The Guardian view on Donald Trump and racism: a moral failure that shames America

From The Guardian UK:

No previous US president of modern times would have failed to condemn his country’s white nationalists. This one did

Sunday 13 August 2017

As George W Bush’s speechwriter put it this weekend, it is one of the “difficult but primary duties” of a political leader to speak for a nation in traumatic times. A space shuttle explodes, a school student goes on a shooting spree, a terrorist flies a plane into a building, a hurricane floods a city. When such things happen, Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, “It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul.” Yet if Donald Trump’s words about the violent white extremist mobilisation in Virginia on Saturday – which an under-pressure White House was desperately trying to clarify on Sunday – are an expression of its soul, America may be on the road to perdition.

The original United States of America was built on white supremacy. The US constitution of 1787 treated black slaves as equivalent to three-fifths of a free white and gave no rights at all to Native Americans, who were regarded as belonging to their own nations. After the civil war, Jim Crow laws enforced segregation across the defeated south and comprehensively disfranchised African Americans for nearly a century. Writing Mein Kampf in the 1920s, Adolf Hitler praised America’s institutional racism as a model from which Nazi Germany could learn. Only in the postwar period, and then slowly and incompletely, was meaningful racial equality pursued by the land of the free.

Yet, while American racism has extremely deep and tenacious historical roots, without which the events in Virginia on Saturday cannot be properly understood, some large things have changed for the better over the past 60 or so years. Equal rights have been enforced. Equality has been embraced. America has elected a black president. It would be difficult to imagine any US president of this more recent period, of whatever party, who would not have responded to the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville with anything except explicit condemnation and disgust. Any president, that is, until this one.

There is absolutely no moral equivalence between the fanatical white supremacists who rallied in the Virginia city on Saturday and the equality defenders who demonstrated peacefully against them, one of whom was rammed and killed by a speeding car allegedly driven by a man who had attended the neo-Nazi rally. The supremacists hate black people and Jews, and regard white people as superior. They talk portentously about blood, soil and the right to bear arms. They admire Hitler and give Nazi salutes. They fly the flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy – the ostensible cause of their rallies this summer is Charlottesville’s decision, more than 150 years after the south’s surrender, to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park. And one of them committed the sort of act that was rightly called terrorism when it occurred in Nice, Berlin and London.

Yet, in his first response on Saturday, Mr Trump utterly failed in his primary duty to uphold equality and speak the truth about the racist violence that had taken place. Instead of placing the blame where it belonged, on the supremacists and Klansmen who triggered these events, and rather than stand up for the indivisibility of equality and tolerance before the law, Mr Trump’s words were by turns slippery, banal and morally compromised. It was not true that the violence in Charlottesville came from “many sides”, as Mr Trump evasively said, before repeating his evasion. It is the head of state’s duty to stand up, explicitly and unequivocally, against racists and those who promote racial violence. Mr Trump was found wanting.

That would not have happened under Mr Bush, for all his faults. Nor is it true of top Republicans like Cory Gardner, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Orrin Hatch, none of them social liberals, who were all quick to call the supremacists out. Even the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who is few people’s idea of an ideological exemplar, condemned the racists. But Mr Trump did not.

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“Nasty Man” by Joan Baez

Trump Is Still Making Excuses for Nazis | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann

The Sound of Silence: what it means to be LGBTQ and a Zionist in today’s America

From Salon:

Parsing the notion of political homelessness with Gretchen Hammond following the events of the Chicago Dyke March

Sunday, Aug 6, 2017

Gretchen Rachel Hammond, former reporter for the Windy City Times, marches resolutely to the podium and stands there observing the crowd of young, affluent, mostly single Jews who have gathered for the Algemeiner summer benefit and then begins her speech — a deeply personal narrative about discovering her voice as a transgender reporter and Zionist and the pain of being silenced by her own community. Hammond has recently risen to national prominence for breaking the story about the Jewish women ejected from the Dyke March in Chicago for carrying flags with the Star of David. Her reporting about this event sparked a controversy which resulted in her transfer to the sales desk.

As she speaks, the crowd is mesmerized, even giddy, applauding at key moments, laughing at others, feeling with it and hip. Algemeiner is a newspaper that covers Israel-based and Jewish news, rather than social justice issues, and now this fearless Brit in office casual has come to drop mad knowledge bombs about all the infighting among the people who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and use words like “intersectional.” You know, those people? Bret Stephens, house conservative at The New York Times and NBC News, sits in the front row, his head tilted towards Hammond, his features awash with the blank sort of pseudo-empathy that cis white men who want to appear open-minded assume when looking at trans or queer women. It’s the expression I make when people tell me long stories about their cat.

Not to pinkwash, but in 2016, Hammond, who also recently converted to Judaism, has been excoriated by the LGBTQIA community for essentially consorting with the likes of fascists, AKA Zionists, donated one of her kidneys to longtime lesbian activist and total stranger Elvie “LV” Jordan. As a journalist, she secured a release for a transgender woman incarcerated in the male division of Cook County Jail.

After Hammond’s messianic oration, which ends with her booming refusal to be silenced, there is thunderous applause. People rise to their feet. If ever there was a crowd to receive a half-Indian-half-English recent convert preaching unity, this is it: a group of pro-Israel, New York Jew-y Jews, including me: a Jewish, Zionist, cis-gendered lesbian. A lump forms in my throat. I turn to the guy to my left in solidarity, but he is the senior editor of Commentary, so I look at my purse.

Later, when Hammond goes back to Chicago and we speak on the phone, she is frank and grim about her feeling of political homelessness, and I’m struck by her vulnerability and fear. I’ve been ranting for days about the silencing of pro-Israel participants at the Dyke March to anyone who will listen. But this idea of political homelessness, it exemplifies my feeling of having to hide in plain sight for having certain views in certain company — being pro-Israel and anti-BDS with the left and being pro everything else (like choice and marriage equality) with the right. I often write about youth justice. It’s very Rabbi Hillel. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, and if I am only for myself, what am I?” The thing is, I align with a movement, get pumped about its mission, and then they attack Israel or align with a known anti-Semite. It’s exhausting.

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Transgender African-Americans’ Open Wound: ‘We’re Considered a Joke’

From The New York Times:

When Elle Hearns watched the video clip someone had sent to her on social media, it really stung.

It featured a black comedian, Lil Duval, on “The Breakfast Club,” a popular New York City-based morning radio show that caters to an African-American audience, joking that if a sexual partner turned out to be a transgender woman, he would want to kill her if she hadn’t told him beforehand.

Ms. Hearns is a black transgender woman who has devoted much of her life over the past few years to defending black people — mostly men — from the harassment, brutality and killings they face at the hands of the police. Yet here was a black man, interviewed by three black hosts, lobbing what Ms. Hearns felt was “an attack on the entire community.”

“I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I was angry,” she said.

At the heart of Ms. Hearns’s pain is a betrayal that black transgender people say has long afflicted them.

With few exceptions, black transgender women and men say that they get more hatred from black people than anyone else, even though they have been on the front lines protesting issues that affect all African-Americans.

“I feel like we have been at the forefront with so many people fighting, and now that it’s time for people to be joining in our fight, no one’s there,” said Atlantis Narcisse, 45, the founder of Save Our Sisters, a support organization for black transgender women in Houston. “They will stand up for a drug dealer being killed or a black man being beaten, but won’t stand up for black trans women being murdered.”

Ms. Narcisse, a black transgender woman, said that she has received more support from whites, and that she is on edge around African-Americans because she does not think they will stand with her if she is attacked.

“We’re considered a joke,” she said. “They still look at us as men dressing up, playing in women’s clothes, which is not the case.”

Many black people’s views on transgender people come in part from the central role that religion and the church play in black life, several transgender people said. It also stems from an emphasis on hypermasculinity in black culture, which has deep roots in black men having to use physical strength to survive generations of oppression, they said.

“To be seen as feminine if you’re seen as a black male is a sign of weakness,” said Kiara St. James, the director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group.

That attitude could mean grim consequences for black transgender people.

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Charlottesville: Race and Terror – VICE News Tonight on HBO

Page: Faith not an excuse for anti-transgender bills

From The Houston Chronicle:

By Jonathan Page
July 27, 2017

Faith is used often as an excuse for bigotry. Religion can be wielded like a weapon, to put down the humanity of others, and to justify an agenda that coincides with one’s personal feelings on a group of people. One needs only to look at the current debate over transgender Texans’ right to use the restroom that matches their identity. Or rather, the debate over whether transgender Texans deserve to be a part of public life.

 I am a pastor of a church and the leader of an interfaith organization, and for me, my faith calls me to affirm and embrace my transgender neighbors, not single them out for discrimination, often under the guise of religion.

In my work, I have had some of my most personally and professionally fulfilling conversations with people who are vastly different than me, because they have challenged me to think about the diversity of all of our lived experiences. When I think about the shameful amounts of discrimination that face transgender Texans, it creates a powerful response from the core of my being: a response that is rooted in the fact that we are all God’s children, and that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. You see, my faith tells me that it is an unequivocal teaching of Jesus that we must stand with those who are marginalized. In Matthew 25, Jesus clearly says to his followers: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” This is not to say that LGBTQ people are any less than anyone, but that they are part of a marginalized community; one that we, as Christians, must care for as we care for ourselves. The model of Jesus could not be clearer: he cared most deeply for (and spent the most time with) the supposed “outcasts” of society, because he understood that it is difficult to live a life under a dark cloud of others’ judgment and scorn. Those who use Bible verses and the pulpit to preach otherwise are working to further an untruth, a fictional narrative that only serves to harm those most in need of our care and understanding.

Bills such as SB3 are un-Christian and unconscionable. This bill, introduced by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, with the backing of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would require discrimination against transgender people and rip away non-discrimination protections from millions of Texans. And, they’re a solution in search of a problem. Let’s be clear: There is only one possible angle for this, and that is to justify a policy that endorses hatred for trans people.

My first experience with a transgender person was in graduate school. Talking to Scott, you would have had no idea that he was trans. He was a faithful Lutheran with an insightful theological mind and a great sense of humor. He was also perfectly willing to answer any question I had about his transition and his life experience. Knowing Scott changed my perspective, and I promise you that if you take the time to get to know a transgender person and listen to their story, your perspective will be changed as well. This is personal. It involves the lives of real people – my friends.

The least you can do is to listen before you judge.

These anti-transgender bills are the lowest form of political pandering: creating an issue that doesn’t exist, scapegoating an entire population and seeking a remedy that would force transgender people out of public life. If a person can’t use the bathroom, they can’t go to work, they can’t go to school, they can’t see a movie. It’s a dark, insidious way of saying to trans people: This society is not for you. As a Texan, and as a person of faith, I reject that.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Listening to transgender people and their allies speaking at a Senate hearing against SB3 and SB91, I heard similar refrains: the hate from society toward trans people leads to an increase in anxiety, fear, depression and suicide, simply because it is exhausting and scary to even exist while trans. Why would we pursue a law that would exacerbate this issue?

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