- “Mississippi Goddamn”: ‘Religious Liberty Act’
In 1964, a year after Philip A. Gunn, current Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representative, was born the Klu Klux Klan beat several members of the Mt. Zion Methodist Church before burning their church to the ground. The Klan was looking for two ‘outside agitators’ and their local black accomplice. Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were not there that night. Several months later, however, the three men were detained by Mississippi law enforcement and handed over to the Klan. They were shot to death and buried in an earthen dam a few miles from Mt. Zion Methodist Church.
The concept of an ‘outside agitator’, at the time, signified persons and organizations from outside of the state of Mississippi working with collaborators within the state to restructure social relations. With the introduction of House Bill No. 1523, Speaker Gunn has lived to usher in a welcomed collaboration with ‘outside agitators’. The ‘outside agitators’ that have enlisted Speaker Gunn as their local accomplice are groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Based in Arlington, Virgina, this organization and organizations like them draft and share model state-level legislation like House Bill No. 1523 introduced as the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act.”
By the time House Bill No. 1523 reached Governor Phil Bryant’s desk it had done a ‘David Duke’. The blunt language of bigotry had been stripped down to the legal vocabulary of discrimination that the State of Mississippi practically invented. So as not to arouse the suspicion of lesser minds, the “Religious Liberty Act” was renamed “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”.By the time House Bill No. 1523 reached Governor Phil Bryant desk it had done a ‘David Duke’. The blunt language of bigotry had been stripped down to the legal vocabulary of discrimination that the State of Mississippi practically invented. So as not to arouse the suspicion of lesser minds, the “Religious Liberty Act” was renamed “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”. It appears that the sincerely held “moral convictions” of the Mississippi Legislators that introduced and sponsored House Bill No. 1523 loss some of their courage when it came to passing and singing the legislation. Let us consider House Bill No. 1523 as Speaker Gunn submitted to the Mississippi House of Representatives and as it was passed by the House.
- My McCallie Black History
Twenty-eight years ago, I asked what McCallie was doing to celebrate Black History Month. There were no formal plans or events. Students of color upon request had the option of being excused to attend a ceremony or commemoration of black history. Sitting in class at a private secondary school nestled on Missionary Ridge, a former Confederate strong hold known as the “Gateway to the lower South” (1863), was in itself a personal celebration of black history. One hundred and twenty-five years before I arrived, Maj. General William T. Sherman dislodge the Rebels and began his March to the Sea laying waste and setting fire to everything in his path. Sitting in a house bequeath to surviving members of our family known to her as former slaves and free born, my great grandmother neared the end of her twilight in Minter City, MS. Founded almost 20 years after she was born, The McCallie School (est. 1905), nuanced the meaning of Black History Month for me. Black History Month became and remains for me the remembrance and the reflection of the many times that ‘dawn’ appeared on ‘the edge of darkness’ along the many journeys from slavery to freedoms. During Black History Month at McCallie I recognized an opportunity to share moments of shared history. Now some years later, in celebration of Black History Month, I would like to share with you a few aspects of my personal black history that McCallie’s community of students, teachers, host parents, administrators and alumni made and continue to make possible.
- Shortness of Breath
There are entire sets of personal, social, economic and institutionalized pathologies of power that would have to be unraveled if ‘racism’ disappeared tomorrow. More to the point without referencing the historical sedimentation of these ingrained power-narratives, police brutality would be an incomprehensible ‘effect’ with a fathom ’cause’. In other words, police brutality would be what it is in Friedersdorf’s thinking, a set of problems that can be solved if you don’t think about ‘racism’ too much. After all, a key component of ‘whiteness’ is the effortless expectations of the realness of certain possibilities churning silently in the background as ‘whiteness’ listens intently for the echo of a historically refined and calibrated ego attributed to the self-made man.
- The Roberts Court
Today the Court fashions a dagger out of ’40-years of facts’ dating back to the Civil Rights Movement and hands it to a dysfunctional Congress thereby affording the House of Representatives the power of inaction to kill the Voting Rights Act. This tactic of poisoning the well of progress to quench thirsts of freedom, justice and equality goes as far back as the legacy of current efforts to limit and to curtail the exercise of the franchise. Following the lead of the Court many States and locals are now revising their Jim Crow tactics to nullify the voting power of persons whose lives have been colored by differences of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, faiths and ethnicities. Not all change is progress, especially when the persons and interests opposed to that change remain in their intent and purpose the same.
- Colorblind People and the Ku Klux Klan
The discourse of difference and conflicts of difference is so impoverished that it makes a colored person looking at a picture of the Ku Klux Klan find something in it that he or she can appreciate. The Ku Klux Klan bothers to cut holes in their sheets to see what colorblind people claim does not and should not matter when it comes to the social relations of power viz., to subordination and domination in society, politics and economy.
- “Moving on up”
If you want to see what has been eraced from the discourse of difference, watch season 4, episode 20 of the 1970’s tv sitcom “The Jeffersons”. We are no longer suppose to talk to or about ourselves the way the characters on that show confronted diversity and difference. Discussion of difference today avoids the impoliteness that makes it possible to speak directly to difference.
- High-Tech Lynching
A technocratic form of repression that propagandizes subtle and blatant forms of intolerance to buttress social, economic and political terrorism of persons whose lives have been colored by differences of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, faith, and ethnicity. It is the mechanization of monopolies of violence (the power of the state) with the aim and purpose of subjecting civil and human rights to ‘rule by law‘ as opposed to ‘rule of law‘. The scope of this repression encompasses society en masse as a means of obfuscating targeting mechanisms calibrated to vulnerabilities that are unique to lives colored by difference, poverty and various forms of imposed powerlessness.
- ‘Honkey’Dory (Part 2: White Place)
The post ‘Honkey’ Dory (Part 1: White Space) was an attempt to comprehend ‘whiteness’ in terms of how it appears as sketches in our personal and public imagination. This post endeavors to locate Harper Lee’s 1930’s Boo Radley in an ensemble of social relations defined by demographic changes, extreme income disparities, the election of a black president (twice), a more globalized workforce and the actualization of Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy. In other words, this post embarks on a journey from Harper Lee’s Boo Radley (1930) to Lee Atwater’s Donald Trump (2015-16). COMING SOON!
- Social Hieroglyphs of ‘Thingness’
Any measure of a human being – in thought or in practice – that subtracts from the essence of a person’s human being is an act of subordination and domination. The thought and practice of this kind of inhumanity has a face-value and a purchase-value. Another way of understanding face-value and purchase-value in the context of intolerance is as a “unified structure of consciousness brought into being by the whole of society“. If the face-value of intolerance is produced socially (colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow etc.), the forms and expressions of its inhumanity lend varying degrees of social validity to the thought and practice of historically specific subordination and domination.
- Homophobic Misogyny
For men, especially black men, their homophobic misogyny is the penumbra of a core master-slave dialectic. The aggression of heterosexual men towards gay men is not rooted in how a gay man objectifies that which he desires. In many ways, heterosexual aggression towards gay men is a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that another man would think of them and sexualize them the way they think of and sexualize women.
- Owning Yourself
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche