Friday, July 8, 2022

The 1619 Project Explores Racist Lawmaking--Past to Present




Big stories take big books. The 1619 Project book is 492 pages of extremely interesting American history which is essential for understanding today’s uniquely difficult politics concerning race. This book shows its historical and intellectual authority on every page.

Its authority comes from The New York Times Organization and well qualified authors and editors. Beyond the 492 pages, the book has 97 pages of references with notes for checking original sources; seven pages describe the editors, the 18 major essay writers, and poetry and fiction writers; and, finally, there is a 32 page index. 
Why is all this important? It’s because racism in American politics is a serious and ongoing issue. And, all readers of this book can learn the exact time and place when elitism and/or racism was increased by politics or decreased by politics—from 1619 up to 2021. Not only that, one can find out from this book the names of those responsible. 
American citizens need to learn more about racism from the documented facts of history instead of today’s conspiracy theories and misinformation.
Consider this: Just eight percent of high school seniors knew that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War (Hannah-Jones, N., In Roper, C., In Silverman, I., In Silverstein, J., & New York Times Company, 2021). 
To My Reader: My whole goal is for you to read The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.

Nikole Hannah-Jones proposed to The New Times Magazine a project recognizing the 400th anniversary of slavery in America. The proposal was for “exploring the unparalleled impact of African slavery on the development of our country and its continuing impact on our society.” Both Hannah-Jones and the New York Times Organization are truly experts in high stakes journalism. I have spent many hours reading and examining what this book from the 1619 Project has to say. 
Click on the link below for more information from the New York Times about the book and the project.

All humans have many self-interests varying from the simple, like the types of people they like to hang out with, to more complex and obscure politician and political Party preferences. 
Politicians also have strong self-interests because it’s their job and most want to keep it. But politicians, besides my or your smaller self-interests, have larger self-interests. Their Party often demands their vote in the Congress or Legislature (the state government). And the geographical (East, West, Middle, South) regions of government also demand influence. And politicians receive millions, yes millions and MILLIONS of dollars (also known as campaign contributions) each year to remind them (also known as bribe, demand, threat, etc.) of what they might lose they if they don’t vote in the “preferred” way of their donor. And finally, two politicians sometimes will promise to “trade votes” on two different laws in order to make it more likely both laws will be passed into law! All this and more happens in Federal and State government. This mish-mash of influences makes it easy for politicians to deny responsibility for bad laws and take responsibility of popular laws—regardless of their actual vote. 
Strongly held self-interests often collide—not just in voting—but even in day to day social interaction. Some of our beliefs and allegiances makes others uncomfortable such that we detect it in their body language or remarks. Strongly held political and religious beliefs, when expressed, often interfere with friendliness and respect.

The work of politics is discussion, debate, and compromise about what should or should not be done. 
The Thirteen Colonies became successful enough to consider becoming independent from Great Britain. In 1776 Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence. It promised equality and freedom, but the Declaration failed to reveal that slaves were not included in that promise. 
Later on, in the 1780s the Constitution was written and ratified. Hannah-Jones writes:
 “So when it came time to draft the Constitution, the framers carefully constructed a document that preserved and protected slavery without ever using the word. In the key texts for framing our republic, the founders did not want to explicitly acknowledge their hypocrisy” (Hannah-Jones, N., In Roper, C., In Silverman, I., In Silverstein, J., & New York Times Company, 2021). 
Hannah-Jones provides specifics as follows: 
Of the Constitution’s 84 clauses, six deal with enslavement and five have implications for slavery. The Constitution allowed the Congress to prohibit importing slaves to America twenty years in the in the future, in 1808. But after that law, slaves could still be bought and sold between the American states.
There is no better way than Hannah-Jones’ for telling how the Constitution authorized and protected slavery:
 “The Constitution protected the ‘property’ of those who enslaved Black people, prohibited the federal government from intervening to end the importation of enslaved people from Africa for a term of twenty years, allowed Congress to mobilize the militia to put down insurrections by the enslaved, and forced states that had outlawed slavery to turn over enslaved people who had escaped and sought refuge there.”
Enslaved Blacks were defined as merely PROPERTY! Property, this one, abstract concept fully captures the state of the slave for his whole life. For example: A farmer with a tractor (valuable like a slave) could work it hard, and if the tractor stopped because it ran out of gas, the farmer could cuss it and kick it, give it more gas and not have to apologize, because it isn’t human—just a tractor. And if the tractor got old and unreliable, he could sell it; and, he would not have to worry about the tractor’s feelings. The property’s owner can treat it any way he wants—even dispose of it as trash.
Here are examples of legal, inhumane policies and/or actions toward slaves or former slaves (Hannah-Jones, N., In Roper, C., In Silverman, I., In Silverstein, J., & New York Times Company, 2021):
  • Slaves could be bought and sold. They lacked common rights of marrying and had no rights to keep their own children. Slaves’ personal relationships weren’t respected. 
  • Slaves couldn’t own anything of their own. Enslavers often would not let his slaves learn to read and write. 
  • Rape of women slaves was legal. Children inherited their slave state from their mother, which removed any ambiguity as to their slave status. An enslaved woman could be raped by her master and birth his child, who would inherit slave status which would increase the wealth of the master. Slaves were viewed as a form of capital. In some slave states, the capital wealth of the slaves was more than the total of other industries.
  • Just as a farmer might buy and sell livestock or farm machinery, slaves were bought and sold and often worked to death. One can read in historical documents the words and attitudes of some sophisticated, very famous politicians talking about slaves in their businesslike manner—without any trace of empathy. 
  • Slaves had no standing in any court. They did not have any civil rights. They had no way of protecting themselves from their master.
  • Beatings, torture, even murder were all legal prior to the Civil War. Abuses of slaves very gradually decreased due to Federal laws imposed on states and enforced by federal troops. But when troops left (sometimes due to political deals) violence against former slaves would increase. 
  • Even in the twentieth century, especially in the Southern States, African Americans were subjected to brutal assaults, murdered, and dehumanized. The only exception to this I’ve read about was when slaves were domestic help; then, in that environment there existed a chance for some humane relationships.
The Congress by 1808 had prohibited the buying or selling slaves outside America—but not within America. There were massive sales of Northern slaves to Southern states. This was because the Northern states had prohibited slavery earlier on and their industry had less need of slave labor. Southern states continued to be more rural. Louisiana, in particular, developed a huge, labor intensive sugar processing industry. Tens of thousands of slaves were sold to the South. Louisiana became one of the riches states from having the most slaves.
The Constitution was ratified in 1788. In 1880 Lincoln became President and South Carolina became the first state to secede from America. Beginning in 1861 ten other states seceded, becoming the Confederate States of America. The Civil War began in 1861. The Emancipation Proclamation (freeing the slaves) came in 1863 and the Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865. A consensus figure of the Union and Confederate soldier deaths numbers about 600,000. 

In the winding down of the Civil War and 15 years thereafter, the Federal government was very active attempting to (1) help Blacks cope and gain the tools (education and means of income) to maintain themselves and (2) help the Confederate states stabilize a peacetime government. This was known as the Reconstruction the period. These efforts, were substantial. After the war ended, the Federal government created a Freedmen’s Bureau to distribute clothing and food, protect former slaves, and help the settling of disputes. Almost a thousand Federal agents operated in the Southern states.
Lincoln, from the Northern state of Illinois, was president during the Civil War, but within a week of the war ending he was assassinated. His vice president, Andrew Johnson who was from the Confederate State of Tennessee, assumed the Presidency. Within a year of Johnson’s becoming President, he declared his attitudes and intents by stating: “This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men” (Hannah-Jones, N., In Roper, C., In Silverman, I., In Silverstein, J., & New York Times Company, 2021). 
Not surprisingly, many of the reconstruction efforts were neutralized, attitudes of white supremacy and suppression of Blacks increased. 
In 1877 a political compromise to resolve a disputed election included the agreement to pull out of the South all Federal troops. “The results were devastating. Over the course of the next generation, white violence prevented Black people from casting ballots, and Southern state legislatures began to revert to all-white rule” ( Hannah-Jones, N., In Roper, C., In Silverman, I., In Silverstein, J., & New York Times Company, 2021).

Throughout the 1880s and beyond, there were innumerable incidents of murderous racial violence and massive destruction of property. And many of these are described in the 1619 Project.
The past racial violence has been very well described. It occurred openly, dramatically, repeatedly, officially allowed, and documented in many memoirs, letters, official publications, diaries, photographs and books. 
I find this violence disgusting. Reading this book often affected my mood, making me overly serious and saddened by what I had read. Yet, I felt that reading and absorbing this book was the most important activity I could being doing.
Having developed a passion for studying politics over the past nine months, the 1619 Project inspires me to investigate the generative forces behind racism.

1. As a PhD psychologist, I’ve been trained in research. The 1619 Project is well researched. The writers present a wealth of compelling, factual information. They don’t over-analyze. And, while the writers tell the effects of political actions, they don’t attack persons or Parties. 
2. Some of the essay writers in the last chapters discuss motives and causes of racism. They do this in a very restrained and non-speculative manner. Lots of good food for thought.
3. Professor Ibram X. Kendi’s essay contains observations and credible conclusions which, I think, are truly remarkable for their insight and relevance to American’s most recent racist tensions. 
To Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine, THANK YOU !

Sunday, June 26, 2022

These Are The TimesThat Try Men's Souls


 Are political things really this bad in America? 

Well, last week when visiting family in Austin Texas, I didn’t see anything bad going on. On our way to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum we saw no rioting in the streets. No traffic accidents. Actually, I don’t recall seeing any emergency vehicles at all. 
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Before we discuss awful problems, let’s dwell on something good.
The LBJ Library and Museum is a monolithic ten story building on the University of Texas Campus. The exhibits are very meaningful and pleasantly done. Johnson was President from 1963 to 1969. That’s when I was in my 20’s and somewhat able to appreciate him as the most powerful man in America and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. I’ve read biographies about him and also about his advisors. The Museum exhibits were very consistent with everything I’d previously learned.
LBJ as a young man wanted to become a politician and he consistently progressed step by step all the way from complete novice to President. 
The Museum exhibits tell about his famous and usually successful political efforts. And, the exhibits capture his love and care for the welfare of people of all races and conditions of life. He had a great Heart.

Literacy Test  Prohibited  Voting Rights Act
Prohibited Voter Literacy Test 
LBJ had self-confidence, but was also a humble man who easily identified with poor people and wanted to protect them. His Great Society legislation helped many. But probably his greatest accomplishment was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Learn more on the Civil Rights Act:

The First Lady of the Johnson Administration was none other than Lady Bird Johnson. The Museum showcases her tremendous support to LBJ as his confidant and person he wanted to have lunch with everyday to discuss his challenges. Independently of LBJ, Lady Bird contributed broadly to the American ways of life.
Both LBJ and Lady Bird were exceptional leaders.

At this point in the Revolutionary War, George Washington’s army had suffered humiliating defeats in which New York City was lost to British troops. Thousands of volunteer soldiers were abandoning the war effort. Washington knew that without better morale and victories the Revolution would fail. 
Three days before the Battle of Trenton, Washington caused Thomas Paine's pamphlet to be read to the troops. It began with the famous lines, “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country.” 
After hearing the reading of the pamphlet, the troops rallied and Washington’s army defeated the British at Trenton. Beyond the inspiring words, the pamphlet was meant to “shame neutrals and loyalists to support the cause.” 
Paine and Washington were exceptional leaders !

  • Here are a few of the symptoms:
  • America has grown more and more polarized and at war with itself. 
  • The delegates at the recent Republican Convention in Houston voted to adopt a resolution that “former President Donald J. Trump was the victim of a stolen election.” This lie has been rejected by multiple Federal Courts and the Supreme Court of the United States.

  • Donald Trump during COVID-19 repeatedly showed his ignorance and poor judgment by insulting and attacking the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and it’s spokesperson Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci courageously maintained his self-confidence and authority. Trump often suggested false cures and offered conspiracy theories to the public. It is very likely Trump’s bad mouthing of the CDC and Dr. Fauci contributed to a statistically significant lowering of confidence in the CDC. The statistical findings can be found by right clicking the link and selecting “Open Hyperlink” option.

  • Congress itself has been extremely polarized. Mass shootings have increased in frequency. And, most recently we’ve been shocked by the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat, was one of many presidents famous for their political knowledge and leadership skills. From learning about them we can gain inspiration. Johnson was a dedicated servant to all Americans. He died in 1973. Lady Bird died in 2007. 
Many Republican presidents have been knowledgeable politicians with leadership skills. We are not without adequate role models.
But at this present time, Donald Trump with his Big Lie about a stolen election, is publicly supported by the Party of the Republicans, and also by a very large percentage of the Republicans in Congress, and also—and most recently—by Republican delegates at the Houston Republican State Convention.
Privately, many Republicans accepted the 2020 election as a legitimate win for President Biden. The State and Federal Courts are unanimous in finding there was no significant fraud in the election.
Publicly Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr and Mitch McConnell (the most powerful Republican in the Senate) accepted Biden’s win without delay. Barr labeled the “stolen election” idea as “bullshit.”
The columnist Paul Krugman in his book, Arguing With Zombies (2021) points out that vital issues can be fruitlessly tied up in political agendas—so that “everything is political.” The facts then can be irrelevant. He repeats the famous statement of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Krugman goes on to say that in modern America, “…a lot of people do believe that they’re entitled to their own facts.”

Our modern American crisis can improve only when most all of us step up our efforts to share and collaborate with one another. 
Here is a worthwhile caution from LBJ:
“If we turn away from knowledge and truth, we will not succeed… But if we are courageous and farsighted and farseeing, if we have no fear of the truth, if we seek only after light, then we and our children and our children’s children shall know the greatness of this wonderful, beautiful land we call America.” (Newberry and Silvernail, Eds., 2017)

Visit the The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum!
It's monolithic exterior I thought at first was rather overdone; but after touring the museum and soaking in the images and writings in the exhibits, I feel the museum's exterior is perfect for President Johnson and Lady Bird. Their contributions in all their adult lives were huge! 
        For references, see the relevant page on the website.
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  1350 Words   INTRODUCTION Here’s what happened in America   on January 6 th , 2021: “After refusing to concede the 2020 U.S. preside...