TD originals Spike Lee Returns to Form With the Entertaining and Relevant ‘BlacKkKlansman’

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Actors John David Washington and Laura Harrier get into the act in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” (David Lee / Focus Features)

Ever since his early career peak, culminating in a best original screenplay Academy Award nomination for “Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee has opined on the big screen with the same measure of nuance and subtlety he demonstrates courtside at Knicks games—which is to say, none at all. But when it comes to his latest movie, “BlacKkKlansman,” arriving amid a steady stream of footage of unarmed black men and boys subjugated and murdered by police around the U.S., maybe subtlety is the wrong tack. And, for the many white people who view this same footage not as evidence of police brutality but of black people operating outside the law, maybe Lee’s full-on approach will finally wake them up.

A Grand Jury Prize winner at Cannes, the new movie is based on the memoir “Black Klansman,” by Ron Stallworth. In it, a black cop, played by John David Washington, and his Jewish partner, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), infiltrate the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.

As a newly assigned rookie at the start of the film, Stallworth quickly rises to the rank of undercover detective, assigned to a speaking engagement by Kwame Ture (a.k.a. civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael). There, he wears a mike and records a fiery address (Ture is played by Corey Hawkins in a moving cameo), hitting inspirational points on pride, hope and persistence.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” he asks, quoting rabbinical sage Hillel the Elder. The sequence stops the film’s narrative and gives Lee a chance to do what he has often shown a penchant for: proselytizing. But what gorgeous proselytizing it is—timeless truths about social justice over ellipsing images of Ture’s audience, eyes uplifted, a dimly lit portrait montage tastefully rendered through cinematographer Chayse Irvin’s artful lens. It’s an example of “BlacKkKlansman” at its finest, matched only by the rhapsodic dance sequence that follows at the local bar to the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose’s “It’s Too Late to Turn Back Now.”

Stallworth’s dance partner is the stunning Patrice Dumas (a ravishing Laura Harrier), president of the Black Student Union, which sponsored Ture. Patrice is drawn to Stallworth despite his more moderate politics. But although his tight-ass cop routine smoothly counters her militant hippie groove, their romantic subplot ultimately feels sketched-in.

With Ture moving on to his next speaking engagement, Stallworth is left without an assignment, stalling the screenplay written by Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz along with Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee. The movie restarts with Stallworth at his desk, impulsively calling the KKK and reaching Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold in a cartoonish, shifty-eyed performance).

From this point forward, Stallworth maintains the phone persona of the Klan infiltrator, with Zimmerman as his face. Why they don’t simply let Zimmerman lead is anyone’s guess, but soon he is in close quarters with the Klan, bearing the intense scrutiny of bug-eyed racists, particularly Felix (Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen), who suspects he’s a Jew. As the tension ratchets up, Driver takes over the movie.

In a misstep, Lee portrays Klansmen as spectacularly dumb, personified by borderline imbecile Ivanhoe (Paul Walter Hauser, the hilarious henchman in last year’s “I, Tonya”), and Felix’s wife (Ashlie Atkinson), who fantasizes in bed about killing black people. By broadening the tone, Lee not only defuses dramatic tension but trivializes the threat posed by today’s emboldened racists.

Complications ensue when Stallworth is chosen as bodyguard to Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, played by Topher Grace in a monochromatic, though subtly hilarious, portrayal. Duke is visiting Colorado Springs to oversee the induction of new members, including Zimmerman—who goes by the name Ron Stallworth (don’t ask). Further complicating things is the fact that the real Stallworth has become phone pals with Duke, without the latter knowing he is talking to a black man.

As “BlacKkKlansman” winds to a close, Lee and his trio of writers show casual interest in plot machinations, using their narrative framework to address pressing issues instead. A Harry Belafonte lecture recalling a gruesome lynching is juxtaposed with grotesque Klansman cheering on their forebears portrayed in the 1915 film classic “The Birth of a Nation.” Though Belafonte effectively delivers, it’s not the strongest montage, even if Lee makes his point.

Lest anyone not get it, he hammers the point home with footage of Charlottesville, Va., 2017, where white nationalists clashed with protesters at the “Unite the Right” rally. And yes, we see Trump with his familiar, “very fine people” quote describing racists who attended that event, such as James Alex Fields Jr., the man who struck and killed Heather Heyer.

As Stallworth, Washington, a former professional footballer and costar of the Dwayne Johnson HBO series “Ballers,” ably anchors the movie with an honest performance, free of gimmicks. But while he is convincing, with an easygoing charm one might expect from the son of Denzel Washington, his range of expression is limited.

As Zimmerman, Adam Driver is looser than his by-the-book rookie counterpart. Their easy chemistry is underscored by jazzy compositions by frequent Lee collaborator and composer Terence Blanchard, which are, like the movie itself, evocative of the era, though not of it.

While the Hollywood establishment seems to pride itself on avoiding subjects that actually matter, exceptions can be found in this film’s producers, Jordan Peele and Jason Blum, who teamed on last year’s sleeper hit, “Get Out.” Samuel Goldwyn once said, “If you’ve got a message, send a telegram.” What he didn’t understand is that movies are telegrams, albeit with outlandish trimmings.

“BlacKkKlansman” has everything anyone would want from a cop movie, but its candid treatment of its subject matter and the conversation it might inspire are the telegram that audiences deserve.

By Jordan Riefe/truthdig


Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, dies at age 76

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Aretha Franklin — the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and known as the “Queen of Soul” for powerful anthems like “Respect” and “Chain of Fools” — died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit. She was 76.

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Image: E! News

Born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, to C.L. Franklin, the most prominent black Baptist preacher in America during the mid-20th century, and a gospel singer, Aretha Louise Franklin began performing in front of her father’s congregation at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, which she considered her hometown. She became a star on gospel caravan tours with her father, known as “The Million Dollar Voice,” who became her manager when she was 14.

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What’s So Wrong About Roseanne Barr’s Tweet Exploring the psychology behind Barr’s assumptions.

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Roseanne Barr set off a media firestorm yesterday when she tweeted that former President Obama adviser, Valerie Jarrett, was a child of the “Muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes.” The response from ABC was swift—her hit sitcom was immediately cancelled—but the story has sparked a heated debate online. Most of the arguments bouncing back and forth across cyberspace today seem to boil down to one simple question: “What’s so wrong about comparing a Black woman to an ape?” To address this question, let’s look at what psychological science has to say.

But before we get to the science, let’s take a quick detour through history. To understand the context of Barr’s tweet, it is important to know that likening Black people to apes has a long, murky past. The idea that Black people were less evolved than White people, and therefore genetically closer to apes than Whites, was historically used to hide the justification of slavery and unequal rights in a cloak of science. Such “scientific racism” spread the false idea that Blacks are inherently inferior to Whites. As a result, the portrayal of Black people as apelike became an iconic representation in the 19th and early 20th century.

So when someone makes an analogy today, they are not just comparing an individual to an animal the way you would compare a woman with a long neck to a giraffe or a boy with large ears to an elephant. Comments comparing Blacks to apes cuts much, much deeper because they tap into a long, violent legacy of dehumanization and exploitation.

But that’s all in the past, right? I mean, people in modern society don’t actually think Blacks are apelike, do they? Work by psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff(link is external) indicates they do. In a series of studies, he found that most Americans—liberal and conservative, White and non-White—hold an unconscious association between Black people and apes. And this isn’t just among racist people; their studies found the association existed in even the most egalitarian individuals.

So despite the 50-plus years since the Civil Rights Movement, most Americans still unconsciously associate Black people with apes. But as long as those associations stay unconscious, who really cares, right? Well, as anyone who’s read Malcolm Gladwell’s book (link is external)Blink(link is external) can tell you, the problem is that unconscious associations still affect our behavior, often in ways we don’t even realize. As Goff (link is external)said himself, “Some racial associations are embedded so deeply that they are difficult to recognize, much less eradicate–and they continue to shape our behavior and ideas.”

So does the Black-ape association produce any real-world harm? Once again, let’s revisit Goff’s work. In one study, participants were shown words on a screen so quickly that they were unaware of what they saw, but their brain still processed them on an unconscious level (researchers call this technique “subliminal priming”). Half were shown ape-related words (e.g., chimp, gorilla) and the other half were shown neutral words (e.g., chair). Next, all participants watched a videotape of police officers violently subduing a suspect. Some were led to believe the suspect was White, and others were led to believe the suspect was Black. When these individuals thought the suspect in the video was White, those primed with ape words showed no difference in their judgments of police brutality. However, everything changed when they thought the suspect was Black. In that case, those primed with the ape words were more likely to think the suspect deserved the police brutality. To put it another way, the unconscious association between Blacks and apes lead to an endorsement of violence against a Black victim (but not a White victim). This tells us that the association between Blacks and apes is anything but harmless.

Interestingly, when these study participants were asked explicitly about the association between Black people and apes, not a single one reported being aware of it. So where did this association come from? Such unconscious associations likely exist because of subtle suggestions in our environment that come from jokes and comments (like Roseanne Barr’s), television, movies, and magazine covers (for example, see the controversy over LeBron James’ 2008 Vogue cover photo(link is external)). But wherever they come from, the point is that even though we are not consciously aware of these associations residing within us, they can still be activated outside of our awareness and subsequently guide our behavior.

This is why Roseanne Barr’s tweet is not just a joke made in poor taste. And neither are the other recent examples comparing Michelle Obama to “an ape in heels” or photoshopping a banana into a Barack Obama photo. These are insidious and harmful comments that reflect a deep history of socialized racism. But they are also more than that. Not only do they reflect racism, they perpetuate it.

By Melissa Burkley PHD/PsychologyToday

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Ambien Maker Shames Roseanne Barr for Blaming Her Bigoted Rant on its Drug: ‘Racism is Not a Known Side Effect’ Sanofi threw shade at the former sitcom star after she claimed she was “Ambien tweeting” when she attacked former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

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Sanofi, the pharmaceutical company behind Ambien, has put out a statement knocking Roseanne Barr for seemingly blaming its drugs for her racist tirade this week.

“People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world,” the company said in an official announcement. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

One day after her hit ABC sitcom got cancelled in the wake of her racist attacks on former Obama White House aide Valerie Jarrett, Barr took to Twitter to say that “it was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting” when she decided to compare Jarrett’s appearance to that of an ape.


Sanofi US


People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world. While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.
9:57 AM – May 30, 2018

Every Culture Appropriates The question is less whether a dress or an idea is borrowed, than the uses to which it’s then put.

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A woman walks with her two daughters at a busy street in downtown Shanghai July 11, 2013.

Meet the Death Metal Cowboys of Botswana. In black leather decorated with metal studs, they play a pounding style of music that people who know more than me trace to the British band “Venom” and its 1981 album Welcome to Hell. Question: Is this cultural appropriation? Why or why not?

The question is inspired by a spasm of social-media cruelty that caught wide attention last week. A young woman in Utah bought a Chinese-style dress to wear to her high school formal. She posted some photographs of herself on her personal Instagram page—and suddenly found herself the target of virulent online abuse.

For once, the story has a happy ending. Good sense and kindness prevailed, and instead of her prom being ruined, the young woman exited the dance buoyed by worldwide support and affirmation, most of all from within China.

Yet the idea persists that there is something wrong and oppressive about people of one background adopting and adapting the artifacts of another. Sadly often, these stories end as successful power plays enforced by local bullies.

At Oberlin in 2015, a Vietnamese American student shamed the dining hall into ceasing to serve its version of Banh Mi sandwiches.

Instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw. “It was ridiculous …. How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”

The references to “baguette” and “pâté” in a food product of a former French colony might have tipped off the angry Oberlin student that the banh mi is not quite as traditional a Vietnamese food as she imagined. When this exotic remake of a classic pate en baguette was first sold in the streets of Hanoi, the vendors called it “banh tay”: literally “Western-style bread.”

By David Frum/TheAtlantic full article

Posted by The NON-Conformist


The Era of Fake Video Begins The digital manipulation of video may make the current era of “fake news” seem quaint.

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Edmon de Haro

In a dank corner of the internet, it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses, and the faces in the videos are indeed their own. Everything south of the neck, however, belongs to different women. An artificial intelligence has almost seamlessly stitched the familiar visages into pornographic scenes, one face swapped for another. The genre is one of the cruelest, most invasive forms of identity theft invented in the internet era. At the core of the cruelty is the acuity of the technology: A casual observer can’t easily detect the hoax.
This development, which has been the subject of much hand-wringing in the tech press, is the work of a programmer who goes by the nom de hack “deepfakes.” And it is merely a beta version of a much more ambitious project. One of deepfakes’s compatriots told Vice’s Motherboard site in January that he intends to democratize this work. He wants to refine the process, further automating it, which would allow anyone to transpose the disembodied head of a crush or an ex or a co-worker into an extant pornographic clip with just a few simple steps. No technical knowledge would be required. And because academic and commercial labs are developing even more-sophisticated tools for non-pornographic purposes—algorithms that map facial expressions and mimic voices with precision—the sordid fakes will soon acquire even greater verisimilitude.

The internet has always contained the seeds of postmodern hell. Mass manipulation, from clickbait to Russian bots to the addictive trickery that governs Facebook’s News Feed, is the currency of the medium. It has always been a place where identity is terrifyingly slippery, where anonymity breeds coarseness and confusion, where crooks can filch the very contours of selfhood. In this respect, the rise of deepfakes is the culmination of the internet’s history to date—and probably only a low-grade version of what’s to come.
Vladimir Nabokov once wrote that reality is one of the few words that means nothing without quotation marks. He was sardonically making a basic point about relative perceptions: When you and I look at the same object, how do you really know that we see the same thing? Still, institutions (media, government, academia) have helped people coalesce around a consensus—rooted in a faith in reason and empiricism—about how to describe the world, albeit a fragile consensus that has been unraveling in recent years. Social media have helped bring on a new era, enabling individuated encounters with the news that confirm biases and sieve out contravening facts. The current president has further hastened the arrival of a world beyond truth, providing the imprimatur of the highest office to falsehood and conspiracy.

But soon this may seem an age of innocence. We’ll shortly live in a world where our eyes routinely deceive us. Put differently, we’re not so far from the collapse of reality.
We cling to reality today, crave it even. We still very much live in Abraham Zapruder’s world. That is, we venerate the sort of raw footage exemplified by the 8 mm home movie of John F. Kennedy’s assassination that the Dallas clothier captured by happenstance. Unedited video has acquired an outsize authority in our culture. That’s because the public has developed a blinding, irrational cynicism toward reporting and other material that the media have handled and processed—an overreaction to a century of advertising, propaganda, and hyperbolic TV news. The essayist David Shields calls our voraciousness for the unvarnished “reality hunger.”
Scandalous behavior stirs mass outrage most reliably when it is “caught on tape.” Such video has played a decisive role in shaping the past two U.S. presidential elections. In 2012, a bartender at a Florida fund-raiser for Mitt Romney surreptitiously hit record on his camera while the candidate denounced “47 percent” of Americans—Obama supporters all—as enfeebled dependents of the federal government. A strong case can be made that this furtively captured clip doomed his chance of becoming president. The remarks almost certainly would not have registered with such force if they’d merely been scribbled down and written up by a reporter. The video—with its indirect camera angle and clink of ambient cutlery and waiters passing by with folded napkins—was far more potent. All of its trappings testified to its unassailable origins.

Donald Trump, improbably, recovered from the Access Hollywood tape, in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women, but that tape aroused the public’s passions and conscience like nothing else in the 2016 presidential race. Video has likewise provided the proximate trigger for many other recent social conflagrations. It took extended surveillance footage of the NFL running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife from a hotel elevator to elicit a meaningful response to domestic violence from the league, despite a long history of abuse by players. Then there was the 2016 killing of Philando Castile by a Minnesota police officer, streamed to Facebook by his girlfriend. All the reports in the world, no matter the overwhelming statistics and shattering anecdotes, had failed to provoke outrage over police brutality. But the terrifying broadcast of his animalistic demise in his Oldsmobile rumbled the public and led politicians, and even a few hard-line conservative commentators, to finally acknowledge the sort of abuse they had long neglected.

That all takes us to the nub of the problem. It’s natural to trust one’s own senses, to believe what one sees—a hardwired tendency that the coming age of manipulated video will exploit. Consider recent flash points in what the University of Michigan’s Aviv Ovadya calls the “infopocalypse”—and imagine just how much worse they would have been with manipulated video. Take Pizzagate, and then add concocted footage of John Podesta leering at a child, or worse. Falsehoods will suddenly acquire a whole new, explosive emotional intensity.
But the problem isn’t just the proliferation of falsehoods. Fabricated videos will create new and understandable suspicions about everything we watch. Politicians and publicists will exploit those doubts. When captured in a moment of wrongdoing, a culprit will simply declare the visual evidence a malicious concoction. The president, reportedly, has already pioneered this tactic: Even though he initially conceded the authenticity of the Access Hollywood video, he now privately casts doubt on whether the voice on the tape is his own.

In other words, manipulated video will ultimately destroy faith in our strongest remaining tether to the idea of common reality. As Ian Goodfellow, a scientist at Google, told MIT Technology Review, “It’s been a little bit of a fluke, historically, that we’re able to rely on videos as evidence that something really happened.”
The collapse of reality isn’t an unintended consequence of artificial intelligence. It’s long been an objective—or at least a dalliance—of some of technology’s most storied architects. In many ways, Silicon Valley’s narrative begins in the early 1960s with the International Foundation for Advanced Study, not far from the legendary engineering labs clumped around Stanford. The foundation specialized in experiments with LSD. Some of the techies working in the neighborhood couldn’t resist taking a mind-bending trip themselves, undoubtedly in the name of science. These developers wanted to create machines that could transform consciousness in much the same way that drugs did. Computers would also rip a hole in reality, leading humanity away from the quotidian, gray-flannel banality of Leave It to Beaver America and toward a far groovier, more holistic state of mind. Steve Jobs described LSD as “one of the two or three most important” experiences of his life.

Fake-but-realistic video clips are not the end point of the flight from reality that technologists would have us take. The apotheosis of this vision is virtual reality. VR’s fundamental purpose is to create a comprehensive illusion of being in another place. With its goggles and gloves, it sets out to trick our senses and subvert our perceptions. Video games began the process of transporting players into an alternate world, injecting them into another narrative. But while games can be quite addictive, they aren’t yet fully immersive. VR has the potential to more completely transport—we will see what our avatars see and feel what they feel. Several decades ago, after giving the nascent technology a try, the psychedelic pamphleteer Timothy Leary reportedly called it “the new LSD.”

Life could be more interesting in virtual realities as the technology emerges from its infancy; the possibilities for creation might be extended and enhanced in wondrous ways. But if the hype around VR eventually pans out, then, like the personal computer or social media, it will grow into a massive industry, intent on addicting consumers for the sake of its own profit, and possibly dominated by just one or two exceptionally powerful companies. (Facebook’s investments in VR, with its purchase of the start-up Oculus, is hardly reassuring.)
The ability to manipulate consumers will grow because VR definitionally creates confusion about what is real. Designers of VR have described some consumers as having such strong emotional responses to a terrifying experience that they rip off those chunky goggles to escape. Studies have already shown how VR can be used to influence the behavior of users after they return to the physical world, making them either more or less inclined to altruistic behaviors.

Researchers in Germany who have attempted to codify ethics for VR have warned that its “comprehensive character” introduces “opportunities for new and especially powerful forms of both mental and behavioral manipulation, especially when commercial, political, religious, or governmental interests are behind the creation and maintenance of the virtual worlds.” As the VR pioneer Jaron Lanier writes in his recently published memoir, “Never has a medium been so potent for beauty and so vulnerable to creepiness. Virtual reality will test us. It will amplify our character more than other media ever have.”

Perhaps society will find ways to cope with these changes. Maybe we’ll learn the skepticism required to navigate them. Thus far, however, human beings have displayed a near-infinite susceptibility to getting duped and conned—falling easily into worlds congenial to their own beliefs or self-image, regardless of how eccentric or flat-out wrong those beliefs may be. Governments have been slow to respond to the social challenges that new technologies create, and might rather avoid this one. The question of deciding what constitutes reality isn’t just epistemological; it is political and would involve declaring certain deeply held beliefs specious.
Few individuals will have the time or perhaps the capacity to sort elaborate fabulation from truth. Our best hope may be outsourcing the problem, restoring cultural authority to trusted validators with training and knowledge: newspapers, universities. Perhaps big technology companies will understand this crisis and assume this role, too. Since they control the most-important access points to news and information, they could most easily squash manipulated videos, for instance. But to play this role, they would have to accept certain responsibilities that they have so far largely resisted.

In 2016, as Russia used Facebook to influence the American presidential election, Elon Musk confessed his understanding of human life. He talked about a theory, derived from an Oxford philosopher, that is fashionable in his milieu. The idea holds that we’re actually living in a computer simulation, as if we’re already characters in a science-fiction movie or a video game. He told a conference, “The odds that we’re in ‘base reality’ is one in billions.” If the leaders of the industry that presides over our information and hopes to shape our future can’t even concede the existence of reality, then we have little hope of salvaging it.

By Franklin Foer/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Why is Trump Ignoring An American Hero? His Silence On the Waffle House Murders is Deafening James Shaw Jr. disarmed a mass shooter single-handed. Everything about that is a problem for Donald Trump

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During the early morning hours last Sunday, a 29-year-old white man named Travis Reinking allegedly used an AR-15 rifle to kill four people and injure two others at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville. Reinking is reportedly a member of the Sovereign Citizens, a right-wing extremist movement that is heavily influenced by white supremacist political ideology. It is likely not a coincidence that all of Reinking’s victims were nonwhite.

A 29-year-old black man named James Shaw Jr. disarmed Reinking by grabbing the barrel of his AR-15. Shaw is the true definition of a hero. He acted selflessly, without training or compensation, and at great personal risk.

Like most real heroes, Shaw refused any special praise or honor. As Shaw explained at a press conference on Sunday, “I’m not a hero. … I’m just a regular person. I think anybody could have did what I did if they’re pushed. You have to either react or fall. I chose to react because I didn’t see any other way to live.”

During those few minutes last Sunday morning in a Waffle House, a mini-drama of American life in the age of Trump took place.
A young black man protected the public from a white man hell-bent on committing mass murder. In America, black men are all too often subjected to harassment, state-sponsored violence and racial profiling. By comparison, white men — even when they are mass murderers or domestic terrorists — are described by default as “nice” and “normal” people who are “lone wolves” or suffer from mental illness. Their crimes come as a surprise and not indicative of a broader “cultural problem” among the “white community.”
The patrons at the Nashville Waffle House were lucky that James Shaw Jr. was not arrested and kicked out for trespassing like the two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks store last week. If the manager in Nashville had a case of “negrophobia” like his peer in Philadelphia, more people might have died.
On the same day that Shaw saved lives in a Nashville, a black woman was arrested, stripped almost naked, and brutalized by police at a different Waffle House, a few hundred miles away in Alabama. Her crime? She complained to the manager about why her party had been charged for plastic utensils, when on a previous visit they had not been.
America’s police routinely claim that they were in fear for their lives and “had no choice” after they kill unarmed or otherwise vulnerable black and brown people. James Shaw Jr., who had neither weapons nor police training, disarmed a killer with his bare hands.

And once again a white man who commits mass murder is captured alive, while black and brown people who are unarmed, talking on telephones, sitting in their cars, sleeping or generally minding their own business are killed by America’s police nearly as a matter of routine. Reinking, who is accused of four murders, was even offered bond by a judge — although in the face of public outrage this has since been revoked. Do you believe that a black or brown person credibly accused of mass murder would be given the opportunity to go free while awaiting trial?

Then there is Donald Trump. A president who finds countless hours to watch Fox News, play golf, and rage via Twitter about such important matters as the cartoon character Mr. Magoo has not made any public statement about the massacre in Nashville. (During a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered a routine statement of condolences for the victims and praise for Shaw on the president’s behalf.)

Speaking personally and directly about Shaw’s heroism and the mass shooting in Nashville might seem like a political slam dunk. But Trump’s White House has demonstrated a remarkable gift for causing controversy where none is necessary. Could the president’s near-silence on the Nashville shooting be another example of his supposed political incompetence? Unlikely.

The National Rifle Association and the single-issue voters it commands have Trump and the entire Republican Party in a vise grip. The Trump administration, for instance, rescinded common-sense rules put in place under Barack Obama meant to prevent mentally ill people from buying firearms. If such rules were actually enforced, they could have potentially stopped Reinking from obtaining the guns he apparently used to kill four people last Sunday. Perhaps Donald Trump has chosen not to speak directly about the mass murder in Nashville because his political masters demand it?

Given Trump’s level of narcissism one would also think he would celebrate Shaw for stopping Reinking, who was detained by the Secret Service last July after attempting to breach the grounds of the White House.

The explanation for Trump’s relative silence is obvious. Trump, his advisers, his political party and their media allies have thrived on their contempt for the humanity, dignity, and freedom of black and brown people. Honoring a black man for stopping an armed white man during what may have been a racially motivated killing spree runs counter to Donald Trump’s political worldview and personal morality.

Let’s recall that Trump has slurred black athletes (and others) who have exercised their constitutional rights to protest police brutality and racism. He has repeatedly attacked black journalists and elected officials, especially women, as stupid and ignorant. Trump has suggested that the people of Puerto Rico, who are United States citizens, have been lazy about their recovery from one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. Trump has repeatedly demonized Latin American immigrants as rapists and murderers. He has consistently refused to apologize to the Central Park Five, the group of black and Latino teenagers who were unjustly imprisoned for raping a white woman in 1989, and whom Trump longed to see executed.

The American right has engaged in a coordinated effort, over many years, to deny black Americans and other nonwhites the right to vote through gerrymandering and voter suppression. Trump and his Republican allies long to change our immigration laws to ensure that white people remain a permanent majority and that nonwhites are deported or otherwise removed whenever possible.

Trump has stated that black people live in hellish conditions, and therefore (for unclear reasons) they should support his presidency. He infamously described some of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who gathered last August in Charlottesville, Virginia, as “very fine people.”

Instead of focusing on the threat to public safety posed by right-wing extremist groups such as the Sovereign Citizens movement (which law enforcement officials have consistently identified as more dangerous than Islamic terrorist groups) Donald Trump’s administration has defunded the programs targeting them. It is no surprise that the Ku Klux Klan and other overtly racist organizations have claimed Donald Trump as their leader.

It takes no special insight or powers of political prestidigitation to know that if a Muslim, an “illegal alien,” a “Dreamer” or a black person had committed mass murder in Nashville on Sunday, that Trump and his media followers would be howling about “extremism” and “terrorism.”  But when right-wing Christian conservatives commit mass murder or other acts of terror, such events are shrugged off as unfortunate curiosities. They are never understood as evidence of a systemic cultural problem caused by toxic white masculinity and white male privilege.

In another reality, James Shaw Jr. would have already been flown to the White House and celebrated as a national hero. The president of the United States has many responsibilities. These include formal obligations such as being the commander of the military and chief legislator. There are informal obligations as well, including serving as the country’s cheerleader and providing moral leadership both on a day-to-day basis and during times of crisis and tragedy. As shown once again by his near-total silence after the mass shooting in Nashville, Donald Trump has spectacularly failed in this regard.

By Chauncey DeVega / Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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