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Trump’s Dependency on Racism

There seems to be at least three forms of racism that are fueling Trump’s current hold on power:

First, you have the hardcore racist white supremacists. Not every Trump supporter is a hardcore racist white supremacist, but every hardcore racist white supremacist is a Trump supporter (these are the David Dukes, Richard Spencers, Steve Kings, and Stephen Millers of the world and their followers).

Second, you have those who primarily express their racism through a willingness to use race, racial divisions, xenophobia, and racism in general to gain power. These persons may not understand themselves to be white supremacists, but they are more than willing to use racism as a political tool to gain, maintain, and expand political power (Trump himself and McConnell are at the very least representatives of this form of racism).

Third, you have those who may reject white supremacy and who may not like Trump’s overt use of racism and xenophobia to gain and maintain power, but they have decided that Trump’s policies on taxes, regulations, abortion, and perhaps some other social issues are enough to make up for his use of racial division and unwillingness to consistently denounce white supremacy and his use of racist and xenophobic rhetoric.

Those in the third category likely do not view themselves as racist, but their continuing support of Trump and his agenda that is supported by white supremacists is in effect racist in that it perpetuates experiences of injustice and violence for immigrants, refugees, and persons of color in general. Included in this third form of racism are many corporate supporters of Trump who overlook or tolerate his racism in order to continue to reap the rewards of low taxes and fewer regulations.

These three forms of racism – the first overt, the second crassly utilitarian and Machiavellian, and the third more covert and silent, all worked together to bring Trump to power, and Trump needs all three forms of racism to remain as president. Persons who express the first two forms of racism are for the most part a lost cause in terms of potential conversion, but there may be some hope that some persons in the third group may have had too much of the overt and utilitarian forms of racism to remain silent much longer. Even if that is not the case, as long as Democrats and progressive independents stay united in their resistance to Trump, there is a path that leads us beyond Trump and his racist agenda.

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Global Climate Strike in Oklahoma City

Please join people of all ages who are coming together to participate in the Global Climate Strike in Oklahoma City on September 20, 2019. This Oklahoma City Climate Strike event will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on the East Lawn of the City Hall Municipal Building in Oklahoma City at 200 North Walker Avenue. Bring signs and your walking shoes as we will also participate in a short march downtown. This is a non-violent, children friendly gathering for persons of all ages. Climate Strike OKC co-sponsors include – The Human Community Network, Oklahoma Interfaith Power and Light, Peace House Oklahoma City, Earth Rebirth, and more to be announced – Please RSVP here to attend.

Oklahoma City US Strike

Start: Friday, September 20, 201912:00 PM

Location:East Lawn of City Hall Municipal Building in Oklahoma City200 North Walker Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Host Contact Info: myadavies@gmail.com

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‘Illegals’

El Paso

Since the unwelcome arrival of Europeans, American history has been one long tug of war with white supremacy. Our best moments have been when we overcome white supremacy, and our worst moments have been when white supremacy has overcome us. Sadly, we are currently in a moment where it seems white supremacy is overcoming a large percentage of us, especially when it comes to our care (or lack thereof) for immigrants and refugees.

We can have disagreements on how to address challenges related to immigration and refugees, but the use of the term “illegals” as a way of classifying and thereby dehumanizing millions of persons is the kind of language that has led and continues to lead to concentration camps.

The term “illegal” used as an identifier for undocumented immigrants and refugees (as in “he or she is an illegal,” or “they are illegals,” or even simply saying “illegals” without an identifying pronoun), though currently more socially acceptable than using the n-word, is the functional equivalent to calling black people the n-word. Both identifiers are meant to dehumanize the other, thus justifying their treatment as less than human and thus not fully deserving of human rights. Both terms are deeply racist and stem from white supremacy as is evidenced by the fact that “illegals” is almost exclusively reserved by those who employ the term for black and brown immigrants and refugees.

When you think of human persons as “illegals” as opposed to full human beings, your mind can quickly go to places like “they don’t need beds, toothbrushes, and showers,” or “if they didn’t want to be separated from their children, they shouldn’t have come here” or “they don’t deserve basic medical care,” or “if coming here results in their death (even if the death occurs while in U.S. custody), then that is on them.” Describing persons as anything less than human has proven over and over again to lead to treating persons as less than human, often resulting in horrific suffering and sometimes resulting in the death of millions of persons.

In the ongoing tug of war with white supremacy, we must reject all language that dehumanizes anyone, and this means rejecting the language of referring to persons as “illegals,” thus relegating such words to the racist trash heap of history where terms like “illegals” and the “n-word” belong.

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Where We Belong

Before Nazis started killing Jewish persons, they used to say things like “Juden Raus” and “Auf nach Palästina!” The translations are “Jews out” and “off to Palestine.” They even created a board game around these slogans (See Trump’s ‘Go Home’ Invective Echoes Nazi Incitement Against Jews). These words are the functional equivalent of saying “send them back” and “go back where you came from.” The racist history of such words is long and well documented, although Trump would have us all believe that this is fake news, what the Nazis called Lügenpresse, in an attempt to make people believe the reality he wants to portray to them.

Trump is also reviving the oft used slogan “America- Love it or leave it.” In addition to being used as a slogan against Vietnam war protestors in the 1960’s and 70’s, the “love it or leave it” mantra was also a favorite of the KKK – “This is Klan Country – Love it or Leave it!” What a warped understanding of love of country to equate it with lack of dissent! In times such as these, loving America requires those who care about the most vulnerable among us to be deeply critical of the path that our country is taking. We won’t leave America, we will stay and fight for its core values of liberty and justice for all, precisely because we love America.

Today in America, some people are saying these racist things who don’t know their history. Others are saying these racist things because they know their history. Either way, these racist words and actions are unacceptable and extremely dangerous for all people of color in our country and a threat to the well being of our whole republic. All good persons must stop this ongoing march towards hate and conquer it with love and justice. Racism in America never simply goes away; it must continually be confronted and controlled through both moral authority and the law. If you have been sitting this out so far, now is the time for everyone who loves what is best about America to stand up for what is right, and if people tell you to go back to where you belong, tell them you are already there – you are already here.

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Racists in Office

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback – Photo from Library of Congress

President Trump’s racist comments about four American persons of color in the U.S. House of Representatives in which he declared they should “go back to where they came from” and the unwillingness of the vast majority of Republican members of Congress to condemn Trump’s comments, led me to think of another time an American person of color was the target of racism in the United States Congress.

The 24th Governor of Louisiana, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, was the first black governor of a U.S. state from 1872-1873 and was selected by the Louisiana legislature to represent the state as one of its two U.S. Senators. Governor Pinchback should have become the first black U.S. Senator and was scheduled to take his seat in the Senate in March of 1873, but the racism of the majority of the senators serving at that time kept him from being seated. For three long years, Pinchback was denied the seat for which he was duly elected and the people of Louisiana were denied their constitutional right to full representation in the U.S. Senate. Racist senators attacked the legitimacy of the vote that elected him, and they attacked his character.

The window of opportunity for Governor Pinchback to take his Senate seat was closed for good in 1876 when the U.S. Senate voted 32 to 29 not to seat Pinchback – 12 senators did not even show up to vote (Matthew Lynch, Before Obama: A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction Era Politicians, Volume 1, p. 231). The stalling game by the racist U.S. Senators was successful as by 1876 the systems of white supremacy had retaken political control of Louisiana and the rest of the South.

One U.S. Senator who was in opposition to Pinchback was particularly candid about his racist motivations when he said in an interview that he “would give that n—-r some sleepless nights before he gets his seat” (Lynch, p. 228). This particular senator from Kentucky, a person who had enslaved a number of persons before the Civil War, was serving for the second time in the U.S. Senate. The first time that he served was during the Andrew Johnson administration, a president whose racism led him to oppose the 14th Amendment and to seek the quick return of southern states to the Union without protections for black persons. When Andrew Johnson was impeached and brought before the Senate for his trial, he was acquitted by only one vote, and this particular U.S. Senator from Kentucky was one of the votes for acquittal.

The racist senator from Kentucky clearly wished that Governor Pinchback, a black man, would “go back to where he belonged.” He did not see Pinchback as an American, he simply viewed him as a “n—-r” who had no place in the U. S. Senate, and because of people like this racist senator from Kentucky, Governor Pinchback never took his rightful place in history as America’s first black U.S. Senator. That racist senator from Kentucky, Thomas Clay McCreery, was my great great great grandfather, a man I was taught to revere in my childhood, a man’s whose senate portrait I inherited. He would not be the last senator from Kentucky to enable racism against persons of color in Congress.

The current President of the United States sounds a lot like that racist 19th Century senator from Kentucky, and I reject the racism of both these men. Unlike Governor Pinchback and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib; President Trump and my great great great grandfather are not worthy of the offices they have held because of their racist words and their racist ways, and America will never be great under the leadership of such racist persons.

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My Hometown

cells

Cells at the Old Post Guardhouse – Fort Sill

My hometown is Lawton, Oklahoma. My family moved to Lawton when I was 4, and that was my home until I moved to Oklahoma City to attend college. Though I have not lived in Lawton since, my parents still live there, and it will always be my hometown.

Growing up in Lawton, one is always aware that Lawton is not just Lawton. It is Lawton/Fort Sill. The two are inextricably intertwined. Fort Sill existed long before Lawton, with construction of the fort beginning in 1869 in Native American territory. Lawton came into existence in 1901, 65 years before my birth, after land in the area was “purchased” from the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache tribes by the federal government and auctioned off to white citizens. From that point on Lawton and Fort Sill have often simply been known as Lawton/Fort Sill.

As a child growing up during the Vietnam War, though I was not the child of an army soldier, many of my friends were, and I remember their heartache at being separated from their dads when they were deployed to Vietnam, and I remember their hurt and confusion when their dads came home as different people than when they left or when they never came home alive. I saw early on in my life what the price of war was for families and children.

Some of my childhood memories of Fort Sill were more positive. I remember swimming in the pools on base, playing soccer on the polo field, attending YMCA day camp on land that was part of the base, seeing some of the best firework displays in the country on the Fourth of July, and even going to artillery shows (which seemed really cool when I was a kid).

During one of the YMCA day camps on base, we visited the Old Post Guardhouse and saw the cell where the Apache leader Geronimo was imprisoned. As a child, I did not really understand who Geronimo was or why he and other Native Americans were held at Fort Sill as “prisoners of war,” but I do remember thinking how small that cell was and how sad it must have been to live there. I ended up seeing that cell on more than one occasion, and one time when I was there with my mom who was an elementary school teacher, she said something about how she thought it was wrong that Geronimo should be put in prison for defending his own land. That made sense to me years later as I learned about the European invasion of the Americas and the genocide that followed.

At no time during my childhood did I learn that decades after Geronimo died in 1909 that Fort Sill would once again be a site for wrongly imprisoning members of a non-white population. I learned in high school that Japanese Americans were detained against their will in camps across the United States during World War Ii, but I did not know that 700 of these persons were imprisoned at Fort Sill as part of one of the moral low points of the United States in the 20th Century.

In its history, Fort Sill has imprisoned Native Americans in the 19th Century, Japanese Americans in the 20th Century, and right now in the 21st Century there are plans by the Trump administration to add to this miserable history of unjustly imprisoning people of color by making Fort Sill a concentration camp for children of immigrants and refugees for the second time during this decade (the Obama Administration held refugee children at Fort Sill in 2014).

As a Lawtonian, I cannot sit by and simply watch our government repeat the cruel racism of our past that has once again found expression in our present by imprisoning brown babies, children, and youth whose only “crime” is attempting to escape life threatening violence to find better opportunities in life. I cannot simply watch my hometown and Fort Sill be a place where international law is ignored and crimes against humanity are perpetrated.

The military leaders at Fort Sill need to be reminded by all Lawtonians, by all Oklahomans, by all U.S. Americans, and by all people of the world that simply following orders is no excuse for crimes against humanity. People of Lawton and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, I appeal to your humanity, please do not look away while Fort Sill once again becomes an unjust prison and concentration camp for people of color. Please do not look away and please do all in your power to bring freedom to the children who are about to be imprisoned in our hometown.

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Environmentalism and the Humanities – Podcast and Resources

I was recently interviewed for the BrainBox Podcast sponsored by Oklahoma Humanities on the topic “Environmentalism and the Humanities.” In addition to the podcast, which you can listen to here, Oklahoma Humanities also put together a helpful page on their website with resources and related information on the topic. You may visit the page dedicated to the podcast here.

The podcast is related to work that I am doing as the Oklahoma Humanities State Scholar for the Smithsonian Water/Ways traveling exhibition that will be located in five different locations across the state of Oklahoma beginning at the end of this month through April of 2020. For more information about the Water/Ways exhibit and locations in Oklahoma, visit the Oklahoma Humanities Water/Ways page on their website.

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