Civil Rights Advocacy and Unsupportive White Attitudes: Lessons from World War II

By Steven White

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Civil rights advocates frequently work in the context of unfavorable public opinion among white Americans. For example, attitudes towards the Black Lives Matter movement remain strikingly racially polarized, with whites generally much less supportive of the movement than African Americans, even in the presence of video evidence of police misconduct. Such attitudes can be difficult to change. What, then, does it take to radically alter white racial attitudes? And what might civil rights advocates do if negative white attitudes toward the Black Lives Matter movement remain unchanged?

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Trump Supporters Have Cooler Feelings Towards Many Groups, Compared to Supporters of Other Candidates

By Jason McDaniel and Sean McElwee

It’s essentially settled that Donald Trump will be the Republican standard bearer for the 2016 election, and pundits are now fumbling to explain his unprecedented path to the nomination. In doing so, many focus on the uniqueness of Trump’s appeal to certain voters. We ourselves have contributed several pieces to the genre, demonstrating the strong connection between racially resentful attitudes and support for Trump among white people. Any human phenomenon will be complex and nuanced, so a certain amount of humility is required. In our newest analysis, we examine the feelings expressed by Trump supporters towards a variety of groups in America. The results are pretty clear: compared to supporters of other Republican candidates in the primary, Trump supporters really dislike many groups in America. For these voters, Trump’s blend of casual racism and muscular nativism is the core of his appeal.

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The Black Church and Political Inclusion

By Eric McDaniel

Horrific events of the past few weeks have thrust the Black church back into the public limelight, as it has once again become a prime target for White Supremacists. As the reports of these incidences have noted, the Black church is central to Black life. It is not just a place for spiritual concerns, but also a place for one to seek physical freedom. Because of its significance, the Black church is praised by Blacks, while vilified by White Supremacists. Especially prominent in the coverage of the incidents is the historical significance of Black churches as a symbol of political freedom. For instance, last week, a Washington Post article “Why racists target black churches” described the history of the Black church in cultivating civic leaders, like Martin Luther King Jr. Without the church as a haven for organization, the civil rights movement would have been very different. Yet the significance of the Black church as a place for civic development and political incorporation continues today. The Black church remains central to Black political advancement, which is why it is a target of animus for those who wish to impede Black political progress.

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Globalizing American Race Relations: Terrorism & NAACP

by Khalil Marrar

A violent explosion stunned residents of Colorado Springs, Colorado in the morning of January 6, 2015. Given the location, most feared that it was an act of terrorism as an investigation and manhunt ensued. Even after the apprehension of the assailant, Thaddeus Cheyenne Murphy, the mystery surrounding his alleged act, which according to the criminal complaint involved an improvised explosive device meant to “maliciously damage and destroy” the building housing the Colorado Springs’ chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), still persists. The event has renewed concerns about racial hatred while fueling worldwide interest in American race relations as it became the latest cauldron in the heated debate between progressives and conservatives. The reason: Murphy, a white male in his 40s, is the chief suspect in the incident involving the NAACP. His apparent crime has raised a number of troubling questions. The most pressing involves motive. Was it an act of terrorism against the NAACP? Or was it, as Murphy claims, an attempt to get back at his accountant Steve DeHaven, who coincidentally had been dead for months by the time the bombing occurred, for tax and bankruptcy disputes. Whatever the answer, an immediate concern surrounding the crime is how speculation has unfolded about the intended target of Murphy’s pipe bomb. And given racial tensions in the United Sates in the aftermath of Ferguson, Staten Island, and other hotspots of race relations, plenty of contestation continues to surround the bombing. If it’s ascertained that the attack was racially motivated and indeed was an assault against the NAACP, then the incident will confirm what some have feared for some time now: some, like Murphy, may engage in “lone wolf” acts of terror motivated by hate that are neither predictable nor understandable against a target as widely celebrated as the NAACP.

Irrespective of why it happened, it has become manifestly clear that the bombing has touched a nerve in the divide between left and right in the US and has brought renewed attention to what has become a crisis of race throughout the country. Colorado Springs is simply the latest flashpoint. As conjecture continues about Murphy’s intended target, a new front in the “culture wars” has emerged. Events since have pointed to just how divided the United States has become, particularly in relation to other advanced democracies, even about an act that apparently involved terrorism, an issue which, as demonstrated by the violence against Charlie Hebdo in Paris, always garnered domestic and international consensus. What took place in Colorado Springs has prompted the frequent list of pundits to gear up for a fight. Many of them, while lacking broad public support, do enjoy active and loud backing from the fringes represented by them. For instance, Michelle Malkin’s commentary on the bombing may be interpreted by many of her followers as a call to arms to resume what they believe is an existential struggle against their counterparts in the left. In reality, on both sides of the political divide, that struggle has earned its leading elites quite a bit of celebrity and wealth. Rather than offering solutions to the scourge of racism in the USA, the way that pundits from right and left manipulate tragic events for their own gains, not to mention, the events themselves, have refocused world attention on America’s racial tussle, as was demonstrated by a Washington Post report.

Unlike the broad condemnations of Islamist violence in France or elsewhere around the world, in America, the attack has proved highly polarizing. On the left, some surrogates have been jumping the gun and crying racism since the earliest moments of the Colorado Springs detonation. On the right, figures like Malkin led the charge to downplay the bombing as nothing more than a “barbershop bang.” Meanwhile, Fox News, a champion of conservative causes, has remained mostly quiet about the subject, perhaps waiting until the dust settled and having clarity about Murphy’s motives. The same could be said about the more centrist CNN. Most media outlets offered mention to what happened in Colorado Springs with little speculation about what actually motivated it or what the attack may have represented.

It is true that the NAACP has been a beacon for those interested in defending the civil rights and liberties of minorities around the world for a century. The organization has been on the forefront of political and economic equality for all citizens, from race riots preceding the First World War, the federally mandated integration of the US armed forces after the Second World War, through the popular civil rights movements of the 1960s. Today the NAACP, in its own words, has continued to “fight for social justice for all Americans.” Such a mission has always been targeted by those, animated by hate, seeking to disrupt and undo progress made on issues of race, ethnicity, and gender.

As media outlets from around the globe descended on Missouri to cover the racially charged atmosphere after Ferguson, whatever happened in Colorado Springs should demand concern from the American public and its leaders. And with names like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner becoming international symbols for how minorities in the US are treated, they also served as constant reminders to Americans that their country remained enmeshed in a vile set of racially tinged politics. The Colorado Springs bombing, while unsuccessful in killing anyone, might well have been intended to send a message that racial animus and lynch mob insanity persisted despite advancements in race relations. These advancements have culminated in the election of the first black president while America remains a majority white society. Not only did Barack Obama represent progress made by the country to all Americans, his global celebrity demonstrated that the world cared about the outcome of race relations in the United States.

Nevertheless and despite how much progress was made as demonstrated by Obama’s two term presidency or other progress in race relations and advancement of minorities in the USA, incitement to hate, while prominent during a terrible period in American history, had staying power, as demonstrated by the terrorist plot in Colorado Springs being read in the larger context racial animus. It will remain known worldwide that regardless of its particular motive, the reaction to it has demonstrated once again that rather than moving beyond race, the US remained mired in the troubled aftermath of Jim Crow.

The United States, despite its globally awe inspiring achievements in civil rights for all regardless of identity, inborn or chosen, still remained a country in which hate has always been a preeminent motivator for ideologues caught up in and perhaps benefiting from racial and ethnic division. And regardless of the outcome of the investigation into the Colorado Springs bombing, Americans need to reflect on why such incidents illicit so much fury from the left and right and where their country is headed—whether it’s towards more inclusiveness despite identity or towards a bleak future in which immutable factors determine quality of life, health, and wealth of its citizens. Americans and the world will continue to watch and remain invested as the future unfolds.

Dr. Khalil Marrar is a professor of politics and justice studies at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois. His research focuses on the intersection of public policy and foreign affairs, and he is the author of The Arab Lobby and US Foreign Policy: The Two State Solution (Facebook page) He is currently working on a book entitled Middle East Conflicts: The Basics, to be published Routledge. His lectures and research focus on Arab and Muslim diasporas, particularly their policy preferences. Marrar also teaches American, global, comparative, and Middle East Politics. 

Growing Latino Gender Differences on Key Policy Issues

By Christina Bejarano

Originally posted at LatinoDecisions.com

We continue to witness the very emotional and controversial debates over several key issues, including ‘women’s issues’ and immigration policy. This is especially evident at the wake of President Obama’s announcement of executive action on immigration. As we look to the key issues that will motivate Latinos to participate in politics, it is important to understand differences across gender.

We cannot assume that all Latinos will share a common attitude on the significant political issues of the day. What issues will persuade Latinos to provide the crucial electoral support to either political party or political candidate? I am interested in answering these questions in terms of variation among Latinos based on gender. How do Latino male and female attitudes differ? It is especially imperative that political officials and political parties understand how their policy and electoral strategies influence the Latino community.

In the United States since the 1980s, women generally hold more liberal policy positions than men. In terms of specific policy views, women are often more supportive of a more activist role for government, more supportive of affirmative action and efforts to achieve racial equality, and more supportive of programs to guarantee quality health care and meet basic human needs (CAWP 1997). Based on this gender trend, we would expect Latinas to also demonstrate a modern gender gap, with more liberal political views than their male counterparts. However, previous researchers have generally found few gender differences for racial/ethnic minority preferences. This includes few gender differences on the most politically salient issues for particular racial/ethnic or gender groups. Instead, the greatest influence on Latino public opinion is generally whether they were born in the United States or the amount of time they have lived in the country (Sanchez 2006). Latinos who have been in the U.S. for shorter amounts of time are generally more likely to support public policies that will help allocate funding to those in need. More recent research finds that there are small gender differences on Latino views on gender issues, with Latinas expressing more support for policies that will help promote gender equality in the U.S.

In the two most recent elections, 2012 and 2014, Latinos identified the most important issues facing the Latino community as the economy, immigration reform, education, and healthcare (Election Eve Polls). The set of policy issues do not change dramatically across both elections, except for the top issue changing from the economy in 2012 to immigration reform in 2014. The gender differences are also minor, with slightly more Latinas reporting that health care and education are important to the Latino community, compared to Latino males who were more likely to choose immigration reform.

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In my book, The Latino Gender Gap in U.S. PoliticsI found Latinos generally support more liberal policy views, with Latinas generally more liberal than Latino men. The policy areas include gender related issues, reach of government policies (government income support, support the Affordable Care Act continuing as law) and Immigration-Related policies (such as disapproval of workplace raids). A key set of government policies relate to the debate over immigration reform. This set of policies address the support for President Obama given his potential to impact immigration policy. In June 2012, President Obama introduced a deferred action policy for undocumented youth. Latinos generally reported feeling more enthusiastic (53 percent) about Obama after his deferred action policy announcement rather than less enthusiastic (9 percent) (2012 Election Eve Poll). While, 33 percent of Latinos responded that their enthusiasm for Obama was not affected after his June 2012 announcement. There was also a gender gap in the responses, with Latinas showing more enthusiasm for Obama after his announcement compared to Latino males.

More recently, Latinos were asked about their potential enthusiasm for the Democratic Party if President Obama was able to issue an executive order on immigration in 2014. Incidentally, Latinos were asked this question on the eve of the 2014 midterm election, which was actually a couple of weeks before President Obama’s historic announcement of executive action on immigration. Again, Latinos report feeling more enthusiastic (58%) about the Democratic Party if President Obama were to issue an executive order on immigration in 2014 (2014 Election Eve Poll). In terms of gender, more Latinas report they will feel enthusiasm for the Democratic Party after the executive order, compared to the Latino males.

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The battle over health-care is also particularly salient for Latinos, given their higher likelihood of being uninsured (29.1 percent in 2012) compared to the general population (15.4 percent) (U.S. Census 2013). The first policy is a measure of Latino support for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (2012 Election Eve Poll). A majority of Latinos, 66 percent, support allowing Obama’s Affordable Care Act to continue to stand as law. In addition, the majority of Latinos (66%) believe that when it comes to access to health care, the federal government should play a role to ensure that all people have access to health insurance. More recently, the majority of Latinos also believe their respective states (TX, FL, GA, KS, and NC) should accept federal money to expand the Medicaid program so that more low-income people have access to health insurance (2014 Election Eve Poll). In terms of gender, more Latinas (70%) than Latino males (62%) agree the government should ensure access to health insurance. While more Latino males than Latinas support the Affordable Care Act continuing as law and expanding the Medicaid program.

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The majority of Latinos also generally support several other key policies that include a greater reach of government. The majority of Latinos, 78%, favor raising the federal minimum wage from 7.25 to 10.10 an hour. In terms of the environment, 84% of Latinos also believe it is important that the federal government take measures to reduce carbon pollution that is causing global warming or climate change. Across these two issues, Latinas also report higher levels of support than Latino males.

Overall, the results can be linked to Latinos’ depth of support for more liberal public policies, which was especially true for Latinas. In fact, the polling of Latinos throughout the 2012 and 2014 elections, demonstrated there is a significant gender gap in support of the more liberal public policies. In terms of which party to trust on ‘women’s issues’, Latinas also had an overwhelming support for the Democrats over the Republicans in 2012, 78% compared to 13% (Manzano 2012). As a result of Latinas’ increased support of more liberal public policies, they may also be more likely than Latino males to support the Democratic Party and their candidates. It is imperative that the political parties devise new strategies to appeal to the very diverse Latino electorate. They should also be determined to focus on Latinas as a key group of Latino voters. This post builds on a series of blogs I have written focused on Latinas, including a recent discussion of the partisan gap among Latinos based on gender.

 Christina Bejarano is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas. Her book entitled The Latino Gender Gap in U.S. Politics (2014) was published by Routledge Press.

Fear and Fantasy in Ferguson

by Joseph Lowndes

There are many things that bear examining in the police killing of Michael Brown and its aftermath: the local police force, the media, the legal system. But action in each of these diverse institutional settings is tied together by one overwhelming phenomenon – white fear of black violence. Yet this fear has, since before the founding, played an important, even central role in an American political culture that has white supremacy at its core. We cannot get to any adequate understanding of the events surrounding Michael Brown’s death without this acknowledgement.

In a nation founded on ideals of freedom and equality on the one hand, and slavery and genocide on the other, white aggression toward people of color has always required powerful moral justification. At one level, this justification is only made possible insofar as those who are victims of state aggression can be made to seem the aggressors. More than that, these victims must be made into figures of annihilating destruction.

This transformation of people of color into fearsome specter is at the heart of what the late political theorist Michael Rogin called countersubversion – a political tradition in the United States that emerges repeatedly in racial conflict. As he put it, “The countersubversive needs monsters to give shape to his anxieties and to permit him to indulge his forbidden desires. Demonization allows the countersubversive, in the name of battling the subversive, to imitate his enemy.”

We tend to think of anxiety and fear as personal emotional states. Yet intense, animating dread of black aggression describes not merely the psychological profile of the individual bigot or marginal white supremacist group.   It is built into the cultural logic of law enforcement and legal norms, as well as shared social beliefs in white American society.

Consider the stark images from the early protests following the shooting: local police in Kevlar helmets, assault-friendly gas masks, woodland Marine Pattern utility trousers, tactical body armor, and gas masks drawing automatic weapons on a lone black teen with hands raised. Or armored personnel carriers rolling through neighborhoods, mounted high-powered rifles with local residents in their sights. The fact that the US military sold this equipment, used in Afghanistan in Iraq, to local police forces across the nation only underscores the fear of loss of control over potentially dangerous local populations in an era when the imperatives of law enforcement are so closely tied to racial narratives of crime and disorder. It also links racial domination at home to empire-building abroad.

And there is Wilson’s own testimony to the grand jury. First, this police officer, who stands at six feet four inches, describes Brown (who was 6’ 4”) in superhuman dimensions. “And when I grabbed him,” Wilson claims “the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.” Wilson becomes an innocent child overpowered by a giant adult, instead of an armed adult who in fact killed a child.

Wilson then goes on to describe Brown’s “intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon.” “At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him.” Wilson goes on, “and the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.” Brown has a face of a devil and is as unstoppable as a zombie.

The grand jury, made up of nine whites and three African Americans, reached their decision in an institutional context shaped by racial logic linking race, crime, violence and the authority of the police. Rarely do such bodies choose to indict the latter. All anyone knows for certain is that an unarmed Brown was slain by Wilson from 153 feet away. What should be noted here though is the language of demonization, of monstrosity in the testimony of Wilson. His account is not one merely of facts, but of powerful fantasy. “The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact and fiction,” said Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch. Indeed, Wilson’s successful testimony seems to have done just the opposite.

“Mama, see the Negro! I’m frightened!” went the cry from a white child upon seeing the black psychoanalyst and social theorist Frantz Fanon on a train. Fanon recounts this moment where his blackness is named as violence beyond his power to shape it. He knew that he was trapped in what he called a “historico-racial schema” woven by a white society “out of a thousand details, anecdotes, stories.” In much the same way for Michael Brown in life for Wilson, and then in death for the grand jurors, frightening violence was already present in his blackness.

It is this monstrous black violence, already present before the fact – in the killing of Mike Brown, in the militarized forces on the streets of Ferguson, in Wilson’s grand jury testimony, in Missouri governor Jay Nixon’s declaration a statewide state of emergency more than a week before the Grand Jury gave its verdict, and finally in cable news lamentations not of black pain and sorrow, but of property destruction in the wake of the non-indictment.

The non-indictment of Wilson has resulted in an enormous wave of upheaval on the streets of Ferguson and now across the nation. This tumult should be celebrated, not feared. As the great republican thinker Niccolò Machiavelli said about the rioters of ancient Rome, its participants are guardians of liberty. Right now they provide the only appropriate response to the very real brutality of state violence.

Joseph Lowndes is an associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon.
His research areas include race, populism, culture, and American political development. He is the author of From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism ( Yale University Press 2008)

NEW scholarship: “The next generation? A reexamination of religious influence on Mexican- American attitudes toward same-sex marriage.”

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New scholarship from Neilan Chaturvedi published this month in the new WPSA journal Politics, Groups, and Identities, finds “that second and third-generation Mexican-Americans look more like  mainstream’  Americans than their immigrant predecessors” (600). In particular, Chaturvedi looks at attitudes among Mexican Americans toward same sex marriage.

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Chaturvedi considers the role of church attendance, devotion, and age on attitudes toward same sex marriage, and finds third generation Mexican Americans to be more accepting of same sex marriage. He discusses the implications of his findings; check out the full article here.