open thread racism trump

MLK day in Trump’s America: Open thread

By David Futrelle

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. day here in the US. Our racist president “honored” King today by making an exceedingly brief visit to the MLK Memorial, where he told reporters, with his usual eloquence, that

It’s a great day. A beautiful day. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

Then he and VP Pence left. “Total trip time: about a minute or two,” Reuters’ White House Correspondent Jeff Mason noted in a tweet.

On Sunday, Pence himself honored the civil rights leader by comparing him to Trump, suggesting that his boss’ push for a wall to appease Ann Coulter and his racist base was basically the same as MLK’s historic campaign for civil rights, which ultimately led to him being assassinated by a guy who would, if he were still alive, be wearing a MAGA cap today.

Meanwhile, online and in a disturbing number of major media outlets, a veritable army of white people are concocting excuses for the Covington Catholic high school students’ miniature race riot after the so-called Walk for Life in DC.

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34 replies on “MLK day in Trump’s America: Open thread”

I was 16 once… (no, really, I was!)…. I was raised in a more accepting household, and with a stronger sense of social conscience than the “Covington Teens”… I’m sure. Still, even when I was a teen, when I wanted to “stand with” someone, I stood beside them and faced the same way they were facing.

That’s not meant to be sarcastic, either. It just seems to me counterintuitive that someone (ESPECIALLY a teen) wanting to show common cause with the Native man would stand facing him, literally IN THEIR FACE and grin like that, while others, meaning the Hebrew israelites, were menacing them.

I ain’t buying it.

I found myself thinking of my late father today, who so admired Dr. King and the civil rights movement. “We Shall Overcome” was a bedtime song for us, and we’d make up new verses. One of the last votes Dad was able to cast was for Barack Obama in 2008. He wasn’t able to vote for Obama in 2012.

Miss you, Dad.

It’s amazing how successfully white America has sanitised the memory of MLK Jr, so that now he’s this saintly and safe figure who presents no threat to the status quo.

For some reason, I find myself remembering the 2008 Presidential election, and how 109-year-old Amanda Jones, whose father was born into slavery, got to cast her vote for Obama–a juxtaposition that underscores how fresh are the old injustices–even if they weren’t being regularly topped up and the pot stirred.

@ Ox:

Also underscores the dichotomy presented by whites who say “but I wasn’t there, I had nothing to do with slavery” but still object to any and every effort to either redress greivances or improve civil rights.

“Ok, we will not hold you in chattel slavery, but you can’t participate in any way in our society. If you want to build your own, go ahead, but don’t come to our attention in any way. Oh, and if you have any resources, we’re going to take them”


Right? The man openly called himself an extremist (albeit with important qualifiers).

Re-read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” today, this struck me:

“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

It’s amazing how successfully white America has sanitised the memory of MLK Jr, so that now he’s this saintly and safe figure who presents no threat to the status quo.

Not just that, but using him to gaslight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people scold progressives about how they shouldn’t be mean racists because that’s not what Martin Luther King Jr would do. As if non-violence and passivity are the same thing. Every time I see it, I quote the letter from a Birmingham jail at them. Predictably, it never sways them. Fanfic MLK would never inconvenience a white person. They just know it!

ETA: Sorta ninja’d by doethreetwoone. Are you new? If so, welcome!

One thing I’ve always wanted to dig into about King is what he thought about Muhammad Ali Jinnah, if that is even documented (although if he did say or write anything about him, it seems likely that it would be documented somewhere). This has always intrigued me because both scholarly and popular images of King make much of King’s opinions on Gandhi (a good starting place for that being, in my opinion, the page on King and Gandhi at the Stanford University King Institute — it conveniently has citations right to the various volumes of the published King papers volumes!) I’ve been meaning to check the standard King biographies on this and Stanley Wolpert on Jinnah but just haven’t yet.

When they finish all the volumes of the King papers that will likely be the authoritative primary source. It’s an NHPRC-funded publication (hard to believe we still HAVE the National Historical Publications and Records Commission grants!) — and that means this thing will be thoroughly annotated and thoroughly indexed.

In the meantime, though, what King thought of Jinnah really has my curiosity — popular American understandings of Gandhi talk about his successes as if only independence, equality and social justice was his goals. He cared as much about unity as independence and social justice.

And he lost on the matter of unity. And understanding how and why means one has to understand Jinnah, the Muslim League and the origins of Pakistan. So for every great historical figure who was inspired by Gandhi, I always wonder what that person thought of the Pakistan Movement.

I would love to see a poll that measures how many U.S. people who have heard of Gandhi and/or know anything about him have even heard of Jinnah. It’s not hard to encounter people in the U.S. who know of Gandhi but talk about him as if he’s the entirety of the India independence movement.

@ pavlovs house

It’s generally accepted here, amongst people who study the partition era, that Jinnah was the key figure. By that time Gandhi and Quit India were a spent force. It was Jinnah pointing out India had millions of troops who’d just had a five year crash course in kicking out imperialists that swung it.

But of course, like MLK, it suits a certain narrative to suggest passive resistance is the only thing that works.


Yes, I read Bal Ram Nanda’s biography of Gandhi in graduate school; our South Asian history professor told us that was the most thorough and balanced. For the Partition and the founding of Pakistan I had read two memoirs: Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman’s Pathway to Pakistan and Alan Campbell-Johnson’s Mission with Mountbatten. Neither is hardly objective (but that was kind of the point — the professor wanted us to get examples of those particular points of view). As I recall Campbell-Johnson portrayed Jinnah and Nehru as the main players, although Gandhi was still beseeching Jinnah up to the end to somehow agree to an independence-with-union plan and no partition.

And I agree what with both MLK and Gandhi there are those who are willfully selective because it suits their narrative.

Gandhi the passive peaceful man makes for a “noble savage” figure palatable to those who cling to imperialist and white supremacist ideas. To accept that image one has to ignore or write out of the story not only Jinnah and the Muslim League but B. K. Tilak and the Hindu Nationalists and — someone whose life and career is very jarring for many ideological constituencies — Subhas Chandra Bose.

And thinking about the Hindu Nationalist contingent is a good reminder that along with independence, social justice, equality and unity Gandhi advocated a *secular* demography. (Jinnah advocated the same for Pakistan — which is quite clear if one reads pretty much anything he wrote or said — great way to blow the minds of modern day western alt-right Islamophobes who will make up all kind of claims about supposed essential incompatibility between Islam and democracy. Jinnah’s Pakistan is *not* Zia ul Haq’s Pakistan, that’s for sure.)

That raises the great question of what King thought of Gandhi’s secularism. I don’t imagine he would have objected to it, per se, but it would be interesting to know. And I wonder what King knew and thought about not just Jinnah but the rest of the India independence movement besides Gandhi.

@ Pavlovs House

Gandhi the passive peaceful man makes for a “noble savage” figure

Which is ironic, as Churchill described him “a jumped up Middle Templar*”. People forget about his early career at the Bar; his pro apartheid advocacy not really in line with the mythologising.

(* even though he was actually a member of Inner Temple)


People forget about his early career at the Bar; his pro apartheid advocacy not really in line with the mythologising.

Yep, and more broadly, also *off* the popular memory is that not only that Gandhi but Jinnah too was a lawyer — a *really good one*.

I think Jinnah was on Tilak’s defense team when Tilak was tried by the British.

@ pavlovs house

Jinnah too was a lawyer

Yup; he was Lincolns Inn though. That might explain the rivalry with Gandhi 🙂


Thanks. Long time lurker (hence enough knowledge to address you as “WWTH”), but only occasional commentor.

Hey, I’ve been sufficiently vetted to allow my comments to post directly without review!

Ima have a little party!

Thanks David.

The way that Martin Luther King is spoke of these days by the people in power is like he somehow died peacefully in his sleep.

Welcome to this Blog! Please do enjoy your stay.

EDIT: Trump and GOP are killing airports.

“If these workers can’t do their job, I can’t do mine. And these federal workers cannot cash thank you’s. They can’t. They have stressors on their family. They can’t even put a tank of gas in their car to get it to work,” Nelson said.

Nelson continued on to assert that “mass flight cancelations” will occur if the shutdown drags on, which will cause the system to “crumble and unravel.”

All of this is so strange to me. I grew up in the Northeast (NJ) in the 60’s and 70’s. My elementary, grammar, and middle schools were well integrated. I learned about Martin Luther King, Malcom X and other Black activists as well as black inventors, authors, politicians etc. It never occurred to me to think any less of my classmates because of the color of their skin. It was only when I went to school down in Virginia that I heard the “N word” fly about freely. I used to be one of those naive people that thought we were done with racism. That was until I became a therapist and heard people’s stories. Up until recently, it was just well hidden. I can’t believe we have to do this crap again.

I went around Reddit earlier, looking for posts claiming MLK as a Republican, so I could post responses pointing out that he urged people to vote for Johnson instead of Goldwater. So he was an LBJ Republican?

Also, I’m quite weary of Alveda ‘Professional Niece’ King calling herself ‘doctor’. She got an honorary doctorate from a college she never attended.

The quote from King earlier about white moderates made me think of “Love Me I’m a Liberal” by Phil Ochs. “An outspoken group whose compass is ten degrees left of center in good times, ten degrees right of center when it concerns them personally.”

Muhammad Ali might end up getting the King treatment as well. I read some chucklehead claim last year that Ali would have opposed Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protests. Yeah, the same Ali who was willing to go to jail to avoid fighting in Vietnam would have been upset at someone kneeling during the anthem.

Hippie Lady, don’t feel bad. You didn’t outright state your race but I’m going to guess your weight because you said it never occurred to you to judge your classmates differently on the color of their skin until you went to Virginia. I’m black biracial. Like I am almost exactly half Irish and half black I’ve got a touch of Native American but not enough to truly signify but at least I don’t have to worry it’s just a family myth, because there are pictures of my great great grandma Shana and some personal mementos.

But I lived a very sheltered life until I was about eighteen in a lot of ways. I grew up in the East Village in NYC in a upper middle-class household and was raised my white mom and black dad with five degrees between them who got engaged in 1979 and married a year later.

So I’m embarrassed by it now but I was completely skeptical and dismissive of the concept of institutionalized and systemic racism because it felt like it had never affected me even a tiny bit up to that point. I did better on IQ tests in my SATs in the specialized high school test then the great majority of my white peers well honestly than the great majority of my peers in general, male and female.

My thought process was if it was so pervasive then why had it never affected me? The answer to that it is class privilege and growing up in Manhattan and going to fancy nerd schools culminating and Stuyvesant High School and then NYU for a year but it was too expensive because they give you scholarships and they play tricks on you I have a lot of hostility there. They’re fucking business not a school and are responsible for a large part of the gentrification of both Greenwich Village and the East Village.

But then I started hanging out at Harlem and the difference in how I was treated hanging out downtown in Tribeca and Soho and the village with white friends and how I was treated hanging out with black friends and Harlem and the Bronx was so extreme it was literally obscene.

Like I literally kind of had culture shock I think that’s the right term because something(racism)I had thought was kind of a thing but it was mostly just assholes right you’re always going to have assholes that was my mindset back then but once I turned 18 and started having experiences at least weekly that literally defined systemic racism obviously I changed my mind because I’m not going to keep being willfully ignorant when something is literally punching my friend in the face till he bleeds and has to go to the hospital.

I’ve told this story here before but it was a huge turning point for me. Norman was supposedly resisting arrest because he flinched when a giant police officer was screaming in his face two inches from him and literally spitting on him.

He flinched back because that’s what anyone would do in that situation it was fucking terrifying and the cop just started beating the absolute shit out of him. I kind of had a nervous breakdown the week following. I also thought that type of thing was mostly over and things like that or outliers no hanging out in Harlem being a delinquent like I was I saw shit like that almost weekly until they at least slow down with the stop-and-frisk. I’m not sure exactly what my point was but yeah I’m black if I felt like it was over you shouldn’t feel bad for feeling like it was over also.

Like racism just wasn’t a thing in my high school. Sexism and misogyny and toxic masculinity sure, but racism not really. Like I just don’t ever recall anything but very mildly ignorant dumb shit like occasional microaggressions. But the people doing these things were true friends and truly had good intentions, sure intent isn’t magic but I feel intent is more important when you’re like 14, 15 and just don’t know any better.

And when I or someone else was like hey that’s a little fucked up this is why, they’d feel really bad about it and even that almost never happened. So yeah as a teenager I thought racism was kind of a thing of the past. I wish I had been right.

Also since this is the appropriate place and open thread I’m going to ask my final few questions and make a short summary of what my point has mutated to in the way that was requested very politely and explained very thoroughly to my intense gratitude.

But it’ll have to be after I do the chores my mom left on the list. I think most regular commenters know I live with my mom and if I don’t do the chores on the list before she wakes up for work she will be annoyed with good reason LOL.

I consider it a very good trade for being able to live in the village in New York City for free. I’ve had roommates in the past that we’re definitely much more annoying than living with my mother.

But shortly I’m going to attempt to post the picture if I can do it I will be so thrilled. Like I said previously, most computer style technology is just so counter-intuitive and foreign to me at this point it really does feel like magic almost when I type in a short series of words and letters and all of a sudden the picture appears. I don’t know, it’s magical to me LOL. Anyway hope everyone had a lovely Martin Luther King Day.

I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I’m still astonished how sanitized my education was on race relations. Letter from Birmingham Jail was mentioned, but not read. I was also taught that the evidence was unclear on the cause of the Civil War – maybe slavery, maybe agriculture vs industrialization, maybe state’s rights. No mention was made of the Cornerstone speech.

This was in an urban area in a Union state! It really bothers me how I was set up to be a class-not-race liberal – which wouldn’t be a positive outcome for people of color and other marginalized groups. Long story short, whitewashing MLK is a symptom of a deep sickness on the US.

Sooo Michael Cohen is delaying his testimony, claiming threats to his family by Trump and Giuliani:

Again with witness intimidation and threatening people’s families. I swear, my loathing for this man and his cronies grows every day. He’s like a villain out of a bad superhero comic, just gleefully evil in every way he can manage. And his fellow Republicans are even more revolting to my eyes, for enabling his evil without question.

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