“White flight was not an accident”

I’ve spent most of my workday alternating between doing my job and reading this incredibly powerful and amazing article by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

It is so consistently brilliant that it’s tricky to excerpt, but I’ll dish up a few appetizers.

In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy. The majority of the people in the state were perpetually robbed of the vote—a hijacking engineered through the trickery of the poll tax and the muscle of the lynch mob.


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The slippery slope is sliding!

Remember all the arm-flapping in the debate over marriage equality about how the school system would next be required to “teach gay marriage” to kids if same-sex couples were allowed to marry? Whatever the hell “teach gay marriage” is supposed to mean?

Well, it’s not quite “teach gay marriage,” but the California State Assembly has passed a bill that says the public school system is required to include LGBT history in its curriculum.


California already requires public schools to teach the contributions made to society by women and by racial and ethnic groups that were historically discriminated against, such as blacks, Latinos and Native Americans.

Supporters of the latest bill said it would simply include gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals in that existing requirement, making it part of the curriculum in history and other social studies classes.

Teaching the contributions of invisible minorities in history lessons is not quite the same thing as teaching the contributions of women and people of color, but, you know, it’s still not a bad idea to point out that queer people do exist, they’ve always been around, and some have done some very important things in our world’s history.

So, is it any surprise that this bill had zero support from the GOP?

California Assemblyman Donald Wagner is one of the Republicans who opposed the state’s bill requiring teaching about the accomplishments of gays and lesbians.

“Writing these provisions into textbooks will further an agenda rather than teach facts,” Wagner said. “When we do things, we politicize them because that’s the nature of politics. We should leave education to the educators.”

I’m getting a little pronoun confusion here. I think he means that whatever politicians do is automatically politicized, so…how is that the same thing as furthering an agenda rather than teaching facts? Is it “furthering an agenda” to teach school kids about what happened to Alan Turing? Would it be perfectly non-political and non-biased to teach history as though alternate sexuality and heterosexist prejudice never affected anyone’s life choices and never influenced culture or the law?

By “leave education to the educators,” does that mean there should be no legislation at all on what gets taught in schools? What’s your position on creationism in Biology education, Mr. Wagner? What’s your take on school kids learning about the religious affiliations of the Founding Fathers (read: mostly Deist or agnostic)? What are your thoughts on sex ed? By allowing parents to opt their kids out of sex ed, but not any other subject, are we politicizing the fact of teen sexuality? And if so, do you object to that?

They’re now waiting for Gov. Brown to sign or veto the bill.

More assholes to the right of me…

TNC brings us this gem from Congressman Trent Franks (R-idiculous) on slavery and abortion:

In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say “How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can’t believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible.” And we’re right, we’re right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?

The “African American community is being devastated by the policies of today”?

By all means, Congressman, keep telling black women how you care about them so much you’d like to force them to have children they don’t want.

Policies do not make abortions happen. Pregnant women make abortions happen.

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Your marriage is not subject to a simple majority vote.

At the Courage Campaign liveblogging of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Brian Leubitz shows us this blog post from Prop 8 counsel:

What is at stake in the Perry case is not just the right of California voters to reaffirm the definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman; a federal court decision overturning Proposition 8 could also ultimately nullify the people’s vote on marriage in 45 states and the federal Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress in 1996.

This brings me to my third (and presumably final) fisking of the arguments against marriage equality. As I said before, there are three basic categories of opposition to same-sex marriage, distinct from homophobia in general: children, religion, and tradition/definition. Everything else is indistinguishable from discrimination in general against sexual minorities. So, now I’m going to talk about marriage as a tradition and definition.

To say that marriage is traditionally defined as between a man and a woman sounds like the epistemological equivalent of a deepity, a coinage by Prof. Daniel Dennett defined approximately thus: a deepity is a statement with two meanings; one which is true but superficial, the other which appears profound but is in fact meaningless.

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The social costs of the failure to accept reality

Andrew Sullivan explores the relationship between Christian fundamentalism and meth:

Well, since I’m not a Marxist, I do not believe that rigid fundamentalism is a simple by-product of poverty. But I do agree with my reader that economic decline, unemployment and cultural alienation undoubtedly fuel meth and probably contribute to fundamentalism’s growth. But the interaction is almost certainly complex and two ways, creating a mixture of economic despair, collapse of self-confidence, bewilderment at modernity and the lack of a traditional Christianity that, at its best, really did help people confront the ordeal of living.

Fundamentalism’s failure to encourage genuine, humble and humane faith that can finally come to terms with science and history is critical to this, which is why, increasingly, I think a reform of Christianity is central to preserving the liberal constitutional state. What has replaced real faith is, in fact, a form of neurotic attachment to literalism in Scripture (effectively debunked by scholarship), to authority figures who enforce order, if not coherence, onto otherwise chaotic lives (think Dobson or Ratzinger or Warren), rigid attachment to untruths in human history (as in denial of evolution), or the insistence of maintaining the appearance of Godliness to avoid confronting real human sin (think Ted Haggard or the countless child-abusing priests). None of this helps anyone actually cope with modern life, because it is too opposed to modern life. And so fundamentalism as a coping mechanism in fact makes it all much worse, as rising rates of dysfunction, family breakdown, illegitimacy, abortion, HIV transmission, and drug abuse in the Christianist states reveal – just as the sexual dysfunction in Islamist societies cripples and immiserates them. If you want to find Ground Zero for this confluence of poverty, isolation, Christianism and meth, take a trip to Wasilla, Alaska, whence the new Esther has emerged.

First of all, I agree with most of Mr. Sullivan’s analysis.

The part that gives me pause is his reference to a “traditional Christianity” that “really did help people confront the ordeal of living.” It sounds a lot like the “good old days” reminiscing from traditionalists about a golden era that never really existed. That said, I won’t dispute the accuracy of the remark on traditional Christianity. I don’t claim to be an expert on religion, and perhaps this era really did exist at some not-too-distant point in time, and at that time, having faith in God really did make people’s lives better than they would otherwise have been. I will assume, for the purposes of this entry, that this analysis is accurate.

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