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By Bernard Weiner 
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers

September 28, 2016

When I was growing up in the Jim-Crow/apartheid Deep South in the 1950s — in Florida, the second state to secede from the Union — a constant refrain from a good share of white citizens was “the South shall rise again.” Some of those parroting that sentiment were only half-serious; their comment was more wish-fulfillment and resentment at their side having lost the Civil War. But, for many members of the Klan and White Citizens Councils, and their more “respectable” supporters and enablers, they were deadly serious about a future rising to restore their white privileges. 

Many felt they could not say these things openly, so they  couched their supremacy goals under a professed fealty to “our unique ‘Southern heritage’,” which, translated, referred to the dominance of whites over blacks, usually under the euphemism of “states’ rights.” Flying the Confederate flag on state buildings, placing statues of defeated Southern generals on state property, naming boulevards and state highways for Rebel heroes and so on — this behavior derived, they said, from pride in their “Southern way of life.”

This kind of overt and covert racism against blacks, and the parallel anti-Semitism that often accompanied it, was like a virus that mostly was dormant in normal times, but which existed just below the surface, always ready to spread its toxic pus of hate and violence in times of social stress.

White cops brutalizing and harassing blacks and Hispanics was the norm where I lived. Slavery may have been settled on paper by the Civil War and Amendments 13-15 to the Constitution, but, given the strength of the white-supremacy meme in the general body politic, it was only a matter of time before that inbred racism was adopted in other Southern states, and then outside the South. And we’re seeing the horrific results of that sad reality all over the country these days, egged on for many decades by extreme right-wing pundits and demagogic politicians. Trump didn’t emerge spontaneously; the strains of hate and authoritarianism had been implanted and nurtured in America’s gardens of hatred for many decades.



How could it be otherwise? America was born with the original sin of slavery. Later, when the framers were allocating status and citizenship, African-Americans were not accorded full humanity; a black was worth only 3/5ths of a white person.  Many of the Founding Fathers were themselves slave-holders.

This shorthand history doesn’t even mention the shameful treatment and decimation of Native American culture and tribes all across the country. 

So we shouldn’t be surprised that the hate-virus has been unleashed yet again in a presidential election year when one of the two major parties is being led by a sociopathic, narcissistic demagogue, playing to those like himself infatuated with white supremacy and authoritarian thoughts and actions. (Watching Trump at the debate Monday night flailing about as he responded to questions about his racist-supporting “birtherism” campaign, was unusually instructive.)



Many white people in post-World War II America (especially in the South) believed they were solicitous of “our nigras,” and couldn’t understand why there were occasional uprisings and agitation for civil rights. It had to be those “godless communists” stirring up African-American communities. Too ignorant (or guilty) to look in the mirror, they instead blamed “reds” and “outside agitators” for the activism, fueled by systemic mistreatment, that was building up a head of steam in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.

With the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the mid-1960s, the situation for minorities seemed to be improving — at least on the surface. But beneath, there was always the roiling sense of victimhood in a good share of the white population, that they were forced to live in a new period of Reconstruction, where “the North,” through federal agencies, had its collective foot on the neck of hassled whites. 

When in 2008 an African-American was elected President, for many that was the final straw. The political party where most racists and bigots hung out, the Republicans, did their best to insure that Barack Obama’s legitimacy to assume the presidency was attacked (led by one Donald J. Trump) and that the new occupant of the White House would be unable to get any major legislation through Congress. Republican gridlock was the name of the game, along with making it more and more difficult for African-Americans and other minorities to vote.



Many black Americans, especially the young cohort, grew increasingly angry and frustrated. Things were supposed to be improving in the Obama era— and, in many ways, they were — but the hidden reality was that in so many ways, African-Americans were locked into a kind of second-class citizenship and economically and educationally short-changed. 

Maybe this relatively stable status quo might have remained in place, but the undercurrent of racism and fears of The Other kept bursting their way into the white American mainstream. Bigotry that formerly was kept hidden away was now being voiced, often openly and proudly, 24 hours a day by right-wing “conservatives” on the radio and TV (read: Fox News). Targets were African-Americans, to be sure, but also Latinos, and immigrants, especially Mexicans and Muslims. 

This hostility and neurotic fear of black Americans is manifested in an unceasing, murderous assault by mainly white cops’ against African-American men, and an incarceration rate that staggers the imagination. It is estimated that, if current trends continue, one out of three African-American men will have been through the justice system in his lifetime; many of those millions of ex-convicts are then denied their right to vote by state lawmakers, even after having served their sentences. And their communities are often seen as forced to live under the harsh thumb of an “occupying army” of militarist-armed police.



In the 1950s/1960s, the racial flashpoints tended to center around education and public accommodations. In present-day America, the flashpoints involve police killings of young and middle-aged black men, often unarmed, seemingly on a regular basis. That’s the bad news. The good news is that technology has given ordinary citizens the means by which to document those deadly interactions with police. Cell-phone cameras and body cams on police (even though too often they are turned off by the cops) potentially provide non-violent ways to obtain justice in the face of police lies.

As I write this, we are less than two months away from the most consequential election in modern times. If Trump were to win the presidential contest, the country would be mired in the moral swamp of white supremacy and its awful social and psychological consequences. In addition, the polity would exist in an ethical wasteland where unfettered greed and corruption would run rampart — in effect, a return to the robber-baron/apartheid reality of earlier periods in American history. In short, a Trump victory (“Make America Hate Again”) wouldn’t be good for the future of the American experiment.



Electing Clinton, which would have the effect of pushing Trump and Trumpism away from respectable status at the mainstream-political table, is no guarantee of effective good government. Many of us progressives/radicals would have preferred another Democratic contender. But Hillary Clinton — the establishment candidate in an anti-elitist populist period — is solid and worthy enough to maintain the Obama momentum in enough instances that really matter: climate change, environmental regulation, appointment of judges, racial harmony, social inequality, immigration reform, to name just half a dozen, to justify a principled vote for her and volunteer work on her behalf.

I understand the temptation to vote for, say, Jill Stein of the Green Party. But the reality is that either Clinton or Trump will be President, and I can’t believe any good citizen would want to risk handing over the country’s troubled economy and nuclear coding to Donald Trump, who — as he demonstrated at the death — is proud of his Know-Nothing recklessness. Voting for Stein or Gary Johnson or some other small-party candidate in effect delivers votes to Trump, all too reminiscent of the Ralph Nader precedent in Florida in the 2000 election.

No, it’s time to defeat Trumpism in the short term, while working for social/political revolution in the long term. That prescription makes electoral, moral, and pragmatic sense. Trump in the White House is a consummation devoutly NOT to be wished.



Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at San Diego State, Western Washington State and San Francisco State Universities, worked as a critic/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (crisispapers.org). Contact: yonwax2@comcast.net .


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances