, 1969, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton—Fred Hampton, the head of the Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois—are gunned down by police as they’re sleeping in bed. What the Counter Intelligence Program did and the effect, for example, on your family?

MALKIA CYRIL: My mother was a member of the Black Panther Party in New York. She ran the breakfast program in New York. And my mother was visited by the FBIjust weeks before she died in 2005. So this is not something—this harassment, the kind of FBI harassment of black activists, didn’t end in 1969. It didn’t end when COINTELPRO was, you know, exposed in 1971. It is continuing today. There are hundreds of political prisoners in our prison system—black political prisoners, Puerto Rican political prisoners, Native American political prisoners—because of the Counter Intelligence Program. And we need to make sure that never, ever happens in America again.

AMY GOODMAN: Malkia Cyril, thanks so much for taking this time with us, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice, also a Black Lives Matter activist.

MALKIA CYRIL: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That does it for our broadcast today. Happy birthday to Miguel Nogueira! Happy belated birthday, Miguel.

By Amy Goodman / Democracy Now

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Proportional Representation Could Open Door to More Black Political Power

With the debate over gerrymandering making its way through the Supreme Court, and voter suppression very much a reality, the issue of fair representation for Black people remains in need of solutions. This as the Voting Rights Act has been defanged of its enforcement mechanisms, and the rights of Black voters remain compromised. These circumstances provide fertile ground for the concept of proportional representation.

What is proportional representation? Consider the current system of legislative representation in America, in which one person represents one district in a single-member winner-take-all electoral district based on geography. Known as a First Past The Post (FPTP) system, it is notorious for excluding racial minorities.  As Vox reported, although proportional representation may take various forms, there are a few popular proposals. For example, a party list system allocates seats based on the number of votes each party receives. This system has a track record of increasing inclusion of ethnic and racial minorities in South Africa, Indonesia and Namibia.

By contrast, in an alternative vote system each state is a single district with various members, rather than various districts each represented by one member. Voters rank the candidates for office, with a formula determining which of the candidates capture the fixed number of seats. Under mixed-member proportional (MMP) systems such as those in Germany and New Zealand, voters cast two votes: one for the party of their choice, and the second for the representative of their choice. When New Zealand adopted its system in 1996, the Maori members of Parliament doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent, and increased to 22 percent in 2014. Pacific Islander MPs increased from 3 percent of Parliament in 1996 to 6 percent in 2014, and Asian MPs grew from 1 percent to 4 percent.

Another system used in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, local elections in Scotland and in the Australian Senate is the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which allows people to vote for a team of legislators rather by ranking them in order of preference. The voter places a number “1” next to their favorite candidate, a “2” next to their second-favorite candidate, and so on. STV eliminates the concerns over vote splitting or tactical voting, and increases the chances of electing independent candidates for office, as voters choose among candidates rather than parties.

Advocates of proportional representation note that it is a solution to gerrymandering, which is the drawing of legislative district boundaries for the benefit of one political party and to entrench its power. Both major political parties engage in the practice, but the Republicans have used it to their advantage over Democrats in recent years, including in 2016 races for the U.S. House and state house and assembly seats. Thanks to gerrymandering, Republicans control a majority of state houses and Congress. Although one forecast has the Democrats receiving 54 percent of the votes in the 2018 House election, they would win a mere 49 percent of the seats.

Nonwhite and women lawmakers are each less than 20 percent of Congress, while the Republican caucus in both the House and Senate is nearly exclusively white, and mostly white men, for that matter. The impact of gerrymandering — which allows politicians to select their voters rather than the other way around — dilutes nonwhite votes.

The effect of gerrymandering is evident in the South, where the sizable population of Black people is not reflected in the congressional delegations and state houses, in which the power of white conservative men is amplified, and Black voters have little to no political power. For example, non-Hispanic whites are 53 percent of the population of Georgia, while Blacks are 32 percent, Latinos are 9 percent, and Asians are 4 percent. Yet, of the 14 House districts in Georgia, white Republicans occupy 10 of these seats (71 percent), and Black Democrats hold the remaining four. Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators are white Republicans, and the state legislature is 72 percent white, 25 percent Black and 1 percent Latino.

In North Carolina, where whites are 63 percent of the state population, Blacks are 22 percent and Latinos 9 percent, only two of the state’s 13 members of Congress are Black, while 11 are white men, and 10 are white Republican men. Both U.S. senators are white Republicans. Whites are 79 percent of the state legislature, Blacks are 20 percent and Latinos 1 percent.

The population of Mississippi is 57 percent white and 38 percent Black, but its entire delegation of two senators and four members of Congress are white Republicans, except for one Black Democrat in the House. The state legislature is 71 percent white and 28 percent Black.

Alabama is two-thirds white and 27 percent Black, according to the Census, but six of its seven House members are white Republicans — the seventh is a Black woman and a Democrat — and its senators are white Republican men. Alabama’s state legislators are three-quarters white and 24 percent Black.

Under a system of proportional representation, Black voters would have more fair and equal representation in city councils, and state legislatures, Congress, and with an amendment to the Constitution, the Senate. James Madison advocated for proportional representation in the Senate, which small states opposed.

With a party list system, Black people in Alabama and North Carolina could each gain an additional seat in Congress, and increase their presence in their respective state assemblies. Proportional representation would transform politics in Georgia, a state which may very well be on its way to becoming a purple and eventually a blue state — and a majority-nonwhite state — due to demographic changes. Under a party list system, for example, Black Democratic voters, in coalition with Latinos, Asians and progressive whites, could increase their representation in Congress by at least two members, possibly even taking over half of the Georgia’s congressional delegation. Georgia could also gain its first Black U.S. senator if elections for the upper house were governed by proportional representation. Similarly, Blacks and other nonwhite Georgians could capture nearly half of the state legislature.

Mississippi is the blackest state in the U.S. in terms of its percentage of African-Americans, and also the most conservative state, where race and party affiliation are highly correlated. If the state adopted a party list system, the Black electorate could gain one additional member of Congress — possibly its first Black senator since Reconstruction — and would increase its number of combined seats in both houses of the state legislature from approximately 49 to 66, out of 174 total seats.

Harvard law professor Lani Guinier has long been a champion of the concept, which is found in most the world’s democracies and ensures the minority has at least some representation. Guinier has also maintained that proportional representation would encourage participation, genuine debate and inclusion — as opposed to tokenism —which race-conscious districts, she argues, do not achieve. Guinier was lambasted for her ideas, which Republicans and moderate Democrats dismissed in 1993 as a quota system when Bill Clinton torpedoed her nomination to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

While Guinier was characterized as a radical for her voting rights positions, the inadequacies of the current political system — which only magnifies white supremacist power — suggest the nation must consider a bold alternative. Although proportional representation is not a panacea for the myriad problems in U.S. government, its electoral system or its politics, it would prove responsive to the needs of the underrepresented, those such as Black voters who have been denied access to power and whose interests have not been served.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Colin Kaepernick files grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding against him

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remains unemployed after a 2016 season in which he began the movement of players protesting during the national anthem, has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding to keep him out of the league, his legal representatives said.

Kaepernick retained Los Angeles-based attorney Mark J. Geragos to pursue the collusion claim and, according to a person with knowledge of the filing, it will be Kaepernick’s outside legal representation and not the NFL Players Association primarily in charge of preparing and presenting his case.

Geragos’s firm confirmed the grievance, saying it filed “only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives.”

In a statement, the law firm’ also said: “If the NFL . . . is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government. . . . Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.”

 

The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union prohibits teams from conspiring to make decisions about signing a player. But the CBA also says the mere fact that a player is unsigned and evidence about the player’s qualifications to be on an NFL roster do not constitute proof of collusion.

For that reason, such cases are difficult to prove, according to legal experts.

“There has to be some evidence of an agreement between multiple teams not to sign a player,” said Gabriel Feldman, the director of the sports law program at Tulane University. “Disagreement over personnel decisions, as obvious as it may seem to someone looking at this, does not provide evidence of collusion. There has to be some evidence of an explicit or implied agreement. There has to be proof of a conspiracy.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers following last season, making him a free agent eligible to sign with any team. The 49ers have said they would have released Kaepernick rather than retaining him under the terms of that deal. He has remained out of work, being passed over by other teams in favor of other quarterbacks. The Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens considered signing Kaepernick but decided against doing so.

More recently, the Tennessee Titans signed Brandon Weeden to provide depth behind backup Matt Cassel when their starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota, was hurt. That signing seemed particularly inflammatory to Kaepernick supporters who cited Kaepernick’s superior career accomplishments. Kaepernick has led the 49ers to a Super Bowl and two NFC championship games and he threw 16 touchdown passes with four interceptions for them last season.

The NFLPA issued a written statement late Sunday saying it learned of Kaepernick’s grievance through media reports and that it had learned the league previously was informed of Kaepernick’s intention to file the grievance.

“Our union has a duty to assist Mr. Kaepernick as we do all players and we will support him,” the NFLPA’s written statement said, adding that it had been in regular contact with Kaepernick’s representatives over the past year about his options and planned to schedule a call for this week with his advisers.

Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before games last season to protest, he said, racial inequality and police mistreatment of African Americans in the United States. Those protests were taken up by other players and the controversy over them has been amplified this season even with Kaepernick out of the league.

President Trump called on NFL owners to “fire” players who protested during the anthem, referring to such a player as a “son of a bitch.” Vice President Pence walked out of a game last week between the 49ers and Colts in Indianapolis, citing players’ protests. Trump indicated that he had orchestrated that plan.

Under pressure from the White House, NFL owners are scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in New York and might seek the NFLPA’s support of a measure for players to stand for the anthem, according to multiple people familiar with the sport’s inner workings, while also pledging league support for players’ community activism efforts.

Some media members have contended since the offseason that Kaepernick was being blackballed by NFL teams based on his political stance. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and owners were asked about that contention on a number of occasions and denied that teams were acting in concert on Kaepernick because of his protests.

“Each team makes individual decisions on how they can improve their team,” Goodell at conclusion of NFL owners’ meeting in May in Chicago. “If they see an opportunity to improve their team, they do it. They evaluate players. They evaluate systems and coaches. They all make those individual decisions to try and improve their team.”

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told reporters in July, according to the Palm Beach Post: “I would sure hope not. I know a lot’s been written about it, but you know owners and coaches — they’ll do anything it takes to win. If they think he can help them win, I’m sure — I would hope they would sign him.”

The plan for Kaepernick to pursue a grievance under the CBA was first reported by Bleacher Report.

“It may seem obvious to Colin Kaepernick,” Feldman said in a phone interview Sunday. “It may seem obvious to someone on the outside looking at this. But collusion requires an agreement [between teams]. Individual team decisions are not challengeable under the anti-collusion provision. An arbitrator is not going to second-guess an individual team’s personnel decision.”

If such evidence of collusion by NFL teams against Kaepernick exists, it has yet to revealed.

“We don’t know,” Feldman said. “Obviously everybody is talking about the baseball collusion cases from the 1980s, where there was a smoking gun. There were notes. There was strong evidence. There may be evidence here of collusion. We just don’t know.”

The NFL declined to comment Sunday through a spokesman.

“No Club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement, express or implied, with the NFL or any other Club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit individual Club decision-making,” the CBA says, adding that applies to “whether to negotiate or not to negotiate with any player” and “whether to offer or not to offer a Player Contract to any player,” among other things.

The CBA also says: “The failure by a Club or Clubs to negotiate, to submit Offer Sheets, or to sign contracts with Restricted Free Agents or Transition Players, or to negotiate, make offers, or sign contracts for the playing services of such players or Unrestricted Free Agents, shall not, by itself or in combination only with evidence about the playing skills of the player(s) not receiving any such offer or contract, satisfy the burden of proof set forth … above.”

By Mark Maske/WashingtonPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

President Trump rips NFL for getting ‘tax breaks’ while disrespecting anthem, flag

Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!

More from CBS Sports.com

Posted by Libergirl

FBI warns ‘black identity extremists’ pose growing threat to law enforcement

FBI Intelligence Assessment document: "Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers," dated Aug. 3, 2017.FBI Intelligence Assessment document: “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers,” dated Aug. 3, 2017. (FBI)

While white supremacists were planning to rally in Charlottesville, Va., the FBI’s counterterrorism unit identified “black identity extremists” as a growing threat, it has been revealed.

The FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, which dubbed the group BIE, said “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement,” according to an Aug. 3 report obtained by Foreign Policy.

Citing Michael Brown’s 2014 death in Ferguson, Mo., as the catalyst, the FBI listed specific cases, saying it was “likely the BIE suspects acted in retaliation for perceived past police brutality incidents.”

Among them was Micah Johnson, a former Army reservist who shot dead five Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest against police violence last year.

There have been 98 law enforcement fatalities this year so far, compared to 102 during the same period last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Among the fatalities in 2017, 36 were firearms-related– down from 44 this time last year– while the vast majority were attributed to traffic accidents, fires, illnesses and other causes.

In comparison, 748 people have been shot and killed by police in 2017, according to a database maintained by the Washington Post.

The term “black identity extremists” appears to be a new term, and some contested the phrase for suggesting a cohesive, overarching ideology.

One former homeland security official told Foreign Policy, “They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation.”

“Imagine lumping together white nationals, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it ‘white identity extremists,” the official said. “The race card is being played here deliberately.”

Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism expert who served in the U.S. Navy, wrote on Twitter, “I train law enforcement intelligence in counterterrorism all over nation & “Black Identity Extremism” doesn’t exist. It’s a made up term.”

Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson pointed to the FBI’s long history of surveilling black activists, highlighting his own personal experience with the FBI visiting his home and told FP, “This is not surprising.”

The FBI, which issued a report in May warning white supremacist violence was growing, identified BIE as a threat just nine days before far-right groups descended on Charlottesville.

President Trump was heavily criticized for his response after three people died, saying there were “fine people” on both sides.

BY
JESSICA CHIA/NYDailyNews

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Language of White Supremacy Narrow definitions of the term actually help continue the work of the architects of the post-Jim Crow racial hierarchy.

Who or what is a white supremacist, exactly? The raging debate has resembled nothing so much as a classical ontological discourse on categorization. Are white supremacists considered so because they consider themselves so? Does one become a white supremacist by more Aristotelian means, expressing a certain number of categories of being—or swastika tattoos? Or is the definition something more slippery and subtle?

The language of white supremacy has become increasingly central to understanding the argument over the broad currents of Donald Trump’s ascendancy. Long before ESPN anchor Jemele Hill famously referred to Trump as a white supremacist on Twitter, the questions of just who is a white supremacist, and just what white supremacy is, have dominated the analysis of how he came into power, and what that power means.

Hill’s comments came as part of the general response to an essay from my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates, one in which Coates says that Trump’s “ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.” The bent of that essay is that whiteness—and in turn white supremacy—uniquely buoyed Trump’s candidacy, and that he has in turn openly wielded those energies to capture support and lead. Hill’s summation seemed to complete the square of that argument: “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.” In this argument, white supremacy is framed as a broad concept, one where wielding racism or benefitting from it, even in its subtler forms, earns one the mark.

Opposition to this framing has varied, from conservatives who decry a tendency of liberals to see the hidden hand of racism in gosh darn everything, to those on the left who feel Coates downplays materialist analysis and unduly elevates Trump’s danger above that of other racist presidents. But one of the thought-provoking sets of analyses comes from those who roughly agree with Coates that Trump’s primary appeal has been racial—perhaps, racist—but disagree with labeling his ideology as “white supremacy” or with Hill’s assertion that he is an obvious white supremacist.

There are several shades of gray to those objections, but a column from Jonathan Chait in New York sums them up best. Chait does not agree with an expansive definition of white supremacy that would capture say David Duke, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump, writing that “to flatten the language we use to describe different kinds of right-wing politics is to bludgeon our capacity to make vital distinctions.” Chait sees this labeling as a kind of language creep that in casting a wide net simultaneously cheapens some of America’s cherished institutions and in turn might tend to encourage radical acts against them.

This criticism of a broad definition of white supremacy isn’t new. Last November, Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum decried the “faddish term” wielded against members of the left and the right, and placed the genesis of that connotation with Coates himself. Jesse Singal, also of New York, and a frequent interlocutor of mine, tweeted yesterday expressing concern about the flexibility of the term as used by activists. “Don’t understand the utility of labeling a huge swath of things ‘white supremacist’ or ‘Nazi’ that simply aren’t,” Singal said. Our resultant conversation is threaded on Twitter and became the genesis of this essay.

To perhaps unfairly flatten these three arguments, which constitute the best of this school of objection, they tend to agree that the modern expansive definition of white supremacy is, well, modern. But that proposition is limited. The school of critical race theory, championed by scholars such as bell hooks, has been around in academic circles for at least 30 years, and its definition of white supremacy has long animated black activism. To quote scholar Frances Lee Ansley (taken here from a passage from David Gillborn, also, a critical-race-theory scholar):

“By ‘white supremacy’ I do not mean to allude only to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”

The provenance of that definition of white supremacy does not alone guarantee its usefulness, and 30 years is still relatively new in the academia-to-modern parlance frame. Also, as my colleague Conor Friedersdorf noted last November, the critical-race-theory definition could very well be “the vernacular of a tiny, insular subculture,” one which is contested and has not reached the level of consensus.

But the idea of critical-race-theory’s insularity is belied by its deep communion with widely-read titans of black intellectual thought. James Baldwin’s work did nothing if not tend towards the idea of “white supremacy” as a collective effort that went well beyond the work of self-avowed members of hate groups, and his 1980 essay in Esquire titled “Dark Days” crystalized that tendency. “To be white was to be forced to digest a delusion called white supremacy,” Baldwin wrote. In that essay, which itself was written in parallel with the nascence of critical race theory, Baldwin ties the very concept of whiteness to white supremacy.

Lest Baldwin be counted along with Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X as more radical “fringe” voices on the topic of white supremacy, the idea of white supremacy as a shared culture has been floated by many of the establishment voices of the civil-rights-movement, including none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. In his 1967 book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, which is itself concerned with hope and building interracial solidarity, King wrote that  “the doctrine of white supremacy was imbedded in every textbook and preached in practically every pulpit. It became a structural part of the culture,” one that persisted to the present day.

“However much it is denied, however many excuses are made, the hard cold fact is that many white Americans oppose open housing because they unconsciously, and often consciously, feel that the Negro is innately inferior, impure, depraved and degenerate,” King wrote. “It is a contemporary expression of America’s long dalliance with racism and white supremacy.”

King saw that white supremacy was a structural pillar of America equally important to democracy itself. In that work, King also analyzed “white backlash” not as an insurgency responding to proximate political factors or politicians, but as a visceral, enduring autonomous response guided by white supremacy. In other words, King used “white supremacy” in a way that might have seen him scolded today, by many who do the scolding in his name.

The example of King is important, because a funhouse-mirror view of his philosophy tends to dominate the modern liberal view of race. King was famously conciliatory—in 1964 he refused to call Barry Goldwater “racist,” instead settling on saying the candidate “articulates a philosophy which gives aid and comfort to the racist,”  a restraint that even many modern journalists might not have—but in his late life he often dealt with the effects of that conciliation, and with an advancing conspiracy that would eventually consume him. By the time of his death, the country had turned on King. And one major driver was a concerted effort among conservatives to take “white supremacy” and flip it on its head, and to gaslight black activism.

Chait mentions that subversion, noting that “political appeals to racism had to use some level of symbolic remove” after the civil-rights movement, but his treatment doesn’t quite do justice to the musculature of the effort. The repackaging of Jim Crow into a “race neutral” set of policies didn’t just arise as a wink-and-a-nod deal in southern political backrooms a few years near the end of the civil-rights movement, but was a half-century-long project forged by thousands of lawyers and mainstream political leaders that costs millions of dollars, and was played out in every arena across the country from the Supreme Court to town hall meetings.

A recent investigation in the New York Times Magazine by Nikole Hannah-Jones illustrates how this process took shape in the court room arms race over education after 1954’s Brown v. Board, but similar neutralization occurred in housing policy, public health, criminal justice, and voting rights. Richard Rothstein’s recent book The Color of Law in particular is a primer in the ways that even the least sophisticated white political actors moved away from explicitly racist and even subtly racist justifications for their laws to escape the scrutiny of watchful courts.

Correspondingly, as new policies intersected with public opinion and genuine policy victories won by the civil-rights movement, expressing racism became gauche, and then taboo. That taboo itself crystallized a self-conceptualization of whiteness as innately anti-racist. In turn, charges of racism themselves became epithets, and the mantle of white supremacy was relegated only to the ranks of those white folks foolish or ideological enough not to abide by the taboo. As both Chait and Drum implicitly outline in their work, now the only way to be identified as a white supremacist is to say you are one.

It goes without saying that this realignment almost exclusively benefitted white supremacists, who did not suddenly die with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In no small bit of class warfare, whites who most often carried out direct violence in white supremacy’s name took the heat, giving space to the white men in suits who did their work quietly with litigation and city-planning maps. Those people of color who critiqued white supremacy were cemented as malcontents and agitators, themselves racists or “race-baiters” who sought to exploit white guilt to upend American racial harmony.

The development of critical race theory and its definition of white supremacy strike me as a reaction against that post-King status quo. The idea of “white privilege” came about not as a mid-aughts term for Tumblr teens, but during that reaction as a way to identify the latent benefits of white supremacy during a time when white liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike promoted a fiction of progress that denied their collective benefit from it, and to recover the language of responsibility lost in the mainstream with King’s death.

Additionally, calling out white supremacy and calling people white supremacists functioned as a provocation. The provocation necessarily came from a tiny, insular group of people—as the rest of the country had convinced itself that white supremacy was a grievously offensive slander. That provocation has been continued by today’s black activists, who often see themselves not as mere instruments in building big tents under the status quo, but as awakening people to the reality that the status quo is still white supremacy. Thus, their provocation appears designed to probe and assault consensus, an endeavor that always risks enraging people who are part of that consensus.

The media likewise should not be merely a mirror of consensus; rather it should challenge groupthink any time it runs up against truth. And if consensus is that white supremacy is a thing that only exists in the hate-group fringe, that claim should be held in skepticism against the reality that many of the racial outcomes—income gaps, housing and education segregation, police brutality, and incarceration—of the era of naked white supremacy persist, or have even worsened. And when it comes to Trump, or any other politician for that matter, the knee-jerk consensus reaction that a mainstream politician cannot possibly be a white supremacist should be balanced with the truth that many or most American politicians have been, and that they were voted in by real Americans, many of whom are alive, well, and voting today.

These demands are difficult to square in today’s polarized, litigious environment. But, to counter Chait, while a more expansive view of white supremacy in media’s contemplation of politics may seem to “flatten” political discourse, perhaps the difficulty here is facing the possibility that things might actually be flat. Politics might actually be trapped in the black box of white supremacy, and people very well might be on a historical treadmill, fighting the fights their parents fought, and maybe losing. If that version of reality is true, then the panic brought on by that flattened language might be justified.

By VANN R. NEWKIRK II/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

In a Country of White Domestic Terrorists, the NRA Wants to Make Sure They Are Not Labeled As Such

In the United States, white people are the dominant group that produces homegrown domestic terrorists. The most recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, in which a white gunman named Stephen Paddock opened fire on a concert of 22,000 people, killing at least 59 and injuring 527, is a case in point. Despite the proliferation of these individuals and the extent of the massacres they create, there is a concerted effort by many not to label them as terrorists.

What is terrorism? Government agencies use different definitions. The FBI says there is no universally accepted definition, but according to the Code of Federal Regulations, terrorism is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” As a technical term, terrorism depends on the motive and intent of the perpetrator.

In addition, the FBI defines domestic terrorism as “the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

The state of Nevada, where the Las Vegas massacre took place, defines a terrorist act as “any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to … cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”

Given these varying definitions of terrorism, exactly what is terrorism is open to debate, subject to interpretation and is highly racialized in the United States. People who are Muslim and dark skinned typically are called terrorists, while white American men who engage in acts of carnage are dismissed as lone wolves. Thus, terrorism is rendered a racialized affair, a matter of white skin privilege. Stephen Paddock is responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in modern history, and with 23 weapons recovered from the Mandalay Bay hotel rooms where he staged the attack, and 19 recovered from his home, some would reasonably believe he was a terrorist. Yet, there is no consensus as to whether this is the case. This, as white domestic terrorism is going unchecked as white supremacists, rightwing extremists, militias and others commit a majority of the acts of terror in America—115 out of 201 incidents between 2008 and 2016, as opposed to 63 committed by Islamic extremists and 19 committed by leftwing extremists and militias. The problem is so considerable among law enforcement, if not the policymakers, that the FBI is investigating 1,000 white supremacists for suspected domestic terrorism activity, and has been investigating the infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacists, who are more likely to kill police officers.

There are certain forces in society who have an interest in not having white mass shooters labeled as terrorists. While guns are framed as a matter of constitutional rights, arms manufacturing is also a lucrative business.  The gun lobby has an interest in producing more and more firearms with minimal regulation and stopping even the most moderate gun control legislation. Further, many politicians depend on millions of dollars in donations from the gun lobby have a tangible financial interest in normalizing white terrorism. In addition, policymakers who would wage war with Muslim nations also have a vested interest in making terrorism a color-coded endeavor relegated only to Islamic groups.

Once a mainstream organization for hunters, marksmen and conservationists, the National Rifle Association has become a hardline Second Amendment absolutist, and perhaps the most successful lobbying group in Washington. The NRA has enjoyed an income boom over the last few years, in 2016 the organization listed its revenue as being over $400 million —all tax-free for the nonprofit organization with millions in assets and offshore accounts, and whose chief executive Wayne LaPierre earns over $5 million in annual salary.

As Politico reported, the NRA rewrote the Second Amendment, making millions of people believe the amendment is about an individual’s unregulated right to a gun for recreation or self-defense. They have accomplished this through strident antigovernment rhetoric, racism and advocating extremist positions such as legalizing the carrying of weapons anywhere, including streets, bars and churches, the use of cop-killer bullets and military-grade weapons.

Immediately before the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, LaPierre said the then-new assault weapons ban “gives jackbooted Government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property and even injure and kill us.” This stance caused its former president Richard Riley to tell The Washington Post, “We were akin to the Boy Scouts of America . . . and now we’re cast with the Nazis, the skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan.”  President George H.W. Bush resigned from the group as a result.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, even called the NRA terrorists. When asked in 2015 if he would come to the table and negotiate with the pro-gun lobby, he said: “This is not a negotiation with the NRA. We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”  The Brady Campaign has argued NRA policies are killing cops by protecting gun manufacturers and dealers from accountability and allowing violent criminals to obtain guns without a background check.

The NRA has normalized the amassing of weapons by its white male base by arguing that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” as LaPierre once said. After each gun massacre, the group and its surrogates claim the issue of guns should not be politicized. Yet, the gun lobby is very political, as the primary force behind the Stand Your Ground Laws used to justify the vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin and other young Black men. The organization also donated $30 million to the Trump campaign after enjoying years of painting Obama as a boogeyman–a Kenyan-born secret Muslim who was leading a plot to confiscate all of the guns– in order to boost gun sales to historic levels.

The NRA uses fear and race baiting to make Americans believe that minorities, rather than bad policies and easy access to firearms, are the cause of gun violence. Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said the NRA understands the racial dynamics at play. “As long as we can blame something other than guns, America will not have to come to terms with the truth that violence is a complicated phenomenon that is made far more lethal by the easy availability and killing power of firearms,” he said. “And for an organization with an overwhelmingly conservative, white base, that ‘something other’ is minorities.”

Following last year’s Orlando massacre, Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said gun control would not prevent attacks, but fighting terrorism would. “It’s time for us to admit that radical Islam is a hate crime waiting to happen. The only way to defeat them is to destroy them — not destroy the right of law-abiding Americans to defend ourselves” he said. At its 2012 annual conference, the NRA selected radical Islamophobe Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who said there should be “no mosques in America” as keynote speaker of a prayer breakfast, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Boykin argued that “Islam is evil” and “a totalitarian way of life” that “should not be protected under the First Amendment.”

Black activists have accused the NRA of using race as a scare tactic to their legions of white members. Following the police shooting death of Philando Castile in Minnesota, the NRA blamed the Black man for his own death. Bill Whittle, a new NRA commentator who promotes the academic racism of white nationalists, believes Black people are intellectually inferior, that there is a link between IQ, race and crime, and that races could be divided between “civilized man” and “barbarian.” Ted Nugent, an NRA board member, commented in 2104 following the events in Ferguson, Missouri: “The overwhelming majority of violent crime across America is conducted by young, black males who, sadly, are on the self-inflicted expressway to prison or an early grave-or more often than not, both.”

Click for Video

Two NRA ads were criticized for their political extremism and racism. The first, narrated by Dana Loesch, vilify protesters and all but calls for civil war, was likened to the white equivalent of an ISIS recruiting video:

The second ad was narrated by NRA TV host Grant Stinchfield. Stinchfield—who recently called for the bombing of California by North Korea—defends the first video by attacking “the violent left” and going after Black activists.

In the wake of Las Vegas, Republicans in Congress are so far moving forward this week with the Hearing Protection Act, which would make it easier to purchase silencers by removing them from the list of items regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Part of a larger package called the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, the silencer provision is designed to protect hunters and hunting dog from hearing loss, according to the sponsors of the bill. Gun control advocates argue such legislation would enable mass shooters by making it harder to hear gunfire and locate gunmen. The original hearing for the legislation had been postponed when Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was critically wounded in a shootout during baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

Gun control groups are opposed to other NRA sponsored legislation such as the proposed concealed carry reciprocity, which would force each state to recognize the concealed carry standards of every other state, allowing violent offenders to carry hidden handguns.

In the wake of the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, with white supremacists and Nazis intimidating people with their military-style weapons, the SPLC called for states to change their open carry laws.

Meanwhile, thanks to the NRA, Congress has now defunded the two decades old Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s gun violence research program, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which seeks to treat gun violence as public health issue so as to determine its causes and ultimately prevent it.

In America, where mass shootings and gun proliferation reveal a uniquely American problem, white men are a terrorist threat. But if the NRA has anything to do with it, white men will never be called terrorists.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist