Friday, November 27, 2015

A Conversation With Sean McElwee From Demos

Sean McElwee is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is a Research Associate at the Demos think tank. He is also a contributing writer for Salon and Al Jazeera. In this great conversation on The Chauncey DeVega Show, Sean and Chauncey talk about race and wealth inequality, if the United States is still a "democracy", libertarianism, and what the data reveals about how the plutocrats and 1 percent have gamed America's politics to their own advantage.

Sean also does some great sharing about the world of think tanks, dealing with trolls, and the challenge of translating complex information so that a smart and interested general readership can process and make use of it.

On this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey tells folks about his Thanksgiving dining at a Middle Eastern buffet, gives some love for the new movie Creed, and cuts a promo about loud and obnoxious children who almost ruined his dining experience.

Chauncey also talks about Fox News' Megyn Kelly's Jim and Jane Crow lynching culture complaints about black men who "reckless eyeball" America's police, as well as the GOP's proto fascist politics.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show can be downloaded from Libsyn and also listened to hereThis week's conversation with Sean McElwee can also be "watched" at Youtube by following this link.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher as well.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Did You Know That Thanksgiving was Viewed by the South as a "Trick" by "Yankee" "Abolitionists" to Undermine Slavery?

I hope that you are enjoying your overcooked bird meat and other victuals. I also hope that you are not sharing pictures of said disgusting and poorly prepared food with the rest of the world via the Internet.

I will be going out to a restaurant then seeing a movie today. I am lazy.

I love "hidden history". Public holidays are rituals that reveal a great deal about the values, struggles, and questions of identity and meaning in a given society. Thanksgiving is part of America's cultural mythos. Thanksgiving is based on a lie. But some lies are more noble than others I imagine.

Earlier this week I discovered that Thanksgiving was not celebrated by the antebellum South. It was considered a "Yankee Abolitionist" holiday that led to "laziness". The slave holding South also felt that Thanksgiving interfered with "capitalist commerce", i.e. making money off of abusing and killing black people in slave labor camps.

Any Thanksgiving stories to share? What are folks eating? Any cooking experiments gone right or wrong? Recipes to share? Other personal or public matters to share and discuss?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why do Black Lives Matter? See the Vicious Killing of Laquan McDonald by the Chicago Police

Why do Black Lives Matter?
The answer is readily apparent.
A 17-year-old African American named Laquan McDonald was killed by a white Chicago police officer named Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times. As shown from the police dashboard camera, McDonald was no threat to Van Dyke. McDonald was armed with a three-inch knife. He was walking away from Van Dyke. The 17-year-old teenager was no threat.
McDonald was repeatedly shot, turning away from, while falling down, and apparently while lying on the ground dying. It took only 30 seconds from Van Dyke’s arrival on the scene for him to shoot Laquan McDonald to death. One year later, the city of Chicago finally decided to charge Jason Van Dyke with first degree murder. McDonald’s family was paid 5 million dollars by the city of Chicago.
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black child was shot dead by two Cleveland, Ohio police officers. His “crime?” Tamir was playing with a toy gun in a park. And adding to the grotesqueness of the events that day, the police told investigators they believed that a 12-year-old was actually 20 years old.
Freddie Gray had his spine severed by the Baltimore police. He would later die in the hospital.
Rekia Boyd, another African-American Chicago denizen, was shot in the head by Dante Servin, a white off-duty police officer, who fired blindly into a crowd in 2012.
Tyisha Miller was killed while she slept in her car. Riverside, California, police shot her 12 times.
Jonathan Ferrell was shot 10 times by a white cop while seeking help after a car accident.
John Crawford III was shot by white cops in an Ohio-area Walmart moments after picking up a toy pellet gun and walking to the cashier to purchase it.
Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times while getting his wallet to show New York Police Department officers his identification. Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was sodomized with a toilet plunger by New York police. Unlike Diallo, he miraculously survived.
Walter Scott was recorded being shot to death by Michael T. Slager, a South Carolina police officer, in cold blood. Slager was recorded by a witness planting evidence at the crime scene.
Sandra Bland is found dead in her jail cell after what many observers have identified as a racist “pretext stop” in Texas.
Eric Garner was video recorded being choked to death by a New York City police officer for the “crime” of selling loose cigarettes.
Trayvon Martin is dead because he walked home with a bag of Skittles and some ice tea. A white identified vigilante decided that Trayvon was a “threat” to be “neutralized” under ominously racist “Stand Your Ground Laws.”
Why do Black Lives Matter?
Unarmed Black men are at least seven times more likely to be killed by America’s police than are white people. Social psychologists have demonstrated that police officers are quicker to shoot a black person than they are a white person.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Donald Trump's Rallies are a "Safe Space" for White Racism and Violence

A protester from the Black Lives Matter movement was beaten at a Donald Trump rally held on Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama.
At least a half-dozen attendees shoved and tackled the protester, a black man, to the ground as he refused to leave the event. At least one man punched the protester and a woman kicked him while he was on the ground.
All of the attendees who were involved in the physical altercation with the protester were white.
The protester appeared to be shouting “black lives matter” and later removed his sweatshirt to reveal a shirt with those words.
At least one attendee shouted “all lives matter” as the protester was eventually led out by police officers on the scene…
Mercutio Southall Jr., the man who was assaulted, offered these additional details:
The Black Lives Matter protester attacked during Donald’s Trump’s Birmingham rally said he was punched, kicked and called “n****r” while a group of eight or nine people were on top of him…”
He said people encircled him, and he was being pushed and punched from every direction. Someone hit him from behind, and the next thing he knew, he was at the bottom of pile. He was kicked in the stomach, and the chest, both men and women. “I got enough people off of me that I was able to get up a little bit,” he said. “Somebody got behind me and started trying to choke me out.”… Southall said he was repeatedly called a “n****r” and “monkey” and told his life doesn’t matter.
Donald Trump later appeared to endorse this violence:
“Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said on the Fox News Channel on Sunday morning. “I have a lot of fans, and they were not happy about it. And this was a very obnoxious guy who was a trouble-maker who was looking to make trouble.”
In their current state of outrage about anti-racism protests at America’s colleges and universities, “political correctness,” and Black Lives Matter activism, movement conservatives are refighting the Culture Wars of the 1960s and 1980s. Once more, the university is their enemy both because of the American right’s deeply rooted anti-intellectualism, as well as how it is one of the few spaces where women, gays and lesbians, and people of color are (incorrectly) imagined as having a voice and some pittance of power.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

"Negrophobia", "Rational Racism", and Rebutting Donald Trump's Willful Lies about "Black Crime"

Donald Trump is continuing his overtly nativist and racist campaign strategy. Why shouldn't he? In terms of crude political calculus he is leading the GOP 2016 presidential primary field precisely because of his use of racism to win over white voters and not despite it.

Donald Trump has now played one of the most tired cards in the deck of white supremacist talking points. He tweeted out an inaccurate "infographic" about "black crime" where--now imagine if this were actually true the amount of hell that would be brought down on Black America--81 percent of white people are killed by black people.

Such a claim is absurd; said claim is also intoxicating for too many White Americans on both the Left and the Right.

I wrote the following essay in 2012 in response to the Trayvon Martin murder case. Much of what I said there about "reasonable" or "statistical racism" and "black crime" applies to Trump's racist demagoguery at present. 

A surrender to a basic and fallacy laden argument that black people, and black young people in particular are uniquely and especially prone to violence, oversimplifies the nature of crime in America. As the old saying goes, "numbers lie and liars figure." Or alternatively, the lazy recitation of statistics is a dumb person's idea of how a smart person sounds.

The black people commit more crime canard is a error in reasoning of both process and outcomes. African Americans are subject to discrimination in the legal system at every level. As documented by The Sentencing Project, and detailed in such works as Race, Crime and the Law, and The New Jim Crow, African Americans are more likely to be stopped by police without cause, to be more aggressively questioned, receive longer and more severe charges for the same crimes as white defendants, and to have fewer resources to defend themselves in court.

As compared to white neighborhoods, black and brown communities are also subject to more severe surveillance and aggressive police tactics. Moreover, the disproportionate number of minorities in the criminal justice system can be largely explained by the War on Drugs. In total, if white communities were subject to the same type of aggressive police tactics as black and brown communities, the number of white people in prison would skyrocket.

The data is very telling here. While people of color are the prime targets of such policies as “stop and frisk” and racial profiling, it is in fact white people who are far more likely to be both drug users and to be in possession of narcotics at a given moment. This reality signals to a larger social phenomenon: black individuals who commit crimes are representative of their whole communities, crime is racialized, and there is no qualifier of individual intent. All black people are deemed suspicious and guilty because of the deeds of the very few.

In contrast, white people who commit crimes are unique individuals: the criminals who destroyed the global economy, a group of white men, were not taken as representative of the entire white community. There is a long list of crimes such as domestic terrorism, serial murder, child rape, sedition, treason, and financial fraud that are almost exclusively the province of white people. But again, whites as a group are excluded from suspicion or indictment as a “criminal class.”

The supposition that black men (and black folks more generally) are by definition “suspicious” is a channeling of the once in vogue concept known as “rational” or “reasonable” racism. Applying this logic, George Zimmerman is justified in shooting first, profiling, or harassing black people because “statistically” the latter are more likely to commit crime. Again, this is a chain of reasoning that is rife with problems.

Generalized statistics about crime tell you very little about a given person’s likelihood of committing a criminal act. This is especially true in a society where race and class are variables which over-determine how the courts treat suspects and who the police choose to single out for surveillance, harassment, and arrest.

Broad statistics also tell us little about a given population’s capacity or propensity to commit crime. For example, while black men are disproportionately incarcerated, the majority are in jail for drug offenses. African Americans are also more likely to be poor than whites. When a researcher accounts for these variables, the story becomes one of class and not race. Further problematizing the true lie that “black equals criminal,” is that disparities in crime largely disappear when you consider the black middle and upper classes in comparison to their white peers.

As demonstrated by Jody Armour in his book Negrophobia, less than 2 percent of black men are incarcerated for violent crimes. By implication, to generalize from the demographics of a given prison population to a specific person’s likelihood of committing a violent crime is a fool’s errand of the first order. 

This is a counter-intuitive dynamic: just because a given group may constitute a higher percentage of those in jail, it does not in fact mean that a given individual is more likely to commit said type of crime.

A person is more likely to suffer a violent crime at the hands of a family member, friend, or acquaintance than a stranger; and most crime is intraracial.

Ultimately, incarceration is a function of many structural factors in relation to the criminal justice system.

Anecdotes matter. Police often give a pass to those who they know or trust. The white kid with weed just made a mistake; the black or Latino is a hardcore thug to be jailed. The judge may give parole or a lenient sentence to a white defendant in order to “teach them a lesson” about bad behavior. By comparison, a person of color before the same judge is already a “lost cause,” someone to have the book thrown at. We see this same dynamic even in schools: researchers have determined that white and black youth who are accused of the same offenses see wildly different outcomes in terms of punishment. The latter are suspended or expelled, while the former are given warnings or other remediation.

Two points are readily apparent.

The demographics of those in jails, prisons, and hospitals are a means of judging a society, as well as determining which groups of people are valued (and those who are not). By that calculus, the poor, working classes, and people of color are second class citizens in the United States.

If American history's circumstances were reversed along the axis of the color line, then our country's jails and prisons would be filled with millions of white people. In the sum total of this alternate America's history there would likely have been many thousands of white people killed at the hands of black mobs and blood thirsty vigilantes obsessed with maintaining the racial order, and protecting themselves from white “criminals” and “thugs.” In this world, there would likely have been many "Black" George Zimmermans and "white" Trayvon Martins.

Here is the true failure of political imagination and empathy in the present: many white conservatives instinctively defend George Zimmerman because they cannot imagine themselves, their kin, or their children, as victims of unjust violence at the hands of the police.

Sadly, the consequence is an inability to find a sense of shared humanity with Trayvon Martin, because to do so would require a leap of faith in the pursuit of shared humanity and the common good across lines of race and class--a journey that many white conservatives and others are unwilling to entertain even in the twenty-first century.

Once more, our politics are sick.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Know-Nothing Thuggery: Donald Trump Supporters Attacked a "Black Lives Matter" Protester Earlier Today

Donald Trump is a Know-Nothing nativist. His most ardent supporters are racially resentful--and likely overtly white supremacist--white people.

To wit.

Earlier today, a Black Lives Matter protester was beaten upon at a Donald Trump rally which took place in Birmingham, Alabama.

This ought not to be a surprise. Thuggery by Trump's protofascist followers is not a new occurrence.

Some questions.

1. At least Donald Trump's supporters didn't call the Black Lives Matter protester a "nigger" as they beat on him. Is this some type of progress?

2. You can hear "all lives matter" being chanted during the video. It is clear that "All Lives Matter" has replaced "White Power" as the preferred slogan to intimidate and dehumanize black people.

3. Not too long ago, the Black Lives Matter protester at Trump's rally would have been lynched. Again, is this progress of a sort?

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Conversation With Professor Paula Ioanide About Race, the Color Line, and Emotion

Paula Ioanide is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. Dr. Ioanide is a Professor of Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies at Ithaca College.

She is the author of the great new book The Emotional Politics of Racism: How Feelings Trump Facts in an Era of Colorblindness. In this conversation on The Chauncey DeVega Show, Paula and Chauncey talk about emotion, empathy, sympathy, and human concern across the color line. They also discuss police brutality, the white racial frame, and if the white gaze is capable of seeing people of color as full and equal human beings.

Paula Ioanide also does some great sharing about her activist work and teaching in the American prison system.

On this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey talks about his week dealing with Right-wing sewer dwellers who were upset about his essay about the Paris terror attacks and the Right-wing hate media, gives an update on his recent TV and radio appearances, and then closes the show discussing so-called "safe spaces" on college campuses, as well as the manifesto for campus change offered by the young lions at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show can be downloaded from Libsyn and also listened to here. This week's conversation with Paula Ioanide can also be "watched" at Youtube by following this link.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ain't Nothing Much New in the Game: Sadly The Hatred Against Syrian Refugees Is As American As Apple Pie

Friend of the site, the indispensable Werner Herzog's Bear, has an excellent essay about the Syrian refugee crisis and American nativism that folks should read. I have posted it below. As always, Mr. Bear's website Notes from the Ironbound is a gem. The work he does there deserves much more attention. If you have not, please do seek it out, share the site with others, and send him some love.


Yesterday will go down as a dark day in American history.  As the world faces one of the worst humanitarian crises yet known, several American politicians went out of their way to attack some of the world's most vulnerable people, continually competing to be the most cruel.  Chris Christie laid down the trump card (pun intended) by declaring that even orphans under the age of five would be banned from my state of New Jersey.  The spectacle of elected politicians currying favor with the bigoted masses by pissing on war orphans, the group of people in the world most in need of protection, completely sickened me.  My students often ask how American turned back Jewish refugees -even children- in the 1930s.  Now I guess they'll know.

Unfortunately, liberals have responded to this onslaught of noxious nationalism with a decent amount of naivete. They assert that the governors don't have the power to ban certain classes of immigrants, and that's true, but that's really beside the point. Also, I have heard it said many times that this state-sanctioned hatred is "un-American."

Oh, how I wish that were true. However, if you look at American history, you'll find that this kind of hatred is as American as apple pie. We have a lot of myths we tell ourselves about our country, and one of the biggest is that "America is a nation of immigrants." Never mind that most people of African descent in this country did not have ancestors who came here willingly, or that plenty of folks here are Native Americans.  And just because most people who live here are descended from immigrants doesn't mean that immigration was always welcomed, valued, or free and equal.

Just look at the Naturalization Act of 1790, one of the first important pieces of immigration legislation.  It limited citizenship to those who were "free white persons."  One year before the passage of the Bill of Rights, those vaunted rights were effectively being limited to white men.  When waves of Irish immigrants came over in the mid-1800s, they were feared and hated, commonly depicted as ape-like by native born whites.  This new surge in migrants gave birth to a nativist party, the Know-Nothings, who coincidentally were one of the elements that formed the nascent Republican party in the 1850s.  These nativists didn't just spread hate, they burned Catholic churches, and instigated anti-immigrant riots. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega Will be on Tonight's Edition of the Mike Malloy Radio Show

A bit of short notice. Crazy week and day. My apologies.

I will be live on the Mike Malloy Radio Show tonight--as in Wednesday--for the final hour. If you want to chat by all means call in.

I also recorded a longish spot for Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV that will air tomorrow night with a repeat on Friday.

Similar topics: the Paris terror attacks; the right-wing hate machine, Ben Carson, and wherever else we may go.

The Mike Malloy Radio Show can be listened to here. It can also be listened to on terrestrial radio in some markets.

Should be fun.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Paris Terror Attacks and the Right-wing Media's War on Reality

When I dared ask conservatives to tone down violent rhetoric after Paris, they responded with death threats

Last Friday, I wrote this Salon essay about the barbaric terrorist attacks on Paris, France. I made a very basic and clear argument: Terrorism is a form of political violence that kills and injures people. For decades, America’s right-wing media and other opinion leaders have routinely used violent language—including the word “terrorist”—to describe liberals, Democrats, progressives and others with whom they disagree.
In recent weeks and months, Fox News, as well as Republican candidates such as Ben Carson and Chris Christie, have used violent and eliminationist language to talk about Black Lives Matter and the student activists at Yale and Missouri. Both groups are working to create a more just and fair United States that treats people of color with dignity, and respects their full and equal human rights. Neither Black Lives Matter nor the student activists at Yale and Missouri are “terrorists.” They are not killing people. They have not strapped explosives to their bodies. They have not used assault rifles to shoot people.
I concluded with the following basic suggestion. In the face of real terrorism in the streets of Paris and elsewhere, with broken and bloodied bodies, families in mourning, and a country in a state of emotional and psychic shock, perhaps America’s right-wing media, and conservatives en masse, should seriously reconsider their casual use of violent rhetoric.
The right-wing media and its supplicants responded with apoplectic rage.
Right-wing websites such as Breitbart, Twitchy, The Blaze, and NewsBusters featured headlines denouncing Salon and my essay on the Paris terror attacks.
Right-wing thugs threatened to kill me and blow up the offices of Salon. Beyond their violent rhetoric, the right-wing cretins who were outraged by my essay also showed themselves to be profoundly delusional. Some of these confused souls even believe that I am an ISIS “sympathizer” or “agent” (quite odd given that I have long advocated for a far more robust and aggressive military policy than has been taken by the Obama administration).
This is not a surprise. America’s conservatives are in the grip of an infantile and reactionary ideology that causes them to respond like bratty children, throwing temper tantrums in the political and public sphere, whenever they are faced with basic facts and truths that cannot be reconciled within their deranged and fantastical world view.