One of the most fascinating things about the Internet is the way it uncovers how many bigots lie in our midst every day. Especially since most of my columns are centered on the tender subjects of race and class, a quick scroll to the bottom of the page here or here or here (nope, it’s not just the philly.com that serves as venue space for digital Klan meetings), and you can see what I’m talking about. It’s not just about your standard differences in opinion; it’s a fundamental belief system that, as the late great Michael Jackson once said, is “too high to get over, and too low to get under.”
The fact that bigotry generally hides in plain sight is one of the reasons LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is such a fascinating oddity, a walking, talking, living relic of just how staunchly committed a certain type of person can be to their indefensible racism and prejudice. His absurdity was laid bare in his recent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, where he said he was not a racist and that he was with Cooper “to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people” he hurt.
Minutes later: “Here is a man who acts so holy,” he said of Magic Johnson, the man featured in the photo with Sterling’s friend V. Stiviano. “I mean, he made love to every girl in every city in America and he has AIDS.”
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A scene from Let The Fire Burn.
A version of this story originally ran in 2012.
On May 13, 1985 at 5:20 p.m., a blue and white Pennsylvania State Police helicopter took off from the command post’s flight pad at 63rd and Walnut, flew a few times over 6221 Osage Avenue, and then hovered 60 feet above the two-story house in the black, middle-class West Philadelphia neighborhood. Lt. Frank Powell, chief of Philadelphia’s bomb disposal unit, was holding a canvas bag containing a bomb consisting of two sticks of Tovex TR2 with C-4. After radioing firefighters on the ground and lighting the bomb’s 45-second fuse—and with the official approval of Mayor W. Wilson Goode and at the insistence of Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor—Powell tossed the bomb, at precisely 5:28 p.m., onto a bunker on the roof. Read more »
For Americans, the sports stadium is the sanctuary where we all give praise to the same gods. The allure of sports, of course, is that they seem fall in line with our democratic values of fairness; the athletic field is where meritocracy is the law of the land and skill is the great equalizer.
Sports are turned to in times where basic human decency has fallen short; we view sports as a salve for our country’s pesky “race problem.” But according to a big Patriot News enterprise feature about race and Pennsylvania’s high school sports — “Unchecked, Unchallenged and Unabashed: Is racism in high school sports being tolerated?”— racism is just as imbued in the locker room as anywhere else, even among our supposedly post-racial young people.
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York businessman Tom Wolf during a Democratic gubernatorial candidates forum Tuesday Feb. 4, 2014 in Philadelphia. AP Photo | Jacqueline Larma
Let’s get real. If Treasurer Rob McCord were actually interested in initiating a serious discussion about racism in Pennsylvania, he probably would have chosen a more appropriate format and timing than a 30-second scare ad two weeks before election day.
Still, the random last-ditch attempt to impugn the character of Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Tom Wolf has succeeded in getting people talking about race, and it’s an important discussion for Pennsylvania to have with itself. It is, after all, the most prejudiced state outside the South.
But so far the conversation has fixated on the narrow and not especially productive issue of a racist guy, and the appropriate distance for a political candidate to have from him, when the real conversation Pennsylvania needs is about policy.
The biggest problem with white racism isn’t white people mistreating people of color on a personal level — it’s how those prejudices ultimately manifest themselves in state and local laws and policies that directly or indirectly favor white supremacy, and unfairly ration opportunities and public resources to people of color.
And as it happens, Mr. Wolf actually does have a very clear policy record on racial politics, and broadening the discussion to include that record reveals a very different picture of his time in York than the one portrayed in Mr. McCord’s scare ad.
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State Sen. Vincent Hughes is sounding the alarm about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in York, where the KKK has purportedly distributed “neighborhood watch” leaflets suggesting it will be patrolling the city for crime. The Philadelphia Tribune reports:
“It’s real simple. We cannot allow the intolerant behavior from the KKK to go unaddressed. They cannot think there’s a silent majority opposing their wishes, but there’a vocal majority that is opposed to their wishes,” Hughes said. “Anytime we see [KKK members] hanging around, lurking around, keeping their heads covered up and are looking to grow their organization, we’re going to speak on it.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has informed Hughes it is monitoring the situation, but — given First Amendment rights to free speech — it would be difficult to move against the Klan absent violations of the law.
AP Photo | Mark J. Terrill
Yesterday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine on Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
For reasons that escape me, many found the decision commendable and that the league had done its part to respond with quick and decisive action against Sterling because of his disgusting (and confusing) racist remarks, which were recorded by his, um, “female friend” V. Stiviano, who, by the way, is a mixed race (black and Mexican) woman of color.
What didn’t happen yesterday was two-fold:
- Silver made no announcement about any of Sterling’s peers in the owners association coming to decisive action about Sterling’s continued ownership of the Clippers; and
- There was no satisfying answer from the commissioner about why Sterling had been allowed to go on this way for so long.
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A lot has been made about the comments (allegedly) made by Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling about race. But I think his comments about class are also kind of interesting. Here he (allegedly) is, talking about Clippers’ players:
The woman reminded him that the Clippers roster is primarily black.
“I support them and give them food and clothes and cars and houses,” said the man alleged to be Sterling. “Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?”
“Who makes the game?” he continued. “Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?”
And hey, has there ever been a more perfect encapsulation of capital’s view of labor?
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PennLive reports that Penn State doesn’t expect to be harmed by the Supreme Court’s Tuesday decision upholding the state’s ban on affirmative action in its public university admission policies — largely because Penn State doesn’t consider race or ethnicity in its admissions decisions.
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In The New York Times last week, there was a piece about college admissions and diversity in the wake of the Fisher v. University of Texas case, and the lawyer, Edward Blum who made the whole thing possible.
Blum, a glorified ambulance chaser, represented Abigail Fisher in the case in 2008 after she was rejected from the University of Texas as a potential member of the incoming freshman class. He sought her out to use her story as the case to push the issue to the high court.
Seeking people out is what Blum does as a professional race baiter.
For background’s sake, Fisher was a decent, though average, student with an 1180 on her SATs and a 3.59 GPA. Ninety-two percent of UT’s freshman class that year graduated in the top 10 percent of their class. Evidence suggests that Fisher fell short of the academic standard the university chose to impose, not a racial or ethnic one.
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Photo | Shutterstock
This week, the National Constitution Center opened the doors to Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello, its six month-long exhibition about Thomas Jefferson. And to my surprise, the organizers didn’t engage in the customary American practice of sweeping slavery under the rug. In fact, they went right at it by including the word “Slavery” in their title and by addressing “the stories of six slave families who ‘lived’ and ‘worked’ at Jefferson’s plantation — the Fossett, Granger, Gillete, Hemings, Hern, and Hubbard families — and their descendants who fought for justice and helped bring to light their ancestors’ lives and values.”
Nice, huh? Well, yes. But only kinda. By that, I mean they didn’t really “live.” Instead, they actually “suffered and survived.” And they didn’t really “work.” Instead, they actually “slaved and toiled.” But let’s not quibble over semantics. Instead, let’s go the to heart of the matter by enlightening you about who — and what — Thomas Jefferson truly was.
Here are 10 things you didn’t know about him:
10 Things You Should Know About Thomas Jefferson* Before You Tour ‘Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello’ »