Tag: institutional racism

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

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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.

43 Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin elected officials call for the end of “shameful racial disparities” in letter to the community

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post includes a letter signed by local elected officials in the City of Madison, the Madison Metropolitan School District, and Dane County in Wisconsin, republished in its entirety with the permission of Dane County Board First Vice-Chair Carousel Bayrd.

A total of 43 members of the Dane County (WI) Board of Supervisors, the Madison (WI) Metropolitan School District Board, and the Madison (WI) Common Council signed a letter calling for the end of “shameful racial disparities” in Madison and Dane County in Wisconsin after 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was biracial, was shot and killed by Matt Kenny, a white Madison Police Department officer.

You can view the full letter and list of signatories below:

To the residents of our community:

The death of Tony Robinson is a horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tony Robinson’s family and friends. We are sorry that we have lost the life of an African American teenager in our community.

Black lives matter. Our history, both nationally and locally, with respect to our African American community is unacceptable. Many of the incidents, shootings, and deaths that we see reported on the news find their root cause in the intolerable disparity present in our community. That disparity and its attendant injustice may have arisen from our history, but we allow it to continue.

This past weekend in Selma, President Barack Obama said “[Our national creed is] the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. That’s America.” We thank those community leaders and citizens who enacted those words before they were spoken. It is time we all joined them.

We must do better. We are here to ask each of our constituents to accept along with us the challenge of ending the shameful racial disparities in our community. Every one of us must be a part of the solution. Black lives have to matter to each and every one of us. We must be the City and County where a Black youth, a Latino youth, an Asian youth, a Native American youth, a White youth, where any young man or woman feels that this is a community they belong to, a community full of opportunities. A community where their dreams can happen, not end.

Jointly signed by the following City of Madison Alders, Dane County Supervisors, and Madison Municipal School District Board Members:

Sup. Carousel Bayrd
Ald. Shiva Bidar‐Sielaff
Sup. Jerome Bollig
Ald. Maurice Cheeks
Ald. Joe Clausius
Ald. Mark Clear
Ald. Lauren Cnare
Sup. Sharon Corrigan
Ald. Lucas Dailey
Sup. Patrick Downing
Sup. Jenni Dye
Ald. Denise DeMarb
Sup. Chuck Erickson
Sup. George Gillis
Sup. John Hendrick
Board Member Ed Hughes
Sup. Tim Kiefer
Ald. Steve King
Sup. Mary Kolar
Sup. Dorothy Krause
Board Member Dean Loumos
Sup. Patrick Miles
Ald. Larry Palm
Sup. Leland Pan
Sup. Jeff Pertl
Ald. Matt Phair
Ald. Scott Resnick
Sup. Kyle Richmond
Sup. Michele Ritt
Ald. Marsha Rummel
Sup. Paul Rusk
Sup. Andrew Schauer
Ald. Chris Schmidt
Sup. Robin Schmidt
Board Member Arlene Silveira
Ald. John Strasser
Ald. Lisa Subeck
Ald. Mike Verveer
Sup. Heidi Wegleitner
Ald. Anita Weier
Sup. Abigail Wuest
Ald. Ledell Zellers
Sup. Nick Zweifel

Please note that Lisa Subeck is both a member of the Madison Common Council and a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly; Subeck signed the letter in her capacity as a common council member.

I admire the fact that those elected officials in the Madison/Dane County area of Wisconsin who signed the letter recognize that, despite being one of the most progressive places in the entire country, racial disparities are a systematic problem in Madison and Dane County. If there’s one place in the entire country that can become a model for a more racially equal society, it would be the Madison/Dane County area of Wisconsin, but it will take a large community effort to achieve a more racially equal society there. In fact, it will take a large effort by every person in this country to achieve a more racially equal society all across America.

Just like how Scott Walker has gotten away with corruption, Darren Wilson gets away with murder

By any reasonable standard, Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker should be behind bars and not in public office now. Walker has, among other things, illegally solicited $700,000 from an iron ore mining company to a right-wing political organization and has had public employees campaign for him on government time. Despite that, the justice system in Wisconsin and at the federal level has protected Walker, even allowing his right-wing cronies to argue that corruption is a form of free speech, an absolutely absurd claim.

Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson, earlier tonight, quite literally got away with murdering Michael Brown, Jr., an 18-year-old black teenager. That’s because a grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri, where the shooting occurred, decided not to press any charges whatsoever (not even for manslaughter) against Wilson. In fact, the St. Louis County, Missouri Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, basically gave Darren Wilson’s side of the story to explain why the grand jury decided not to press charges against Wilson.

The reason I’m trying to compare Walker and Wilson is this: If you’re a white man in a position of power in this country, you’re going to get considerably more favorable treatment from the justice system than anyone else. I think that’s wrong, and there needs to be real reform of the justice system in this country.