Voting with Your Middle Finger: How Working-Class Whites Became a Negative Stereotype & What That Means for You
Last weekend I came across a Hidden Brain podcast called “Voting with Your Middle Finger,” which reveals some unpleasant insights about the adverse effects of stereotyping others. Since I'm black, I know how it feels to be seen as a stereotype. You get pigeonholed as a concept before anyone even bothers to ask your name. Definitely not fun. But in this case, the stereotyping is about what happened to white blue-collar workers over the past several decades We already know that Donald Trump got into the White House by tapping into their pain. But there's a lot more to the story than that. Why, for instance, do his followers remain loyal to him no matter what?
This Hidden Brain podcast is a discussion with two authors who break down the significance of race and class in determining voter behavior. Whether you realize it or not, your class identification--the way you move through the world and relate to others--tips the scale almost as much as race. Sure, sure. But there's an aspect to this we tend to overlook.
Four Must-Read Reveals on the Shocking Rise of Voter Suppression - And a Six-Point Checklist for Dealing with It
When Jimmy Carter called on Georgia’s GOP Gubernatorial candidate (Brian Kemp) to resign his position as Secretary of State in light of numerous voter-suppression complaints, you didn’t really think that would happen, did you? (Read the full text of Carter's letter.)
But at least President Carter focused much-needed attention on Georgia’s voter-suppression issue. When I saw him trending on Twitter one week before the election, I also noticed that the Megyn Kelly blackface story had waned considerably (down to just 30 tweets per hour).
I’m glad Carter managed to push Kelly to the back pages where she belongs. As Toni Morrison has pointed out, racism is a distraction. Voter suppression, on the other hand, though racially driven, is a form of oppression. It’s a blatant attempt to keep minorities from casting ballots. What follows is fact-based information on the shocking extent of the issue and how to deal with it if you encounter it on Election Day.
1) Voter Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, ninety-nine bills designed to diminish voter access were introduced last year in thirty-one state legislatures. Many of the recent Republican-led efforts stem from the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby v. Holder. In an opinion that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that discrimination still exists, but not sufficiently to warrant the “extraordinary” remediation measures that the act imposed on the states of the former Confederacy. (More via The New Yorker)
Only two days have passed since the tragic Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Like everyone else, my heart aches for the victims and their families. Like most other folks, I am also trying to come to terms with yet another mass shooting of innocents. This latest so similar to the massacre of African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, in June of 2015. Back then, nine people were murdered while they prayed. In Pittsburgh, eleven people were killed. In a synagogue. A house of prayer.
It is impossible to make sense of heinous crimes like this. We have categories, of course. But they fail. Words like “hate crime” come up. Also racism, anti-Semitism. You know the ones.
With the Catholic Church in Crisis, Atlanta Group Petitions Archbishop to Remove Beloved Pastor for Supporting Gay Pride
It should come as no surprise that the current power struggle between conservative and progressive elements within the Catholic Church has swirled out beyond the Vatican.
What does surprise—and even shock—is that it's touched Atlanta’s “most historic church,” the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A group called Concerned Catholics of Atlanta has petitioned the Archbishop, Wilton D. Gregory, to remove the Shrine’s pastor, Monsignor Henry Gracz, from his role as a spiritual advisor to victims of sexual abuse, an appointed position he has held since 2011. Why? Because of his support of the LGBTQ community, which they believe runs counter to established church teaching.
“Oh my God, I think I might have bought drugs from this guy back in high school."
“But you just told the court you don’t know him,” a woman sitting next to me says.
“I didn’t remember it at the time. But yeah, I used to sell drugs when I was in high school. My boyfriend and I used to go to that very apartment building to get ours, and I’m thinking, yeah, I’ve probably bought from this guy before. He does look kind of familiar.”
We are on a jury panel. Going through the process known as “voir dire.” The guy she’s talking about is the defendant in a drug-trafficking case. Cocaine and marijuana. Five or six other charges too, all drug related. Did the judge also mention something about carrying a weapon? I think so.
It should probably not matter that it’s a young white woman privately confessing to those around her that she bought and sold drugs back in high school, which by the look of her could only have been three or four years ago. But in this instance her race matters a great deal.
A hilarious satire about what really went down when a famous coffee house closed its doors for racial-bias training--and one man's campaign to set things right once and for all. (Written under my nom de plume to protect the unprotected.)
On Its Anniversary - The Amos 'n Andy Controversy vis-a-vis Cosby, Selma, and the Ferguson Tragedies
Last night's Golden Globe recognition for Selma seems to have brought history full circle in more ways than one. As everyone knows, the film re-enacts the historic crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 during the Civil Rights Movement. But it also brings history around in another way. Eighty-nine years ago on January 12, 1926, the program that became known as Amos 'n Andy debuted on Chicago Radio as Sam 'n Henry. Two years later, the name was changed to Amos 'n Andy. In 1953, the show was canceled after ongoing protests from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It continued to run in syndication until it was finally withdrawn by CBS in 1966.
If you want to watch that show today, there are many bootleg copies available online. But you won't find it on DVD, and it's not likely to be released by the network any time soon.
The anniversary of the show''s debut arrives during a peculiar and even paradoxical moment. It is part of a temporal configuration that includes the movie Selma, tragic events in cities like Ferguson, and the castigation of Bill Cosby -- all of it occurring during the administration of America's first African-American president.
What are we to take from all of this? What does it mean? What does it say about being black in 21st century America?
I do not pretend to know the answer. Is there some grand conspiracy, as some have suggested, to portray black males in a negative light, thereby justifying the killing of unarmed "suspects"? Was Cosby "taken down" in the court of public opinion to silence his increasingly conservative views just as he was about to make a comeback? Does the current media moment amount to a small-screen replaying of attitudes that go back D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation ? If there is a conspiracy, are these negative images meant to sideline the Obama presidency, casting him as an anomaly? Is Ava Duvernay's Selma a similar exception, which speaks only to the past?
Whatever the answer, the present moment calls to mind dialogue from the movie, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The Sidney Poitier character is having an argument with his father because he (Poitier) is about to marry a white woman. "You think of yourself as a black man," Poitier says. "I think of myself as a man."
Is how you think of yourself enough, one wonders? Or is there some overarching perception by the larger world that places you always in danger, thereby determining for you that you are "black," regardless of how you think of yourself.
The present controversies surrounding race and even the ongoing one involving Amos 'n Andy have at their core a struggle to create a single narrative about what it means to be black in America.
The push-pull that pits past suffering against present-day injustice or Cosby "Truthers" against his accusers, or the proclivity of white police officers to kill unarmed black men against the undeniable achievements of Barack Obama -- is a struggle that seeks to define black experience within a particular frame.
Could it be that there is no single narrative? Is it possible that the multiple and conflicting storylines about blackness are simply examples that prove how varied we are as a people? Is it possible that buying into this or that storyline gives it power to influence who you are and how you think of yourself -- allowing it to play too great a role in both your destiny and identity?
One could argue the point in any direction, but in the end these are questions that can only be answered individually within the chambers of the heart.
What must be noted about the many nominations for Selma is this: It represents a significant effort by African-Americans to control the frame within which African-Americans will be seen. Of course, others have done this: Oprah, Lee Daniels, Chris Rock, and perhaps most notably, Bill Cosby.
But this brings forth yet another paradox. Does Cosby's tarnished public image diminish Dr. Huxtable? It should not.
The Huxtables were fictional characters on a TV sitcom. Their behaviors were written into the show's "bible." The actors who played those characters are not bound by that script, as Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo showed all too well. In that film, Jeff Daniels' character steps down from the movie screen and falls in love with Mia Farrow. When the real Jeff Daniels finds out about this, he behaves dishonorably in order to set things right. Mia Farrow winds up choosing the real Jeff over the fictional one and is the poorer for it in the end.
Fitting isn't it, that the similarly castigated Woody Allen should provide the best argument for saving Dr. Huxtable, even as Cosby the man takes a nosedive. These two "great" men are in the same boat. Is Annie Hall a bad movie because of anything in Woody Allen's hidden sex life? Of course not. Should we dismiss Manhattan or Hannah and Her Sisters or Midnight in Paris for the same reason? Neither then should the Huxtable family lose standing in the public mind.
The Huxtables did what fictional characters must always do. They showed us a possibility worth thinking about and even emulating. Regardless of anything that might be happening in your life, that TV show allowed you to think of yourself in a certain way. If they could be a doctor-husband and lawyer-wife raising a family the best way they knew how, then perhaps you could aspire to do that too. Even if you still thought of yourself as a "black man" to return to Poitier and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, at least that idea of blackness was not some low and loathsome buffoon incapable of making a success of anything.
Perhaps that was always the problem with Amos 'n Andy. The original actors were whites pretending to be black. Those actors presented African-Americans through the eyes of whites whose perceptions were shaped during the first half of the 20th century. Although the TV version brought black actors aboard, the show was never able to jettison its origins in the derogatory tradition of "black face."
What follows here are four items of interest with regard to all of this: 1) The NAACP Bulletin on Amos 'n Andy; 2) The documentary called Amos 'n Andy: The Anatomy of a Controversy. 3) The viral YouTube video on racist cartoons; and 4) Harry Belafonte's moving acceptance speech, upon receiving the 2014 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, about the impact of media images on the black psyche and the role Hollywood has played historically in shaping how black people think of themselves.
THE NAACP'S AMOS 'N ANDY CANCELLATION BULLETIN
HARRY BELAFONTE & THE IMPACT OF MOVIES ON THE BLACK PSYCHE
I'm a storyteller whose background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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