Grappling with responses to Charlottesville & my August article roundup

I haven’t posted in a while. I had some wifi struggles, took a trip, and this past week I have been grappling with violence and hatred that I have been trying to sort through both personally and professionally. However, an article I came across earlier today was the push I needed to go beyond my tweets, Facebook posts, and Common Dreams articles, in an effort to engage in more online discussions about racism in the U.S. today.

Before Charlottesville, I planned to share an article roundup that began with: Through emergency apartment construction, an internet outage that jeopardized some deadlines, work challenges, financial worries, and car troubles, this past week and a half has reminded me that we learn from struggles and failures, rather than from success.

All of that remains true, and I’m still working on how to deal with that concept, especially because last weekend I returned to my college campus for the first time in more than two years, which forced me to confront a lot of my emotions and experiences from the most difficult period of my life.  However, in light of current events, thoughts about fierce debates over nationalism and white supremacy in the U.S. have taken priority in my mind, so that’s what I’m going to address in the rest of this post.

I came across this video on Facebook. My reaction to it was so detailed and complex that I decided against posting comments on someone else’s profile; instead, my blog seemed like a more productive space to respond to it and hopefully start a broader conversation.

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Screenshot from YouTube user Red Pill Black’s video titled “I Don’t Care About Charlottesville, the KKK, or White Supremacy” (Click the photo to watch her full video)

A list of my reactions, in no particular order:

  • Nationalism and white supremacy are notable components of U.S. history, and significantly influenced the formation of our government as well as our institutions that perpetuate systemic racism—e.g., public schools, prisons, as the vlogger notes. Nationalism and white supremacy never disappeared from the U.S., but immediately before Trump’s political career kicked off, these ideologies seemed to gain more public support, partly tied to the economic crisis and its impact on white working and middle-class Americans.
  • The perpetual racism in the U.S. seemed to intensify leading up to the rise of Trump because (1) we had a black president for two terms, and (2) before, during and after the economic crisis, politicians and media figures alike told white people who were financially struggling that people of color were taking their tax dollars via government programs—often ignoring that many white Americans rely on these programs, from food stamps to public housing, and the recession disproportionately impacted communities and people of color.
  • This intensifying racism contributed to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement (which this black vlogger is apparently also against). Although there has been violence at some BLM events, it’s worth noting that these events and this movement have come in response to violence against and systemic oppression of people of color. Dismissing the Charlottesville counter-protesters as “losers,” as this vlogger does, dismisses the violence and systemic racism that people of color have encountered in the U.S.
  • The growing threat of nationalism and white supremacism is not a false media narrative, as the vlogger suggests. The demonstrations in Charlottesville last weekend and the white nationalist/supremacist rallies across the country today illustrate that they and their ideologies significantly threaten people of color, and while it’s true that these racist individuals and groups were still organizing and demonstrating during the Obama years, and the decades beforehand, many nationalists and white supremacists have publicly stated that they feel empowered by President Donald Trump.
  • Trump’s accession to the presidency has not just motivated individuals to publicly proclaim racist views, it’s also a symptom of nationalism and white supremacy’s rise pre-Trump (which in addition to being partly triggered by the economic crisis, also intensified in response to the BLM movement). Trump gained supporters on the campaign trail by speaking to the (sometimes unconscious) racist views of many white Americans of all socioeconomic classes. Many white people who voted for Trump bought into his claims that he too was frustrated with the “swamp” of long-serving politicians and the influence money has on politics—in addition to arguments touted by white supremacists that people of color are not only taking money away from hard-working white people but also that they are negatively changing the culture of the US. As president, not only has Trump stacked the White House and agencies with “swamp” dwellers (long-time politicians, lobbyists, and corporate insiders), but he’s also  appointed agency leaders and advisers known for pushing racist and nationalist agendas—e.g., Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who couldn’t even get approved for a lesser role during the Reagan years because of accusations of racism, and Steve Bannon, an accused white nationalist who, until yesterday, served as the WH’s chief strategist. The nationalists and white supremacists cheered on Trump’s recent remarks about violence on “both sides” in Charlottesville—on their own social media and in interviews—and they have openly stated that they feel emboldened by Trump’s commentary as president. Thus, nationalists and white supremacists are a greater threat today than they were before the election because they, by their own admission, are emboldened by the Trump administration.
  • Although it is true that the news media often failed to cover the threats posed by racism and racist policies and institutions during the Obama years—and even before his two terms—and also often failed to adequately understand how much support Trump was garnering during his campaign (hence the “shock” when he won), it is foolish and ignorant of this vlogger to dismiss the threat of nationalism and white supremacism as a false media narrative. It is valid and reasonable to critique the news media’s coverage of race topics, but the thousands of people across the country protesting in favor of and in opposition to nationalism and white supremacy this week clearly illustrate that the news media is not merely making up these threats.
  • This vlogger also bases her conclusions that the racial war in the U.S. is “fake” and white supremacy is no longer a threat on only her first-hand experience. Based only on the outline she provides of her day (going to the gym, then buying a latte), it appears she may be wealthy enough to avoid some of the barriers and threats that many others—especially black women—in America face every day. As a white woman, I cannot fully comprehend what it is like to be a woman of color in America, but from my interactions with people of various races, as well as from studying racism, sexism, U.S. history, and U.S. politics, it seems that this vlogger is either ignoring or unaware of how her experiences differ from that of many other people—particularly women—of color. She doesn’t seem willing to consider that just because people of various races at her gym or local coffee shop appear to be getting along doesn’t necessarily mean that other people of color in the U.S. aren’t experiencing the full force of racism and white supremacy. I am especially intrigued by this vlogger’s apparent unwillingness to consider the potential limits of her perspective because although I disagree with many of her expressed political views, in the few videos I have seen she comes across as composed, thoughtful, and as though she has substantially engaged with history and current events.
  • Being concerned about high rates of black-on-black crime and being concerned about racist threats from white supremacy are not mutually exclusive. It makes sense that people target other people of their own race when they commit violent crimes because (1) often those who commit violent crimes target people they are near to and/or people they know personally, and (2) the nation’s long history of racist housing policies and “white flight” have led to segregation in communities across the country, so it is logical that statistically there is more black-on-black violent crime (and more white-on-white violent crime) than violent crimes across races. But just because violent crime is statistically more likely to occur between two people of the same race—and, as the vlogger points out, black people in the U.S. face many other threats and struggles beyond racist attacks—does not mean that we should dismiss threats posed by the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white supremacists, and nationalists picking up their semi-automatic weapons and tiki torches to riot in the streets across the country in favor of white dominance.

Conclusion: Nationalism and white supremacism currently threaten our nation, and their rise especially threatens people of color, but it should concern all of us because silence is complicity; by not condemning racism, we enable it to continue and become partly responsible for it. As a white woman from a middle-class family, I recognize that I had I privileged upbringing and I feel it is my obligation try to learn from and advocate for reforms that improve the lives of people who have been oppressed by the systems that have given me my privileged status, in an effort to contribute to creating a more equitable and inclusive country. This rise of nationalism and white supremacy we’re seeing isn’t a narrative made up by the news media; the movement existed long before Trump was elected, but also it has intensified as a result of his campaign and election. This video worries me because it signals to her audience that people of color and white people alike don’t need to worry about nationalism and white supremacists, as if the systemic racism in the institutions she mentions isn’t a direct result of the culture of white superiority that influenced our country’s creation, and continues to influence our institutions and society. What’s baffling to me is that she acknowledges that systemic racism in schools and prisons keep people of color in a cycle of crime and poverty, but she is apparently unwilling to recognize that the way those institutions operate is a direct result of the same nationalism and white supremacism that’s currently being debated in our nation’s streets.

I encourage you to share this post/respond privately or publicly/send me related articles, books, videos, and documentaries. I am interested in exploring and understanding these topics more.

My recent articles—related and not to my comments above (read all my CD articles here)

Anti-Fracking Activists Celebrate Court Ruling Against Major New York State Pipeline

Al Gore Has Just One Small Bit of Advice for Trump: ‘Resign’

ACLU Will No Longer Defend Armed Demonstrations After Charlottesville

Despite Death in Charlottesville, Republicans Defend State Bills to Protect Drivers Who Hit Protesters

Public Support for Impeachment Grows Amid Speculation Trump Will Resign

Four Arrested for Toppling Confederate Statue, But No Neo-Nazis Arrested for Brutally Beating a Black Man in Charlottesville

Oregon Lauded as Progressive Model for Reproductive Healthcare Reform as Texas Passes Troubling Anti-Choice Measures

Ignoring Threat of Rising Seas, Trump Eliminates Flood Risk Standards for Taxpayer-Funded Infrastructure Projects

Weeks Before Charlottesville, Trump Cut Federal Funding for a Group Fighting White Supremacy

“Shame! Shame! Shame!”: New Yorkers Surround Trump Tower to Protest President’s Return Home

Democrats Demand Answers About FCC’s Apparent Favoritism Toward Conservative Local News Giant Sinclair Broadcast Group

Scientists and Environmentalists Condemn the Trump Administration’s “Assault on America’s Water Resources”

Analysis Shows Trump/GOP Sabotage to Blame for Coming Insurance Premium Hikes

Canada Builds Border Camp for Asylum Seekers Fleeing US

Pence’s Indiana ‘Cautionary Tale’ for Privatizing Infrastructure Projects

Trump DOJ’s Decision to Support Ohio Voter-Rolls Purge Program Confirms “Worst Fears” About Voting Rights

Medicare for All Supporters Are Ready to Hold Democrats to Account

Leaked Emails Show USDA Staff Were Told to ‘Avoid’ Term ‘Climate Change’ Under Trump

‘Brazen Attack on Media Freedom’: Critics Blast Israel’s Move to Ban Al Jazeera

“We’re Ready to Stop It Again”: KXL Opponents Flood Nebraska’s Capitol

Court Throws Out Blackwater Guards’ Sentences for 2007 Nisour Square Massacre

New Report Reveals Water Threats Posed by the “Dirty Three’s” Pipeline Routes

Trump’s War on Science Forces Federal Officials to Consider Polluters’ Demands

Asylum Seekers, Fleeing Trump’s Hostility, Overwhelm Quebec’s Refugee Resources

Responding to the Democratic Party’s 2018 Campaign Plan to Support Anti-Choice Candidates, Progressive Groups Release Pro-Choice Platform

Far-Reaching Bill Would Legalize Weed and Offer Reparations to Communities Impacted by the War on Drugs

Docs Reveal Monsanto’s Attempts to Influence Reports About the Dangers of Roundup

Sen. Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill Aimed at Ending ‘Tragic’ Youth Unemployment Crisis

“America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio Violated a Court Order to Stop Racially Profiling Latinos

Green Groups Celebrate as Court Orders EPA to Reinstate Obama-Era Methane Rule

Reproductive Rights Advocates Condemn Democrats’ Support of Anti-Choice Candidates

Climate Science Out, Coal In: EPA Exhibit Will Reflect Trump’s Deregulatory, Pro-Coal Agenda

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Weekly article roundup & extra goodies

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#CurrentlyReading: Naomi Klein’s “No Is Not Enough”

There’s a line where the sky meets the sea and it calls me
But no one knows, how far it goes
All the time wondering where I need to be is behind me
I’m on my own, to worlds unknown

–”How Far I’ll Go – Reprise,” Moana

This past weekend, I trained at Common Dreams for the Saturday/Sunday shift, so I got to take off today. I used my free time to visit the DMV and handle some household chores, but I am happy to feel increasingly settled at my new job and in my apartment. After work on Friday, I was drained from a long day of trying to sort through some troubling global affairs, so I went home and watched Moana, a Disney film released last year. (For a fascinating look at how producers navigated culture and criticism, check out “Consider the coconut! The Polynesian myths (and Disney-fications) behind Moana.”) For me, Moana resonated because its main female character seeks adventures and life experiences beyond the limited parameters her father sets for her—similar to Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

After watching the movie, I found myself reflecting on two scenes from my teen years. When I was 14 years old and started researching some journalism and political science programs at prestigious Northeastern colleges, my father said to me, “get your head out of the clouds.” He promptly informed me that I would attend community college first, and if I attempted to go to any out-of-state schools, I would “not get a dime” from him. I channeled his rejection of my ambitions into motivation to study harder and lead as many extracurricular activities as I could manage. Three years later, I accepted a full scholarship to attend Ithaca College in New York State; I told my father about it in the exact place where he had told me to stop dreaming.

So, for anyone who has read this far down the post: Don’t let yourself be held back by the people who don’t believe in you. College was by no means easy, but it taught me the value of perseverance, and the vitalness of finding people who love, respect, and support me. I learned to seek out people who both challenge and encourage me to chase after my “crazy” dreams.

Apparently, last week’s reflection theme was “absurd restrictions forced upon me as a teenager,” because I also ranted about dress codes—and received many wonderful words of encouragement from friends, family, and former teachers. I am including it below.

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As I retrieved my apartment keys from my handbag tonight, I couldn’t help but notice that my fingertips brushed against my thighs, so this dress would have violated my high school dress code. It has been a decade since I started high school, yet the policing of my attire apparently remains engrained in my subconscious. I, like almost every woman and girl I know, have struggled with body image issues most of my life…but I have also cultivated a love for fashion, and I use my clothing choices to express who I am and who I wish to be. I remember when a male high school teacher reprimanded me for a skirt that barely complied with the dress code; I remember sweating through short-sleeved tops in 90-degree weather, because we weren’t allowed to wear shirts that showed our shoulders; I remember being relieved that the yoga pants-ban came after I graduated, because as a college-bound 18-year-old, they were my go-to comfort option.
Somehow—despite my visible tattoos, pink hair dye, and “short” dress selection for summertime work attire—at age 24, I have graduated college (which I attended on an academic scholarship), secured full-time employment in my desired career field, and fostered a wonderfully supportive community of friends, family, and colleagues who embrace me for who I am, and what I wear. So, maybe it’s time we stop pulling teenage girls out of classrooms for their “distracting” dresses, and allow them to learn while wearing whatever clothing makes them most comfortable. Eventually, they will have to decide what careers they want to pursue and whether they can live with any requirements that accompany those career fields, but first, LET THEM LEARN WHO THEY ARE AND WHO THEY WANT TO BE.
If they want to pursue careers that involve pantsuits and heels, that’s awesome. If they want to work from home in pajamas, sounds great to me. If they want to work for a company that, like mine, accepts an animal print dress and Birkenstocks, then that’s fantastic…but while teens are trying to figure out what to do with their futures, let’s stop policing their wardrobes and instead focus on encouraging them to be thoughtful, compassionate human beings.

A few more pieces you should read (in addition to mine, which are posted at the bottom):

Weekly Roundup (read all my CD articles here)

“The Mooch” Likes Cameras, But DJT is the Boss

Unlike Sen. Sanders, Senate Democrats Don’t Condemn Dirty Energy Bill

Poland’s Lawmakers Are Nuts and Poles Are Mad About It (Update: Shockingly, their far-right president did a good thing and vetoed these awful bills)

Muslim Worshippers Clash With Israeli Forces Outside a Famous Holy Site

Sen. Warren Flunks Trump – Six Month Report Card

Exxon-Exec-Turned-US’s-Top-Diplomat Did Some Bad Things With Russia

Trump Snubs Nation’s Oldest Civil Rights Group (Again)

DJT’s ‘Bait and Switch’ Presidency (Spoiler Alert: He Didn’t “Drain the Swamp”)

GOP Tries to Gut Federal Protections for Endangered Species (See Cute Animal Pics!)

House Republicans Introduce a Budget/Tax Reform to Boost Military, Help Rich Folks

State Dept. Plans to Shut Down Office That Investigates War Crimes, Genocide, Etc.

It Is Also Considering Sending the Refugee Office to Homeland Security

Badass Nuns Build Cornfield Chapel in an Attempt to Block Pennsylvania Pipeline

What do Gossip Girl and Hunter S. Thompson have in common?

This book by Hunter S. Thompson is a must-read for all political junkies.

This book by Hunter S. Thompson is a must-read for all political junkies.

This week I accomplished two of my summer goals: I completed my first internship and I finally gained access to my own Netflix account. One of these goals will help me further my career; it was an incredibly rewarding, challenging, and inspiring experience. The other is seen by most as a major distractor—a challenge to my productivity.

However, my last week with Netflix has taught me more than I expected. Or rather, it has served as a major reminder. You see, my internship was with a magazine that promotes justice movements, analyzes cultural phenomena, and highlights labor rights violations, but my focus on journalism is a bit broader, and also includes diplomacy and other political matters.

This week, I have watched various movies, but also many episodes of two shows: House of Cards and Gossip Girl. The former is new to me, and a Netflix original; the latter is one of my guilty pleasure favorites, and I have seen every episode. While the two shows have different focuses, different settings, and were created for different audiences, there are some striking similarities.

Now we get to the ‘reminder’ part—the knowledge these shows have bestowed upon me. Both shows involve abnormal amounts of wealth, manipulation, and duplicity. Both have characters that are ultracompetitive and constantly make morally questionable decisions. All of this has served as a reminder that I am venturing into a dangerous, competitive, shady environment. As I cover politics, I will no doubt encounter these intentions, these games, and these people.

All of this was also captured in a book I recently read: Hunter S. Thompson’s Better Than Sex, in which HST gives his one-of-a-kind gonzo-style account of the 1992 election. It includes memos from George Stephanopoulos, former President Bill Clinton, and CNN’s Ed Turner. He credits the idea behind the title to his friend Missy. Writing about the phrase, he said,

“And I had fallen for it. But so what? I am of the romantic sensibility, as they say, and I am easily swayed in that direction, which is dangerous…” (p. 221).

The idea behind the claim is basically that to the master game-players, who are the best of the best in their arena, politics is better—more enticing, more thrilling, more rewarding—than even sex. Many of his comments about politics—particularly U.S. politics—are spot on, or at the very least, thought-provoking:

“Politics is the art of controlling your environment.” (p. 64)

“Nixon was genetically dishonest and so is Bush [Sr.]. They both represent what Bobby Kennedy called ‘the dark underbelly of the American dream.’ ” (p. 105)

“They are politicians, nothing more. The truth is not in them, and they like it that way.” (p. 127)

“All governors love pretty girls. It’s the American way—unless you’re the President, and then it gets tricky. But some people never learn.” (p. 177-8)

“Politics is a very nasty business, win or lose, and you never really know whose side you’re on, especially when you win.” (p. 183)

Do I really want to venture into a world where all this game-playing occurs, when I know full well that the media often contributes to the over-publicized, crazy competitive sparring matches between career politicians that lead to a lack of legislative productivity? Well, as much as I must confess I crave a good game every now and then, what I really hope to do with my career is to promote cooperation and productivity at the political level—to push aside the games and focus on pressing issues and realistic solutions.

Most people would call it foolish and idealistic. Most people would call me crazy. So go ahead. I dare you. I promise I’ve already been called worse. But instead of name-calling, I commit myself to honest storytelling. I commit myself to promoting real progress. But to do so, I must dive into “the dark underbelly.” It’s fast and it’s dangerous.

HST’s book focused primarily on the 1992 presidential campaign and the election of Bill Clinton. Near the end, he said,

“Speed kills, they say, and speed is also very addictive. It gets you there faster, and fast is the only way to run if you want to be president of the United States. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Some will march on a road of bones, and others will be nailed up on telephone poles. That’s the way it works.” (p. 230)