I have to admit that preparing last week’s post on immigration depressed the hell out of me. When I do these posts, my goal is to take an unblinking look at our history, but with the awareness that while the “wars” may not have been won, battles have. While looking at our past attitudes on immigration, I had a hard time seeing our progress. So this week, I wanted something a bit more uplifting. One would think that imperialism would be the last topic I would choose, but this is one area where, as individuals, we’ve become marginally more aware, more sensitive, and occasionally more cautious. Whether or what we’ve learned as a country is an open question.
A postcard from about 1910; imagine receiving this in the mail!
I’ve decided to continue the exploration of the unspoken history of our country as seen through political cartoons and messaging. I’m not doing this as an exercise in hopelessness. It’s easy to fall into that trap when seeing so many of the same themes over and over. But along with the recurring issues, I see the battles that have been won, even when the “war” is ongoing. For me, remembering the past gives me courage to fight for our future. I hope it will do the same for our Village.
This week, I wanted to focus on the misogyny in our history, but the topic was so broad, it became unmanageable. Since I have no desire to do a dissertation, I chose the suffrage movement as the exemplar of the patriarchy in our midst. The images today are mostly postcards from the early 1900s, as well as political cartoons.
Moral Map of the U.S. (about 1847) with caption, “It is a dark spot on the face of the nation; such a state of things cannot always exist. – LaFayette
Warning: This post contains offensive, racist images. They are hard to see. They are included not to perpetuate racism, but to challenge the privilege which allows us to ignore our own history.
This post is the result of two intersecting lines of thought. First was the accidental discovery of the political cartoons of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) last week, which illustrated that everything old is new again. The second is a line of thought that has been percolating since Election Night. If one ascribes to the belief that our country was built on the evil foundations of genocide and slavery (as I do), should the post-Obama whitelash surprise us? And if it does, what does that say about our knowledge of our own past? Most importantly, what will we do for our future?
On February 10, 2007, United States Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) announced his candidacy for president of the United States. On a cold day in Springfield IL, near the statehouse that he and Abraham Lincoln both served in, he addressed the gathered crowd.
This campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us – it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice – to push us forward when we’re doing right, and to let us know when we’re not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.
By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail. […]
I’m in this race [not] just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation.
I want to win that next battle – for justice and opportunity.
I want to win that next battle – for better schools, and better jobs, and health care for all.
I want us to take up the unfinished business of perfecting our union, and building a better America.
Black History Month – The First Woman I Wanted to be President
Lately I have been thinking about a person who is incredibly significant in American political history, a personal touchstone for me: Barbara Charline Jordan, described in her Wikipedia entry as a lawyer, educator, American politician and leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
I’m not going to give more than a thumbnail sketch of biographical material – you can read her Wikipedia entry for yourself to refresh your memory, or better, read Denise Oliver Velez’s wonderful essay on DKos, Barbara Jordan: ‘She always did sound like God’. Denise writes like an archangel so it makes sense to point you to her writing, it’s certainly better than mine.
What I have to offer is only perspective, and a personal connection, albeit closer in my mind than in ‘real life’. The first thread of connection is her name, Barbara. That is my given name also, and I think there are other Barbaras in our Village group that we know well. It might seem like an insignificant coincidence, but words have power, and names have amazing resonance for some. Names we are born with, names that we choose, can define us, can connect us.
The second thread – Barbara was a native of Houston, my town. Different neighborhoods – I grew up in the suburbs northeast of town outside (then) the city limits and just before the next place up the road, Aldine. Barbara grew up in Fourth Ward. Different, but I could imagine we saw some of the same streets, felt the same rhythm, since city rhythms are unique and defy duplication.
I probably only became aware of her when she became the US Representative from Texas’s 18th Congressional District, a seat held today by Shirley Jackson Lee. The 18th District looks kind of like a fat G and winds from north of town down through the northwest, through the middle of downtown Houston and finally back up to the northeast. It’s one of those funny looking shapes for a district that was probably drawn along racial lines that have subsequently blurred but never completely faded.
Two years after the Watergate break-in scandal the country, including me and my grandmother, found themselves in the summer of 1974 watching the Congressional Impeachment Hearings on live television. It was in a period of personal upheaval and the last summer I was able to spend time just hanging out with my grandmother, who had been an oasis for me for a significant number of years. Together, we watched the hearings and shook our heads, marveling at the utter strangeness of the times – a presidential impeachment, after the scandals, the Vietnam War, the unrest, the turmoil, some of which even reach our Houston suburb.
That’s probably where I heard Barbara Jordan speak for the first time. A member of the House Judiciary Committee, she gave a fifteen minute speech on live television on July 25th which is credited by many as being one of the reasons Richard Nixon finally bowed to the inevitable and resigned. Like every speech this woman gave, it was powerful, smart, clear and rang with an unparalleled understanding and love for the principles embodied in the Constitution. It was, quite frankly, far over my head, as a high school teenager, but her amazing voice and the clarity with which she communicated were more than enough to reach out and ensnare my mind and heart.
I could barely have understood how incredibly unique she was, how groundbreaking and earthshaking. I had lived through race riots in my junior high school years over desegregation and I knew that the promise of our Founding Fathers that all men were created equal was not a realized reality in our land.
But I grew up with Lieutenant Uhura, and Nurse Julia and Barney Collier and while I knew the struggle was real, I thought everyone understood that bigotry and prejudice were the past and had no place in our future.
I graduated high school in 1976, the Bicentennial year. Our class song was Philadelphia Freedom. Our colors were red white and blue, even though the school colors were black and gold. And there was a presidential election coming up that year that we would be old enough to vote in.
There was some talk about Barbara Jordan as a possible running mate for Jimmy Carter and I really wanted that to happen. Instead, she became the first African American woman to be a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Though she was not a candidate, she actually got one delegate vote for president!
That year I was positive that I would live to see Barbara Jordan as President of the United States, some day.
We were never so fortunate.
If you already know her, and have heard her speak, I hope this small recollection does not seem too shabby a tribute.
If you haven’t heard her, do yourself a favor.
Keynote speech, part one. Listen to them cheer her… Listen to how carefully she says, “a Barbara Jordan”.
Part two. Accountability.
Part three. “Whatever differs from this…”
The impeachment speech. Listen to the unerring precision of her fire.
Thank you for your patience. Love and peace, Village! Enjoy your Wednesday gathering.
Today, the day set aside to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, is a good day to reflect on the power of resistance, the power of peaceful demonstration, the power of We The People to insist that our government reflects our values and addresses our needs.
On August 28, 1963 a quarter of a million people gathered to support civil rights, and share Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.[…]
With [our] faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
Full transcript below along with a video of John Lewis, President Barack Obama’s presidential proclamation for the final Martin Luther King Day holiday of his presidency, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s speech in Birmingham.
President Obama is among the speakers at the grand opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall. The ceremony also features readings and musical performances.
President Obama’s remarks, and the full text of his speech, are below.
Links to coverage and commentary on the the event are below and in the comments.
Harlem has multiple and layered meanings in our world of black art, history, and socio-political activism. Recent events surrounding attempts to rescue and preserve Langston Hughes’ Harlem brownstone from encroaching gentrification raise questions, and hopefully will evoke more interest in a powerful legacy that should be preserved for us all—no matter our race or location.
(From WikiMedia: clockwise from top left, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair)
These girls were killed for one reason: hatred of the color of their skin.
We are often called upon to forgive (and forget – now that we are post-racial!) but these four girls should never be forgotten and their murderers should never be set free.
Say their names:
– Addie Mae Collins
– Cynthia Wesley
– Carole Robertson
– Carol Denise McNair
We must never again allow racism and bigotry to be accepted as the norm. We must forcefully reject a political party, the Republican Party, where politicians who embrace the rhetoric of white supremacy can be nominated for the highest office in the land. Reject hatred, reject bigotry, reject Republicans.
The only way to end discrimination is to keep the power to make laws out of the hands of those who do not recognize the worth of every person.
Vote. And then when you finish voting, help someone else to vote.
Yesterday, Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and witness to the horrors of the Holocaust, died at the age of 87. As his words filled the news feeds, in images and text, the reminder of the horrors of state sponsored hate resonated with many who are watching the rise of Trumpism and the Republican Party’s cynical political choices that enables it.
… if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices …
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
On what we owe those who are denied justice and dignity:
One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs. […]
Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.
In June, 2009, President Obama and Elie Wiesel visited the site of the Nazi extermination camp at Buchenwald.
President Obama, seven years ago, still true:
… to this day, there are those who perpetuate every form of intolerance — racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and more — hatred that degrades its victims and diminishes us all. In this century, we’ve seen genocide. We’ve seen mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground; children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war. This places teaches us that we must be ever vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not our problem and commit ourselves to resisting those who would subjugate others to serve their own interests.