Houston, we’ve had a problem (James A. Lovell).
Ask and you shall receive (Mt 7:7).
On April 11, 1970, the seventh manned mission in the US space program, Apollo 13, was launched from the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2016). The astronauts on board the mission were James A. Lovell, jr., Commander; Fred W. Haise, jr., pilot of the lunar module, Aquarius; and John L. Swigert, jr., pilot of the command module, Odyssey (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], 2009). The mission was intended to be the third lunar landing attempt and Apollo 13 was set to land in the Frau Mora highlands of the moon (US Congress, 2010). But the unexpected took place.
Two days into the mission, which had been characterized by uneventfulness and being “bored to tears” (NASA, 2009) as reported by the capsule communicator, John Kerwin, the second oxygen tank on board the service module exploded after it had been stirred as part of routine maintenance procedures. The explosion resulted in the failure of the first oxygen tank. The mission of Apollo 13 became crippled.
Critical supplies of electricity, light, and water were lost aboard the spaceship. The oxygen supply started being vented out into space in an uncontrollable manner at a high rate per second and the fuel cells started to die. The entire Sector Four panel of the service module had been blasted away by the explosion and wreckage was hanging out. Aquarius became a ‘lifeboat’ for the crew, despite having been designed to hold no more than two men for just two days (The New York Times, 1970). The astronauts were 200,000 miles away from the earth. Continue reading “Chapter 10: The return”
America’s 21st Century Alt-Right
A long time ago there was Apartheid, an ideology based on racial privilege, fear of the other, walls and barbed wire, censorship, ignorance and oppression (Scholars and Rogues).
The year 2016 saw the election of Donald John Trump as President of the US. A White billionaire of German and Scottish ancestry, Trump won the presidency with 304 Electoral College votes, while losing the popular vote by 2.86 million votes (Schmidt & Andrews, 2016). President Trump became the oldest and wealthiest male ever to hold the highest political office in the nation. He also became the first to do so without having prior government or military service to his name.
“Make America Great Again”
We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us (John Winthrop).
An examination of the demographics related to the victory of President Trump reveals an interesting pattern of data in relation to the underlying reason for his election. According to the results of the national exit polls reported the day after the 2016 general elections, the distribution of the electorate consisted of 69% White voters versus 31% non-White voters (Henley, 2016; Tyson & Maniam, 2016). From the former group, 58% of White voters supported President Trump, with this statistic comprising 63% of White males and 53% of White females. From the overall total number of males and females (White and non-White) that made up the electorate, a greater number of males than females voted for the President (53% v. 41%). This gender gap was the widest to occur in presidential election exit polls since 1972.
Considered by education level, 67% of non-college-educated Whites voted for the President Trump, with 72% of that group being made up of males (Henley, 2016; Tyson & Maniam, 2016). Fifty two percent of the total number of college graduates (white collar) were reported to have voted for his opponent, Secretary Hillary Clinton. Conversely, 52% of the total number of voters without a college degree (blue collar) had voted for the President. This education gap was the widest in presidential election exit polls since 1980. Continue reading “Chapter 7: America’s 21st century alt-right / Make America White Again”
The First African American US President
One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world (Barack Hussein Obama).
In November 2008, an African American civil rights lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, community organizer, and senator representing the state of Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected as the 44th President of the US. He became the first and only Black American to date in the history of the nation to hold the highest political office. He was also the first president to have been born outside the contiguous US.
During the tenure of Obama as president, more legislative measures were introduced to combat overt and covert racism in the country. But America, given its racial legacy both as a nation and as a people, could not handle a non-White male in the White House as president. Covert and not-so-covert racism increased, and this became manifest even in relation to the President himself.
Death threats and racist chatter on the websites of many White supremacists, directed toward the person of the President, increased to such an unprecedented degree that even while Obama was still a candidate, a bipartisan congressional advisory committee decided to assign Secret Service protection to him a full 18 months before the 2008 general elections (Parks & Heard, 2009; Pickler, 2007; Toomey, 2007; Zeleny, 2007). Some threats also targeted his Black American nuclear family.
I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people (Abraham Lincoln).
For example, Raymond Hunter Geisel was arrested in August 2008 for threatening to assassinate Obama (Parks & Heard, 2009). Geisel had been overheard using a racial epithet in his regard during a training class for bail bondsmen. He added, “If he gets elected, I’ll assassinate him myself” (ibid.). Also in August, another three men who seemed to adhere to the ideology of White supremacy were arrested after having disclosed that they planned to shoot Obama during the acceptance speech he was to give as his party’s nominee at the Democratic National Convention (McKinney et al., 2008). In October, federal officials arrested yet another two White supremacists who intended to assassinate Obama (Lichtblau, 2008). These individuals had also planned to go on a killing rampage against a school in Tennessee that was majority-Black in its population, with the intent of beheading 88 African American children.
The day after the general elections in November, many citizens in Maine rallied against “a backdrop of Black figures hung by nooses from trees” (Parks & Heard, 2009). In the meantime, a betting pool progressed in one of their convenience stores as to when President Obama would be assassinated. A sign at the store read: “Let’s hope we have a winner” (ibid.). In Hardwick, New Jersey, an unknown individual burned crosses in front of the house of a biracial couple, while the phrases “Kill that nigger” and “Shoot Obama” (ibid.) were found spray painted in the free expression tunnel of North Carolina State University. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a poster of President Obama with a bullet going through his head appeared in a police station. At the University of Texas in Austin, the footballer Buck Burnette posted the following sentence on his Facebook page: “All the hunters gather up, we have a nigger in the White House” (ibid.). Second- and third-graders in a public school in Rexburg, Idaho, were heard chanting “Assassinate Obama” (ibid.), while in Vay, also in Idaho, a sign offering a “free public hanging” (ibid.) of the President appeared on a tree. Continue reading “Chapter 6: The first African American US President / Overt racism rises again”
State of the Nation in 2008
I have wept as I have gone from city to city and seen how far people have wandered from God (Billy Graham).
Both overt and covert racism continued to plague America, despite significant gains in civil liberties for racial and ethnic minorities, in addition to the ramp-up of federal anti-discrimination laws. In 1989, a White male shot “105 rounds from the . . . [AK-47 assault rifle purchased over the counter], killing five Southeast Asian children because he blamed minorities for taking jobs away from White men” (Sue, 2005).
Rodney King, an African American male, was beaten with significant brutality in 1991 by police officers in Los Angeles (LA), California, after having been arrested for motor speeding and evading arrest (Cable News Network [CNN], 2001). Three officers were acquitted from charges of having used excessive force against King in a trial by jury, the composition of which was 83% White. This acquittal sparked off the LA race-related riots of 1992, deemed the worst in the history of the city. During the riots, arson, assaults, and murders ensued by both Whites and Blacks. These riots lasted six days and ended after mandated interventions by the California National Guard, the US Army, and the US Marines. After the verdict had been handed down, the mayor of LA declared that the assailants of Rodney King did not deserve to be police officers. In the meantime, President Bush reiterated that the judicial system had worked (Mydans, 1992).
In 1997, an immigrant from Haiti was strip-searched, raped, and sodomized with a toilet plunger by some New York City police officers in Brooklyn after having been arrested and handcuffed for disorderly conduct (Sue, 2005). In 1998, three White males belonging to a White supremacist prison gang lynched an African American male in Texas in a savage manner, then “chained [him] to a pickup truck and dragged [him] to death, while his body was practically shredded and torn apart” (ibid.). This incident is discussed in more detail in the chapter The First African American US President. In 2000, a 21-year-old White male member of the supremacist group World Church of the Creator shot without compunction several African Americans, Asian Americans, and Orthodox Jews in Illinois and Indiana. Continue reading “Chapter 4: State of the nation in 2008 / Aftermath of 9/11 / Hate crimes and racial ridicule”
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force (Martin Luther King, jr.).
Covert racism tended to replace overt racism in the US after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Covert racism has been found to be associated with liberal political attitudes (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1996, 2000), whereas overt racism has been found to be associated with conservative political attitudes (Sue et al., 2007a, b). Although simplistic in nature to the point of naiveté, this dichotomization on the racism spectrum can serve to foreground the predominance of covert racism from the mid-20th century onward and provide an initial understanding of its internal workings and external manifestations. Covert racism persists to this day in addition to overt racism, which has returned among the American people in very recent history.
Starting with the Freedom Summer of 1964, three civil rights activists were killed in Mississippi by the KKK (Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC], 2007). Despite the most intense federal investigation being carried out at the time and the successful identification of more than 20 perpetrators, just one perpetrator was prosecuted. The case became known as Mississippi Burning.
Non-therapeutic clinical study. In 1965 the US Army, supported by the Dow Chemical Company, carried out a non-therapeutic clinical study on 70 inmates at the Holmesburg State Prison in Pennsylvania to study the untreated effects of dioxin (Cockburn & St. Chair, 1998-1999; Hornblum, 1997). Dioxin was injected subcutaneously into the selected participants, most of whom were African American males. Biopsies and painful procedures were frequent. Continue reading “Chapter 3: Covert racism”
Outlawing Overt Racism
What difference if I hail from North or South, or from the East or West? My heart is filled with love for all of these (Don Raye).
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (78 Stat. 241) was enacted almost 188 years to the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It marked a turning point in US history. This Act, with its 11 statutes, was a landmark piece of legislation that outlawed overt racism and discrimination nationwide in all forms and settings in a permanent and irrevocable manner.
Title I of the Act reaffirmed the right to vote of US citizens irrespective of race and prohibited discriminatory barriers. Title II provided injunctive relief for anyone denied “full and equal enjoyment” (ibid.). of public accomodations due to color, national origin, race, or religion. Title III desegregated public facilities and established the right to equal protection, while Title IV desegregated public education and gave the US Attorney General the right to prosecute discriminatory institutions.
Title V established the Commission on Civil Rights, while Title VI mandated racial nondiscrimination in all federally-assisted programs including those related to education. Title VII established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, together with various affirmative action programs and policies. Title VIII established the need for registration and voting statistics, whereas Title IX established procedures for intervention in civil rights cases. Title X established community relations services, while Title XI addressed miscellaneous related needs at the legislative level.
Outlawing Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation. The 24th Amendment outlawed the Jim Crow poll taxes in 1964, whereas the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973) outlawed the voting literacy tests and broke “the segregationist lock on the ballot box” (The White House, 2006). In the same year, President Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 (The White House, 1965), which implemented the baseline standard of equal opportunity in employment. The SCOTUS through Loving v. Virginia of 1967 (288 U.S. 1) ruled that anti-miscegenation laws were illegal and overturned the Racial Integrity Act in Virginia, Pace v. Alabama, and similar laws.
Racism had at long last become illegal in the US. However, given its institutionalization in the very heart and mind of the nation, as well as in the individual and collective psyches of the American people, it did not vanish at the strokes of the legislative pens. Racism became repressed and remained ever-present, emerging in more insidious and subtle forms from micro- to macro-levels of society as covert racism.