Charlottesville Belies Racism’s Deep Roots in the North

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The KKK assembled in Portland, Maine, in 1923. Library of Congress

Brian J Purnell, Bowdoin College and Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College

A southern city has now become synonymous with the ongoing scourge of racism in the United States.

A year ago, white supremacists rallied to “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville, protesting the removal of a Confederate statute.

In the days that followed, two of them, Christopher C. Cantwell and James A. Fields Jr., became quite prominent.

The HBO show “Vice News Tonight” profiled Cantwell in an episode and showed him spouting racist and anti-Semitic slurs and violent fantasies. Fields gained notoriety after he plowed a car into a group of unarmed counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Today this tragedy defines the nature of modern racism primarily as Southern, embodied in tiki torches, Confederate flags and violent outbursts.

As historians of race in America, we believe that such a one-sided view misses how entrenched, widespread and multi-various racism is and has been across the country.

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The Slippery Slope of Dehumanizing Language


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Roseanne Barr had her sitcom canceled on May 29, after calling former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett the child of an ape. Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File

Allison Skinner, Northwestern University

Comparing people to animals seems to increasingly be a part of our political discourse.

When Roseanne Barr tweeted that former White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett was the child of an ape, it came only a couple of weeks after Donald Trump called immigrant gang members, “animals.”

Trump has been a target himself: On the cover of its April 2 issue, New York magazine depicted the president as a pig.

As a psychologist who studies social attitudes and intergroup relations, I get a bit uneasy when I see these types of insults get normalized. At their core, they’re a way to dehumanize others – a practice that can have pernicious effects.

In a range of studies, psychologists have been able to show how dehumanizing messages can influence how we think about and treat people.

In one study, after researchers subtly primed participants to associate black people with apes, the participants became more likely to tolerate aggressive, violent policing of black criminal suspects. Another study exposed participants to metaphors comparing women to animals. The participants subsequently showed a spike in hostile sexism.

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GBC Statement on the New NFL Anthem Policy


Last Wednesday, the National Football League announced a new policy requiring that, when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played before games during the upcoming season, “all team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” Teams whose players kneel or otherwise fail to “show respect for the flag,” as the league’s statement puts it a second time, will be fined. It is counter-productive to demand respect for the flag while undermining the principles for which it stands.

The Democrats Abroad Global Black Caucus regrets the NFL’s decision to force players to stand during the national anthem. We see this as an infringement on basic rights of self-expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. More broadly, it may diminish freedom of expression by employees and limit workers’ rights. Protest is one of the highest forms of patriotism. For these reasons, we applaud the statement by the NFL players’ union.

We need to focus on why the NFL players are kneeling. The critical issues of police brutality, racial injustice, mass incarceration (2.2 million people), and more, which animate today’s civil rights movement, are eloquently summarized in Colin Kaepernick’s April 21st acceptance speech when he received Amnesty International's  2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award. It is necessary to call out and put the brakes on these accelerating anti-democratic actions before they further limit civil and workers’ rights.

As Kaepernick says, “Love is at the root of our resistance”.

Watch Colin Kaepernick's Speech Before Amnesty International to learn the compelling reasons for taking a knee during the National Anthem.


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Austria's Black Caucus is Up and Running!


My name is Faith Herbold and I am chair of the Global Black Caucus in Austria. I am a native Californian, but I vote in the state of Missouri. It is an interesting and perilous time to be a person of color. We are bombarded daily with incidences of police brutality, discrimination, and intolerance towards African Americans and people of color.

My primary goal for this chapter is to have frank and honest discussions about race, its impact from a historical perspective and how it continues to influence and inform today’s global events. I want to tackle these complex issues through monthly coffee meet-ups and book clubs, where these discussions can happen in a relaxed and supportive environment. Of course, we will not focus only on the "heavy" because there is so much positivity and beauty in diversity. We will celebrate diversity by attending cultural events, comedy shows, dinners and art shows. Overall, I hope to make a positive impact in Austria and I hope you will join me in exploring, learning and growing.

If you would like to join the DA Austria Global Black caucus, just click the join button on our homepage. Everyone is welcomed and I look forward to meeting up, discussing important issues and having fun with you!

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Germany's Black Caucus is Online and Ready


Hello everyone, my name is Lori-Kaye and I have been appointed the chair of the Black Caucus in Germany. I have been living in Germany near Frankfurt for 13 years and vote in New York. As an international opera singer, I have had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling and getting to know many people and cultures. That's one of the reasons why I would like to get as many people involved in racial justice issues that are not only plaguing our country but, the entire world to this day.  The only way for we as Americans to be able to live peacefully is through accepting diversity in all its forms. In my opinion, racism is a lack of knowledge of other persons and its based on willful ignorance through certain news organizations, representation through our film and music industry, or passed down through family generations, to name a few.

Any person or any race or ethnicity can join the Black Caucus. If you are a person who believes in universal and unconditional human rights, and you are not a member of the Black Caucus, please join. I would love to get to know all of you and have some real conversations to come up with real solutions to this epidemic. Please take this survey. The purpose of this survey is to find out how many people would be interested in getting together for some of these fun events once a month and how many from each chapter so that I can get an idea as to how to organize it.  Just for starters, the subjects include:

  • Book Club
  • Martini Night with friendly political banter
  • Movie Night in a cozy living room with snacks
  • Labor Day American BBQ

If you have any ideas or suggestions, please specify on the survey. You can always contact me via email at [email protected]. Thank you for your participation and I look forward to hearing from you.

You can follow the Global Black Caucus on Facebook and Twitter



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Women's History Month Closes


With Black History Month behind us and Women’s History month coming to an end, it is an appropriate time to call attention to the intersectional pioneers who deserves more credit than they may have gotten.

In this past month I have researched a few of the women in the struggle for human rights.  They each have their own story and we do not want those stories to be lost. One common trait they had in common, regardless of their cause or profession, was their burning determination.  I learned a lot from their personal stories and gained a few insights. Most all the women that were reported on, fought for several causes. When slavery was abolished, they demanded the vote and control over their bodies, then them wanted equal rights in the workplace; they did not give up!

This speaks to the lesson number one; when these women spoke out they become stronger. Activism itself, seemed to generate power and it can become contagious. Diane Nash, the civil rights activist from the 60s, said “There is a power in each of us that we do not realize until we take responsibility.”

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GENTRIFICATION: Changing Neighborhoods for Better or Worse


 Old build in Olde Towne East, Columbus, OH, an overpopulated, rundown area a decade or two back


The renovation or removal-and-replacement of older structures is a worldwide phenomenon. This report focuses on gentrification in the US, with local examples drawn mainly from Columbus, OH.

At its most innocent, gentrification means ‘fixing up neighborhoods and making them attractive,’ the kind of place ‘the gentry’ would like to live.  Who can argue with that?

Certainly, not the developers rebuilding whole neighborhoods, often with tax rebates as incentives. Nor the bankers. Nor can the architects, construction workers, materials suppliers and truckers needed for the job. Nor the handymen who rehab older homes. The landscapers. The furniture and appliance merchants. The nearby eateries that feed all this activity. Not the passing motorists who note how satisfying it is to see that run-down area get a new lease on life. And certainly not the politicians who approve the plans and whose campaigns benefit from grateful donors.

In fact, not too many people object to gentrification, even the development-driven kind, apart from the original residents who are uprooted from familiar homes or who, if they manage to stay on, have to adjust to change and new neighbors. The folks who appreciate heirloom architecture, about to be razed for that new condo array, aren’t too happy. And then there those activists who connect the dots.


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Selma to Montgomery Marches on March 7 – 25, 1965


Credit: Spider Martin/Courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery


The three marches in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery in March 1965 (only the third march actually made it to Montgomery) were the culmination of years of grassroots and national struggles for the right to vote for African Americans in the South. This was finally achieved by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed by President Johnson on August 6, 1965. One of the greatest moments in American history was when the third march reached the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery with about 25,000 people and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his “How long? Not long.” speech to the nation and world.

The struggles were led by:

  • SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) led by John Lewis, and others
  • DCVL (Dallas County Voters League) led by Amelia Boynton Robinson, Samuel William Boynton, and others
  • SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Hosea Williams, James Bevel, Andrew Young, Ralph Abernathy, and others
  • NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
  • CORE (Congress of Racial Equality)

These were the three marches in March 1965 to go from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama, to demand voting rights for African Americans and for all citizens:

  • The first march Bloody Sunday on March 7 was stopped by violent state troopers and local police at the Edmund Pettis Bridge.
  • The second march Turnaround Tuesday on March 9 only went as far as the Edmund Pettis Bridge where it turned around when met by state troopers and local police.
  • The third march on March 21 had the support of federal troops. It crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge and reached its final destination on March 25 at the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery.

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Democrats Abroad Global Black Caucus Statement on March For Our Lives


Democrats Abroad Global Black Caucus fully supports the March For Our Lives events taking place around the world on March 24th, in solidarity with the students and families who will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that our lives and safety become a priority, and that we must end this epidemic of mass shootings and killings.

For many decades, black Americans have advocated for gun control. There are dramatic racial, economic and geographic disparities in American gun violence. Black children 17 and under are 10 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than white children. About half of America’s gun murder victims each year are black. The census tracts show that the worst gun violence in 2015 represented about 1.5% of the country’s total population, but 26% of the total gun homicides.

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Women's History Month: Paula A. Johnson


Paula A. Johnson, born in 1959, Brooklyn, N.Y. native, is a cardiologist, researcher, professor and public-health expert. She is a product of the New York public school system and a graduate of Radcliffe College at Harvard University. Johnson continued her studies at Harvard, successfully completing her studies with an M.D. and M.P.H (Master of Public Health) in 1985.[1] [2] Her entire career reflects these two pursuits.

In September 2016, Doctor Johnson became the 14th President of Wellesley College and the first African American to hold this position.  The appointment is a testament to her qualifications, international reputation and commitment to improving the lives of women.  Wellesley chose her to empower and lead the next generation of Wellesley graduates and those beyond. This achievement is of note when one considers the history of Black Americans having been denied education. Reading and writing were punishable with death, yet African American women like Paula Johnson have led by achieving academic excellence, indeed teaching. Johnson also notes that she has been successful by taking “less traditional routes”.[3]

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