I began writing this for another blog, but found it was a little too intense for the audience. So I've placed it here, on my personal blog. Let me know what y'all think.
One more note. A radio host this morning bemoaned how blacks and whites might split on their reading of the Michael Vick story. I think it's better to let such emotions out, to deal with what drives them, and to seek common ground. They are important, illustrating how hatred dehumanizes everyone it touches.
Since Katrina the covert racism found in many Deep South states has become increasingly overt, and the region will pay a high price if, as expected, Democrats sweep to power nationally next year.
Troy Davis (right, from his Web site). Genarlow Wilson. Michael Miller. Each is a case study of white, Republican politicians sticking it to poor blacks, while other white, Republican politicians pile-on with racist rhetoric and no white, Republican politician calls them on it.
Brad Warthen of The State sums it up well: In the South, the GOP is the White Man's Party. Everybody knows that. This in an article where he's trying to argue that racism isn't an issue, let alone THE issue, in Deep South politics.
A generation after Dr. King (two generations for many blacks) race remains the issue in the politics of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana because there are enough black voters in all those states to control the actions of one party, along with the governments of some cities and counties. This causes white voters to gravitate toward the other party, and to other jurisdictions, resulting (in our time) in increased segregation, increased inequality, increased distrust, and (finally) increased racism.
Let me be clear about one important point here. In our time this can be a two-way street. In places like Jackson Mississippi, Birmingham Alabama, DeKalb County Georgia and New Orleans, racial politics is played to protect black crooks, to protect black political patronage, and often to protect both. William Jefferson, Frank Melton, and Vernon Jones (left) are not above steering work to their friends, padding payrolls, and letting fear of whitey keep folks in line. They even use race against other blacks, painting opponents as "white candidates" once they generate significant business or liberal support.
In response the Georgia legislature has spent the last two sessions, under Republican leadership, creating city lines behind which white property owners are protected from having to subsidize services to blacks. Sandy Springs. Johns Creek. Dunwoody.
On the other hand Grady Hospital and MARTA, both paid for by (mostly black) voters in Fulton and DeKalb Counties, are going under while white suburban officials -- whose people make enormous use out of both -- tell 'em to go stuff it.
Where blacks subsidize whites, whites pretend it doesn't happen. Where whites subsidize blacks, whites go to extraordinary lengths to end it. That's racism.
- Georgia Senate President Pro-Tem Eric Johnson and Douglas County D.A. David McDade (right) have practically pulled on white sheets to keep Wilson behind bars, and no Republican calls them out for it.
- Miller, who is accused of buying over a pound of coke with South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, appears at his arraignment in chains while Ravenel skates off to rehab and mails in his plea.
- Davis, for whom 7 of 9 witnesses in his original murder trial have recanted their testimony, still looks likely to be killed on a technicality.
All of these cases have come to light since Katrina, in which it's
clear whites and blacks were treated entirely differently, in all three
states where the brunt of the disaster took place. New Orleans, once the queen of black American culture in this
country, has seen its people blown to the winds, while rebuilding has
begun in lily-white suburbs and Republicans gleefully plot their return
to power in Baton Rouge. Mississippi residents of modest means have been told not to even think of rebuilding on the Gulf Coast. In Alabama, the story is similar.
Katrina seems to have been a signal to white Republicans across the Deep South that the bark could come off, that it is time for the Klan to ride again, because black lives are worthless while whites deserve constant protection.
The record is clear. The silence of the Republican grassroots, even its many bloggers, on this issue is deafening. And telling. I'm a bit like Rudy Giuliani on this issue. You let the broken windows go, pretty soon people are being robbed on the street and everyone's pretending they didn't see anything. This is the result when little racism isn't called out, and shamed for what it is. Big racism results. Innocent men die, teenagers become felons for blow jobs, unequal treatment under the law becomes routine.
This latest rising of the Klan will be put down. And the economy of the Deep South will suffer for it. If politicians, journalists and bloggers within this region continue to keep silent, the pressure for change will have to come from outside.
The distance in time between racism and reaction, between Jim Crow and Dr. King, won't be measured in decades this time, but in only a few years.
Don't say you weren't warned.