A White Male Led Revolution Against American Inequality, You Say?

Except for in the minds of math denialists, the democratic primary battle is over. Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, and supporters of Bernie Sanders, and Bernie Sanders himself, will decide whether they support her in the upcoming general election contest against Donald Trump.

This primary battle has been fascinating for a number of reasons. What stands out for me is the degree to which demographic patterns of voter support have been consistent. Demographic based projections such as those employed by Benchmark Politics have proven more accurate than any polls or polls based analysis concerning the results of primaries and caucuses. With few exceptions, Clinton has won states with higher levels of nonwhite voters, particularly African Americans, and Sanders has won states that are overwhelmingly white.

The 2008 democratic primaries also followed some demographic patterns. President Obama certainly benefited from high black population states; in fact, his Super Tuesday victories in the South sealed the nomination for him. But Obama also won states like Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Idaho, and lost New York, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio. So with no black candidate in the race, surprisingly the 2016 contest is more racially polarized in terms whom voters support than the 2008 contest was. But in any event it is justifiable to say that Sanders support is largely white male and Clinton has been buoyed by people of color. It doesn’t “erase” any of the women or people of color who support Sanders to state that numerical and statistical fact. It is a valid generalization supported by empirical evidence.

And this occurs underneath a Sanders campaign that has elevated the social discourse about income equality. People who would have rarely used the words oligarch or establishment a year ago now use them quite frequently in social media postings. And whether or not you support Bernie Sanders has become a litmus test for whether or not you get the real story behind economic inequality or whether you are just another establishment supporting stooge.

This ends up resulting in the amusing proposition that white men are the backbone of the political revolution against income inequality and are carrying this out by supporting the candidacy of a white man, and all these people of color who haven’t Felt the Bern just don’t get it. Amusing, because I think most white left progressives have a huge blind spot when it comes to the reality of race and inequality.

America isn’t Russia or any European country; American income inequality is specifically rooted in American racism. It isn’t something that will resolve itself once you address income inequality. It is part and parcel and has to be addressed before there is any hope of a “political revolution” against inequality.

In a 2014 interview Bernie Sanders stated that working class whites were the largest voting bloc, and therefore if they could be brought into the liberal fold, you would have your political revolution. The problem with this is it skips over the reason they are not in the fold in the first place…their own racism. Working class whites abandoned the democratic party because of the Civil Rights Act and the infamous “southern strategy”. Working class whites opposed attempts at “socialized medicine” that would have integrated southern hospitals.

And exactly what “fold” are you bringing them into? Right now, particularly within the context of democratic party politics, that fold is anchored by African American women voters, and anyone planning on launching his political revolution from the base of the democratic party really should have known that. You cannot bring working class whites into a fold of black women and other minorities without confronting the racism of working class whites. The racial resentment of many working class whites is strong enough that they’d rather see no one with things like free college than to see black people benefit from such a thing.  

Sanders and other white progressives have long been challenged on this by people of color, but as Sikivu Hutchinson noted, Sanders and his ilk have longed disdained any inter-sectional analysis on race and income inequality.   Sanders isn’t immune to these kind of racial blind spots because he participated in protests against housing discrimination in the 1960s.   The more I talk to people of color and women who have long been involved in liberal politics, the more they confirm that white male left progressives can exhibit as much racial arrogance and misogyny as their conservative counterparts.

This blind spot, not being able to see these things because they don’t have to, is why I find it highly unlikely that white male left progressives are going to be the ones who identify and anoint the messianic figure in American politics who will lead the revolution against inequality. And if I had to wager, I wouldn’t put my money on said messianic figure being a privileged white male from the Northeast. I’d put my money on a black woman from the south or a Latina from the Southwest, someone who on an ontological and inter-sectional level understands the various power paradigms that contribute to unfairness in this country and can competently speak to and address all of them, and not just get fixated on one.

A White Male Led Revolution Against American Inequality, You Say?

Now Accepting Applications for Black Skeptics Scholarships!

humanistscholarship
The  Black Skeptics Scholarship Committee is now accepting applications for our First in Family and Catherine Fahringer Memorial scholarships.

The First in Family Humanist Scholarship: Four $1,000 scholarships are awarded to high school youth to assist with their tuition, room and board, books, and other academic resources. This award is available to anyone who attends the Los Angeles Unified School District and are accepted into two or four-year colleges regardless of if they are religions or not. Preference is given to students of color (Black/African American, Latino(a), Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American) who are (or have been) in foster care, homeless, undocumented and/or LGBTQ (system involved youth applicants are also welcome).

The Freedom From Religion Foundation Catherine Fahringer Memorial Scholarship: Four $2,500 scholarships are awarded to high school youth to assist with their tuition, room and board, books, and other academic resources. This award is available to high school youth who live in the U.S. who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist and/or secular, and are accepted into two or four-year colleges. Preference is given to students of color (Black/African American, Latino(a), Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American).

These awards are made possible through the support of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and various members of the atheist/secular community.  Please pass on the information to eligible students!

Online and pdf versions of the application are available here.

Now Accepting Applications for Black Skeptics Scholarships!

Black Skeptics has moved to The Orbit

By D. Frederick Sparks

Black Skeptics has moved to the new blog collection The Orbit.   We can be found at our new home here. We will be forever appreciative for the support we received from PZ Myers and everyone here at FreeThoughtBlogs, particularly those of you who have supported our First in Family Humanist Scholarship.

Congratulations to all the new bloggers here at FtB, and continued luck and success to the veterans.

Black Skeptics has moved to The Orbit

Please support the 2016 First in the Family Humanist Scholarship Fund

In 2013, Black Skeptics Los Angeles (BSLA), a 501c3 organization, spearheaded its First in the Family Humanist Scholarship initiative, which focuses on providing resources to undocumented, foster care, homeless and LGBTQ youth who will be the first in their families to go to college. Responding directly to the school-to-prison pipeline crisis in communities of color, BSLA is the first atheist organization to specifically address college pipelining for youth of color with an explicitly anti-racist multicultural emphasis. If current prison pipelining trends persist the Education Trust estimates that only “one of every 20 African American kindergartners will graduate from a four-year California university” in the next decade.

With your support, we hope to award at least four youth $1000 scholarships to assist with their books, tuition, housing and other living expenses. Our 2013-2015 scholars are now at USC, UCLA, UC Riverside, Cal State University Long Beach, Babson College, University of North Texas, UC Merced and El Camino College.
BSLA and our alum also thank our previous supporters: Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Humanist Association, Atheists United, Black Non-Believers, Minority Atheists of Michigan and more!

For more information or to donate, check out our Indiegogo site

Please support the 2016 First in the Family Humanist Scholarship Fund

Sunday: Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers

BSLA DOS 2013
BSLA DOS 2013

“Celebrated nationwide on the last Sunday of Black History Month (February 28 in 2016), the Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers (DOS) is held to promote community and solidarity among blacks in America who identify as non-believers: atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers, etc.” Founded by author and Houston Black Non-Believers’ head Donald Wright, the DoS was organized as a way to counter the religious voice that all too often serves as the lone voice of black consciousness and experience.

For more info and events: http://www.aahumanism.net/announcements/view/day_of_solidarity_for_black_nonbelievers_2016

Sunday: Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers

Bernie and the White Savior Shuffle

Sanders

Walk on water? Perform the miracle of five loaves and two fish?

To hear rhapsodic left-progressive Sanders’ acolytes tell it, these are just two of his many gifts as a beacon of social justice. It was not always so.  Over the past two years, Sanders has been challenged by Black Lives Matter and Black Alliance for Just Immigration activists, as well as African American commentators, about his mantra that remedying economic inequality is the only antidote to racial inequity.  Flash forward to the 2016 presidential campaign and the #FeeltheBern magic has captivated many African American and people of color progressives critical of Hillary Clinton’s neoliberal complicity in building the carceral state. Forced into a swift baptism, Sanders has become a regular civil rights evangelist, condemning the evils of racial discrimination and mass incarceration during high profile campaign appearances that have made him the darling of celebrity black intellectuals like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornell West as well as filmmaker Spike Lee.

Yet, Sanders’ dubious record on racial justice in his own state appears not to have presented a meaningful hurdle for his most fervent black supporters.  Although African Americans are 1.2% of Vermont’s population, their small numbers only partly explain Sanders’ well-documented disdain of intersectional analyses of race, poverty and economic inequality.

A recent article in the Daily Beast outlined his rocky relationship with leaders in Vermont’s African American community. “Feeling the Bern” in another way, black leaders in Vermont have long criticized Sanders’ paternalism on race and racism. In a 2014 NPR interview about his presidential aspirations, Sanders was asked about racial disparities in job access and income.  He dismissed the question, implying that it was short-sighted if not petty; briskly pivoting to the more pressing issue of the Democrats’ failure to court white working class voters.   According to Curtiss Reed, head of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, Sanders constantly deflected on providing solutions to institutional racism with platitudes about addressing income inequality “overall”.  As one African American leader from Vermont contended, “voters of color are simply not on his radar” and are treated with “disdain”. One activist dubbed Sanders as MIA on issues of racial profiling, black mass incarceration and maintaining the state’s charter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. So while Sanders’ newfound fiery rhetoric on the New Jim Crow has elicited black adoration, according to The Sentencing Project, African Americans “are sentenced to prison in Vermont at 12-and-a-half times the rate for whites. The percentage of blacks in Vermont prisons is nearly twenty times greater than the percentage in the general population.” Blacks account for over 10% of the state’s prison population and are incarcerated at greater rates than in lockdown champions Wisconsin, Texas and Louisiana.  In addition to its appalling incarceration numbers, Vermont’s African American students are disproportionately suspended and expelled.

Sanders’ reductive stance is a familiar one in the racially polarized history of left-radical alliances. In the early twentieth century, African American involvement in interracial communist-socialist organizing and coalition-building was undermined both by overt white racism and the white socialist thesis that capitalism alone posed the gravest threat to disenfranchised people of color (see for example Earl O. Hutchinson’s Blacks and Reds, Robin Kelley’s Hammer and Hoe and Jeffrey Perry’s Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism).  White segregationists, often driven by white immigrant animus toward black workers, played a key role in early twentieth century socialist organizing. Socialist icon and four-time presidential candidate Eugene Debs once commented that we “have nothing special to offer the Negro, and we cannot make separate appeals to all the races.”  This stance elicited scorching criticism from prominent socialist-aligned African American leaders like radical black freethinkers Hubert Harrison and A. Philip Randolph.

Until his Road to Damascus awakening, Sanders, like Clinton, said nary a word about the role white supremacy plays in black folks’ struggle for jobs, housing, equitable education and redress of the pervasive institutional violence against black women. Nonetheless, on the other end of the spectrum, African American leaders in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) rallied around Clinton and openly disdained Sanders’ oft-trotted out reference to his civil rights involvement back in the 60s.  This was no surprise given the CBC’s lockstep march with the Clinton regime and the Obama administration.  In a recent column in The Nation, New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander argued that Clinton was “not deserving” of black votes yet dismissed the prospect of a viable Bernie-led revolution within the confines of the Wall Street-aligned Democratic Party.

As Alexander contends, “Even if Bernie’s racial-justice views evolve, I hold little hope that a political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself.”  And if Sanders’ tenure with black folk in Vermont is any indication, he’s hewing to the Democratic Party playbook—ignore black voters until you have to go south of the Mason-Dixon or Black History Month rolls around, then “freedom fight”, and photo op, like hell.

 

Bernie and the White Savior Shuffle

Two weeks until 2016 Secular Social Justice Conference, featuring Atheist activists of color

SSJ conf flyer updated

 

 

SECULAR SOCIAL JUSTICE CONFERENCE Schedule

RICE UNIVERSITY

Sewall Hall, Rm. 309

Houston, TX

[email protected]

January 30 & 31, 2016

info: [email protected]

www.secularsocialjustice.com

 

  1. Day One: Saturday, January 30th
  • Registration & Continental breakfast—9:30-10:00
  • Welcome & Opening remarks—10:00-10:30
    • Anthony Pinn (Rice University), Sikivu Hutchinson (Black Skeptics Group)
    • Main stage Emcee: Obidike Kamau
  • Session One Panels—10:30-12:00
  • Lunch —12:00-1:15
  • Session Two Panels—1:30-3:30
  • Session Three Panel—3:30-5:30
  • Group Dinner —6:30-Until

 

PANEL SESSION 1: 10:30-12:00

 

Feminism(s) of Color and the Secular Movement

  • Deanna Adams, Musings on a Limb blog
  • Maggie Ardiente, American Humanist Association
  • Heina Dadabhoy, Freethought Blogs
  • AJ Word, Secular Sistahs

Moderator: Sikivu Hutchinson

 

Humanism and Hip Hop

  • Monica Miller, Lehigh University
  • Jason Jeffries, Rice University
  • Xandelyn Wright, Houston Black Non-Believers

Moderator: Anthony Pinn, Rice University

 

PANEL SESSION 2: 1:30-3:30

 

Finding Justice in an Economic System that Proclaims Financial Opportunity for All

  • James T. Jones, Prairie View University
  • Darrin Johnson, Black Skeptics Los Angeles
  • Richard Peacock, Orlando Black Non-Believers
  • Twaunette Sharp, Houston Black Non-Believers
  • Cleve Tinsley, IV, Rice University

Moderator: Donald Wright, HBN

LGBTQ Queer Atheists of Color and Social Justice

  • Diane Burkholder, Kansas City Freethinkers of Color
  • Brandon Mack, Rice University
  • Ashton Woods, Houston Black Non-Believers

Moderator: Debbie Goddard, CFI/African Americans for Humanism

 

PANEL SESSION 3: 3:30-5:30

 

What’s Race Got to Do With It? Racial Politics and Intersectionality in the Atheist Movement:

  • Frank Anderson, Black Skeptics Chicago
  • Georgina Capetillo, Secular Common Ground
  • Alix Jules, Dallas Coalition of Reason
  • Sincere Kirabo, American Atheists
  • Jimmie Luthuli, Secular Sistahs
  • Juhem Navarro-Rivera, Univ. of Connecticut
  • Vic Wang, Humanists of Houston

Moderator: Daniel Myatt, BSLA

 

 

  1. Day Two: Sunday, January 31st
  • Opening remarks & Debrief—10:00-10:30
  • Film Screening & Discussion, “Walter Walk with God”—10:30-12:30
  • Evaluations & Adjourn—12:45

 

FILM SCREENING

Walter Walk with God, By Daniel Myatt (Los Angeles)

In this experimental feature film, recent Christian convert Walter Walk believes he’s been divinely ordained to evangelize Los Angeles’ Skid Row area, heal an ill co-worker, and convert his faith-doubting Dad. Despite the numerous obstacles he unexpectedly encounters, Walter refuses to refrain from doing what he thinks his God has told him to do.

Two weeks until 2016 Secular Social Justice Conference, featuring Atheist activists of color

My new Novel on Jonestown: White Nights, Black Paradise

White Nights front

In 1978, Peoples Temple, a predominantly Black multiracial church once at the forefront of progressive San Francisco politics, self-destructed in a Guyana jungle settlement named after its leader, the Reverend Jim Jones. Fatally bonded by fear of racist annihilation, the community s greatest symbol of crisis was the White Night; a rehearsal of revolutionary mass suicide that eventually led to the deaths of over 900 church members of all ages, genders and sexual orientations. White Nights, Black Paradise focuses on three fictional black women characters who were part of the Peoples Temple movement but took radically different paths to Jonestown: Hy, a drifter and a spiritual seeker, her sister Taryn, an atheist with an inside line on the church’s money trail and Ida Lassiter, an activist whose watchdog journalism exposes the rot of corruption, sexual abuse, racism and violence in the church, fueling its exodus to Guyana.

What Black Women readers are saying:

“A remarkable novel about a fascinating history…The book does justice to the survivors and victims of Jonestown by forcing the reader to recognize what mainstream discourse has gotten terribly wrong about the tragedy. I encourage anyone who cares about history and the truth to read this book as it goes beyond what existing scholarship would have you believe!” Anita Little, Religion Dispatches

 

White Nights, Black Paradise” renders visibility to everyday black women’s struggle with race, gender, religion, morality and poverty. The stories of Taryn and the other black members of the Peoples Temple that Hutchinson vividly brings to life makes it clear that while many blacks submitted to the ideal salvation of the racial utopia Jim Jones pushed, this submission of sorts represented black peoples’ epic struggle and fight with finding a voice and life in a racially hostile homeland. This is an important and beautifully written story that restores the humanity of the followers of Peoples Temple.” Kamela Heyward-Rotimi
“Brilliantly woven.” African Americans on the Move Book Club

My new Novel on Jonestown: White Nights, Black Paradise

No, Trump’s Racist Anti-Muslim Proposal is Very American

philadelphia daily news donald trump

By Sikivu Hutchinson

In 1963, Malcolm X declared that John F. Kennedy’s assassination was an example of “chickens coming home to roost”.  He argued that the U.S.’ climate of bigotry and state violence was to blame for his death.  Taken out of context, his comments were misconstrued by some as endorsing Kennedy’s murder.  In an interview with journalist Louis Lomax he maintained, “I meant that the death of Kennedy was the result of a long line of violent acts, the culmination of hate and suspicion and doubt in this country.”

Malcolm X’s critique resonates in an environment of in-your-face white supremacist vitriol stoked by nearly eight years of hating on Obama and social justice.  Exhibit A is Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and the nativist feeding frenzy it’s elicited in white Middle America.

Yet, one of my pet peeves is those who self-righteously claim that these fascist displays are “un-American”, when they are merely chickens coming home to roost. In his criticism of Trump’s rhetoric, President Obama claimed that this “is not who we are as Americans”.  Continuing in this vein, CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria wrote recently about being “appalled” by Trump’s bigotry as a naturalized American citizen (the essay is entitled “I am a Muslim. But Trump’s views appall me because I’m an American”).  Zakaria said he’s “proud of that identity because as an immigrant, it came to me through deep conviction and hard work, not the accident of birth.”

Zakaria’s statements are problematic on a few levels.  First, there is the specter of model minority bootstraps meritocracy implied by the characterization “hardworking immigrant”.  While some are “simply” granted the so-called rights and privileges of American citizenship due to the accident of birth, others like Zakaria, have worked damn hard to earn it.  Zakaria’s evocation of American exceptionalism discounts the realities of people of color in a nation where “hardworking” has practically become an antonym for being black.

Secondly, Zakaria laments being forced to claim his Muslim otherness despite identifying as a secular agnostic. Perhaps privileged brown folk like him can turn a blind eye to the pervasive invisibility and bigotry that non-white non-Christian Americans experience, but the majority don’t have the luxury.

After each terror attack allegedly perpetrated in the name of Islam, the U.S. launches into a predictable cycle of heightened anti-Muslim Islamophobic attacks and hate incidents.  Muslim communities become more visible to the mainstream as a reviled other, while public officials decry these explicit acts of profiling as an anomaly—not reflective of the “true” spirit of American values.

But the true spirit of American values has always been demonization of the other in the name of “democracy”.  Homilies about the U.S.’ moral uprightness and vaunted democratic freedoms are belied by the staggering reality of epic racial wealth gaps, deepening racial segregation and state violence.  Exceptionalists like Obama and Zakaria cling to the notion that the U.S. has the highest standard of living and greatest economic mobility among “developed” nations.  They peddle the illusion of American religious freedom and tolerance, despite the overwhelmingly Christian face of elected officials and the anti-Muslim, anti-secular bigotry that this dominance fuels. And they bandy the myth of civil education despite the apartheid structure of American public schools, their Eurocentric curricula, destructive zero tolerance policies and policing of children of color.

What the “I’m appalled because I’m an American” flag-wrapping posture really implies is that those others—in backward non-enlightened, non-Western societies that are supposedly so radically different from ours—don’t have the same high regard for principles of equality and justice.

Tell that to the descendants of Japanese Americans displaced from their homes, jobs and livelihoods during the World War II-era internment.  Tell that to the hundreds of activists of color discredited and slaughtered under the U.S.’ COINTELPRO regime. Tell that to black children systematically brutalized in the Obama administration’s police state schools while they pledge “one nation under God”.  Flag wrapping and patriotism in the face of fascism, overt and covert, are the last refuge of ahistorical scoundrels.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of the novel White Nights, Black Paradise on Peoples Temple and the Jonestown massacre.

No, Trump’s Racist Anti-Muslim Proposal is Very American

The GOP’s Christian Fascist Litany of Hate

ted cruz

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Now that the GOP has declared open season on human rights its surrogates are out in full force, shoring up the Party’s ground game with the deadly zeal of an old time Christian tent revival.  After months of anti-abortion backlash from Republicans on Capitol Hill, yet another right-wing influenced anti-abortion terrorist gunned down and murdered several people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. After weeks of Fox commentators demonizing Black Lives Matter organizers, several activists were shot during a peaceful demonstration in Minneapolis.  And after a steady drumbeat of post-Paris anti-Muslim tirades from Donald Trump and his GOP clown car compatriots, members of a local mosque in Fredericksburg, Virginia were verbally attacked by residents for being part of an “evil cult”.  While the GOP vilifies the dark Other of heartland nightmare, the national security threat of armed red-blooded white American males—the NRA’s “good guys” with guns—remains unaddressed.

The GOP’s racist, sexist, xenophobic platform of religious extremism has created a climate in which the public rhetoric and apparatus of state violence are in perfect alignment.  Trump has been the Party’s most potent mouthpiece for Christian white supremacy.  His call for a national registry to track Muslims, as well as surveillance of “certain” mosques, is merely the natural progression of the nativist platform he articulated this summer.  As has been widely noted, his vociferous stance on immigration almost singlehandedly shifted the debate to a national security pissing contest over which Republican candidate is macho enough to take on the border, and now, ISIS.  In a recent CBS poll, Republican voters say that, “ISIS has become a litmus test for candidates … and immigration a deal breaker”.  The increasing “hawkishness” of the Republican electorate has ominous overtones for a renewed military push in the Middle East.

Yet, nipping at Trump’s heels is radical right attack dog Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  Due to his strong coalition building among Christian evangelicals and bully pulpit in the Senate, Cruz poses a more credible long term threat than Trump.  According to new polls, Cruz has surged to number two in Iowa.  The Paris attacks have made early voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina more receptive to his slicker brand of demagoguery.  As Trump’s loyal wingman, Cruz has reportedly been biding his time until Trump falters.  Aping Trump, Cruz’s rise would seem to validate his toxic Christian fascist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim propaganda.

Once viewed as a third rail candidate, Cruz is now a “viable” prospect to take up Trump’s mantle, enlisting his evangelist father Rafael Cruz to solidify his lead with Christian fundamentalists.  It was Cruz, after all, who tried to force a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding.  In the Senate, Cruz was one of the loudest voices demanding that Planned Parenthood should be prosecuted for its alleged mining of fetal body parts for profit.  On the campaign stump this summer, Cruz and the other GOP candidates viciously maligned Planned Parenthood and called for blood.  Nationwide, hundreds of Republican-sponsored bills that place draconian restrictions on abortion and contraception have put women’s lives and health in jeopardy.  Because of the GOP’s attacks on women’s right to abortion and contraception, Missouri only has one abortion clinic left in the entire state.

As per the claims of most violent religious extremists, “God” is on the GOP’s side.

In his bid to lock up the white evangelical vote, Cruz has announced plans to organize a “national prayer team”. According to Cruz, this group would “establish a direct line of communication between our campaign and the thousands of Americans who are lifting us up before the Lord.”  With this “direct line” of communication to Christian soldiers, Cruz is consolidating the faith-based audience for his bigotry. In the propaganda wars, the biggest national security menace is the GOP and its loyal surrogates, fanning the flames of religious hate in “secular” America.

Twitter @sikivuhutch

 

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The GOP’s Christian Fascist Litany of Hate