whatever happened to

the KKK?  I mean I know they still have rally’s and such, but to me that seems more similar to a Civil War reenactment than a gathering to further a cause.  As if they’re remembering the good old days when they had an influence.

So what happened to put the torches out?  Did skinheads take over?  Neo-nazis?  White Supremacists?  Are those simply politically correct terms for the KKK these days?  Not exactly.  Apparently the Klan got caught, convicted, and executed.  Once.  And the one time that happened, they backed off.

The legacy lives on however.  Maybe if the hoods and cloaks hadn’t been hidden away we wouldn’t be so shocked by the actions of Dunn and Zimmerman.  Or by the juries who could not bring themselves to name those actions murder.

kkk jesus saves

Here’s the case that supposedly stopped the Klan.  According to the internet, there are some who didn’t get that memo.  Seems as though we’ve taken a few steps back, unfortunately.  In this post-racial age, we don’t get convictions.

 Henry Hays and James Knowles were arrested.  Hays, convicted, was incarcerated in the Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama, while on death row. He was executed in the electric chair on June 6, 1997. The Associated Press reported that Hays was Alabama’s first execution for a white-on-black crime since 1913. Hays was also the only KKK member to be executed for the murder of an African-American during the 20th century. U.S. District Court Judge W. Brevard Hand sentenced Knowles, then 21 years of age, to a life sentence.  He avoided the death penalty by testifying against Hays at trial.

Donald v. United Klans of America

Popular Name:

Michael Donald Lynching Case

Shutting down the notorious United Klans
Nineteen-year-old Michael Donald was on his way to the store in 1981 when two members of the United Klans of America abducted him, beat him, cut his throat and hung his body from a tree on a residential street in Mobile, Ala.

Angry that an interracial jury had failed to convict another black man for killing a white police officer in Birmingham, the Klansmen selected Michael Donald at random and lynched him to intimidate and threaten other blacks. On the same evening, other Klan members burned a cross on the Mobile County courthouse lawn.

The two Klansmen who carried out the ritualistic killing were eventually arrested and convicted. Convinced that the Klan itself should be held responsible for the lynching, Center attorneys filed a civil suit on behalf of Donald’s mother, Beulah Mae Donald vs. United Klans. In 1987, the Center won an historic $7 million verdict against the men involved in the lynching.

The verdict marked the end of the United Klans, the same group that had beaten the Freedom Riders in 1961, murdered civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo in 1965, and bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.

The group was forced to turn over its headquarters to Beulah Mae Donald, and two additional Klansmen were convicted of criminal charges.

kkk-fliers-1024x576

drunk history or re: mary ellen pleasant

Apparently three years have flown by since I first learned of and blogged about Mary Ellen Pleasant.  Whoa.

Anyway, I was truly delighted to come across this Drunk History segment on a Sunday afternoon #sharing.  I love that some funny creative knew of the story and decided to give it life as an inebriated tale.  The piece is actually longer, but this is all I could find on youtube.  If you have Comedy Central and On Demand you can find the entire tale in the “San Francisco” episode.  Highly recommended.

“Where was I at historic-al-ly?”

😂

by the way…

…you’re free.  Have been for two and a half years, but who’s counting?

I mean, can you even imagine!?  Finding out you’d just slaved away for, well, nothing.  I suppose that’s an oxymoron or something.  It’s also what happened in Texas back in 1865.  Somehow it took 2.5  years for news of the end of the war and emancipation of the slaves to reach Texas.  Word finally arrived on June 19th, 1865.  We call it Juneteenth.  It’s a national holiday.  Nobody wished me a Happy Juneteenth though.  I don’t think it’s common knowledge.  And I do think it should be.

Be free!

JuneteenthA

Juneteenth celebration in Eastwoods Park, Austin, 1900 (Austin History Center)

Today in Texas History: Juneteenth

Hillary Sorin

On this date in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger (November 6, 1822 – January 10, 1876) read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, thus officially ordering the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. Since then, many African Americans celebrate Juneteenth as a distinct Independence Day, marking freedom from bondage.

Most Americans assume that President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, on January 1, 1863, abolished slavery. In truth, the majority of African Americans remained enslaved after that date. The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to Confederate States. The Proclamation did not free black slaves in Border States like Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia and Delaware, where slavery was practiced. The Proclamation targeted the Confederacy, precisely where American law held no emotional or political authority.

Juneteenth marks the abolition of slavery in Texas. The news of freedom inspired celebrations by African Americans across the state, as well as reflections on and strategies regarding the future of the Texan black community as freed people. Historian Palomo Acosta writes, “The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies to teach freed African Americans about their voting rights.”

The Freedmen’s Bureau organized the first official Texas Juneteenth celebration in Austin in 1867. Since 1872, Juneteenth has remained a part of the calendar of public events. Juneteenth often includes a host of events and activities which people of all ages can enjoy. The day is often marked by dance, theater and musical performances, as well as by sport activities and barbecues. “Lift Every Voice” remains a popular and traditional song performed at most Juneteenth celebrations held across the country.

Juneteenth declined in popularity in the 1960s as the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Calls for integration lessened the importance of black only events as African Americans tried to end de jure and de facto segregation. The rise of the Black Power Movement in the 1970s renewed interest in Juneteenth as many African Americans advocated for recognition of the uniqueness of the African American experience while also advocating for integration and equality in the country’s political, economic and educational spheres.

In 1979, state Rep. Al Edwards, a Houston Democrat, introduced a bill into the Texas legislature calling for the recognition of Juneteenth as a public holiday in the state of Texas. A state-supported Juneteenth celebration took place a year later.

Juneteenth illustrates two challenges facing the black community in the post civil rights era — fighting racism and the ideology of race while, at the same time, communicating the fact that, although the concept of race has no scientific basis, the color of one’s skin in America continues to inform the American experience on both a personal and community level. Simply stated, race may not be real, but it is lived. Juneteenth reflects this dual reality for the African American community.

Today, Texas and 29 other states recognize Juneteenth as an official public holiday. Last year, Representative Sheila Lee Jackson spoke in support of a resolution commemorating the historical significance of Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the United States.

Today, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced legislation honoring Juneteenth Independence Day as a federal holiday. In a statement released by the senator, she stated, “By commemorating this day, the U.S. Senate will honor the role that Juneteenth has played in African-American culture in Texas and throughout the Southwest, and it will remind us that, in America, we are all blessed to live in freedom.”

what Loving and loving are all about

I don’t feel quite right about focusing more on Cheerios than on the Lovings yesterday.  Perhaps I did it because this is the 4th Loving Day that I’ve had this blog so felt that I’d covered that already. Or, perhaps I did it because I knew I had this one in store for today.  This article, written by the Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis (Ph.D/black woman married to a white man/woman of color and of God who stands for equal rights for all re:gay marriage) for the Huffington Post Religion blog, is all about liberty and justice for all.  On a good day I’m all about liberty and justice for all!  That there’s a place called “Middle Church” makes my heart swell.  I want to go to there.  I love knowing that Reverend Lewis exists.  I find inspiration in that knowing.  I love knowing what Mildred Loving thought and how she felt about life and love and equality, and am inspired by that too.

Let’s encourage one another to stop saying no to love.  Let’s encourage love in whatever form it arises.  Let us love that.

P.S. I also love that Willy Wonka meme, yet I have no idea what Mr. Wonka has to do with this, if anything.  That was my own find on the world wide web, not part of the Reverend’s article. Just for the record.

P.P.S. It is nearly impossible to be depressed and inspired at the same time, so let us also encourage one another to be inspired.  Or, even better, start living an inspired life yourself and watch the inspiration and the health of your community grow.

Making Love Legal

Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church

Posted: 06/07/2013

Central Point, Virginia. 1958: Richard and Mildred Loving jailed. Their crime: marriage. He was white. She was black. “We were married on the second day of June. And the police came after us the fourteenth day of July,” Mildred Loving said in the documentary “The Loving Story” (HBO, 2011).

An anonymous tip sent police to their house in the middle of the night. Making love was a crime, too, for people of different races. The police found them sleeping. They were arrested for “cohabitating as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” Their marriage was illegal in 24 states in 1958.

Richard and Mildred pled guilty, and received a one-year prison sentence, which would be suspended if they left Virginia. They moved to Washington, D.C., sneaking home to see family and friends. Mildred wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who referred her to the A.C.L.U. Richard told their lawyer, “Mr. Cohen, tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”

Love was not enough to mitigate the racial fear and hatred that resisted their union. It was not enough to unravel the complicated narrative of white supremacy that led to segregation, to Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws.

In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision held that the prohibition of biracial marriage was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren and the other justices claimed that “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival … Under our constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

No matter what society asserts about race, no matter what religious institutions teach about race and no matter the ethnicity of the couple, marriage is a basic civil right.

The Supreme Court changed the narrative, changed the story. And it changed the culture. According to Pew Research study of married couples (February 2012), the share of interracial couples reached an all-time high of 8.4 percent. In 1980, that share was just 3.2 percent.

The narrative of homophobia in our nation is also complicated and tragic. The culture has shaped it, religious institutions have often reinforced it, and fear feeds it. I believe that no matter what the culture asserts, adults have the civil right to marry, no matter their sexual orientation.

gay marriage is illegal so was interracial wonka

And I believe this is also true: Wherever love is, God is. The writer of 1 John says, “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.” I think it is important for congregations that teach “God is love” to also affirm the marriage of same-gender loving couples. They should have the civil right to marry and their love should be blessed in our churches.

On Sunday, June 9 at 6 p.m., at Middle Church, my white husband and I will celebrate Loving Day (celebrated nationally on June 12) and the landmark case that gave us the right to marry and live with each other. We will celebrate in hope that the Supreme Court will once again change the story, that it will rule on Prop 8 and DOMA in such a way that all couples have the right to marry in every state in our union.

Original gospel music by Broadway and television actor Tituss Burgess will be performed and there will be a renewal of vows for straight and gay couples. Burgess (Jersey BoysThe Little MermaidGuys and Dolls and 30 Rock), Alyson Palmer (of BETTY, whose music has been heard on The L-WordUgly Betty and Weeds), and Broadway’s Jenny Powers (Grease and Little Women) will solo at the event. Middle Church stands for the freedom of all couples to legally marry. During the commitment ceremony, all couples — no matter their ethnicity, or their gender or sexuality — can renew or make new vows to each other. We will celebrate loving, because we know for sure that love heals. Come and bring someone special with you!

Commenting on the similarities between interracial and same-sex marriage in 2007, Mildred Loving said,

I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry … I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That is what Loving and loving are all about.

Amen, and may it be so.

loving

…and then

It happens to be Loving Day which is what prompted me to finally get around to posting about the Cheerios.  Happy Loving Day! Interracial Marriage (black/white) has been legal for a grand total of….46 years!  That’s only ten more years than I have existed!  So in the grand scheme, if there is still a small to medium segment of the population who simply has not taken advantage of any opportunity to grow out of this debilitating mindset, well, that’s only to be expected… and it’s too bad for them… and absolutely ok with me actually.  Love people where they are, right?

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.32 PM #5 (compiled)

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.26 PM #5 (compiled)

Here’s a nice article that brings together the Cheerios and the Lovings.

Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism

Editor’s note: June 12 is the 46th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia,  which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.  Thousands of people nationwide celebrate that anniversary as “Loving Day’.  Ken Tanabe is the founder and president of Loving Day, an international, annual celebration that aims to build multicultural community and fight racial prejudice through education. He is a speaker on multiracial identity, community organizing and social change through design. 

By Ken Tanabe, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Racism is alive and well in 2013, and what’s striking is the recent notable examples aimed at interracial couples – or one of their children.

Even breakfast cereal commercials aren’t safe. A recent Cheerios ad depicting an interracial couple and their multiracial child got so many racist remarks on YouTube that the company had to disable the comments.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the commercial, except that the parents happen to be an interracial couple.

But the truth is, racially blended families are becoming more ordinary every day, due to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared all laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. 

Opinion: Two different marriage bans, both wrong.

Today is the 46th anniversary of that decision, and one in seven new marriages in the United States is interracial or interethnic.  Multiracial Americans are the fastest-growing youth demographic.

Number of interracial couples in U.S. reaches all-time high:

While the negative comments about the Cheerios commercial made it newsworthy, there were also many others who showed their support for the Cheerios brand.

Multiracial Americans of Southern California, a multiethnic community group, started a Facebook album for people to post photos of themselves holding a box of Cheerios. And in articles and in social media, supporters expressed gratitude to General Mills for depicting a multiracial family.

The weddings of two multiracial couples from high-profile families also prompted racist comments online. Lindsay Marie Boehner, daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, married Dominic Lakhan, a black Jamaican man. And Jack McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, married Renee Swift, a woman of color.

The reaction to these marriages is reminiscent of the response to the marriage of Peggy Rusk – the daughter of then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk – and Guy Smith, a black man. In 1967, interracial marriage was a cover story, several months after laws against interracial marriage were struck down.

Things have changed since then, but not enough.

In a 2011 Gallup poll, 86% of Americans approved of “marriage between blacks and whites.”  In 1958, the approval rating was 4%. But it makes me wonder: What do the other 14% of Americans think? Apparently, many of them spend a lot of time leaving comments online.

The election of Barack Obama inspired many of us to hope that widespread racism was a relic of the past.

And while he was elected to a second term, we must not be complacent when it comes to racism in our daily lives. We must seek out opportunities to educate others about the history of our civil rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wished that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  I wonder what he would think of our collective progress as the 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech approaches.

On June 15th, the 10th annual Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City will draw an expected 1,500 guests. And while many participants are multiracial, anyone can host a Loving Day Celebration for friends and family, and make it a part of their annual traditions.

We need to work collectively to fight prejudice through education and build a strong sense of multiethnic community. If we do, one day we might live in a nation where the racial identities of politicians’ children’s spouses are no longer national news, and cereal commercials are more about cereal than race.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ken Tanabe.

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Mildred and Richard Loving

Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing, April, 1965

 Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing April 1965

now…

cheerios meme

Certainly you’ve heard of this, right?  The barrage of hateful comments left under the commercial featuring a mixed race family on Cheerios’ YouTube channel.  Comments so offensive that General Mills deleted and disabled them.  “It’s 2013!!!” is the gist of the typical response from “normal” people on the internet.  “I want to eat so many Cheerios right now,” was quite literally my response.  And I got a little choked up.  Not about the comment fiasco.  I stopped getting choked up about youtube comments years ago, thank God, and it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that hateful voices rose from the trollers. None.  So all I’m left with is this beautiful commercial, with this adorable child who makes some sincerely delightful faces depicted in a family that almost resembles mine in a way that I cannot recall having seen before.  Ever.  I am 36 years old.  I was in commercials as a kid.  I have never seen a commercial like this.  That is what is shocking.  That in 2013, this near-revolutionary advertising.  People took note, did double takes.  Heads were scratched.  Fears and tempers were flared.  Clearly this is long overdue.  So, thank you Cheerios!! Thank you for looking at your community and your consumers and seeing what is actually in front of you. And being “bold” enough to “endorse” it.  By endorsing reality, you make us face it and give us the opportunity to adjust to it.  Maybe even to like it You reflect me and all the others like me who had never experienced the normalization of our lives in a television commercial. This makes for a healthier society.  That makes for a healthier me.

And then there’s this! Maybe it’s not as bad as it seems after all.

Turns Out Americans Love ‘Controversial’ Cheerios Ad

Perhaps Racist YouTubers Not Representative of Country as a Whole

By: 
June 5, 2013

Last week, a new ad from Cheerios was deemed controversial when media outlets discovered that the racist contingent of the idiocracy known as the YouTube comment section trashed the ad for featuring a mixed-race couple and a biracial child.

But according to data from Ace Metrix, Americans like the ad. In fact, “Good for Your Heart” (called “Just Checking” on YouTube) tested the highest of six new Cheerios ads this year and garnered attention and likeability scores 9% and 11% “above the current 90-day norm for cereals.”

General Mills rightly decided not to be swayed by the rantings of deranged internet comments, telling USA Today that the supposed uproar would not affect future casting decisions.

According to Ace Metrix, the ad — created by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York — “appealed to all age/gender demographics with the exception of males over 50.” While that could be taken as a statement on racial attitudes, Ace Metrix noted that ads with babies tend to perform poorly with this demographic regardless of the race of the child.

The report, which surveyed over 500 consumers, went on to note: “The ad scored best with African-Americans, who collectively scored the ad a 721, followed by Asian Americans and Hispanics. While African Americans and Hispanics generally award advertising higher scores than their ethnic counterparts — the 721 score is 100 higher than average for African-Americans.”

And filtering verbatim commentary from those surveyed, those who specifically mentioned “couple” did so in a positive manner.

“I liked that the couple is mixed race,” wrote one respondent. “Good to see that on TV, but in a subtle manner.”

WordCloudCheerios

word cloud from Ace Metrix survey comments

nick of time

I simply could not let the month go by completely without acknowledging Confederate History Month.  So, if you didn’t know… now you know…and you have the next hour and 16 minutes or so to observe it as you see fit.

From Wikipedia (the shame, i know):

-Confederate History Month is a month annually designated by six state governments in the Southern United States for the purpose of recognizing and honoring the history of the Confederate States of America. April has traditionally been chosen, as Confederate Memorial Day falls during that month in many of these states.

Although Confederate Memorial Day is a holiday in most Southern states, the tradition of having a Confederate History Month is not uniform. State governments or chief executives that have regularly declared Confederate History Month are as follows:

  • Alabama
  • Florida (since 2007)
  • Georgia (by proclamation since 1995, by legislative authority since 2009)
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Texas (since 1999)
  • Virginia (1994–2002, 2010)

Four states that were historically part of the Confederacy, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, do not have a tradition of declaring a Confederate History Month.-

Yep, Confederate Memorial Day.  Who knew?

Reading this passionate blog post refuting (with what I hope are actual facts… mea culpa re: no fact checking) the good old “It was about States Rights, not slavery” stance might be a fine way to spend the last few moments of this month of remarkable celebration.

poorrichardthin11

Confederate History Month: Celebrating Racists, Traitors And Slavers

Right now, this very second, we are in the middle of Confederate History Month. Right now, this very second, there are entire states celebrating their failed attempt to secede from the United States while killing hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and civilians.

These people are, by and large, a**holes.

Now, this isn’t like the descendants of World War II vets (and the surviving vets themselves)commemorating a long and bloody war; these people are celebrating the side that lost. You know, the one that attacked the very country Southern conservatives claim to love more than life itself? And let’s be honest, most of the people who fly the Confederate flag are not liberals. These are the people who long for the “good ol’ days” when the South was a decent proper place where a white man could whip a black slave just for fun.

Oh, did I offend? Tough noogies.

This is about the time that some jackass insists that the Civil War was about “state’s rights.” You see, this is a story that Southerners enamored of the Old South tell themselves, and anyone in earshot, to avoid the reality that they are “proud” of a heritage inextricably bound to slavery and treason.

Take a moment to enjoy the sound of right-wing heads exploding.

Now, there are a numbers of ways to debunk this fairy tale that the South was all about state’s rights and “freedom” from an oppressive central government and it’s hilarious watching traitor-worshipping conservatives contort themselves to avoid the truth. So let’s make a list!

1. Declaration of Causes of Seceding States:

Georgia “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.”

Mississippi “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world.”

mississippi abolishes slavery

South Carolina “Those [non-slaveholding] States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States.”

Texas “They [non-slaveholding states] demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.”

Does it get any clearer than that? Yes, actually, it does.

2. The Cornerstone Address (I wrote about this in brief on my blog so it might seem a bit cribbed):

“The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the ‘rock upon which the old Union would split.’ He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the ‘storm came and the wind blew, it fell’.”

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

This speech was delivered on March 21, 1861, by the VICE PRESIDENT of the Confederate States of America, Alexander Stephens. But what the hell did he know? He was just the VICE PRESIDENT. Do keep in mind, dear conservatives, that this was over one hundred years before Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin. Vice Presidents generally had to be reasonably intelligent.

3. This is all crap! The Confederacy was all about FREEDOM™ and State’s Rights™ (FREEDOM and State’s Rights are both trademarks of the Angry Ignorant White Man Coalition, also known as the GOP)!!! 

Well, OK, if that were true, then the newly-minted CSA’s constitution would reflect that. Heck, if states wanted to abolish slavery on their own, then FREEDOM™ and State’s Rights™ would demand they be allowed to do so:

Article IV Section 9(3) The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states.

Soooooo, no state could join the Confederacy unless it allowed slavery? What if they didn’t want it or changed their minds later? Well, that was just too bad. You HAD to allow slavery. Why? Because the central government would have forced you to. Just to make this crystal clear, a central government forbidding the enslavement of other human beings is “tyranny,” but a central government forcing states to adopt slavery is “FREEDOM™?” Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

There you have it, in their very own words; the traitors of the Confederacy attacked the United States and caused the bloodiest war in American history for the sole purpose of preserving their “right” to treat other human beings as property. Anyone that flies the Confederate flag, reminisces about “better times” or insists that “The South Will Rise Again!” is celebrating racists, traitors and slavers. If you celebrate a culture based on the most immoral of all crimes against humanity, you are, by definition, a racist asshole. If you try to pretend that slavery wasn’t so bad or that the “War of Southern Scumbaggery” was about FREEDOM™, you are a lying racist asshole. If you actually believe the right-wing whitewashing of the Civil War, you are delusional but not necessarily an a**hole (although the odds against this are not good).

bleaching history

race manners

Since I’ve been back on the blog, I have said very little about the so-called biracial experience.  It amazes me that it’s still easier, even for me with all of my good “mixed” intentions, to talk about black and white.  I forgive myself for this because without the black and white there is no mixed.  Without the baggage of white vs. black stuff, there is no need for the mixed discussion.  So, I suppose it’s only natural.  It is little disappointing personally that the middle ground isn’t where the conversation begins for me.  It’s on the ends of the spectrum.  But I also suppose that this is natural.  I suppose this has been the disappointment of my life.  And I suppose that this is how we get to the middle ground.  By exploring the ends and inching toward the middle.

A couple of things in Jenee Harris’ article jumped out at me:

1. “My white mother has developed an acute sensitivity to the subtle ways prejudice and bigotry pop up in daily life.”- 

I wonder if my father would say he has developed the same.  I think so…I think that happened when he entered into a relationship with my (black) mother and grew deeper as he witnessed my experience… but we never talk about it…

82920031

me with my parents:)

2. “Well-intended”- re: “adults loved to tell me that people paid “good money” for hair like mine (think 1980s-era perms on white women)” and “A friend got the biscuit analogy…: God burned black people and undercooked white people, but removed her from the heavenly oven at the perfect moment.”

Well…if the intention of the (white) person who said this is to make the biracial person feel better about the perceived plight of their kind…well…i guess one could count that as a good or harmless intention. But I think that summation signifies complacence.  I, however, have to challenge this notion.  You see, giver of said “compliment,” in your quest to make me feel better about being my invisible, displaced, misunderstood, marginalized and tragic self you put me on the receiving end of your pity, your assumptions and judgements.  I do believe this is usually unconscious.  I also must acknowledge that it is an assumption I’m making. Yet there’s a reason that I assume that this is the intention behind the compliments.  The assumption is based on experience, but even those are dangerous to make. It’s the tone with which these comments are usually, subtly uttered.  If you’ve been the biracial person in this kind of conversation, I think you know what I mean.

When I engage in this kind of innocent interaction I can be left feeling frustrated, upset, and worst of all unseen.  It is depressing.  It is literally a depression of my spirit.  Of my freedom.  A depression of my freedom to just be and simply experience this life without being saddled with the weight of the stigma of a couple hundred years of prejudice, condemnation, fear, greed, inferiority, superiority, discrimination, and antagonism.  My take on it is that some people assuage a fleeting feeling of guilt over the fact that this is the biracial’s lot in life by reminding us (and/or reminding themselves) that I should be happy because I have good hair and tan skin which, I infer from your comments, should make up for the fact that on the whole the society we live in cannot acknowledge or understand how I exist.  I thought there was more to that sentence, but I think that’s it.  Our nation’s identity continues to be wrapped up in race and all the baggage that comes with it.  For that to remain intact, biracial just can’t really be.  I don’t think that needs to remain intact.  I think things are shifting.  So slowly.  But they are shifting and I hope I stay awake enough to the shift to feel when my assumptions based on past experience are truly no longer valid.

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that most of my response falls into the category of  “Oh, come on, stop being so sensitive.

Or am I just being truthful?  That’s the stuff that this brought up for me.

Biracial Children: Racism Advice for White Parents

Race Manners: Comments about the superior beauty of your biracial child aren’t just weird — they’re troubling.

By Jenée Desmond-Harris

Updated Monday April 8, 2013

The Root –

“I’m a Caucasian woman with a biracial child (her father is black). I live in a predominantly white community. Why is it that whenever people discover that I have a ‘mixed’ child, they always say things like, ‘Oh, he/she must be so cute/gorgeous/adorable, those kids are always the best looking. You are so lucky.’ 

I know they mean well, but it seems off to me, and maybe racist. Do they mean compared to ‘real’ black children? When a German and Italian or an Asian and Jewish person have a child, black people don’t say, ‘Mixed children like yours are always the best looking.’ (Plus, it’s not true — not all black-white biracial kids are the ‘best looking.’)

Am I being overly sensitive by feeling there’s something off about these comments? If not, what’s the best way to respond?”

I chose this question for the first installment of Race Manners, The Root‘s new advice column on racial etiquette and ethics, because it hits close to home. Like your daughter, I’m biracial. Like you, my white mother has developed an acute sensitivity to the subtle ways prejudice and bigotry pop up in daily life. I should know. She calls me to file what I’ve deemed her “racism reports.”

And let’s be clear. Americans of all races say bizarre things to and about mixed people, who can inspire some of the most revealing remarks about our black-white baggage. Just think of the public debates about how MSNBC’s Karen Finney, and even President Obama, should be allowed to identify.

But the comments in your question often come from a good place, and they’re often said with a smile. When I was a child, adults loved to tell me that people paid “good money” for hair like mine (think 1980s-era perms on white women) and for tanning beds (again, it was the ’80s and ’90s) to achieve my skin color. Thus, the grown-up argument went, I should be happy (even if these trends didn’t stop people from petting my curls as if I were an exotic poodle, nor did they give me the straight blond hair I envied, and it’s not as if I was on the receiving end of the beauty-shop payments).

A friend got the biscuit analogy. Wait for it: God burned black people and undercooked white people, but removed her from the heavenly oven at the perfect moment, she was told.

Awkward. Well-intended. Poorly thought-through. A window into our shared cultural stuff about identity. These statements are all these things at once.

That’s another reason I selected your question. When it comes to remarks that are so obviously dead-wrong to some of us, and so clearly innocuous to others, there’s often little energy for or interest in breaking down the explanation that lies between “Ugh, so ignorant!” and “Oh, come on, stop being so sensitive.”

I’ll try it out here.

You’re right to be bothered by the remarks from the Biracial Babies Fan Club. Here’s why: These people aren’t pulling an arbitrary appreciation for almond-colored skin and curls from the ether. Instead — even if they are not aware of this — they’re both reflecting and perpetuating troubling beliefs that are bigger than their individual tastes. Specifically, while “mixed kids are the cutest” is evenhanded on its face, treating both black and white (and all other ethnic groups) as inferior to your daughter, I hear it as anti-black.

As Marcia Dawkins, the author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, told me, “The myth that mixed-race offspring are somehow better than nonmixed offspring is an example of ‘hybrid vigor,’ an evolutionary theory which states that the progeny of diverse varieties within a species tend to exhibit better physical and psychological characteristics than either one or both of the parents.”

mixie girl

And just take a wild guess how this idea has popped up for black people. You got it: In order to demean and oppress African Americans, thought leaders throughout history, including the likes of Thomas Jefferson, have said that black-white mixed offspring are better, more attractive, smarter, etc., than “real” blacks and not as good or attractive or smart as “real” whites, Dawkins explains.

So alleging that mixed kids are the best of anything sounds different when you consider that we’ve long put a wholesale premium on all that’s whiter and brighter.

Nowhere is that premium more stubbornly applied today than when it comes to the topic at the center of your question — beauty and attractiveness. In recent memory, we had to re-litigate the harms of colorism when Zoe Saldana was cast to play the lead in a Nina Simone biopic. Tamar Braxton and India.Arie have both been accused of bleaching skin — as if that would be a reasonable thing to do.

A writer lamented in a personal essay for xoJane that she was sick and tired of being complimented for what black men viewed as her “mixed” or “exotic” (read: nonblack) physical features. (As far as I know, “you look a little black” is not a common line of praise among other groups.) Black girls still pick the white dolls in recreated Kenneth Clark experiments. Harlem moms can’t get Barbie birthday decorations in the color of their little princesses. We treated rapper Kendrick Lamar like the department store that featured a wheelchair-bound model in an ad campaign when he cast a dark-skinned woman as a music-video love interest.

Against this backdrop of painful beliefs that people of all colors buy into, yes, “Mixed kids are the cutest” should sound “off.”

As the mom of a mixed kid, you signed up for more than just the task of venturing into the “ethnic” aisle of the drugstore and learning about leave-in conditioner. You took on the work of hearing things like this through the ears of your daughter, and you agreed to have a stake in addressing racism. The fact that these comments bothered you means you’re on the job.

So if it’s at all possible, you should explain everything I’ve said above to people who announce that your daughter is gorgeous based on racial pedigree alone. If you’re shorter on time or familiarity, you could try a reminder that there’s really no such thing as genetic purity in the first place (“Great news, if that’s true, since most of us — including you — are mixed”). As an alternative, the old cocked-head, confused look, combined with “What makes you say that?” always puts the onus back on the speaker to think about what he or she is really saying.

Finally, just a simple, “Thanks, I think she’s beautiful, but I don’t like the implication that it’s because of her ethnic makeup,” could open up an important introductory conversation about why comments about superior biracial beauty aren’t true and aren’t flattering, and why the beliefs they reflect aren’t at all “cute.”

before this hurts too much

Need race-related advice? Send your questions to racemanners@theroot.com.

The Root‘s staff writer, Jenée Desmond-Harris, covers the intersection of race with news, politics and culture. She wants to talk about the complicated ways in which ethnicity, color and identity arise in your personal life — and provide perspective on the ethics and etiquette surrounding race in a changing America.

peaceful changemakers

Basically, I think that Madeleine Rogin is a genius and I hope this curriculum (and others like it) spreads like wildfire.  To know that there are people working so diligently to affect positive change at a core and fundamental level is truly invigorating to me.  It makes me enthusiastic about life. That children are being thoughtfully led to consider social justice, peace, and change and to recognize, then interrupt bias…well, that opens up more space in my heart.  For real.

I only wish I had experienced first-hand the benefit of this kind of education.  As a student, I mean.  I am totally looking forward to experiencing the benefit of communing with citizens who are a product of this type of conscientious education.  But even more selfishly, I cannot help but feel a twinge of envy when contemplating the vast difference between how it felt to be a speck of color in a classroom where exclusivity was a priority (as were the classrooms of my youth), and how I imagine it feels to be in a millennial classroom where inclusivity is a priority.  It gives me hope that this is concrete evidence that we are indeed moving from a country where exclusivity is a priority to a country that takes more pride in inclusivity.  At high levels.  Where it counts.

So, on this 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, I contemplate:

What was the problem he faced?

Who was involved or affected?

Why was it hard to solve this problem?

And was it solved?

How to Teach Kids about Race and Social Justice: One Teacher’s Approach

By    via

Kindergarten

When it came time to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. to my Kindergarten students, I found myself struggling to communicate who he was. I wanted to convey the themes that stood out to me the most about Dr. King: courage, standing up for a community, and using peaceful means to bring about big, important social changes. But I didn’t know what was developmentally appropriate for five and six year olds. Should I tell them about his assassination?  Should I talk to them about race and racism? Would learning the truth about racism and segregation be too much for them to handle and create divisions in my diverse classroom? Would my students feel burdened or overwhelmed with this information?

For years, I tried to talk about Dr. King without talking about racism. I thought my students would understand the themes of courage, social justice and empathy by talking in general terms about Dr. King’s dream of an inclusive world. But our conversations in class did not convey these themes and my students did not seem to understand the significance of who Dr. King was and what he did. And, inevitably, some of the truth would come out—through a comment from a student who had prior knowledge about the story, or a conversation on the playground between a kindergartener and an older child. I realized that it was my responsibility to tell this story in a way that would effectively communicate the themes I most wanted my students to understand and, in order to do that, I would have to look deeper into our curriculum and face my own discomfort around talking about racism with my students.

I met with my kindergarten team and began an inquiry into our curriculum.  We asked ourselves:  how can we teach the themes of courage, justice, inclusivity and making change through peaceful means to our young students? And how can we do this in a way that is developmentally appropriate and includes all the voices in our classrooms?

The result of this inquiry has led to the “Peaceful Changemakers” curriculum in kindergarten, and, now, influencing the way that first through fourth grade teachers talk about issues of environmentalism, civil and human rights. Through this curriculum, students learn about many people who work toward making the world a better place through peaceful means.  We realized that in order for our students to have a deeper understanding of Dr. King we would need to integrate the ideas around making big, important changes into our curriculum. We would need to start talking about these themes months before Dr. King’s birthday, so that our students could practice exploring the ideas and having conversations about what it means to stand up for a community and make change before they learned about Dr. King.

MLK-hands2-181x300

We start by studying Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax, and we call the Lorax a “changemaker” because he spoke for the trees. Students answer the following questions about the Lorax: What was the problem he faced? Who was involved or affected? Why was it hard to solve this problem? And was it solved? From there, we learn about Dr. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan scientist who won the Nobel Peace Prize for planting trees in Kenya. As we learn about these changemakers, students take action to solve problems in their local community.  We work to restore the watershed by planting native trees at a nearby creek and go on trash walks through the local parks. We hang signs around their school educating our school community about how trash on the ground eventually makes its way into the ocean.

Students also honor changemakers from their own families and communities, and family members come into the classroom to present their changemakers. Some of these changemakers are tutors in schools, work in orphanages in other countries, educate others about the importance of reusing and recycling, or turn parking lots into neighborhood parks.

There were also important changes we made to the discussion of Dr. King himself. Through our research, we discovered that it is developmentally appropriate to skip the part of the story around Dr. King’s death; students do not need to know that he was assassinated in order to appreciate his work. I had noticed that when my students learned he was killed, they would often focus on this violent image more than on any other aspect of his life work. And, without the larger unit in which we explore many people who work for change, students would feel burdened and overwhelmed with this information. Now, if my students learn about the assassination from an older sibling or from an outside conversation, I can point to our Changemaker Wall on which we display all the changemakers we have learned about, both famous and not, and remind them that there are so many people working, as Dr. King did, to make a difference.

We also learned it was important not to skip the part about racism and segregation. Using our changemakers framework, where we ask specific questions of each of our changemakers, our students need to know what the problem was in order to think about how to solve it. There is a universality among all the changemakers in that they all work to make a difference and solve big problems, but in order for our students to grasp the significance of this universality they also have to understand the specific problems. Otherwise, they cannot appreciate the courage it takes to solve the problems we face.

i-have-a-dream-martin-luther-king-jr

We also discovered that our students needed support in developing a basic understanding of skin color differences and language they can use to be inclusive with one another. To this end, students mix paint to find their skin tones, write poems about their skin, and listen to many stories about the different shades of our skin. Talking openly about race and racism with our students is also important so that they can recognize and interrupt bias when they see it. They can also more fully appreciate the work of Dr. King and other changemakers in fighting against segregation and racism.

Now, when it comes time to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. in kindergarten, the students are able to focus on the big ideas around courage, social justice and making peaceful change. They have a deeper understanding of their similarities and differences and a greater appreciation for the importance of standing up for a community and working toward inclusivity and equality.   They recognize they can be changemakers too.