Category Archives: violence

The NRA Can Only Be Stopped at the Ballot Box

Have the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School changed the game? In the wake of the Parkland massacre that killed 17 children and educators, there’s no question the students have changed the national conversation. Survivors of this mass shooting have called “B.S.” on empty Republican pieties – rejecting “thoughts and prayers” and demanding that lawmakers take action to protect children’s lives from guns, instead of protecting their political futures from the wrath of the National Rifle Association.


But Republican lawmakers have so far acted as if nothing has changed. As Parkland survivors looked on in tears, the Florida House this week voted against even debating legislation to curb assault rifles – and then had the audacity to vote to declare porn a threat to public health. President Trump, meanwhile, has decided to champion NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre’s reckless proposal to arm teachers at school.

More from Rolling Stone

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NRA Chief directs rant at Dems, FBI and Media

Video PBS News Hour via YouTube

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Rubio Defends NRA Ties, Says ‘Genie’s Out Of The Bottle’ On AR-15s

During a tense interview aired Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) again rejected many Floridians’ criticism that certain gun control laws would have prevented Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

He also defended his ties to the National Rifle Association, and blamed congressional inaction regarding such mass shootings on “people just mov[ing] on.”

Rubio hasn’t personally attempted to address mass shootings through legislation, he said, because “we don’t fully understand everything that could’ve been done to prevent this.”

Much of the mourning following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, which left 17 dead and more injured, transformed with surprising speed into passionate political advocacy. And, perhaps aside from President Donald Trump, more of that passion has been directed at Rubio, a large beneficiary of the gun lobby’s support, than anyone else.

“I see this reported, it’s unfair, I’ve never said we can’t do anything,” Rubio said, repeating a point he made on the Senate floor Thursday. He added: “What I have said is that the proposals out there would not have prevented it, and that’s a fact.”

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Rethinking Removing Confederate Memorials: Why This May Not Work Out As Planned

In Virginia, emotions are running hot. Following the death of one and the injuring of 19 after a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, the conversation has turned from understanding what happened to preventing it from happening again.

During a contentious city council meeting on August 21 — where an expedited plan to remove the city’s Confederate memorials was agreed upon — many city residents asked why the police maintained such a subdued presence during the protest. In recent months, Charlottesville has become a hot spot for white nationalist protests and gatherings.

Elsewhere, the ACLU has called for legislation that would overturn the Virginia state law protecting war memorials, the NAACP has called for the renaming of two schools currently named for Confederate leaders, and there are talks about renaming Virginia streets honoring the Confederacy.

“Virginia’s monuments and memorials to Confederate war figures must go,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Regardless of origin or historical context, today they are inciteful symbols of hatred and bigotry to which white supremacists are drawn like moths to a flame.”

Historically, acts of violent racial hate have galvanized public opinion in significant ways. Televised coverage of police brutality toward protesters during the civil rights movement helped create the groundswell that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, for example.

However, there seems to be a disconnect today. The popular push to remove the symbols of racial hate may have surpassed the push to address the effects of racial hate. Increasingly, the national conversation has swung from addressing race-based discrimination to discussing race-based symbolism, to the detriment to the former.

“From the inception of this nation, white supremacist ideology was used to justify genocide and slavery. And so, the problem of collective memory extends far beyond Confederate memorials,” Crystal Marie Fleming, associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, wrote for The Root.

“Removing memorials to white supremacy in the United States is not simply a matter of knocking down statues of Robert E. Lee. It’s relatively easy for some to see the Confederate flag as an emblem of hatred and white supremacy. But slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and centuries of systematic racism all happened under the star-spangled banner.”

Understanding Racism Today

Discussions on racism today have become a political quagmire. Attempts to address major concerns regarding the equitable treatment of individuals based on race tend to move into one of two choke points. At one end, there is the argument that racism today does not exist, is no longer a significant concern today, or is limited to extremists.

At the other end, there is the argument that racial discrimination persists because policies that promote or encourage “victimization” is allowed to continue unchecked. “The MSM [Main Stream Media] spends too much time on cop-on-Black crime and not enough time on the systematic racism of socialism and welfare perpetrated by the same Democrats who used the KKK to enforce Jim Crow and suppress Blacks for decades,” Pablo Solomon, artist, designer, and a regular conservative commentator, told Atlanta Black Star.

 The Problem with Symbols

The argument of removing the memorials to an ‘enemy combatant’ is an important one. As Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out, regarding HBO’s decision to green-light a Confederacy-revisionist themed series, Confederate, “The symbols point to something Confederate’s creators don’t seem to understand — the war is over for them, not for us. At this very hour, black people all across the South are still fighting the battle which they joined during Reconstruction — securing equal access to the ballot — and resisting a president whose resemblance to Andrew Johnson is uncanny.”

The problem in using the removal of racial symbolism to address racial hate lies in the fact that racial hate does not come from racial symbols; focusing on the removal of the monuments is akin to addressing the symptoms and not the disease. In a way, focusing on removing the monuments is another choke point, effectively drawing conversation of racial inequitably to a politically drawn tangent.

“While the removal of Confederate symbols of white supremacy is completely justifiable and repulsively long overdue, it is also important to recognize the fact that the flag of the Union — and, indeed, our current, actual flag — is an emblem of white supremacist racism, too. The nation that existed prior to the Civil War was racist. That country is still racist today. It has never not been racist,” Fleming added.

What is Racial Hate?

This does not diminish the fact that Charlottesville happened. To understand the violence that happened there, one has to look at the nature of racial hate.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 917 hate groups current active in the United States. This number represents a marked increase from the 794 there were in 2014 — the end of a three-year decline due to a transitioning from on-the-ground extremist protesting to Internet-based activities. The resurgence of the extreme fringe was influenced by reports of demographics change — which suggests that this nation will be minority-majority by 2040 and that many states are now minority-majority due to Latino immigration.

However, many feel that the extreme fringe’s reemergence had a singular flash point.

“[Trump] kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers,” Mark Potok, writer and expert on the Radical Right and formerly a senior fellow with the SPLC, wrote. “He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80% of the murders of whites.

“He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.”

Trump has argued against the removal of Confederacy monuments, stating that it is a slippery slope that will eventually lead to the demand to remove monuments of slaveholders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

While the Trump presidency cannot be fairly blamed for creating the bias that is being seen today, it can be blamed for granting license for it to be expressed openly. In the first 34 days since Election Day 2016, there were 1,094 incidents of racial hate. The highest concentration happened on the first day after Trump’s election.

Among the groups that have emerged in the Trump era are anti-Muslim hate groups, which have seen steady growth for the last two years, and neo-Confederate groups, which were in sharp decline before Election Day due to the collapse of several Ku Klux Klan groups in the United States. Anti-government or “patriot” groups, which dominated the alt-right during the Obama administration, have fallen off due to a co-opting of their platform by Trump.

 Growing Hate Means More Discrimination

With the decline in white birth rates and the growth of the Latinx community, means that the numbers of foreign-born American residents currently in the US is at levels last seen when the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 was introduced. At the same time, the shell-shocked global industrial base has opened up, allowing for the outsourcing abroad of entire economic sectors that once made up the bulk of America’s non-college graduates’ career options.

In conversation with Atlanta Black Star, the psychologist Jerry D. Smith Jr. argues that racial hate is the application of fear in a system of racial discrimination. While racial discrimination comes from the human mind’s tendency to categorize things similar to itself the same way it categorizes itself, racial hate comes from a fundamental rejection of not only what is different, but what is threatening because it is different.

“The causes of this fear may be numerous, but often comes from a fear of losing one’s status, power, or station in life — as is often seen in some from majority cultures,” Smith noted. “It also may come from the fear of never-ending abuse — as may be seen among some from minority cultures.”

“When the fear factor is introduced, those in power (particularly, social and political power) often feel the need to protect themselves and their status by identifying and attacking the thing (i.e., group) that triggers the fear. In order to attack someone, there has to be an emotional detachment from them and the easiest way to do this is to denigrate and dehumanize them. When you have successfully dehumanized someone in your mind, you can engage in all kinds of violent actions toward them without remorse.”

The fact that hate has hijacked the conversation has grave consequences for a conversation on how racial discrimination impacts Black lives on a day to day level. An impact that won’t go away just because the obvious symbols of hate are removed from our streets. The realities of race inequality means:

  • That for the majority of poor Blacks, it is easier to get a Big Mac than a fresh apple, as many low-income Black neighborhoods no longer have a supermarket or a green grocer;
  • That the average Black family would have to live twelve lifetimes to have the same wealth as the average white family;
  • That the average Black person is six times more likely to be sentenced for a drug-related charge, despite no difference per capita in drug use;
  • That there are more African Americans that rent than own their home, that pay more than thirty percent of their take-home income as rent, and that lives in substandard housing — compared to whites;
  • That a white child is twice as likely to be raised in a home that has at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree, is nearly twice as likely to get a bachelor’s degree or better for himself, and is more likely to have been read to, told a story, taught letters, visit a library, or do arts and crafts with other family members;
  • That a Black person is more likely to be killed by the police;
  • That a poor Black person can get better healthcare in Cuba than in the United States; and
  • That an African American is more likely to be born in poverty, live their entire life in poverty, have children that are born in poverty and will die in poverty, and have grandchildren that were born in poverty and will die in poverty, than their white counterpart.

The tragedy of racial hate and the focus on racial symbol is that because they are monopolizing the national conversation, no one is talking about what it really means to be discriminated against.

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

An Ill-Advised Lawsuit Against Black Lives Matter Activists

Last July, Gavin Long, a black, 29-year-old former Marine, ambushed police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three officers and wounding three more before being killed. Now one of the wounded, who was rendered permanently disabled in the shooting, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Black Lives Matter movement and activists including DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie, whom he blames for inciting the attack.

Image: Time Magazine

The unnamed police officers’ injuries were so grave, and so grievously unfair, that it’s not hard to understand this officer’s urge to hold someone accountable. But blaming Black Lives Matter is wrong.

Passages like the following are typical of the complaint:

In 2016, as a leader of BLACK LIVES MATTER, DERAY MCKESSON and the other Defendants planned the Summer of Chaos, Weekend of Rage, and used the internet and social media to organize, stage and orchestrate protests and to attend and/or lead multiple protests and violence that accompanied the protests including, among many others, those in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; McKinney, Texas; Dallas, Texas; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Baton Rouge protests, in large part, took place outside the Baton Rouge Police Department located in front of the former Woman’s Hospital on Airline Highway. This place is the same area where this shooting took place.

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Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?

The lack of a coherent anti-terrorism strategy in Washington and by extension the West, as emergency services deal with the devastating aftermath of yet another terrorist atrocity in Europe – this time a suicide bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, England – has been thrown into sharp relief during President Trump’s tour of the Middle East.

Specifically, on what planet can Iran be credibly accused of funding and supporting terrorism while Saudi Arabia is considered a viable partner in the fight against terrorism? This is precisely the narrative we are being invited to embrace by President Trump in what counts as a retreat from reality into the realms of fantasy, undertaken in service not to security but commerce.

Indeed those still struggling to understand why countries such as the US, UK, and France consistently seek to legitimise a Saudi regime that is underpinned by the medieval religious doctrine of Wahhabism, which is near indistinguishable from the medieval religious extremism and fanaticism of Daesh and Nusra in Syria – those people need look no further than the economic relations each of those countries enjoy with Riyadh.

The announcement that Washington has just sealed a mammoth deal with its Saudi ally on arms sales – worth $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over 10 years – is all the incentive the US political and media establishment requires to look the other way when it comes to the public beheadings, crucifixionseye gouging, and other cruel and barbaric punishments meted out in the Kingdom on a regular basis.

The sheer unreality of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, as he stood shoulder to shoulder with President Trump during the latter’s state visit to the country recently, lamenting the chaos and carnage in Syria, which he described as having been “one of the most advanced countries” prior to a conflict that has wrought so much death and destruction, the sheer unreality of this is off the scale – and especially so considering the role the Saudis have played in providing material, financial, and ideological and religious support to groups engaged in the very carnage in Syria as has just been unleashed in Manchester.

There are times when the truth is not enough, when only the unvarnished truth will do, and in the wake of the Manchester attack – in which at time of writing 22 people have been killed and 60 injured – we cannot avoid the conclusion that neither principle nor rationality is driving Western foreign policy in the Middle East, or as it pertains to terrorism.

Instead it is being driven by unalloyed hypocrisy, to the extent that when such carnage occurs in Syria, as it has unremittingly over the past 6 years, the perpetrators are still described in some quarters as rebels and freedom fighters, yet when it takes place in Manchester or Paris or Brussels, etc., they are depicted as terrorists. Neither is it credible to continue to demonize governments that are in the front line against this terrorist menace – i.e. Iran, Russia, Syria – while courting and genuflecting at the feet of governments that are exacerbating it – i.e. Saudi Arabia, previously mentioned, along with Qatar, Kuwait, and Turkey. Here, too, mention must be made of the brutal and ongoing injustice meted out to the Palestinians by an Israeli government that shares with the Saudis a doctrine of religious exceptionalism and supremacy, one that is inimical to peace or the security of its own people.

Ultimately a choice has to be made between security and stability or economic and geopolitical advantage, with the flag of democracy and human rights losing its lustre in recent years precisely because the wrong choice has been made – in other words a Faustian pact with opportunism.

As the smoke clears, both literally and figuratively, from yet another terrorist atrocity, we are forced to consider how we arrived at this point. And when we do we cannot but understand the role of Western extremism in giving birth to and nourishing Salafi-jihadi extremism. Moreover, in the midst of the understandable and eminently justifiable grief we feel at events in Manchester, it behooves us not to forget the salient fact that Muslims have and continue to be the biggest victims of this terrorist menace, unleashed in the name of religious purity andsectarianism, and that it is Muslims who are also doing most to confront and fight it, whether in Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan. It should not escape our rendering of the issue either that what each of those countries have in common is that they have all been victims of the Western extremism mentioned earlier.

It bears repeating: you cannot continue to invade, occupy, and subvert Muslim and Arab countries and not expect consequences. And when those consequences amount to the slaughter and maiming of your own citizens, the same tired and shallow platitudes we are ritually regaled with by politicians and leaders intent on bolstering their anti-terrorism and security credentials achieve little except induce nausea.

Enough is enough.

By John Wight/Projectcensored

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Practicing Nonviolence Towards Each Other Should Be Black People’s First Step In Fight Against Racism

This month marks the 49th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Exactly one year before his murder, the Morehouse University alumnus publicized his opposition to the Vietnam War at New York’s Riverside Church. Dr. King told the congregation that his devotion to nonviolence would no longer permit him to minister to Black people that “Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems,” while saying nothing about the United States’ military plunder in Southeast Asia. He submitted his life as proof of his belief that nonviolence was the only path to justice.

Many Black people and others harbor the highest regard for Dr. King, while rejecting his idea of nonviolence. Charles Cobb Jr., a member of the upstart 1960s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), writes about Black citizens with this very mentality in “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.” He brilliantly illustrates legends like Mississippi’s Hartman Turnbow, a farmer and community organizer who celebrated the work of nonviolent activists but refused to travel without a gun. Turnbow remained a straight shooter and explicitly informed Dr. King, “This nonviolent stuff ain’t no good.”

After a hearty chronicle of 1960s Black self-defense, Cobb concludes the text by lamenting the lack of “nonviolent grassroots effort in America’s most violence-wracked communities.” He reminds readers that Dr. King’s tactic was not exclusively for use against racists. Practicing nonviolence with other Black people could be a powerful strategy to eliminate self-destructive behaviors along with the canned rebuke to all charges of police racism, Black-on-Black violence.

Cobb noted, “Nonviolence may be worth reconsidering [in order to] chip away at this culture of violence,” mandated by the system of white supremacy. Military aggression and lethal force are consistently modeled as preferred methods of resolving conflict. This helps inform why Black residents of Chicago and Baltimore suffer modern holocausts with murder rates live-updated like national debt numbers.

In addition to rejecting physical force, Dr. King’s brand of nonviolence called for acute verbal hygiene. The preacher’s son understood fists and words can inflict violence.

Black Panther Party for Self Defense member, Assata Shakur’s memoir describes how her school teachers “made war sound so glorious, so heroic.” The future Panther and her Black classmates waged their own battles after school, brawling over “petty disputes” and verbal insults. “We would talk about each other’s ugly, big lips and flat noses. We would call each other pickaninnies and nappy-haired so-­and-so’s,” recalls Shakur. Generations of white racism contaminated many Black people with toxic levels of self-hate, often demonstrated in callous treatment.

Dr. King’s philosophy could do much to foster healthier, less-noxious communication between Black people. Media personality and author Tavis Smiley’s biography on the slain preacher details various instances where Black people publicly ridiculed Dr. King’s tactics and adherence to nonviolence. “Doc” turned the other cheek, declined to return their insults. Smiley describes a variety of instances when U.S. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. openly disparaged Dr. King, including once in 1968, weeks before the assassination, when he gathered the press to declare, “The day of Martin Luther King is dead.” Smiley emphasizes that Dr. King repeatedly abstained from retaliating and made time in the months before his death to pen the congressman a letter of encouragement.

Dr. King’s admirable refrain is untenable to many Black people who think tongue-lashing wayward Black people is necessary for progress. A different contemporary of Dr. King and a fellow minister, Malcolm X is often cited for his unfiltered putdowns of Black leaders. Cobb retrieves Malcolm X’s 1963 speech where he “denounced Marin Luther King Jr. as a modern Uncle Tom subsidized by whites “to teach the Negroes to be defenseless.” The former Nation of Islam apostle didn’t exclusively target Dr. King and accumulated a heap of verbal smack downs on an array of 1960’s Black entertainers, politicians and activists.

What’s often minimized is following his departure from the NOI and his pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm greatly reduced his public attacks on well-known Black people. He met Coretta Scott King in 1965, weeks before his own murder, and impressed Dr. King’s wife with his humility and sincere desire to help. Discarding the counterproductive verbal jousting sooner could have allowed for greater common focus on a common problem.

Echoing Dr. King’s sentiments, North Carolina Central University faculty member and author Dr. Yaba Blay emphasizes that centuries of white terrorism “trained” us to be combative, to be “unable to relate to each other.” Making a conscious commitment to treat all Black people people with physical and verbal nonviolence is a profound application of Dr. King’s concept of “radical love.” It doesn’t require endorsing the views and conduct of every Black person, just a recognition that minimizing conflict with other Black people is an exponential asset in the business of ending racism.

The thought of accepting all varieties of white violence without retaliation is rightfully repugnant to most. But, committing to physical and verbal nonviolence exclusively with other Black people could be a legitimate means of mending our fractured relationships and nourishing the Black self-respect necessary to complete “Doc’s” goal.

By Gus T. Renegade/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist