December 5, 2017 by
I attended a segregated school in Meridian, Mississippi. What I remember is our school looked quite different from the one attended by the white kids. Our school was housed in an older wooden building attached to a brick structure that contained about a dozen classrooms. The school sat on an open lot of red dirt. Yet, I remember our neighborhood as a safe refuge. The white kids went to a school that was closer to my house than the one I attended. Their school was a two-story stucco building that was the whitest white. It always appeared new or as if it was just painted. At least that’s the way I remember it. This school sat on a paved lot that was enclosed by a fence. There were several play structures on the playground. Our school had none. There were striking disparities between the schools and the neighborhoods they served. Young and innocent minds would soon learn that the disparities were symbols of power and privilege. Yet, each day black and white children would rise, put their hands over their hearts and repeat in unison the Pledge of Allegiance, culminating with the words “with liberty and justice for all”. Obviously, these most fundamental American ideals are experienced in entirely different ways depending on race and class. There are those who take great offense when the stories about black lives conflict with the myth of American exceptionalism. Too often, these narratives about the “American Dream” include dehumanizing stereotypes, low expectations, impoverished communities, and the disproportionate incarceration and killing of young black men. As Americans, we’re still struggling to fulfill the high aspirations contained in our Constitution by creating a “more perfect union”. A willingness to honestly listen to each other’s stories and demonstrate some degree of empathy is the basis of true community. Unfortunately, our state of denial places more value on honoring nationalistic symbols than addressing real injustices. Western culture is suffering from a deadly cancer called racism resulting from the exploitation and domination of people of color for 400 years. The consequences are inevitable, as our world grows increasingly interdependent and less secure. Truth and reconciliation have been used in places such as South Africa to promote racial healing. These efforts rely on a willingness to listen to the stories of the oppressed and the oppressor. Toward this end, a grass-roots effort involving cross-cultural, interfaith and interracial dialogue is desperately needed. Be assured that meaningful truth-telling, genuine forgiveness and social transformation will require more courage and commitment than all the wars we’ve ever fought. However, it’s the only hope for true peace and prosperity. Who better to promote this dialogue at this time than the National Football League and its players? An old African proverb might represent the spirit of a new social movement: “I am because we are, we are because I am.” Let the Pledge of Allegiance and our national anthem inspire us to take a stand, or knee, in re-dedicating ourselves to the unrealized promise of liberty and justice for all. Leon Beauchman is an American Leadership Forum Senior Fellow and president of the Santa Clara County Alliance of Black Educators. He recently completed a book of poetry entitled “Blue Prophesy: In Search of Meaning in the African American Experience.”

December 2, 2017 by
Donald Trump is a one-man hate group. If the president were an organization instead of an individual, it would not be a big stretch to define him as a "hate group" under the FBI's simple definition: “an organization whose primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons of or with a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity which differs from that of the members or the organization.” Now, of course, Donald John Trump's "primary purpose" isn't to advocate for hate and violence. But after that qualifying phrase, Trump pretty much checks off every box in the FBI’s definition. “When you look at the list of extremist material that he’s put out there, it’s extraordinary,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. Let's break it down, element by element. 'Animosity, hostility, and malice against persons' Based on race Trump continually wages public feuds with people of color. Last week Trump focused his ire on LaVar Ball, father of one of the UCLA students taken into Chinese custody after they were caught shoplifting in a mall. All three students thanked Trump and the American government for freeing securing their release but when Ball refused to thank the president, Trump called him an “ungrateful fool.” “When you look at the list of extremist material that he’s put out there, it’s extraordinary,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. Let's break it down, element by element. 'Animosity, hostility, and malice against persons' Based on race Trump continually wages public feuds with people of color. Last week Trump focused his ire on LaVar Ball, father of one of the UCLA students taken into Chinese custody after they were caught shoplifting in a mall. All three students thanked Trump and the American government for freeing securing their release but when Ball refused to thank the president, Trump called him an “ungrateful fool.” The insult salvo carried on for days. Critics of Trump said the exchange followed a pattern: his apparent proclivity for attacking people of color in general, and black people specifically, in the sports world. Trump regularly takes shots at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and anyone else who’s participated in his “Take a Knee” protest against police brutality during the national anthem. The president scolded Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry and disinvited his team from a customary White House visit for the NBA champs. He criticized ESPN anchor Jemele Hill for calling him a white supremacist, prompting White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to call for ESPN to fire her. This hostility isn’t limited to athletics. And it isn't a recent phenomenon. In 1989, after a jogger was raped in Central Park and her alleged assailants caught, Trump took out a full page ad in New York newspapers calling for the execution of the so-called “Central Park Five”—all of whom were black and Latino and turned out to be innocent of the crime. Trump's ads were widely seen as reckless and partly responsible for the men's wrongful convictions, which were all overturned. And before becoming president, Trump championed the birther movement against President Barack Obama. A member of the Ku Klux Klan looks on during a rally, calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images Then there was Charlottesville. He waited two days to comment on the Unite the Right rally where white supremacists marched through the town with torches and chanted Nazi slogans. The demonstration culminated with the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, who was run over by a car driven by a white supremacist, cops said. “You also had some very fine people on both sides,” Trump said when asked about the violence. He also said there was violence "on both sides." Comments like that show Trump is teetering on the precipice of white supremacy, Beirich said, though he doesn't fully fit the label because he has never explicitly expressed hatred for certain minority groups. Without crossing that line, according to Beirich, he cannot be categorized a white supremacist, though almost. “Does Trump peddle racist propaganda? No doubt. Has he played footsie with extremists? Absolutely,” Beirich said. So maybe Donald Trump isn't a white supremacist. But he promotes their ideology. And that's part of the FBI definition. Trump has also surrounded himself with controversial and polarizing figures. He brought on Stephen Bannon to be his chief strategist in the White House before Bannon returned to head up Breitbart. Sebastian Gorka, a man accused of having ties to a Hungarian Nazi party, was Trump's deputy assistant before he resigned in August. And Trump appointed then-Senator Jeff Sessions to the office of Attorney General, a move that dismayed many civil rights advocates and whose public record led to fiery exchanges during his confirmation hearings in Congress.  In 1986, Sessions was rejected from a federal judgeship over accusations of racism for calling a black attorney "boy," an allegation he denies, and for calling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union “un-American.”  Sessions was also the keynote speaker at a 2007 board meeting for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Alabama-based nonprofit has deemed an anti-immigrant hate group. The organization gave Sessions its Franklin Society award for the lawmaker's help in killing an immigration reform bill that year.  Based on religion Trump's most recent public display of religious intolerance came Tuesday morning when he retweeted three anti-Muslim videos originally posted by British white supremacist Jayda Fransen. Fransen is the deputy leader of the far-right fringe party Britain First. Donald Trump retweeted a British white supremacists' anti-Muslim disturbing and graphic post that purported to show an "Islamist mob" throw a man off of a structure and beat him to death. Twitter One of the retweeted videos purportedly showed an “Islamist mob” throw a man off a structure before beating him to death. Another claimed to show a “Muslim migrant” beat a Dutch boy walking with crutches. (The attacker was neither a Muslim nor a migrant, according to Dutch media and police.) The third video showed an apparently Muslim man shattering a statue of the Virgin Mary on the ground. British Prime Minister Theresa May criticized Trump later that day, saying he was “wrong” to retweet the videos, but Trump responded on Twitter, “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” “There’s no question he’s expressed ideas about immigrants and about Muslims that could be coming out of the mouths of some of our white supremacists,” Beirich said. The international episode comes just a week before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is slated to hear arguments on Trump’s third iteration of his travel ban. Trump initially called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” days after the San Bernardino shooting in 2016. As president, Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from several Muslim majority countries. Two federal judges have blocked versions of bill. Next week, the appeals court in Maryland will hear arguments on a tweaked version of the bill that’s been scrubbed of any seemingly anti-Muslim language. Based on disability Trump may not routinely target disabled people but he famously mocked disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski during a campaign speech, even pantomiming the body movements of Kovaleski as a result of the congenital joint condition arthrogryposis. "Now, the poor guy—you've got to see this guy!" Trump said of Kovaleski, who was part of a Times team that debunked Trump's claim that he saw American Muslims cheering the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Based on sexual orientation, gender or gender identity Trump’s position on the gay community has been mixed. He’s defended gays in the military in the past, but in October, he became the first sitting president to speak at the Family Research Council, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group. That speech occurred just months after Sessions also gave a speech to the Alliance Defending Freedom organization, another group the law center — based out of Sessions' homestate of Alabama — had labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group. In July—on the 79th anniversary of President Truman’s signing of Executive Order 9981 that established equality of treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services—Trump signed an executive order prohibiting transgender people from serving in the military. The federal district court later struck it down, finding the order unconstitutional. Two months later, Trump's Department of Justice argued in court that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect Americans from being fired based on their sexual orientation. The Justice Department awkwardly pitted itself against another federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had already sided with the plaintiff who claimed he was fired from his job for being gay. "(It's) as conservative as it could possibly get: if having sex with a man is okay for a woman, it has to be okay for a man as well," Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, told Newsweek at the time. "You cannot apply a different rule based on gender, according to the law. Apparently, that wasn’t conservative enough for the DOJ." This is by no means a complete compendium of Trump's promotion of hate; it is merely an abridged list. White Supremacist groups marched through Charlottesville, Va, during the "Unite the Right" rally. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images The FBI did not immediately respond to an email asking if the Bureau was investigating Trump as a possible hate group. By Ryan Sit

December 2, 2017 by
(Photo/Eric Draper/White House) I have been helping immigrants apply for citizenship for more than two decades. Something I learned over the years is that applications for citizenship go up dramatically during presidential elections and fall just as dramatically the following year. This makes sense because people want to vote for the next president, and they rush to get their naturalization forms in. Then, typically, the number of applications drops precipitously after the election. This year is exceptional. Instead of a reduction in applications, there has been a 10 percent jump over the already high numbers during the election year. In the last year, 1,028,647 naturalization applications were filed, 100,000 more than in the election year. New York State saw an increase from 119,000 applications in 2016 to 125,000 this year. There are several reasons cited for the increase in naturalizations, all of them tied to the Donald Trump presidency. According to a new report from the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), “the current climate of insults and threats toward immigrants, and increased immigration enforcement by this administration has resulted in millions of immigrants feeling fear and resentment towards unfair scapegoating. This has resulted in increased naturalization applications as immigrants seek to protect their families and empower themselves to vote.” The attacks on immigrants have also prompted community groups, who previously did not consider naturalization a part of their agenda, to step forward to offer free help for permanent residents who want to become citizens. After the election of Donald Trump, many cities and states funded citizenship programs to help harden their communities against the harsh new Trump administration policies. The Trump administration has responded to the growth of naturalization by slowing down the processing of citizenship applications. The number of backlogged cases is now nearly double what it was just two years ago. According to the NPNA, whose local affiliate is the New York Immigration Coalition, “the massive naturalization processing backlogs are a ‘Second Wall’ that prevents legal immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens and voters. If this is being done intentionally–if the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and this administration is ‘slow-walking’ the citizenship applications of lawfully present immigrants–then this is a particularly offensive form of voter suppression.” New York has the second largest number of backlogged cases, with more than 93,000. Keeping permanent residents from becoming citizens is a key element of the White Nationalist agenda. While the media depicts Trump and the White Nationalists who support him as opposed to undocumented immigration, it is really legal immigration that most worries them. Legal residents are the people who become citizens and voters, and in turn, those who the White Nationalists fear will deprive them of power. Patrick Young, Esq.

November 29, 2017 by
When it comes to Black social justice groups, the FBI’s motto is, “Monitor now, ask questions later.” A protester during a silent demonstration after a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in St. Louis, Missouri, March 14, 2015. / REUTERS The FBI is once again targeting Black Lives Matter and also expressed fear of “black supremacist extremists” launching violent attacks at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, according to FBI and Department of Homeland Security documents. Records and emails from July 2016 were obtained and released in part Tuesday by Al Jazeera. According to one set of emails from July 8, 2016, the FBI feared large-scale attacks from BLM after lone gunman Micah Xavier Johnson killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas, that same month. “Due to sensitivities surrounding recent police shootings, the threat of copycat attacks against law enforcement exist[s],” according to the email. “There is a threat of black supremacist extremists attempting to violently co-opt the upcoming DNC/RNC.” The email in question does not elaborate on the “threat,” nor does it define “black supremacist extremists.” BLM issued a statement at the time of the shooting separating itself from Johnson and rejecting the notion that BLM condones violence. “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it,” the organization said at the time. “Yesterday’s attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.” The FBI email also states more than once that Johnson acted alone: “There was only 1 shooter (Johnson). Johnson is dead.”  “Dallas officials report the deceased barricaded gunman acted alone.” “The [Dallas chief of police] also briefed that prior to his death, Johnson stated he had acted alone.” But that did not stop the FBI from figuring out ways to spy on BLM protests and seemingly make it legal. In another set of emails the FBI acknowledges that BLM protests are protected by the First Amendment. Therefore, the email includes a “caveat” to be placed on “any documents containing relevant information.” The loophole states, in part: “However, based on known intelligence and/or specific, historical observations, it is possible the protected activity could invite a violent reaction towards the subject individuals or groups, or the activity could be used as a means to target law enforcement. In the event no violent reaction occurs, FBI policy and federal law dictates that no further record be made of the protected activity.” Two organizations, Color Of Change (COC) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), sued to have the emails in question made public. Omar Farah, a lead attorney with the CCR, explained to Al Jazeera that the threat of surveillance is enough even if the FBI does not make a record of it. “Surveillance is what chills people from mobilising and organizing,” Farah told Al Jazeera. A third document, also dated July 8, advised caution during a “Day of Rage” event that was supposedly taking place on July 15. “Being anywhere near these protests greatly increases the chance that you could become a victim of violence. When the mob mentality takes over, normally decent people can commit heinous acts,” the advisory states. The note also includes a list of about three dozen locations where protests were allegedly taking place, calling them “places NOT to be.” BLM tweeted at the time that there was no such protest planned. According to Snopes, the “Day of Rage” mirrored a similar hoax that launched in August 2014 after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson: “In the wake of the controversial police shooting incident, rumors were swirling that the hacktivist collective Anonymous — acting in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement — had called for ‘Day of Rage’ protests to be staged in cities across the United States on 21 August 2014.” “Two years later, in July 2016, the shooting deaths of two black men — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota — by white police officers prompted another round of protests,” Snopes continues. “Rumors again spread online that Anonymous had called for ‘Day of Rage’ protests to be staged in 36 (or 39) cities across the United States on 15 July 2016.” So what happened on the day in question? Nothing, more or less, other than a few scattered protests across the country. A DHS Field Analysis Report (FAR) from September 2016 did study white supremacist protests — but the language is strikingly different. The document is titled: “California: Recent Violent Clashes Suggest Heightened Threat Environment at Lawfully Organized White Supremacist Events.” The report followed two white supremacist rallies that took place in Chicago earlier that year. According to DHS, violence occurred thanks to counterprotesters who attended the event. In Sacramento, “violent anti-fascists, including anarchist extremist elements, attacked a group of white supremacists who gathered for a legally permitted rally.” “There are a number of potential indicators of planned criminal or violent activities at white supremacist events. Some of these behavioral indicators may be constitutionally protected activities and should be supported by additional facts to justify increased suspicion,” the report states. One year after the report, 32-year-old Heather Heyer lost her life at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., when a white supremacist drove a vehicle into a crowd of counterprotesters. According to the FBI and DHS, therefore, BLM and Black social justice movements should be under surveillance, and if recorded activity does not indicate a threat, a “caveat” can be included with the records. But for white supremacist activity, “additional facts” must be present “to justify increased suspicion.” Brandi Collins, Color Of Change’s campaign director, said to Al Jazeera, “The subtext here is stunning.” “It tells us who the government is training to view as threats and the rightful targets of ongoing surveillance and which groups will be offered protection,” Collins added. The FBI has produced other reports similar to the ones obtained by Al Jazeera. A report (obtained by Foreign Policy) was released in August titled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.” The report cites the Michael Brown shooting and the subsequent decision not to indict the officer who killed him as evidence that “Black Identity Extremists” (BIEs) are likely to target law enforcement. “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” according to the document. At a recent House Judiciary Committee meeting, Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat, questioned U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III about the report. Sessions claimed to not have seen it or have any knowledge of it. “I’m not sure how that report got ordered,” he said. “I don’t believe I explicitly approved or directed it.” Kaitlyn D'Onofrio

November 29, 2017 by
"The Cosby Show" matriarch's new role ensures that black history is never forgotten. Photo: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times You may know Phylicia Rashad from The Cosby Show and from her most recent role as Diana DuBois on the Fox hit show Empire, but the acclaimed actress has added a new title to her remarkable resume.  Rashad is now the ambassador of the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF), a $25 million initiative aimed at preserving African American historical sites and teaching young black people about untold nuggets of black history.  The initiative is possible because of the work of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, the JPB Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. For 70 years, the National Trust has led the way in preserving historic sites – like the Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia, and the Fort Huachuca Black Officers’ Club in Arizona – that are important to black history and in just the past five years the organization has received $10 million to do its work.  “There is an opportunity and an obligation for us to step forward boldly and ensure the preservation of places which tell the often-overlooked stories of African Americans and their many contributions to our nation,” Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a news release. “We believe that this fund will be transformative for our country, and we are committed to crafting a narrative that expands our view of history and, ultimately, begins to reconstruct our national identity, while inspiring a new generation of activists to advocate for our diverse historic places.” In addition to preservation, there will be The National Trust’s Hands-On Preservation Experience that teaches youth about black history, and there will be a research aspect to the initiative that will find links to preserving historic sites and the resolution of urban problems. Academic, arts, government and business leaders will also play a role in the fund by serving on its advisory council.  For more, watch Rashad discuss the importance of celebrating and preserving black historical narratives.  Blavity Team

November 25, 2017 by
No group stirs the Trumpian ire quite like rich black folks. I do not like sports. There are lots of other things I hate more—cancer, genocide, lite jazz—but ultimately, they’re all separated by a matter of degrees. I don’t care who won last night’s game, who’s in anyone’s brackets or how great the Whatchamacallits are "looking this year." But while the sporting aspect of sports may strike me as boring, for the past few years, I’ve been pretty taken by the on- and off-field political commentary coming from sports stars using their platforms to call out oppression and social injustice. This refusal to be apolitical is a sign of the times that speaks to both the historic importance of this cultural moment while simultaneously underscoring all the awful reasons why their voices are needed. That, and there’s nothing like watching Donald Trump’s rage at having black millionaires tell him where to get off. You can basically sum up this country’s political spectacle for the last two years as crazy, racist, old man Trump yelling at people of color to get off his lawn, a patch of land known as America. But no group stirs Trump's—and his followers’—ire quite like rich black folks, whose success they believe is always unearned, more prima facie evidence of a system that now gives black folks a leg up over deserving, hard-working, real—and thus definitionally white—Americans. Rich black folks who dare criticize this country instead of endlessly thanking mythical, benevolent white America for successes their own talents and ambition actually garnered are the particular targets of Trumpian anger and racial resentment. In a recent Politico piece attempting to explain Trump voters’ unwavering support for their president, Michael Kruse concludes, “it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting,” a list that includes “NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.” That’s fitting for a political movement without a single unifying element except its rejection of eight years of leadership by an African American so uppity he thought his rightful place was in the White House. “For Trump,” Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in a recent Atlantic piece, “it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally.” Trump and his supporters appear to feel just as insulted by the reality of millionaire black sports stars. It’s true that Trump’s belligerence is boundless, his outsized insecurity fueling his counter-attacks against even the mildest of perceived slights. But Trump goes after powerful black folks with a particular vengeance that is both politically expedient—his base absolutely eats these displays up—and attributable to his own deep-seated racism. More than a year ago, Trump suggested that Colin Kaepernick "should find a country that works better for him.” The San Francisco 49ers quarterback had already begun sitting, and then out of respect for veterans, kneeling, because he asserted, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." Since then, Trump has used the office of the presidency to demand an apology from a private citizen, ESPN sports reporter Jamele Hill, who rightly declared via her personal Twitter account that “Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” Trump embarrassed himself by angrily attepting to disinvite Warriors point guard Steph Curry from the White House a day after Curry had already said he would turn down any such invitation to show he doesn’t “stand for basically what our president...the things that [he’s] said.” Trump tweeted that NFL players, 70 percent of whom are black, have been given the "privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,” as if talent, hard work, and years of rigorous physical training have nothing to do with it. A day earlier, Trump called peacefully protesting NFL players “sons of bitches”—a stark contrast to his “very fine” white nationalist and neo-Nazi supporters in Charlottesville—and demanded their firing, a direct assault on their First Amendment rights. (In that same speech, Trump bemoaned NFL rules designed to protect against traumatic brain injury claiming players “want to hit”; just the language a white racist would use to animalize black minds and bodies he imagines exist solely to be brutalized for his own entertainment.) But for all Trump’s efforts to silence black sports figures—even those quasi-stars on the periphery, which I'm just about to get to—he’s failed miserably. There may be no better case than the recent back and forth between Trump and LaVar Ball. Trump petulantly demanded, and received, a thank-you for his alleged part in obtaining the release of Ball’s son LiAngelo, one of a trio of black UCLA players accused of shoplifting in China. When the elder Ball refused to praise Trump and downplayed his role in facilitating the release, the petty president sent a series of tweets insisting “IT WAS ME” who deserved both credit and profuse thanks, claiming Ball “could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with [his] son in China,” and calling him an “ungrateful fool” and a “poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair.” (In the midst of this pre-dawn tirade, Trump inexplicably wedged in a complaint about Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, figuring while he was attacking "the blacks" in sports, he might as well throw another one on the pile.) In the CNN interview that preceded Trump’s outburst, Ball dismissively stated, "I would have said thank you if he put [LiAngelo] on his plane and took him home. Then I would have said, 'Thank you, Mr. Trump, for taking my boys out of China and bringing them back to the U.S.' There’s a lot of room on that plane. I would have said thank-you kindly for that." I’d never thought much either way about the senior Ball before. He’s famous enough that he’d appeared in my non-sports-oriented news feed, mostly with the dubious distinction of being a class A sports dad. His recent resistance to standing down for Trump has basically made me a fan by default. It’s true that in Ball, Trump met his match, the only other public figure with a mouth as big and an ego as undeservedly huge. But Ball’s refusal to comply with Trump’s belief that black celebrities must acquiesce to his every demand comes off as a political act. It’s not a coincidence that black players who refuse to stop acknowledging the reality of systemic racism are consistenty accused of being unappreciative. As Shaun King noted in a recent tweet, “Ungrateful is the new nigger.” Trump’s consistent record of playing the race card—which is how that phrase should properly be applied going forward—managed to do what I’d never previously thought possible. As long I don’t have to actually participate in any organized sports, I’m fully Team Ball. Ditto my support for LeBron James, who on the heels of Trump’s miserable failure to diss Steph Curry, blasted Trump as a “bum” and noted that “going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!” In a video followup, James stated he was “a little frustrated because this guy that we’ve put in charge has tried to divide us once again,” adding that for Trump to “use [sports] to divide us even more is not something I can stand for and it’s not something I can be quiet about.” Jamele Hill, after a two-week suspension from ESPN that Trump likely hailed a victory that would shut her up, pointedly stated in an interview that she “will never take back what [she] said." Colin Kaepernick, proving this was never about Trump—who's just the most obvious symptom of America’s problems—has kept on being awesome, charitable and outspoken on all the right issues despite an obvious conspiracy to keep him off the field. Steph Curry called Trump’s response to his non-RSVP “surreal” but also intimated that Trump was stoking racial flames, an issue we should never stop talking about.   “I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals rather than others,” Curry told reporters following a Warriors practice. “I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath the leader of a country to go that route. It’s not what leaders do.” That’s also true. Trump has been deafeningly silent in response to white sports figures who have criticized him, from Warriors coach Steve Kerr (who has called Trump a “blowhard” who “couldn’t be more ill-suited to be president”) to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (who dubbed the president a "soulless coward”), to a number of NFL, NBA and MLB owners who have criticized Trump and defended protesting players. Trump even ignored Eminem’s BET cypher in which he labeled the president a “racist grandpa,” among many other insults. "I feel like he’s not paying attention to me,” the rapper said Friday, and I’m sure we can all guess why. Friday, Trump lamented that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “has lost control” of a league in which “players are the boss,” which is to say the help have forgotten their place. That was the day after Thanksgiving, when he enthusiastically replied “Make America Great Again” in response to a tweet criticizing his racist attacks on “high-profile” black folks. (Some have theorized it was a technical "mistake," which is not how you spell "Freudian slip.") Trump will keep tossing red meat to the white supremacists who comprise the bulk of his base, and he doesn’t mind sharing the meal. And those sports stars who have spoken up will hopefully keep telling him exactly where he can stick it. I’m not hailing this as a revolutionary act, or pretending those words are going to radically transform white racists into decent people. But every time Trump is reminded it’s 2017 and uppity black folks are still talking, there’s a tiny bit of joy to behold. Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

November 25, 2017 by
Thomas Jefferson was a man of many contradictions when it came to race. As the dust-up over the infamous Google memo earlier this year made clear, a new front in the culture wars is forming around disputes between science and identity politics. Pockets of scientists and self-proclaimed “skeptics” are uniting around the notion that politics related to the identities of people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, and Muslims represent an adulteration of the fruits of scientific rationalism and “Enlightenment values.” This romanticized view, however, conveniently ignores less palatable elements of 18th century Enlightenment history — like chattel slavery — in an attempt to frame identity as an irrational or purely ideological distraction from scientific fact. Progressive activists, critics say, are engaging in a self-defeating exercise by emphasizing feelings and political views over pragmatism and common sense. Moderate and left-leaning critics of identity politics argue further that an overemphasis on identity concerns undermines political solidarity. This sloppy application of scientific knowledge in order to further white supremacy actually has a long history in the U.S. We see a similar logic playing out in “alt-right” or white supremacist circles, which rally behind white “identitarians” like Richard Spencer but disavow the identity politics of feminists and Black Lives Matter activists. Indeed, just as far-right groups have taken an interest in what are otherwise relatively obscure corners of academia (like evolutionary psychology and medieval studies), they’ve found strange bedfellows in scientists and other prominent rationalists. The sloppy application of scientific knowledge to further white supremacy has a long history in the U.S. These individuals reject white supremacy but are also opposed to identity politics and political correctness. Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, for example, has received plaudits from “alt-right” figures for questioning those who raise issues like gender and racial representation in science. Centuries before the rise of the alt-right, Thomas Jefferson, author of perhaps the most famous words of the American Revolution — “all men are created equal” — also believed that black people were “much inferior” to white people in reason, comprehension and imagination. This may help explain how Jefferson was able to pen the Declaration of Independence and also own hundreds of slaves over his lifetime. That American luminaries like Jefferson, who believed genuinely in individual freedom, used science to justify a legal framework that granted rights and citizenship according to the race doesn’t mean all Enlightenment ideas are racist. But it does show how identity politics and racism went hand-in-hand during a period we’re fond of referring to as the Age of Reason. Today progressives and “alt-right” rationalists squabble over whether race is a “social construct” or biological fact — a false and misleading dichotomy that arises more from methodological turf wars than from an understanding of how the concept of race has changed over time. But our contemporary notion of race was actually born in the Enlightenment, at the intersection of science and identity politics. The Enlightenment-lead shift in our understanding of race laid the foundation for how we understand racism today. Faced with the conundrum of believing in individual liberty while living in societies that reaped the fruits of the Atlantic slave trade, Enlightenment thinkers from Voltaire to Johann Blumenbach created a human taxonomy. This system categorized Caucasians as, in Blumenbach’s words, “the most beautiful race of men,” while the African man was labeled, in Voltaire’s words, an “animal” with “a flat and black nose with little or hardly any intelligence.” Voltaire’s description is particularly telling, as it aligns observable characteristics (phenotype) with an unrelated and unscientific impression of character and diminished intelligence. This is a textbook example of scientific racism, the misapplication of scientific knowledge to justify a belief in white supremacy. Whereas throughout much of the 18th century the word “race” was used to describe national and geographical identity, not skin color, Enlightenment thinkers like Blumenbach introduced scientific theories that applied taxonomy to human traits, drawing on the influential work of Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus. But Blumenbach took Linnaeus’ biological classification system a step further by creating a hierarchy of worth based on physical appearance, forever altering the concept of race. These theories lent legitimacy to the stereotypes on which slavers relied to hold human beings in bondage and keep the slavery economy running. Phenotype or differences of appearance are not Enlightenment constructs, of course. But it was during the Enlightenment that certain characteristics — like skin color and facial features — became widespread signifiers of character and intelligence. Scientists and rationalists whitewash the Enlightenment to score points against identity politics.   Today’s scientific racism sometimes involves misappropriating scientific findings (as in the Google memo), or over-interpreting data (as in, I would argue, Charles Murray’s "The Bell Curve" or Jason Richwine’s doctoral work). But it increasingly involves the adoption of a generally scientific or rationalist attitude to dismiss the political concerns of women, LGBTQ individuals and people of color as fanciful or irrational.In such cases, as with statistician Nassim Taleb’s critique of classicist Mary Beard over the ethnic diversity of Roman Britain, practitioners of scientific racism may portray identity concerns as superficial, and thus as distortions of Real Knowledge. Often, as in Taleb’s case, the move to situate race and identity outside the scope of rational concerns requires either historical ignorance or historical distortion to pull off. Thus, while Enlightenment values like rationalism and skepticism ostensibly guide the modern case against identity politics, they also explain the relevance and importance of identity politics throughout Western history. Today we see how that historical affinity is utilized for ever-sinister purposes. Proponents of the “Dark Enlightenment,” for example, have even found a way to justify white supremacy. This intellectual fringe borrows from Enlightenment scientific racism to make the case for eugenics and racial segregation, but rejects Enlightenment egalitarianism and democratic virtues. Thus, while scientists and rationalists whitewash the Enlightenment to score points against identity politics, some white supremacists are keeping the bathwater. The far-right continues to misuse science in the service of an identity politics of white supremacy. For this reason we can no longer afford to ignore the deep historical connection between science and identity politics. For every rationalist who argues that identity politics is just another form of discrimination, there’s a cadre of white supremacists nodding in approval. Aaron Hanlon an Assistant Professor of English at Colby College where he specializes in 18th-century British and transatlantic literatures, as well as literature and culture of the Enlightenment. His essays about politics, literature, teaching and higher education have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Salon, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Ploughshares Blog, The Chronicle of Higher Education and others.