Tag: African-American

Tom Perriello is a fighter for Virginia. Period.

Today, Virginians will go to the polls to vote on major-party nominees for Governor of Virginia and other state offices. The most intriguing race on the Virginia ballot today is the Democratic primary for governor, in which Lieutenant Governor Ralph Shearer Northam is seeking a promotion against Thomas Stuart Price “Tom” Perriello, a former U.S. Representative and U.S. State Department official.

At first glance, the Virginia Democrats’ gubernatorial primary might seem to an internet observer of Virginia politics, such as me, like a rerun of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries/caucuses, where Hillary Clinton easily won the Virginia primary against Bernie Sanders. However, Ralph Northam is no Hillary Clinton, and Tom Perriello is no Bernie Sanders.

Jamelle Bouie, the chief political correspondent for Slate magazine, wrote this primer piece about the Virginia Democrats’ gubernatorial primary, and here is how he described the candidates:

Likewise, the contest isn’t a race between a liberal or a moderate, or between heterodoxy and orthodoxy. Both (Ralph) Northam and (Tom) Perriello have blemishes on their records that render them imperfect avatars of the progressive movement. Northam backed George W. Bush for president in 2004, and Perriello voted for an anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Care Act. Both have apologized for their respective apostasy. Both, if elected, would be among the most liberal governors in the state’s history, having campaigned on free community college, a $15 minimum wage, and extensive job training.

Where they differ is in their larger view of where the state’s problems lie. Northam roots Virginia’s ills in gridlock and bills himself as the candidate best able to break that gridlock. “The politics of getting things done in Richmond can be very complicated, and it takes someone who has spent the time to know the issues and develop the relationships with key members of both parties to make progress,” said the lieutenant governor in a Washington Post interview.

Perriello, however, takes a broader view, seeking to change a political culture that is beholden to corporate interests and monopolistic power. “We have a crazy system in Virginia, where we allow unlimited corporate contributions,” said Perriello in a March interview with the American Prospect magazine (full disclosure: (Bouie) worked there from 2010 to 2013). “In an era of deep partisanship in Richmond, the only truly bipartisan consensus is taking money from Dominion Power.” Perriello has positioned himself against entrenched interests and for the small towns, rural enclaves, and inner cities that encompass the state’s landscape. It’s a variation on the populism of Bernie’s campaign, one that captures the spirit of Sanders’ appeal even if it doesn’t match the particulars.

(added context mine)

Again, you do see common themes of the 2016 presidential primaries/caucuses at play, but one thing that Perriello has done that Sanders completely failed at was actually trying to win over a diverse coalition of Democratic voters, which is necessary in Virginia, since a significant majority of Virginia Democratic primary voters are female and people of color are typically around one-third of the Virginia Democratic primary electorate and could be as much as 40% of the Virginia Democratic primary electorate this year. Very early on in his campaign, and unusually for a candidate who has also tried to win over white rural voters, Perriello wrote a Medium post about the strong correlation between income inequality and racial inequality in Virginia. Even if you are, like me, not from Virginia, I strongly recommend reading Perriello’s post, because it’s an important lesson for progressive outreach to people of color.

I encourage Virginia voters who have not already cast an absentee ballot to vote in the Democratic primary for Tom Perriello today!

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San Jose Mercury News can’t say the name Simone Manuel

Make no mistake about it, Simone Manuel became the first black American woman to win an individual gold medal in the sport of swimming when she won the women’s 100 meter (109.3613 yard) freestyle swimming event at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There were actually two gold medalists in the event, as Manuel tied Canadian Penny Oleksiak for the gold medal position. In Olympic swimming, a tie occurs when two or more swimmers post the same time, measured to hundredths of a second. When a tie occurs in Olympic swimming for a medal position, all tied competitors receive a medal of the same color (gold for a tie for first, silver for a tie for second, and bronze for a tie for third).

However, The Mercury News, a newspaper covering the San Jose, California area, used this headline to document Manuel’s historic victory:

Not only is that headline factually incorrect, it’s racist and sexist. First off, Manuel and Michael Phelps never shared an Olympic podium, as men and women compete in swimming events. In fact, the only Olympic sport (summer or winter) in which there are not separate competitions for men and women is equestrian (although a few Olympic sports, such as tennis (summer) and curling (winter, starting in 2018) have events featuring mixed-gender teams competing against each other, and modern pentathlon, of which equestrian is one of the five component sports, has separate men’s and women’s competitions). Secondly, The Mercury News was unwilling to use the name of a black woman who won the event in its headline, but had no problem using the name of a white man who wasn’t eligible to compete in the event in its headline.

The corporate media isn’t willing to say any part of her name, but I am more than willing to say the full name of my favorite Olympic champion of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad so far: Simone Ashley Manuel.

The State of the American Worker

On this Labor Day, the 122nd Labor Day commemorated as a federal holiday, the state of the American worker is not good.

Over the past few decades, the American worker has had to deal with stagnant wages that haven’t kept up with inflation or increasing productivity, free trade policies that have cost America millions of jobs, union-busting efforts at all levels of government, a lack of true workplace equality, and increasingly rampant income inequality.

The wages of the American worker have been stagnant, while prices of goods and services have risen, and the productivity of the American worker has risen. Simply put, the amount that workers are paid in this country hasn’t kept up with the costs of providing for their families or their own productivity. I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and indexing the minimum wage to productivity, in order to set a minimum wage that values work, instead of valuing a low-wage economy.

The “global trading regime”, as anti-worker U.S. Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin once described free trade policies, has resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs to foreign countries over the past few decades. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and other free trade policies like Most Favored Nation status for China have resulted in American companies moving jobs to countries like Mexico and China, so that those companies can pay workers low wages. I support repealing free-trade policies and restoring the constitutional ability of the federal government, as outlined in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, to unilaterally set tariffs and other U.S. international trade policies.

Over the past few decades, politicians, most of them Republicans, have tried, both successfully and unsuccessfully, to bust unions and weaken the power of the American worker. Some of the more notable examples of this include the busting of the air traffic controllers’ union by then-President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980’s and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stripping collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin public employees four and a half years ago. I strongly support the existence of labor unions and the right of unionized workers to collectively bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. However, the right-wing wage theft agenda also includes other measures to weaken the power of the American worker, such as repealing prevailing wage laws. I strongly support prevailing wage laws and other laws designed to protect the American worker.

The American workplace is still far from equal. Working women are, on average, still paid considerably less than working men, and unemployment rates for black and Hispanic workers are still considerably higher than those for white workers. Even worse, many employers are still discriminating in their hiring practices based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and, believe it or not, military service. I strongly support strengthening equal pay for equal work laws and prohibiting all forms of workplace discrimination.

Over the past few decades, income inequality has become one of the most serious issues facing our country. The top 1% of income-earners in this country now control nearly half of the nation’s wealth, while the middle class is being destroyed, and more and more people are entering the ranks of the poor. Government policies like tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate welfare for large corporations and major sports teams are major reasons why income inequality has become a serious issues in this country. I support raising the federal income tax rate on those who make over one billion dollars per year to 70% and eliminating federal income taxes on those who make less than $25,000 per year.

Because of the weakening of labor unions, corporate greed, and government policies that bust unions and encourage corporate greed, the state of the American worker is not good. However, enacting more progressive policies when it comes to the minimum wage, workers’ rights, international trade, workplace equality, and wealth distribution, we can rebuild America’s middle class, lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and make the American worker better off!

Why President Barack Obama’s use of the N-word is acceptable

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following blog post includes quotes that contain racist epithets.

The right-wing corporate media in this country is manufacturing yet another, for lack of a better term, non-scandal scandal over something involving President Barack Obama. This time, it’s over Obama’s use of a six-letter racial epithet that begins with the letter “n” in an interview by comedian Marc Maron.

Here’s what Obama said while being interviewed by Maron:

Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.

You can listen to a podcast of the full Maron interview of Obama here.

I firmly believe that the president used the N-word in an appropriate context. The underlying message of what the president was saying was this: Just because one removes racial epithets from their vocabulary doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t a racist anymore. There are many people in this country who don’t use racial epithets (at least not in public), yet hold prejudiced views of ethnic minorities.

The president isn’t the only Democratic elected official to have used the N-word in such a context. One person who has used the N-word in an appropriate context who I can think of off of the top of my head is Melissa Sargent, a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Sargent, a white woman who grew up in an interracial family, wrote this op-ed, in which she talked about having racial epithets directed at her when she was a child, for a Madison, Wisconsin-based newspaper last year.

Here’s the part of Sargent’s op-ed where she used the N-word in what I would consider to be an appropriate context:

I grew up in Madison. I have two brothers and a sister. One of my brothers and my sister were adopted; they are African-American.

We did all the normal things that kids do around Madison. We played in the park, went to the beach, and rode our bikes. When it came time to go to school, we naturally walked there together. When I was in fourth grade, our mom made us all matching outfits to wear on the first day of school so my brand new first-grade sister would feel more connected to us. We were proudly marching arm-in-arm, wearing our Hawaiian print shirts when I started hearing the catcalls: “Nigger-lover, nigger–lover, nigger-lover.” As a child it was hard to comprehend why they were mocking me. The words were beyond my years, but I could feel the hatred in their voices.

That was just one of many times I witnessed this kind of treatment toward my family. I knew then that my brother and sister, and their future children, would have a much different experience in the world than I.

The rest of Sargent’s op-ed was about fear institutional racism in this country; the op-ed was written not long after Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri.

Sargent was quoting racists who used the N-word to verbally attack her and her family, which is what I consider to be using the N-word in an appropriate context. The message that Sargent was conveying is that she has been subjected to overt racism because her parents adopted black children.

Make no mistake about it, the Southern Strategy is absolutely disgusting and, to this day, the modus operandi of most Republican politicians. However, when the late Lee Atwater, a far-right Republican political consultant who ran George H.W. Bush’s winning 1988 presidential campaign, used the N-word while describing the evolution of political messaging used by right-wing politicians in this country in an anonymous interview by political scientist Alexander P. Lamis, it was technically in an appropriate context.

Here’s what Atwater said about the Southern Strategy in his 1981 interview by Lamis, which was uncovered by The Nation magazine in late 2012:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968, you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

(slight grammar edits mine)

While I despise Atwater and his racist style of politics, what he said is right. In 1954, politicians could get elected in many parts of the country, especially in the South, but also in many other places across the country, by using the N-word and other forms of overt racism to appeal to white racists. By 1968, using the N-word in political messaging was considered disqualifying for major party politicians in much of the country (although it was still considered acceptable in many parts of the South), and racist politicians resorted to using dogwhistles like “states’ rights” in order to defend racist policies. Technically speaking, Atwater used the N-word in an appropriate context, since he was talking about political messaging that racist politicians used in the mid-20th century.

Usually, using the N-word and other racial epithets are considered highly inappropriate and racist. However, if one is having an intelligent conversation about racism, and uses the N-word in the context of an intelligent conversation about racism, then it can be, depending on exactly how it’s used, considered appropriate to use the N-word.

Bruce Rauner crony Bill Daley wants his kind of Democrat in the Illinois U.S. Senate race

The conservative publication National Journal is reporting that Bill Daley, a member of Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s transition team prior to Rauner being sworn into office, is behind an effort to convince Andrea Zopp, an appointed member of the Chicago School Board who voted for a Rahm Emanuel-backed proposal to close dozens of Chicago Public Schools, to run for the Democratic nomination in next year’s U.S. Senate race here in Illinois:

Zopp is being recruited by African-American political leaders, as well as former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, to forge an uphill bid against (U.S. Representative Tammy) Duckworth, who already has raised more than $1.5 million for her campaign.

“My consideration isn’t about the turnout,” she said. “My consideration is that as an African-American woman I think I bring perspective that the African-American community and also other communities of color will respond to, and I think that perspective is not represented in the race.”

Duckworth, the only declared candidate in the race so far, was born in Thailand to an American father and Thai mother, and has some Chinese ancestry. Daley, who has been urging Zopp into the race, said Democrats would be “idiots” to not worry about a potential drop-off in black voters if there were no African-American candidate on the ballot in either of the top two slots.

The other two candidates who are considering bids that I’m aware of are U.S. Representative Robin Kelly and State Senator Napoleon Harris. Duckworth, Zopp, Kelly, and Harris are all ethnic minorities: the latter three are black and Duckworth has Thai and Chinese ancestry.

I’ll emphasize the last sentence that I quoted above, as it’s clear to me that Bill Daley is trying to recruit a candidate for public office primarily on the basis of the potential candidate’s skin color. Personally, I think that’s downright racist and no different than Republicans like Mark Kirk making racist remarks about black people. Also, Daley’s claim that black voters won’t turn out without a black candidate running in either the presidential or statewide races is absolutely absurd for multiple reasons. First, there hasn’t been a scenario in which there was no black candidate running on the Democratic ticket for president, vice president, or statewide office in Illinois since 2000, and Democrats won Illinois’s electoral votes for president and vice president, which was the only presidential or statewide contest that was on the ballot, that year. Second, Republicans have won statewide races in Illinois with black Democrats running in other statewide contests. Third, black voters here in Illinois will turn out to vote for any Democratic candidate who will fight to improve the lives of all Illinoisans, especially a candidate that makes a concerted effort to reach out to black voters in an attempt to earn their support. Most Illinois voters don’t care about the race or skin color of candidates, they’re more interested about what candidates stand for.

Remarks similar to what Bill Daley made have backfired on black Democrats in a neighboring state in the past. In a 2012 Milwaukee-area Wisconsin State Senate race, Elizabeth Coggs, a black Democrat who was running in a multi-way primary, told a mostly-black audience at a community conference of some kind to “vote for someone who looks like you”, an apparent reference to Millie Coby, a black Democrat who was running for the Wisconsin State Assembly seat that Coggs gave up to run for state senate against Sandy Pasch, a white Democrat. As a result of Coggs’s remarks, Coggs herself lost to another black Democrat, and Coby lost her race to Pasch.

Bill Daley owes the people of Illinois an apology for his racist remarks as part of his effort to divide Illinois Democrats and progressives against each other in order to promote his Bruce Rauner-style corporate agenda. More importantly, Illinois does not need a corporate hack like Andrea Zopp holding statewide elected office. If Robin Kelly runs for U.S. Senate, I will endorse her campaign. If Kelly does not run, I will endorse Tammy Duckworth.

The New York City media is a textbook example of how the corporate media encourages racism in America

The local news media in the New York City television market, the largest local television market in the entire country, is a textbook example of how the local television newscasts in this country encourage racism in America.

Color of Change, an organization noted for its progressive and civil rights advocacy, published this infographic to their Twitter page. The infographic makes these two main points:

  1. While 51% of the people arrested by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for murder, assault, and/or theft are black, a whopping 75% of the people that local television newscasts in the New York City market broadcast as being responsible for murder, assault, and/or theft are black.
  2. The fact that the local television newscasts in the New York City market broadcast instances of black people being responsible for crimes at a considerably higher percentage than the percentage of black people who are arrested by the NYPD for crimes cause many non-black viewers in the New York City area to develop hatred towards black people and drive a stereotype that all black people are criminals that should be avoided at all costs, which is an absolutely false stereotype.

You can view the full report on how local television newscasts in the New York City media market encourage racism in the New York City area here. The report studied local newscasts on four New York City local TV stations: WCBS-TV, WNBC-TV, WNYW-TV, and WABC-TV.

As a resident of the Champaign-Springfield television market in Illinois, I can attest that the local TV stations around here also broadcast instances of black people being accused of crimes at a far higher rate than the percentage of black people in the area covered by the Champaign-Springfield television market. In fact, the fact that local TV stations across the country tend to report instances of black people being accused of crimes at a far higher rate than the percentage of black people in the local television markets they serve is, more than likely, a nationwide problem that is dividing this country along racial lines.