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​White male privilege vs. American democracy

by Charlie Barber | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Last Word | April 19th, 2017

“Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens" -Justice John Marshall Harlan, 1896

“When the white man turns tyrant, it is his own freedom that he destroys.”

-George Orwell, 1935

“Misogyny – a hatred of women” - -Webster’s Dictionary

“There were three ways for a well-brought up young Southern white woman to go (1903-1976): 1. She could be the actress…offering a sweet, winning smile to the world. In short, going with the wind. 2. If she had a spark of independence or worse, creativity, she could go crazy. Or (3) she could be the rebel. She could step outside the magic circle, abandon privilege, and challenge this way of life. Ostracism, bruises of all sorts, and defamation would be her lot.” -Virginia Foster Durr/Studs Terkel, 1985

The color line is alive, well, and flourishing in the final decade of the twentieth century. It thrives because we have been desensitized to its significance over two centuries, and it permeates our thinking and our actions…There is nothing inherently wrong with being aware of color as long as it is seen as making distinctions in a pleasant, superficial, and unimportant manner. It is only when character is attached to color, when ability is measured by color, when privilege is tied to color—that it becomes a deadly, dreadful factor among us all.” -John Hope Franklin, 1993

With confirmation of President Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in just weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Republican Party leadership, after refusing for almost a year to even debate qualifications of President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, have confirmed the total terror residing in their wealthy, white, male hearts at the prospect of an America which does not look, talk, act, or think like them.

As such, Republicans “officially” assume the shameful mantle of Southern Democrats of the previous century, with a pathological fear of any “uppity” person, regardless of color or gender, who threatens their wealthy, white, male power and privilege over their fellow Americans in Alabama or New York.

In passing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, Democrats, aided by responsible Republicans like Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-IL), rejected the racist mantle their Party had once borne, only to see it gladly taken up by the Republican Party to secure an electoral foothold in the South. That policy, though morally disgusting, has been a staple of successful Republican politics ever since.

The following is abridged from debate in the U.S. Senate of May 12, 1944, between Senators William Langer (R-ND) and Theodore Bilbo (D-MS). While Senator Bilbo was one of the least subtle racists in the Senate, his views were widely accepted or acquiesced in by a majority of Senators in both parties at that time.

In the style of the trial lawyer that he was, Senator Langer’s debate with Senator Bilbo represents a riveting rebuke of racist cynicism, past and present:

Mr. Langer: “What kind of legislation is the distinguished Senator in favor of? Is he still for the bill…to send all the Negroes to Liberia?”

Mr. Bilbo: “I have no recollection…”

Mr. Langer: “As I remember the distinguished Senator had a bill pending under which Negroes would be sent to Liberia. I asked him at that time how he was going to select them…the Senator stated that if any Negro had a single drop of Negro blood, that would be the test as to whether the Negro would be sent to Liberia.”

Mr. Bilbo: “It is not a question of selection, (but)…of defining what a Negro is. A Negro is anyone who is ascended from the African race. Any anthropologist who knows anything about biology will state that that is true. All I did was to define what a Negro was, and one drop will make a Negro. That is strong enough.”

Mr. Langer: “Do I understand the distinguished Senator to say that Abraham Lincoln asked that they be sent to Liberia?”

Mr. Bilbo: “Oh yes. Did not the Senator know that?”

Mr. Langer: “That is certainly news to me.”

Mr. Bilbo: “That is why I am telling the Senator.”

Mr. Langer: I should like to have the Senator’s authority for it.”

Mr. Bilbo: “I suggest that the Senator obtain a copy of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and read it.”

Mr. Langer: “I have read it several times,…but there is nothing in it saying that the Negroes should be sent to Liberia.”

Mr. Bilbo: “Oh well, the Senator should not be so technical about some little part of Africa. The Senator could have them sent to Santo Domingo if he wants to or to Puerto Rico, or to South America, or to Mexico.”

Mr. Langer: “The Senator from Mississippi himself does not care where they go?”

Mr. Bilbo: “And, if the Senator keeps on he might send them to North Dakota.”

Mr. Langer: “We have some very fine Negro citizens in North Dakota.”

Mr. Bilbo: “There are some 624 Negroes in North Dakota; no - only 202 Negroes.”

Mr. Langer: “And I say they are very fine citizens.”

Mr. Bilbo: “No; I will correct that statement. There are 201.”

Mr. Langer: “They have made a very fine record; we have them in our schools in North Dakota.”

Mr. Bilbo: “If the Senator understood anything about the question he would not have them in the white schools.”

Mr. Langer: “We get along very nicely with them. We have had some of them over 50 years ago. One very fine family is the Millet family. The father of that family is a graduate of Yale University.”

Mr. Bilbo: “Full-blood?”

Mr. Langer: “Half-blood now.”

Mr. Bilbo: “Yes.”

Mr. Langer: “They have intermarried. They have a very fine record.”

Mr. Bilbo: “If there are no more than 200 Negroes in the Senator’s State perhaps they could be absorbed in the course of time.”

Mr. Langer: “We have only 200, or 201, as the Senator said; but, whatever the number may be they have made very fine citizens.”

Mr. Bilbo: “According to the standards of the Senator’s State, perhaps so.”

Mr. Langer: “So far as standards of North Dakota are concerned I will say that citizens of North Dakota led the entire United States in the last war (WWI) in patriotism, in the matter of buying Liberty bonds, and more of our boys per capita lie buried in the soil of France than those of any other State in the Union. The people of North Dakota are good, loyal, American citizens.”

Mr. Bilbo: “I am afraid the Senator from North Dakota is absolutely ill-informed on the question. I had hoped not to have to mention this matter, until the Senator injected the other element into the discussion, but within a few days I am going to take up and discuss The Races of Mankind, a book written by two anthropologists of Columbia University, the school which the Senator from North Dakota attended. Possibly the Senator came under the influence of Dr. Boas.”

Mr. Langer: I know him very well. He is a very distinguished citizen.”

Mr. Bilbo. “I had reached that conclusion from the Senator’s remarks…Within a few days I shall discuss that book on the floor of the Senate and at that time I shall discuss in detail the race question which the Senator has brought up.”

Mr. Langer: “Since the Senator mentioned it, Dr. Boas’ son has made such an outstanding record that he has become the recipient of honors from large colleges throughout the United States, including some from the South, for the great work which he did last summer in the South.”

Mr. Bilbo: “To what race or nationality does Boas belong?”

Mr. Langer: “What is the difference?”

Mr. Bilbo: “I asked the Senator the question.”

Mr. Langer: “What is the difference?”

Mr. Bilbo: “I will decide what the difference is. Will the Senator tell me?”

Mr. Langer: “The Senator knows very well, of course, that he (Boas) is of the Jewish race. The Senator knows that as well as I do. He is a very fine man and has made an outstanding record. I knew his son very well in college.”

I defy any Republican to read the above words by North Dakota’s William Langer, proud to run under Abraham Lincoln’s Party label, and NOT be ashamed of their reasons in 2017 for voting “Republican”: a Party which now systematically suppresses the American right to vote under the sham of “vote fraud protection”; scorns the need for us to trust women in the matter of childbirth, rather than legislate in favor of male semen and “the gleam in a man’s eye;” and a Party which condones an organized loathing of an entire world religion.

A Republican Party whose actions in the legislative, executive, and now, judicial, branches, belie any prevaricating, verbal pretensions to the genuine inclusion of anyone who is not male, white, and wealthy.

The likes of Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) never did intend that women or minorities have a meaningful say in their own governance.

With the hurried and ramrod approval of Judge Gorsuch, and the open sham of their attempts to get rid of the benefits of Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the Republican leadership just can’t hide from the truth of the matter anymore.

Whether they can continue to hide from Americans who have faithfully voted “Republican,” remains to be seen.  

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