We Shall Not Be Spun! Responding to Jeffrey Lorde on Racism

We Shall Not Be Spun! (But We Shall Overcome!)

In no way is this new feature intended to reduce or trivialize the impact of the Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" by Joan Baez.

Many years ago I started following the machiavellian machinations of a group called the "American Legislative Exchange Council" (or as they are better known, ALEC). If you wonder how issues like:

* Right to Work Laws (Unions)

* Charter Schools and School Choice (Teachers Unions)

* Voter ID Laws (poor people of Color)

* Massive GOP gerrymandering of Congressional Districts

Got to the forefront of American political discourse, it was a coordinated and organized attempt to disenfranchise and demobilize traditional Democratic voting blocks by Alec (and eventually the GOP proper) in order to compensate for the demographic shifts that favored Democrats in upcoming Presidential elections.

Now, ask yourself how many times you have ever, even once, heard this discussed when those political issues were raised on so-called "news" programming? Never, and why not? Because of SPIN. 

Ask a GOP surrogate why they are pushing voter id laws and they will say to counteract "massive voting fraud (despite zero evidence of voter fraud existing)." The moderator will then mention that "no evidence of that kind of fraud exists" to which the GOP surrogate makes a response and, as usual, we are off the races with none the wiser.

In truth, that GOP surrogate could really care less about voter fraud, they wanted to suppress votes in traditional Democratic communities. This is why GOP governors reduced voting places in all traditional Democratic areas and shortened voting hours too, it was never about fraud, it was about suppression.

So, anyway, this #WeShallNotBeSpun is my attempt to unpack the spin as we Democrats and Progressives try to unpack and reconfigure and take the battle to the GOP over the next four years. 

We got fat, happy, and complacent. It is time to fight. Maybe I am not the best messenger. But, I refuse to be silent.

Jeffrey Lord's Flexible View of American Race History: Part One Colorblindness

Invisible Man
By Ralph Ellison

Jeffrey Lorde is a former Reagan staffer and current CNN commentator who has an interesting way of twisting history to suit his colorblind agenda. Here is a typical example of his insistence that we should never legislate around "race."

Mr. Lorde, like most mainstream Republican commentators also likes to quote one line out of the entire Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have a Dream Speech" out of context:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

In my very humble opinion, no line has ever been misused more vociferously in the cynical pursuit of injustice and intolerance (the SCOTUS, for example, holds to strict colorblindness unless discrimination "in fact" is proven - in other words those rare times when someone admits to trying to disenfranchise people based on race).

For the adherents to the idea of colorblindness in law, this one line has become the touchstone. In fact, to most people who hold fast to this line, racism has been reduced to a bare meaning, it now only means "did I say something bad about someone who looks different than me."

But, what about the rest of the speech? Was that all Martin Luther King Jr. Said? What was the actual context of what he was trying to say? 

Let's see, before he got to the "dream" part of the speech Dr. King talked about material conditions:

"But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. 

And he talks specifically about never ending the quest for Civil Rights until the legal system that privileges whiteness is dismantled and equality of opportunity is real for people of color (not just words we say to each other):

"There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Racism is not just about how you face-to-face interact with someone, it is about socially constructed inequality and it is about recognizing privilege as a barrier to equality. That is as true now as it was in 1963.

Both Dr. King's and President Kennedy's statements were aspirational and in the context of striving for a time when there was legal and material equality of opportunity, not just kind words and facial gestures that we exchange in meetings or on the streets.

By every metric race is still a massive barrier to the American Dream. 

Racism can also, as Mr. Lorde well knows be either unspoken or unconscious.

There are consequences to his words. He is trying to sell the idea that America has achieved equality now and that any mention of race is an exercise in begging.

If you look at virtually any credible study (start with the methodology and see if it was peer reviewed) you will find that people are materially deprived of the American Dream because of Race every day.

Mr. Lorde wants you to believe that whenever the police stop a black motorist all they have to do is pull out the "Colorblind America" card and everything will be just fine.

He has to know this is B.S. 

I have no personal enmity towards Mr. Lorde, who I do not know, I have a hard time given his access to research, that his statements are not cynical, but I hope he is well-meaning.

Several times, however, he asked the question "I am for colorblindness but I am the racist?" Well, if you think that the content of racism is only defined by being blind to color..you might not mean to be racist, but you are probably blind to racism.

I would like to suggest to any adherents of colorblindness that you read the book "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison or who believe that America has true equality of opportunity now read the book "American Apartheid." I would also suggest the Third Reconstruction as well.

Jeffrey Lord's Flexible View of American Race History: Part Two The Democrats are Responsible for Racism

Another Lorde favorite is to blame racism and racial division on the Democratic Party. Part of this argument is because we Democrats recognize race at all (the same colorblindness argument above) but the second part of his argument is that the historical Democratic Party is literally responsible for slavery.

I have to believe this is cynical because it is so absurd. 

At the formation of the Republican party, it was NOT a party against Slavery. Abraham Lincoln himself was not opposed to slavery until well after the war started. So, Lorde is wrong on this one from the start. But, he is 100% right that after the Civil War, the Democratic party post-reconstruction opposed almost all of Grant's attempts at racial redress and was key to creating and maintaining the Jim Crow South. That is 100% part of our party's legacy.

There is only one small problem.

The majority of those Democrats defected from our party. 

Where oh where did they end up?

Yup, you guessed it, after Kennedy and LBJ the traditional Dixiecrats all became Republicans. They are the backbone of your party and not of ours Jeffrey. 

And why did they leave? Because LBJ backed Civil Rights? Because of Brown v. Board of Education? Because Democrats started to fight for material equality for people of color.

And since that time, which party, at virtually every turn, has opposed material equality? 

Shockingly, it has been your political party, Mr. Lorde.

So, how about this, you keep asking for apologies, so I will start. 

Even though I was not born when all of this went down, I will apologize for all of the Dixiecrats, for Jim Crow, and for sabotaging Grant's attempts to complete Lincoln's reconstruction vision.

Now, for your party, apologize for the last 40 years. And stop taking history out of context and whitewashing the parts that you don't like to serve your purposes.

Now, I am not part of the morality police, I don't want Lorde fired, but I do wish CNN would spend more time on news and less time on discussions between people who are probably not subject area experts. And, if you insist on continuing this inane three panelists cover one divisive issue in two minutes model, at least spend some time putting the a-historical or factually incorrect spin in context.

Stay Tuned For More

My goal is to respond to spin here. 

But, I do want to say that I believe much common ground and common cause can be found between frustrated Trump voters and the frustrated Clinton voters. I will write more on this later, but providing material equality for people of color is consistent with raising material conditions for all Americans. 

Most of the people frustrated with Free Trade or Corporations are not who will benefit from tax cuts. We need to work together, not to help the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. We need to work together to ensure everyone has access to the American Dream regardless of socioeconomic status or race.

This isn't about putting race aside, it is about fighting for fairness and equality for all Americans. And, we liberals have to be more welcoming too. We need to have discussions and not arguments and get to know each other again. Radical hospitality is where reunification will start.

Closing our eyes to race or racism doesn't make racism not exist.

I accept and answer all civil responses

I am including a link to the new A Tribe Called Quest album because it says a lot about race in America and about Election 2016