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Michael Brown, Ferguson, and the Logic of Slavery

The shocking situation evolving in Ferguson, MO has laid bare an ugly feature of American life: that the relationship of American society to Black people is founded upon the logic of slavery.

Now, I know many of you will roll your eyes at that assertion. I get it. Slavery was abolished over 150 years ago, before anyone now living was born. But turn on your TV. Go online and read what has already happened in Ferguson. If there is some other logic guiding these events, it certainly isn’t apparent. No, the guiding logic here is operating below the surface, informed …

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Racism and the Threat to American Civil Liberties

Whatever you think of Edward Snowden, we have him to thank for revealing the shocking fact that our federal government is collecting data on millions of us in the name of national security. Worse, it turns out, private contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton, the firm that employed Snowden, have been doing a bunch of that spying, especially post 9/11. So, to state what is probably already obvious to most of you, private companies outside of any kind of real accountability to the public have access to our personal information, not just the government.

It seems unbelievable that a country …

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The Stuff You Can Learn From Late Night TV

Since it’s Friday, I thought I ought to post something short. This video made me laugh out loud.

It’s made the rounds so you’ve may have already seen it, but it’s the kind of thing that deserves multiple looks. And it’s gotta be one of the best things to happen on late night talk TV in a while.

Louis C.K.’s point about slavery being just “two 70-year old ladies living and dying back to back” behind us in history is a good one, especially in light of what’s happened since abolition.

We’re one of those old lady’s middle aged younger …

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Columns Reviews

Book Review: The Warmth of Other Suns…Now, Go Ahead, Read It!

 

Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns is a great read. I know I’ve said this already, but I want you to read it, now,¬†if you haven’t already. Then I want you to tell me what you think of it. Seriously.

The Warmth of Other Suns is a compelling account of the great migration of African Americans who fled the South for Northern cities in the early to late-mid 20th century. The migrants whose stories are shared were driven out of the South by the humiliations and horrors of Jim Crow and drawn Northward by stories, many …

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When Welfare Was White: What The Fight Over the Safety Net Is Really All About

Much has been written about the fight over the social safety net. Many say that Newt Gingrich calling President Obama the “food stamps president,” and Mitt Romney lying about the President dropping the work requirement in welfare is dog whistle racism meant to gin up a base they’ve spent 50 years building with racist appeals to civil rights backlash.

I agree. But I also think there’s something missing from that argument. We have, it seems to me, become so focused on trying to demonize conservatives as racists that we are missing just how fundamental racism has always been to the …

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The Durability of Race

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the death of racism. Many believe that as the global demographics change and Generation Y rises, racism will fade in significance. Some even suggest that what we are witnessing in the Obama backlash is just death throes.

That argument ignores history.

Here’s what I mean.

Neither the Emancipation Proclamation nor the abolitionist movement were enough to end slavery. Slavery was defeated in a Civil War that was fought not over race equality nor just for the cuase of freeing slaves, but over federal authority. The cynicism at the root of the “war …

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Why Don’t We Racially Profile Whites?

A while back I wrote a post called White Identity Politics. In it, I wrote:

Whiteness has a political meaning as much as does Black or Asian or any other racial category. In order to define non-Whites as inferior and deviant, Whites needed to be defined as superior and normal. By claiming the category “normal,” Whites imagined themselves outside the racial paradigm they had created. But, in fact, they were and are at the center of it.

I was trying to make the point that while Whites seem to think of themselves as raceless, they in fact are the …

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Job Creators or Profit Makers?

Lately a debate about corporations as “job creators” (usually in contrast to government regulation as a “job killer”) has been waging in the media. I’m guessing that most of you can see through the hype to the real issues at stake. But, just in case, here’s my take:

Businesses are job creators, but only in the sense that they hire workers to facilitate making stuff or delivering services that make them money. They don’t create jobs for the sake of providing employment. Creating jobs is just a means to an end, and the end in question is profit.

Profits are …

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Columns Reviews

Book Review: Slavery By Another Name

If you’re like me, you grew up with the belief that the Civil War ended slavery.  Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War II, by Douglas A. Blackmon puts that lie to rest by telling the story of the period of neo-slavery in America – a 75-year sweep of history, starting at the end of the Civil War up to the mid-20th century.

Slavery By Another Name is an accessible and highly informative read. You should check it out. I promise, it’s easy on the noggin, even if hard on …