The plague of angry white men: How racism, gun culture & toxic masculinity are poisoning America –

via The plague of angry white men: How racism, gun culture & toxic masculinity are poisoning America –


Dylann Roof is just the latest in a long line of men clinging to dangerous ideology that spiraled out of control


The plague of angry white men: How racism, gun culture & toxic masculinity are poisoning America

Dylann Roof (Credit: AP/Chuck Burton)

Dylann Roof was not silent before he murdered nine black people in their church, shooting and reloading multiple times, destroying their bodies with his white rage. He did not shout obscure or difficult to translate Latin phrases. Dylann Roof was not a blank slate or deep and nebulous well who left no written justification or explanation for his evil deeds. White racial terrorist Dylann Roof told his African-American victims why he was going to kill them. As though it was a type of forced civic duty and obligation, Roof said to his victims: “I have to do it.” He then shared his grievances: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.” Then he let off a fusillade of bullets.
A superficial reading would suggest that the “our” is simple to decipher: Roof is channeling his white nationalist understanding of “America” as a country synonymous with and exclusively for “white” people. This is the logic of the phrase that “America is a white man’s country.” The “our” also signifies the control and possession of white women’s bodies and personhood by white men.

The idea of black men raping white women is a centuries-old white American fantasy: It is the justification for the lynching tree, where thousands of innocent black men were made into “strange fruit.” The lynching tree also reinforces a cultural lie, that white women are the most desired among all others, and tries to conceal how many white women from both before the founding of the United States, through to the Age of Obama, willingly have had relationships with black men, a perfectly banal observation that nonetheless enrages white supremacists.

Nationalist and politically chauvinistic ideologies tend toward patriarchy and sexism. White nationalism is no exception. As such, Dylann Roof’s white racial terrorism is an act of violence, and one that is grounded in a particular understanding of gender: “Male” or “female” are designations of human, sexual, biological difference. “Masculine” and “feminine,” however, are social constructs that are not fixed, which change over time, and in response to particular arrangements of social and political power. Here, gender is a type of performance (in its most binary and simple form) as a given person acts “male” or “female.” And toxic masculinity is a performance that emphasizes violence, control over others, sexual aggression and a lack of emotion and vulnerability. Dylann Roof—with the guns, violence, resentment, right-wing politics and racism—is the extreme embodiment of toxic white masculinity.

The color line is not separate from gender: The two are deeply connected to one another in the United States and the West more broadly. Dylann Roof’s performance of gender involved an understanding that he should have power over and was inherently superior to people of color because of his skin color. Moreover, as understood by his racist political ideology, Dylann Roof was granted an additional claim on power and authority because he is a man. Roof’s racism and sexism thus intersect in what philosophers Carol Pateman and Charles Mills have described as“racial patriarchy.” This is a system of racial domination in which people of color are subordinate to whites. It is also a relationship where white men have more power than white women. But all white people have a higher place than any person of color—either male or female. Women of color occupy the basement level of a society organized around a system of racial patriarchy.

This system, in its most unapologetic and honest form, is the dream of white nationalists.

But while tethered to ideals of the past, white nationalism also lives in the present; thus, it must deal with and negotiate questions about feminism, immigration, cosmopolitanism, globalization and other related matters if it is to remain viable as a community and belief system. Consequently, white nationalism has its own type of “gender troubles.” Can one be a feminist and also a white nationalist? Are white men and white women equal because they are both “white”? Should white women be subordinate to white men? These are the types of questions that white nationalists have been debating with one another online and in other spaces. Dylann Roof’s manifesto demonstrates knowledge, however superficial, of these various currents and controversies in contemporary white nationalist “political thought.”

These discussions of racial patriarchy among white supremacists are not new; Nancy Maclean explored the Ku Klux Klan’s struggles with questions of gender in the first part of the early 20th century in her book “Behind the Mask of Chivalry“:

Klan tracts and speakers dwelt far less on men’s behavior than on women’s. This was in part because male roles were changing less than female roles, and in part because Klansmen were more interested in controlling others than in self-scrutiny. Nevertheless, they expounded a particular model of masculinity. Klansmen expected women to marry, to provide for their families, and to exercise control over their wives and children. “God intended,” affirmed one Klan minister, “that every man should possess insofar as possible, his own home and rule his own household.”

Rule over one’s women was mandated by another staple of the Klan’s conception of masculinity: “honor,” or, as it was sometimes called, “chivalry.” Honor dictated a commitment to protect the virtue of “American” women. Historically honor in fact rested on a man’s ability to control the sexuality of his female relations…

Although hostile to sexual emancipation, the Klan was not an outright foe of all women’s equality. The order’s commitment to moral uplift in fact led it to support rights for white Protestant women…Nonetheless, recognition of women by Klansmen was always shot through with ambivalence. Klansmen’s ideal, after all, was the nineteenth-century petty proprietor—whether farmer, artisan, or merchant. His vaunted independence as a citizen presumed his control over the labor and behavior of the dependents in his household. However much Klansmen might try to cooperate with women who shared their social goals, female initiative set them on edge; the undertow of patriarchal prerogative impeded full solidarity.

Dylann Roof was attracted to white nationalism and white supremacy because of a sense of alienation and anger at the world. Although he was born middle class, Roof somehow came to feel that America — because of immigration, changing demographics and pernicious fictions about “black crime” — had abandoned him. In Roof’s mind, he was forced into action, to be “heroic,” “the Last Rhodesian,” launching an attack on unarmed black people.

Roof’s actions were those of the “angry white man” on steroids. While his feelings of toxic white masculinity could have been insulated by the relative privileges of being born into the middle class, he was instead suckered into a sense of white racial victimology, entitlement and identity politics by the right-wing media and online racist propaganda. Never did he think to identify the system he venerated, racial patriarchy, as the source of his own alienation. Instead, like so many other angry young men like him, he bought into it wholeheartedly. Roof’s translating this anger into violent action is (thankfully) a rare event in the United States. But, as sociologist Michael Kimmer detailed in his book “Angry White Men,” this sense of (white) grievance and anger is all too common.

Guns are central to toxic white masculinity, as well as the broader white supremacist and conservative politics that Dylann Roof exemplified. In the United States, guns have a deep historic relationship to the maintenance and enforcement of hierarchies of race, class and gender. They were a tool for committing mass genocide against First Nations peoples, for example. They were given to white indentured servants in the 17th century as a way of cementing their identities as “free” people who could then be used to oppress and control black slaves and other people of color. Guns have been a tool for American plutocrats and the 1 percent to control the working classes and the poor. The gun is also a powerful symbol of masculinity and virility: A recent ad campaign by the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle featured a picture of the weapon along with the tag line: “Consider your man card reissued.”

As seen with Dylann Roof and other mass shooters (a group in which white males are grossly overrepresented) such as Elliot Rodger, Adam Lanza, the Columbine killers and James Holmes, toxic masculinity (and a sense of aggrieved white male entitlement) is central to their decision to use firearms to commit acts of mass murder.

The corporate news media does not want a sustained discussion of gun violence as a type of public health crisis. The corporate news media is also unwilling to discuss how domestic terrorism by right-wing white men is now the United States’ leading threat to public order. Very troublingly, the corporate news media considers it impolitic to explore how the right-wing echo chamber is radicalizing and weaponizing its followers.

And there most certainly will not be a “national conversation” about toxic white masculinity and mass murder in the mainstream news media.


Chauncey DeVega is editor and founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes, whose work has been featured by the NY Times, Alternet, the BBC, the New York Daily News, the Utne Reader, the Week, and The Atlantic Monthly. Chauncey DeVega is also a regular guest on Ring of Fire Radio and TV. He can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

CONFEDERATE FLAG VS. AMERICA! @JohnFugelsang / Caffeinated #20 – YouTube

via CONFEDERATE FLAG VS. AMERICA! @JohnFugelsang / Caffeinated #20 – YouTube.

POLIPOP! News & Politics

Published on 11 Dec 2012

The Confederate flag remains a source of controversy in American politics. Is it still appropriate to fly it? John Fugelsang explains it all. Subscribe for new episodes every Tuesday:









Written by John Fugelsang

Executive Producer Will Keenan

Produced by Matt Cross

Directed and Edited by Logan Burdick

Director of Photography Eric Thompson

Royalty Free Music by
Sound Effects by






















Fox News can’t bear the truth: Right-wing terror groups are America’s gravest threat –

via Fox News can’t bear the truth: Right-wing terror groups are America’s gravest threat –

SUNDAY, JUL 5, 2015

The numbers don’t lie. Since 9/11, more Americans have died at the hands of white supremacists than radical Muslims


Fox News can't bear the truth: Right-wing terror groups are America's gravest threat

Bill O’Reilly (Fox News)

This article originally appeared on Media Matters.

The numbers don’t lie.

 Since 9/11, more Americans have died at the hands of homegrown “white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims,” the New York Times reported this week. Citing a count provided by Washington research center New America, the Times confirmed that with the race-base mass murder in Charleston, S.C. last week, 48 Americans have now been killed by “people espousing racial hatred, hostility to government and theories such as those of the ‘sovereign citizen’ movement,” as compared to 26 Americans who have been killed by “self-proclaimed jihadists.”

Those figures might come as a surprise to most Americans. Indeed, the media narrative since 9/11, and certainly the conservative media account, has been that Jihadists are waging an escalating war on the U.S. By contrast, how often in recent years have news consumers seen or heard extended debate and discussions about right-wing or white supremacists killers in the U.S.? Killers who appear to be twice as deadly to Americans as jihadists?

“There’s an acceptance now of the idea that the threat from jihadi terrorism in the United States has been overblown,” Dr. John Horgan of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell told the Times. “And there’s a belief that the threat of right-wing, antigovernment violence has been underestimated.”

The New America research findings confirm what Media Matters has been highlighting for years: From neo-Nazis killers, to a rash of women’s health clinic bombings and attacks, as well as assaults on law enforcement from anti-government radicals, acts of right-wing extreme violence continue to unfold regularly in the United States.

And Media Matters has also been shining a spotlight on the fact that not only does Fox News downplay homegrown acts of right-wing, anti-government and white supremacist violence, treating them as rogue, isolated events (if covering the events at all), they also hype beyond proportion and common sense attacks by Muslims in America.

That attack mode allows Fox to accuse President Obama of being “soft” on Islamic terror. (Obama’s administration is too “politically correct.”) It also lets Fox advocate for bugging mosques and eliminatingother Constitutional rights. Recall that it was on Fox that viewers were told, “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”

Right-wing violence? Fox News doesn’t recognize a clear and present danger.

That double standard was on display this week when Megyn Kelly devoted almost her entire Fox News program Wednesday night to an interview with Traci Johnson, who was attacked last year by a co-worker at Vaughan Foods processing plant in Moore, Oklahoma. The attacker was Alton Nolen who had been recently been fired over racial comments. Nolen then went home and retrieved a large kitchen knife. He returned to the workplace and began attacking his former co-workers. He beheaded one woman and injured Johnson before he was shot by a company official. Nolen later confessed to the attack.

Fox News immediately led the right-wing charge to declare the Vaughan Foods attack to be an act of ISIS-like terror. (Nolen was a recent convert to Islam.) Devoting an extraordinary amount of TV time to wildly hyping the crime, Fox hosts like Kelly and Sean Hannity created special programming to cover the story. (i.e. “Terror In The Heartland.”)

But in the end, law enforcement found no evidence that Alton’s killing was terror-related, and labeled the killing a workplace attack. Appearing on Fox News after the attack, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that, while Nolen “was looking at the extremist ideology,” “there is no evidence at this point that he was directed by a terrorist organization to do what he did or that that was the principle motivating factor.” The FBI also found no links to terrorism.

Yet there was Kelly this week – months after the crimes — speaking over ominous background music and once again suggesting the Moore, Oklahoma attack had been the product of “radicalized” terror. In other words, Fox has been reduced to creating incidents of Islamic terror in the United States, while at the same time Fox plays down glaring examples of deadly right-wing violence.

The steady pattern of those political attacks may be one reason the Department of Homeland Security this yearissued an intelligence report warning about the rising right-wing terror threat. Fox News immediately objected, with host Eric Bolling insisting there hadn’t been any recent examples of homegrown terror to justify the government’s warning. Co-host Greg Gutfeld agreed, claiming liberals can only name two far-right terrorist events ”over four decades.”


On a September night last year, 31-year-old marksman and “survivalist” Eric Frein ambushed two Pennsylvania state troopers outside of the Blooming Grove barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania. After the assassination, the state police commissioner reported the shooter had “made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and to commit mass acts of murder.” Another official noted the shooter has a “longstanding grudge against law enforcement and government in general.”

Claiming to be acting under the bloody “banner of Liberty and Truth,” Jerad Miller and his wife Amanda entered a restaurant Las Vegas in June, 2014 and executed two local policemen while they ate lunch. During the ambush, one of the shooters reportedly shouted that the “revolution” had begun. A week before the killings, the shooters posted a manifesto on Facebook where they announced “….we must prepare for war.” Jerad Miller, who traveled to Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch that spring to join the militia protests against the federal government, declared: “To stop this oppression, I fear, can only be accomplished with bloodshed.”

The ambush in Las Vegas came just two days after Dennis Marx, a member of the “sovereign citizen” anti-government movement, opened fire on a courthouse outside of Atlanta. Sovereign citizens are militia-like radicals who don’t believe the federal government has the power and legitimacy to enforce the law.

On August 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page pulled up outside the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI,  and started killing worshipers. Page murdered two Sikhs outside the house of worship and then killed four more inside, including the president of the temple. According to acquaintances, the 40-year-old killer hated blacks, Indians, Native Americans and Hispanics, and was interested in joining the Klu Klux Klan.

On May 20, 2010, two West Memphis, Ark., police officers were shot and killed by a father-son team of AK-47-wielding sovereign citizens during a routine traffic stop.

Two months later, dedicated Glenn Beck fan Byron Williams stocked a pickup truck with guns and ammo and set off up the California coast to San Francisco in order to start killing employees at the Tides Foundation in hopes of sparking a political revolution. En route to his target, Williams got into a 12-minute firefight with California Highway Patrol officers.

The shocking list goes on and on and on. Sadly, the church massacre in Charleston now ranks alongside a litany of homegrown radical attacks. They’re the type of attacks Fox News doesn’t want to focus on.


Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of “Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush.”

Macy’s Fired Donald Trump With This Epic Statement

via. thinkprogress 



The retail clothing giant Macy’s became the latest company to cut ties with 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, following his campaign launch speech in which he claimed that some Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers.

In its announcement on Wednesday, Macy’s made a strong statement in support of immigrants — saying that “respect for the dignity of all people is a cornerstone of our culture” and that Trump’s remarks “are inconsistent with Macy’s values” and that his “disparaging characterizations” aren’t an accurate portrayal of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Latinos.

“Macy’s is a company that stands for diversity and inclusion,” a statement released to CNN reads. “We have no tolerance for discrimination in any form. We welcome customers, and respect for the dignity of all people is a cornerstone of our culture. We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico. We do not believe the disparaging characterizations portray an accurate picture of the many Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Latinos who have made so many valuable contributions to the success of our nation.”

“In light of statements made by Donald Trump, which are inconsistent with Macy’s values, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump and will phase-out the Trump menswear collection, which has been sold at Macy’s since 2004,” the company concluded.

There was already momentum for Macy’s to end its business relationship with Trump. Over 700,000 people have signed a longstanding petition for the company to cut ties with Trump, a petition that gained steam after his nativist remarks. The petition was initially created in the wake of Trump’s involvement in questioning the president’s birth certificate and his stance on climate change, KTLA reported.

Macy’s move to sever its decade-long tie with Trump comes after Univision and NBC canceled their business partnerships with Trump, saying the NBC reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” will no longer support him as host. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slims’ Ora TV has also ended a projectwith the real estate mogul. And in the fallout of Trump’s statement, Miss Mexico has declined to be in the Miss Universe pageant.

In response to the upheaval, Trump stated on Wednesday that “clearly NBC and Macy’s support illegal immigration, which is totally detrimental to the fabric of our once great country.”



I am a recovering racist: I was somehow taught hate as a gift of love –

via I am a recovering racist: I was somehow taught hate as a gift of love –


I grew up in the segregated South. It took a question from an 11-year-old to teach me how I really felt about it


I am a recovering racist: I was somehow taught hate as a gift of love

(Credit: In Tune via Shutterstock)

As a native Mississippian and recovering racist, I finally discovered why a seemingly innocuous thing like a state flag can bring out the absolute worst in us. It took a group of 11-year-old students to teach me that lesson.

After reading about my most recent novel dealing with race in Jim Crow Mississippi, the principal of a private school in Minneapolis invited me to speak with his fifth-grade students. All the classes had been studying the civil rights movement. He said, “I read an interview with you in the newspaper and you said you were a recovering racist. Would you come talk to our kids about your experiences?”

Got it, I thought. They need a token racist. I agreed, but I was anxious.

The principal was honest. He explained that his kids were white, affluent Minnesotans. They assume they are not racist because they come from good families, but the only people of color they ever see are the ones who clean their houses, cook their food and tend their lawns.

The kids were attentive, well-behaved and terrifyingly self-assured for 11-year-olds. I spent a good half–hour sharing my memories of growing up in the segregated town of Laurel, Mississippi, in the 1950s and ‘60’s, emphasizing the politically correct messages I was sure their teachers wanted the students to hear.

Then, just when I figured I had drawn out all the moral lessons they were capable of grasping, one emboldened kid asked me something that, at least momentarily, left me speechless.  It was the type of direct yet guileless question only folks who have not learned to be politically correct could ask.

“Did you like having your own special place in the restaurant when you were growing up?” He was referring to the nicer, cleaner, air-conditioned “whites only” sections I sat in, while blacks had their food shoved at them through a window that opened into the alley.

“Like it?” I responded. At first the question seemed irrelevant. What did it matter if I enjoyed it? The point is, it was wrong. But from the way all the kids’ eyes lit up, I could tell the class wanted me to address the boy’s question. He had drawn an adult off script and they couldn’t wait to see how I responded.

I knew what I was supposed to say: “No. I did not enjoy it.”  I was supposed to tell him that it was wrong, and that it’s a horrible thing to discriminate against people like that. “We’re all losers when that happens,” I was supposed to say.

But the boy’s instincts were right. And fifth graders know when you are lying to them.

“Yes,” I admitted. “It felt good. I felt like I was on the winning team or voted most popular. I never thought of it before, but yes, it made me feel special.”

I glanced at the teachers in the room. They seemed concerned. This was not going the way they had anticipated.

A girl raised her hand.  “Did a black person ever have to give up her seat so you could sit down?”

It was obvious they had been studying Rosa Parks.

I was still off balance from the first question, editing my race history to include the fact that I liked segregation for the feelings of superiority it gave me. The thought was disorienting.

“Yes!” I answered, and knowing where she was going with her question, I continued. “I liked that, too. To see a grown man offer me his seat because I was more important than he was a good feeling.”

Before I entered the classroom that day, I felt it was enough to have condemned my past, along with those old white men who had created my racist world. After all, I was born into that society. I didn’t have a choice. I had to follow the rules. I’m certainly not to blame for it. I figured a little liberal guilt was enough to buy my redemption.

But the kids’ questions presented me with a moral dilemma. I was not a neutral or innocent bystander after all, even as a child. My enjoyment of the privileges testifies to that. In addition, it became clear to me that I got my seat because someone was forced to give up his. For every meal I was served in the pristine restaurant, somebody had to eat hers in an alley.  My college scholarship came at the expense of some field hand’s son who couldn’t afford to finish the eighth grade. Each time I benefited because of my whiteness, an African-American paid because of his blackness. Guilt or moral repugnance is not enough. There is a real debt to be paid.

But the hardest thing to admit was that my racism and its inherent privileges were gifted to me by devoted parents, dedicated teachers, righteous preachers—an entire white community conspired to make me feel special. These were good people. How could I turn on them?

What a conundrum! That would make racism a gift of love! As toxic as those gifts were, they were presented to me out of love, by someone I loved. What adult, much less child, doesn’t want to feel special? What child is going to say, “No, I don’t want your gift because it takes away from others!” We hunger for the experience of feeling special and are grateful to those who see that specialness within us.

No wonder it’s so hard to uproot racism from our souls. If we had acquired our racism from folks we detested, the monsters of the world, the lynchers and the church-bombers, the murderous, tobacco-spitting sheriff or the buffoonish sheet-shrouded Klan member, or our race-baiting governor standing in the schoolhouse door, how easy it would be to denounce our racism and to leave that kind of destructive thinking behind.

But it’s not the villains we must reckon with. Our role models were people we loved and trusted, those whom we allowed into our souls without question. It’s an elderly white neighbor whom I loved dearly, telling me that her black yardman, Joe, was not to be referred to as a “Mister.” My schoolteacher who acted like it was the right thing, the appropriate thing, the moral thing for her students to have nice schools and new textbooks and a school bus, while the black kids went to class in dilapidated buildings, used our castaway textbooks and walked to school regardless of the weather. It was my preacher who told us to love black people, but that God wanted the blood of the white race to remain pure.  The kind clerk who attended to me, a child, the minute I walked into his store while black adults remained waiting in line.

No one had to explain to us we were special. The evidence was overwhelming.  We learned it from those who only wanted the best for us. We believed them. And we didn’t want to disappoint them.

Those seeds of “specialness” sent roots down deep into my being.  And those roots entwine with love for my parents and God and the way I feel sad about abandoned dogs and how I get all choked up when a friend says he cares for me. All these things are planted in the same field. That horrible, disgusting hateful thing is part of me, too, entangled with the rest. And often it keeps me from seeing my own racism when it rears its benevolent, entitled head.

One of those toxic gifts is that flag.

It elevates my whiteness at the expense of one third of the population of my home state. To accept that gift of an embellished white history means cheating others out of their own proud story. It diminishes the soul. It robs black children of the chance to see themselves woven into the fabric of society.  If I’m going to be honest, I have to admit the real reason some Mississippians are so devoted to that flag: it is a symbol of our specialness, bestowed upon us by people that we love.

My admission that day in the classroom allowed a discussion about race that was more honest than any discussion I had ever had with adults. We talked about ways in which blacks, Hispanics, and others are still having to give up their seats for white people. We talked about how that applies to disparities in educational and employment opportunities, safe streets, after-school programs, police protection, racial profiling, depictions in the media. How some kids are cherished by society, watched over, taken care of without ever having to ask—and others seem to be cast away and forgotten.

Maybe my confession offered them a new way to see their own world. I don’t know. But something I am sure of: I would never see my world the same.


Jonathan Odell is the author of “The Healing” and, most recently, “Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League,” a novel that was inspired in part by his mother, one of many ill-suited 1950s housewives. Born in Mississippi, he currently lives in Minneapolis, where he is at work on a memoir and another novel.

What Is The Confederate Flag Distracting Us From? – YouTube

via What Is The Confederate Flag Distracting Us From? – YouTube.

Ring of Fire Radio

Published on 30 Jun 2015

The Confederate Flag is finally coming down all over the South – and it should. The flag is a symbol of oppression and bigotry, and it only gained popularity once white supremacist groups began to use it as their symbol. But doesn’t it seem a little weird that these die hard Southern Republicans were suddenly so willing to remove the flag? They’ve fought for years to keep the flag flying, and for a group that refuses to admit that the South Carolina shootings were racially motivated, they all jumped at the opportunity to remove the Confederate Flag.

Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this with Democratic Strategist and president of New Heights Communications, Christy Setzer.

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It’s Time To Look Away, Dixieland

via It’s Time To Look Away, Dixieland.

SUN JUN 28, 2015


As a born and bred Southerner (7th generation Alabama native), I’m told I come with a ready-made set of assumptions when I mention that fact to someone from another part of the country. Well, when you “assume” anything, you make an “ass” out of yourself surely, but leave me out of that equation. I waited over a week to write anything about the Charleston shootings because it was just too horrible to talk about – walking into a church, gaining peoples’ trust, praying with them… And then gunning them down seemingly without remorse.

But here goes…..  I was born in North Alabama in 1963, a few hours before a bomb planted by domestic terrorists blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. There were no TVs in hospitals rooms then, but when my mother woke from anesthesia, the first thing she heard was about the bombing. As she held her newborn daughter, five families a hundred miles to the south were mourning the loss of their daughters.

Diane McWhorter, author of “Carry Me Home”, a history of the MLK and the Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham, recounts how that bombing changed her family. Her father, up until that point had been a segregationist, although not a KKK-type. But the bombing “broke him,” she says.  (I’d include the exact quote, but I loaned my copy to a friend who hasn’t returned it). He sat at the table and wept, horrified by what had happened and his dawning realization that his city had gotten to the point that people thought it was ok to kill little girls in church on a Sunday morning.

Sure: that should have been obvious to anyone watching the events unfold before that point, but at least he finally opened his eyes and acknowledged the rot underlying the whole Southern narrative history.

Honor, Heritage, History…. In the South, we’re full of it.  Literally (in all senses of the phrase).  Author Rita Mae Brown writes novels set in the South, and said of one character “…because she was raised in the South, she understood honor. And Fannie died with honor.”

But do we really understand “honor” when we honor the Old Confederacy? NO.

Spare me the crap about “States’ Rights.” The Civil War was about states’ rights alright, but if you’re going to say that, you have to use the entire sentence.  Repeat after me:


Truly, when you say “the war wasn’t about slavery,” what the rest of us hear is “I’ve joined the military history branch of the Flat Earth Society.”

In “Gone With The Wind,” Rhett Butler tells Scarlett that all wars are “money squabbles,” even though the rhetoric around each one is different. Sometimes it’s “Down with Popery” or “Save Christ’s tomb from the heathens!” or “Cotton, Slavery, and State’s Rights!” but the reality is… They’re all about money.

“All wars are sacred to those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it.”

The poor whites didn’t own slaves, but they either joined up or got conscripted to serve as foot soldiers for their corporate masters – the planter class that had a lot of money riding on a slavery-based economy. But not everybody was snowed. Many poor Southerners called the conflict “a rich man’s war and poor man’s fight.”  You have to wonder how many ardent defenders of the noble history of the Confederacy had ancestors who were more clear-eyed than their descendants.

This whole narrative of “most Southerners didn’t even own slaves; they were defending their homeland from invasion, and I honor their sacrifice with the flag etc.” is BS. What’s noble or honorable about having ancestors who got played? Why aren’t you pissed instead?

Here’s the unsanitized, unsentimentalized story of the war: a small group of wealthy farmers – a self-described aristocracy – sweet-talked the rest of the South into starting a war, leading to an absolute disaster that killed over 600,000 Americans, decimated the South’s economy, and led to an entrenched Jim Crow system that terrorized Black Americans for generations.

And yet, the clarion call of “racial superiority” trumped everything then – and now.

Republican Dark Lord, master strategist, and South Carolina native Lee Atwater (whorecanted his sins way too late to do anything about them) knew that the path to political power in the South hadn’t changed much in a hundred years.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Without even realizing it (or maybe he did; he was from South Carolina, after all), Atwater was parroting Rhett Butler: all wars, even the economic war in this country (the one we don’t like to talk about), are money squabbles.

In 1865, the South lost to the United States. In 2015, the American Middle Class is losing to the oligarchy that’s buying and selling our political system. And the people pulling the strings 150 years ago had the same motivations as the Koch Brothers, hedge fund managers, wealthy casino owners, etc. do now: MONEY.

If they can keep us fighting each other for the crumbs, suspicious of anyone who looks different, angry that our job sucks, that we can’t afford to send our kids to college, and the system seems rigged against us – and convince us that it’s the fault of the Blacks, the gays, the immigrants… Then we won’t look past the bright shiny objects and realize the truth.

The last thing these guys want is for working class white voters to join up with communities of color. No, it’s much more productive to convince young men like Dylann Roof that all his problems are due to minorities and Jews (who, he said he considered to be “White” but they “act like minorities”).  Writer Milton Himmelfarb had much the same observation, that Jews “earn like Episcopalians, but vote like Puerto Ricans.”

So many Jews traveled to the South in the early days of the civil rights movement not because they themselves were being lynched or restricted from lunch counters, but because Jews knew about restriction, prejudice and the calumny of the poisoned well, the blood libels of Easter massacres. When the second or third generation of Jews learned that America had accepted them but rejected others they understood in their deepest selves the insult and the pain it brings. It was an old insult echoing the pogroms, yellow stars, dunce hats of another place, and as old as the Vienna ghetto and as recent as the “No Jews Need Apply” sign on the factory door, or the “No Jews ” sign on the hotel lawn.

Had Roof gotten way with his first murders, a synagogue could have been next.

Too many racists, young and old, believe that their problems stem from some sort of institutionalized bias against white guys. We’re all used to the whining of the “angry white men” who feel that they’re victims of discrimination and can’t get ahead because of minorities. They’re blaming fellow victims instead of the powerful corporate and monied interests who are pulling the strings. Ironically, the vast majority of those are rich white men who are playing their brothers like cheap ukeleles.

Can’t get a decent job? Well, it can’t possibly be because of globalization and a minimum wage that is way to low for full time workers to make a decent living. It must be because “quotas” are giving all the jobs to minorities. Terrified about retirement because you can’t save any money? Oh, forget how unions have been decimated, pension funds looted by corporate raiders, and retirement fund management handed over to Wall Street. No, young man… It’s because of Welfare Queens.

If they can keep us fighting each other, they know we won’t band together to demand economic reforms.

The latest bright shiny object is, IMO, the Confederate flag on state property. Yes, it’s offensive. Yes, it’s stupid. Yes, it’s divisive. And yes, it needs to go. But it’s a symptom, not the actual disease and if we focus on that alone in the wake of the Charleston shootings, we’re losing a tremendous opportunity for change.

For the past week, I’ve been sympathetic and pleased, but also vaguely dissatisfied with the momentum building to remove Confederate symbols from state property and state-issued license plates. I mean, yeah, it’s long past time to do so, but we can’t let that be our only response. Too many people are looking at the symbols and not demanding real systemic change.

It’s easy to sign an Internet petition, but did you get out and vote in the mid-terms?  Did you give your legislators hell for not expanding Medicaid or raising the minimum wage?  Those matter a heck of a lot more in everyday life than the flag. If we’re only concerned about the flag, we’re letting our elected officials off way too easy.

It wasn’t until I heard Reverend William Barber (North Carolina’s Moral Monday leader) on NPR that all this crystallized for me. The Charleston shootings were a tragedy, but also an opportunity. Other killings that shocked the nation led to landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act. Aren’t we selling those nine lives short if the only thing we ask in return now is taking a flag down?

Reverend Barber, not surprisingly, said it much better than I can

Reverend Pinckney, as a colleague in ministry, was not just opposed to the flag, he was opposed to the denial of Medicaid expansion, where now the majority of the state is opposing Medicaid expansion where six out of 10 black people live. He was opposed to voter suppression, voter ID in South Carolina. He was opposed to those who have celebrated the ending of the Voting Rights Act, or the gutting of Section 4, which means South Carolina is no longer a preclearance state, and the very district that he served in is vulnerable right now. He was opposed to the lack of funding for public education. He wanted to see living wages raised.

So I would say to my colleagues, let’s take down the flag—to the governor—but also, let’s put together an omnibus bill in the name of the nine martyrs. And all of the things Reverend Pinckney was standing for, if we say we love him and his colleagues, let’s put all of those things in a one big omnibus bill and pass that and bring it to the funeral on Friday or Saturday, saying we will expand Medicaid to help not only black people, but poor white Southerners in South Carolina, because it’s not just the flag.


Lee Atwater talked about the Southern strategy, where policy was used as a way to divide us. And if we want harmony, we have to talk about racism, not just in terms of symbol, but in the substance of policies. The flag went up to fight policies. If we’re going to bring it down, we’re also going to have to change policies, and particularly policies that create disparate impact on black, brown and poor white people.

Let’s get back to “honor,” both the noun and verb form of the word. If we really care about memorializing and honoring the sacrifice of these people, we’ll act with honor.  We’ll honor the principles and promise of our nation’s (the United States!) founding documents when we protect voting rights, ballot access, and fight for equality in the workplace and in our society.

It’s time for working class and middle class white people to step up and put down their prejudices. The political system and economic system deck is stacked against us just as much as it is our neighbors who are black, brown, yellow, or any mixture you can think of. Remember Benjamin Franklin: “If we don’t hang together, we’ll most assuredly all hang separately.”

In the 8th grade, Mrs. Lane, my English teacher, made us all learn poems to recite by heart.  I’ve never forgotten one of them: “America For Me.” In many ways, it’s a jingoistic paean to American Exceptionalism, but there are worse goals than this:

The glory of the present is to make our future free.
We love our land for what it is and what it is to be.
Oh, it’s home again, and home again, America for me!

I want a ship that’s westward bound to plough the rolling sea,
To the bléssed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars

We don’t have any control over what this country was… But we are responsible for “what it is to be.” What future will we choose?

Let’s “look away” from the mythical land of Dixe and start building a more humane and prosperous future for everyone in the United States of America.