Racism – One Man’s Horror

I just began reading Michael Eric Dyson’s Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. I chose this as the first of his books to read because I remember vividly the news accounts of the aftermath of Katrina along the Gulf Coast, and in particular the events in New Orleans.

I remember seeing the television news video of a mother holding her infant child tight to her breast, pleading for water and food for her baby. I was incensed that the national media could get journalist and crews to the survivors at the Superdome, yet it was reported that due to flooding, FEMA and the military could not reach these people in need to deliver essential food and water.

To this day I believe the failed government response to the poor Black community of New Orleans was in no small part due to deeply ingrained systemic racism. This is racism that many people then and now believe no longer exist in this country. 

Anyone doubting how racism harms us as a nation need only look around them today. Political divisiveness is running rampant in the US. Party lines are now more than ever drawn as much on the basis of race, hatred, and the worst aspects of identity.

I offer the following passage from Professor Dyson’s book for your consideration of the state of American racism today.

My cousin hollered, “You’re shot.” I got up and tried to jump over the tree stumps in the street, and as soon as I got in mid-air another blast hit me in my back. And I fell on the ground again. Somehow, it was a miracle, I got up again, and I began to run. I heard [the white guys] saying, “Nigger, you gotta run.” I ran around a corner and I saw this black guy sitting on the porch, and I said “Man, help me.” And he said, “Come on,” but he was in the house with some white people. When I went to the back of the house, this white lady said “I can’t help you. You gotta get out of here.” So I ran away from their house. And I ran up to this truck with two white guys, and I said, “Please, please, please help me.” I felt like I was going to die. And the older white guy said, “Get away from my truck. We can’t help you. We’re liable to shoot you ourselves.” And they pulled off and called me a nigger. It’s like [white people] were using the opportunity nity to do something they’ve been waiting to do. And I’m thinking about racism and all that’s running in my head. I’m like, “I can’t believe lieve this.” After everything we’ve gone through, and everything I’ve been through, I would have never imagined this happening to me.

-Darnell Herrington, Katrina survivor

Dyson, Michael Eric. Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster, Basic Civitas, 2007, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0014ET26Y/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_1kjcAbZ5GX5EE.


#25thAmendmentNow – Not Likely, and Not the Best Path

On July 2, 2017, the Boston Globe published a piece discussing the Twitter trending #25thAmendmentNow. The idea that Trump is unfit for office, or much else other than a very short Pro Wrestling career, makes sense. It even feels good, as if its authors anticipated a lunatic could one day slither his way into the White House. I don’t think that’s what they had in mind. Nor does it seem likely that the 25th would be a viable path to pursue.

Unfit For Office

The phrase “unfit for office” seems a perfect fit for Trump. From psychosis evident to lay person, to his deeply disturbing aberrant  and abhorrent behaviors, his is what I’ve taken to call a “malignant presidency”.

When considering this under the 25th Amendment, you should look to the constitutional language. Section 4 states “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” as the condition to report by the Vice President and the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Read the amendment and its historical context and I believe you will agree that in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination Congress created a well defined path of power transfer for use in the event the President is incapacitated.

Trump Is Unfit For Office

Indeed, he is, but the path to removal prescribed by the amendment is far too onerous given the political makeup of Congress. John Legum, in his ThinkProgress articleThe 25th amendment is a fantasy” does a fine job of describing the path the 25th Amendment requires, and the reasons it can’t work now.

Impeach The Bum

Politically, impeachment is dicey, but not impossible. Given Trumps behaviors and level of public dissatisfaction, impeachment seems a much more viable path than #25thAmendmentNow.

Donald Trump, the Wedding Planner and the Runaway Trolley

Trump, who is known to reward loyalty, has made a number of terrible appointments for which the only justification for selection is personal loyalty. Loyalty is a desirable quality when making personnel choices. It does not, however, confer the ability to manage large, complex government enterprises absent any qualifying experience, training, and skill set.

One of his recent appointments is that of Lynne Patton to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New York and New Jersey office. Ms Patton is reported to have organized Eric Trump’s wedding and Trump golf tournaments, but I have seen nothing to qualify her to manage a large piece of the HUD enterprise.

It occurs to me that Trump’s behavior would be easy to predict in the ethics thought experiment of the runaway trolley. It goes like this:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:

  • Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
  • Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Which is the most ethical choice?

Imagine Trump in control of the track lever. Imagine the group of five as at risk Americans. Now imagine the person on the side track as a Trump loyalist.

Which is the Trump choice?

We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
4 April 1967
“Beyond Vietnam”



Alt-Right, White Nationalist, Free Speech: The Far Right’s Language Explained

NPR’s Wade Goodwyn explains the language and labels of American extremists. Nuance, confusion and conflict abound among these disjointed radical groups.

A number of labels involving the far right have been tossed about once again after a stabbing in Portland. Here’s what those labels mean.

Source: Alt-Right, White Nationalist, Free Speech: The Far Right’s Language Explained