Tag Archives: civil rights

The protesters at Ferguson might have won, but choose to lose

Summary: 4GW is the dominant form of warfare in our time, allowing materially weaker peoples to defeat stronger opponents. Such victories are not free; they require a group to become morally strong: cohesive, disciplined, behaving so as to gather support from others. Mere violence accomplishes nothing, as African-Americans will learn again in Ferguson MO.

Ferguson: police car

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“Our immediate goal is to make sure that the residents of Ferguson are safe, that the looting stops, that the vandalism stops, that the people who are living in the community are confident that justice will be done.”
— Valerie Jarrett (Senior Advisor to Obama) interviewed by American Urban Radio Networks, 17 August 2014

“A number of locals have told NPR that they’re increasingly frustrated that Ferguson residents are being represented by small handfuls of looters and rioters, who they suspect are from out of town.”
— “More Mayhem In Ferguson: Tear Gas, Looting, Gunshots“, NPR, 18 August 2014

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Technology has given us superpowers, but not to the extent that we know what’s going on in Ferguson. There has been looting and burning. But how much? By whom: locals or outsiders? How violent have the protests been?

What we do know is that the people of Ferguson MO, especially its African-American members, had the moral high ground after the shooting of the unarmed Michael Brown by local police for still-unclear but probably insufficient reasons. The moral high ground has often provided a decisive advantage in conflicts — even in war. America proved in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, gaining vital support in both from the UK and Farnce). It’s even more important in 4GWs.

The Ferguson shooting might have been the equivalent of the 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks, which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott , which led to the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — from which still greater events came. These triumphs came through non-violent protests, requiring great discipline by large numbers of people — achieved by organizations and leadership built over generations. (I’ve been unable to find details about how they maintained such tight discipline during these protests).

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Congress did a great thing 50 years ago, but rot from that day has spread and taken root

Summary: 19 June 1964. I believe on this day America took a wrong turn. It was the day we took a large step to closure on the wound opened by the Civil War, another step to atoning for and overcoming the legacy of slavery. The Senate voted to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. But one of the opponents saw this as an opportunity, and we live with the dark results today

Barry Goldwater button

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Reflecting the parties geographical, not ideological, foundations, the vote passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act was mixed.

  • Democratic Party: 46–21   (69–31%)
  • Republican Party: 27–06   (82–18%)

But one of those “no” votes was by the GOP candidate for the Presidency, who saw an opportunity to redraw America’s political map and end the  dominant position the Democratic Party had held since the Great Depression. The price was betrayal of the Republican Party’s legacy.

Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) lost the 1964 presidential election, but his campaign reforged a Republican Party with racism as a core element — burned into an alliance with the right-wing social and economic ideologies. The poison took time to spread through the GOP, but by 1980 — amplified by Nixon and Reagan — it helped make conservatism become the dominant political force in America (affecting both parties).

That day 50 years ago could have begun a break with our past. Instead we’re still grappling with our racist legacy from slavery.

Here’s the speech Goldwater gave justifying his betrayal. Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) decodes the key phrases he uses to disguise his political logic.

  • “Demagogue” = “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington”
  • “Calm environment” = “an end to sit-ins and Freedom Rides”
  • “Special appeals for special welfare” = “desire by African-Americans to eat at lunch counters and stay at hotels open to others”

The text, from DeLong’s post:

There have been few, if any, occasions when the searching of my conscience and the re-examination of my views of our constitutional system have played a greater part in the determination of my vote than they have on this occasion.

I am unalterably opposed to discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, or creed, or on any other basis; not only my words, but more importantly my actions through the years have repeatedly demonstrated the sincerity of my feeling in this regard.

This is fundamentally a matter of the heart. The problems of discrimination can never by cured by laws alone; but I would be the first to agree that laws can help — laws carefully considered and weighed in an atmosphere of dispassion, in the absence of political demagoguery, and in the light of fundamental constitutional principles.

For example, throughout my 12 years as a member of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee, I have repeatedly offered amendments to bills pertaining to labor that would end discrimination in unions, and repeatedly those amendments have been turned down by the very members of both parties who now so vociferously support the present approach to the solution of our problem. Talk is one thing, action is another, and until the members of this body and the people of this country realize this, there will be no real solution to the problem we fact.

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The pilgrimage of Martin Luther King: an antidote to amnesia about our history

Summary: Racism stained the American experiment at its formation, and has warped its evolution at every stage since. The civil war could have purged it, but the Union abandoned Reconstruction unfinished — allowing the South’s whites to stage one of the most effective insurgencies in history and regain control (a key part of this was construction of a faux history). Only a century after the Civil War was it defeated. Today we look at a review by Michael Rogin of two books looking at that period, and the central figure in bringing it nonviolently to a success. Our amnesia about this history prevents us from owning our past. Works like this, and the books he reviews, help us to close this painful gap in our minds, and so move forward.

“The {FBI’s} assistant director, William Sullivan, compiled from the Bureau’s wiretaps and bugs a tape of the noises of the civil rights leader’s extramarital activities. He sent it to King with a letter threatening to expose him; purporting to be a ‘Negro’; the letter-writer proposed suicide as King’s only way out.”

 

The Ugly Revolution

Book review by the late Michael Rogin

London Review of Books, 10 May 2001
Reposted with their generous permission

Red emphasis added

 

Books reviewed:

Conceived in slavery and dedicated to the proposition that black men are created unequal, the United States has attempted to come to terms with its longue durée of white supremacy only twice in its history.

The first effort, made by black and white abolitionists in the period of nationalist expansion, and caught up in the conflict between slave and free labour modes of production, brought hereditary legal servitude to an end. Its national hero, Abraham Lincoln, announced at Gettysburg that a nation ‘conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal’ had experienced ‘a new birth of freedom’ in civil war. But with the defeat of Reconstruction a decade after Lincoln’s assassination, the 14th Amendment that was supposed to guarantee former slave ‘persons’ equality before the law came instead to insulate corporations, designated ‘artificial persons’, from popular political control.

Deprived of the right to vote throughout the former Confederacy, freedmen and women were forced to work in repressive systems of labour, on farms, in mines and in chain-gangs; subject to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and debt peonage; terrorised, brutalised and murdered in the thousands of lynchings often advertised in advance as public entertainments; confined to Jim Crow schools, public accommodation, restaurants and hotels (where any were available at all); made involuntary participants in sterilisation and other medical experiments; and confronted with residential apartheid and job discrimination as they moved North. A falsification that held more universal sway among whites than did any Stalinist rewriting of history in the Soviet Union transformed black Americans in the post-bellum South from victims of re-subjugation into political and sexual predators.

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