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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Monday, June 22, 2020

Even calling it the "Theodore Roosevelt Statue" is racist

If you've heard of the recent controversy around the removal of the Theodore Roosevelt Statue from Central Park in New York City, or even if you heard about the Theodore Roosevelt Statue at some time in the past, but had not seen it, you might think it was a statue of Theodore Roosevelt, and no one else, because that is the usual meaning of the word statue:

Upon seeing it, you might be surprised to find that actually three people are represented in this sculpture, and that is the proper term for it, the named Teddy Roosevelt, on his horse, has an unnamed Native American and an unnamed African trailing behind him. That makes this sculpture a homage to white supremacy, calling it the "Theodore Roosevelt Statue" is to fail to acknowledge, or to refuse to acknowledge, the other two people depicted in this sculpture. That makes referring to it as the "Theodore Roosevelt Statue" racist. It's really that simple.

Clay Claiborne

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Was George Floyd lynched for having a white girlfriend?

This is actually a two part question, so let's tackle part one first: Was George Floyd lynched?

Consider how Sumaiya Shaikh describes lynching in The Cognitive Neuroscience of a Lynching, Wired, 18/Jul/2017:
A mob lynching isn’t the same as any physical harm or a killing. It needs several components to come together: attackers, spectators and outnumbered victim(s). It needs the public humiliation of the victim and, unlike a lawful process of punishment, a lynching is a demonstration that the sentiments of the attackers are beyond the law or the government.
The murder of George Floyd had all those elements. The attackers were Derek Chauvin and the other cops, fortunately for all, one of the spectators made a video, and Floyd obviously was the victim. He was humiliated. His killing was unlawful, and they demonstrated to the onlookers that they made their own "law." Thanks to Darnella Frazier, the 17-year old that made the 10 minute cell phone video that blew the lid, this may be the most widely viewed lynching in history. Shaikh continues:
Whether the victims die or survive the lynching, they are almost always bent on their knees or close to the ground, palms joined together, begging for mercy and often soaked in blood. Their gesture and facial expressions suggest that they will do and say anything to save themselves from more harm.
The victim’s brain, paralysed by fear, inhibits all movement and prevents him from running away from the attack.
This last part could explain why Floyd said he couldn't get up with three cops on top of him. He showed all the classic symptoms, including his stomach aching as the bowels leave the body for the last time. Shaikh continues:
The perpetrators are the people that are hired or spontaneously perpetrate a lynching by others in leadership positions. This category of ‘participants’ isn’t an individual but a group that unites to act as a single entity.
This mob was hired by the city. Lynch mobs also post guards to stop anyone who might try to interfere from doing so. This had that too, in the person of Officer Thao.

It is important to understand that a lynching is not a hanging. The hangman's knot, and the drop, often weighted by sandbags, is designed to break the neck of the person being executed and insure that death comes quickly. That's why it is considered one of the five humane ways of carrying out the death penalty, and still legal in some states.

A lynching is death by strangulation. The victim is "strung up" for public display, and then is allowed to twist and strangle as the life is driven out of him slowly over a matter of minutes, even hours. It is a form of torture, as George Floyd was tortured. Do not be confused because no rope was used. The murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin had all the important elements of a lynching. For all intents and purposes, George Floyd was lynched.

George Floyd and girlfriend Courteney Ross
This brings us to the second half of the title, and the sticky question as to the motive of Chauvin, and perhaps the other cops.

This question gets more interesting now that we know that both George Floyd and Derek Chauvin worked security at the same club, and Chauvin had a prior beef with Floyd. Both had worked part-time as security for El Nuevo Rodeo, a popular Latin club for about a year. Buzzfeed reports:
“It’s very shocking,” said Alexander Vasquez Hagen, who worked security at the club several years ago and interacted with Chauvin in that capacity. He said he knew and liked Floyd from the city’s club scene.

added AJ Jaurequi, a club promoter in the area. He said he wondered if the two men “had some beef with each other, because it’s odd that you’d treat someone you knew like that.”

Maya Santamaria, the club’s former owner, said Floyd, the father of a six-year-old girl, was “a sweetheart” and that “everyone loved him.” Santamaria said she’d hire Floyd for busy nights, to join the 25 other security guards inside the club.
Santamaria recalled that Chauvin, a 19-year-veteran of the department, “was nice but he would overreact and lash out quickly.”

This was particularly true, she said, on nights when the club hosted special events like Twerk Tuesdays and other dance festivals geared toward the black community.

“His face, attitude, posture would change when we did urban nights,” she said, adding that he had a “propensity to pull out pepper spray” and use it on her patrons, something she said she had spoken to him about.
Now David Pinney, a man who worked security with both Floyd and Chauvin, told CBS that Chauvin knew Floyd "I would say pretty well." He said they had a history:
"They bumped heads," Pinney said.

"How?" CBS News asked.

"It has a lot to do with Derek being extremely aggressive within the club with some of the patrons, which was an issue," Pinney explained.
Courteney Ross at George Floyd Memorial Monday
Pinney says that Chauvin had a problem with black people, and thinks he should be charged with first degree murder because "He knew him."

I think we can say that it has been established that Chauvin had exhibited racist behavior towards African Americans, and that he knew Floyd when he was killing him. Therefore it is probable that his motives were racist as well as personal. As to the last part of my question, beyond the fact that George Floyd's girl friend, Courteney Ross, 44, is white, I can offer only speculation.

She met Floyd three years ago when he was working security at a Salvation Army store, and they had been dating since. She manages The Coffee Shop Northeast, about 6 miles from the club where both Floyd and Chauvin worked. Nothing I've seen so far indicates that Chauvin knew she was Floyd's girlfriend, or even of her existence, but what we are learning about both Floyd and Chauvin and their prior relationship serves to highlight the small town nature of Minneapolis. If Chauvin was observant, as most cops are, he just may have had occasion to notice that Floyd had a girlfriend, and that she was white. This may be worthy of further investigation, given the similarities between the murder of George Floyd and a lynching, and the history of real or imagined interracial relationships as a prime historical motive for lynchings.

Clay Claiborne.

Will Trump send the elder the cops knocked down to Gitmo?

This is a serious question.

Ten days ago Trump tweeted:
Never mind that antifa is short for anti-fascists, like these guys:
And never mind that it's not an organization, just a label. The important point is that Trump considers anyone he labels as antifa to be a terrorist, and you know what they do to terrorists. They send them off to Gitmo or another black site for waterboarding and worst. From what I've seen, this important connection is being missed.

Martin Gugino photo by Justin Norman
Martin Gugino is the man Trump is threatening with terrorist status. He is a Buffalo native and long time peace activist. He has protested police brutality before, also military drones, climate change, and nuclear weapons. He is also a member of Witness Against Torture and has protested in the orange jumpsuit of a Guantanamo prisoner. Now it seems fair to conclude, Trump would like to see him wearing one for real.

On Thursday, 4 June 2020, he was knocked down by police in front of the Buffalo City Hall, and left bleeding on the ground. You've probably seen this video already. The really brutal part of how they all keep on marching off to war (against US citizens), and nobody even checks on Martin:

On Tuesday morning early, Trump sent out this tweet:
81 minutes later the Russian disinformation outlet Sputnik News is already out with a story on Trump's tweet:
Trump Says Elderly Buffalo Protester Shoved by Police 'Could Be Antifa Provocateur'

13:55 GMT 09.06.2020G
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President Donald Trump on Tuesday suggested that an elderly man who was violently shoved by law enforcement during a protest in Buffalo, New York could be a "provocateur" member of the left-wing group Antifa. More...
Probably the reason they responded so quickly to Trump's tweet is that they gave him the idea in the first place. Trump references this report from the right-wing outlet OAN in his tweet:

Turns out the reporter on this story also works for Spunik.

So, it would appear that Trump has taken a conspiracy theory propagated by a Russian agent through a right-wing outlet, and given it the strength of a presidential finding. Does he know he's a Russian asset? Anyway, it's easy to see why Sputnik was so quick to report its success, but this still leaves the question of why Democracy Now left out the Russian connection.

But the big question raised by these tweets is: Can the President of the United States so cavalierly equate a label to terrorism, and then apply that label to anybody with no due process and not even a shred of evidence? Given the awesome powers given to the president, and what he is allowed to do to terrorists, this is a most serious question that needs to be addressed.

Clay Claiborne

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Costs of racism in Trump's coronavirus response

The daylight torture, strangulation, and murder of George Floyd under the color of authority has brought home to millions what some of the costs of white supremacy have been for African Americans. He was one of the many killed by the cops this year. Beyond the growing wave of violence by organs of state security is the “American carnage,” to use Trump's happy phrase, brought on by his incompetent handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Over a hundred thousand Americans have been killed in just a few months, and as usual, people of color have paid the highest price. But COVAD-19 has killed people of all colors at a higher rate because of white supremacy.

Unlike the cops, the novel coronavirus itself doesn't discriminate. It has infected all the nations of the planet. Yet one country, less than one-twentieth of the whole by population, has suffered more than one-quarter of the deaths. What's more, this is not the poorest country on Earth, but the richest; not a country with few doctors and hospitals, but one possessing the most advanced medical technology; not one relying on dirt roads, pack animals, and old trucks for transport, but one with the most developed infrastructure on Earth. What epidemic failure explains this?

I think the white supremacist outlook of our national leadership has been largely responsible for this massive, and unnecessary loss of life. By understanding this we can recognize the huge cost of white supremacy, not only within the current pandemic, but in our long history of tragic mistakes along these lines.

Here are some of its main contributing factors:

1) Trump doesn't believe in science.

This has had a profound and multifaceted effect on the failure of his coronavirus response. To understand why Donald Trump and his ilk so loath science we must take look at how white supremacy has always had a corrupting influence on science under capitalism.

Capitalism & Science

Even though they grew up in the same neighborhood, capitalism has always had something of a love-hate relationship with science. Most definitely, the capitalists loved the profits to be made from the inventions of science. So they invested heavily in it, propelled its development, and expanded its domain into every sphere. But they never liked all of its conclusions, and the more capitalism has decayed, the more apprehensive they have become about what science has to say about their system, and what “best practices” should be for the social organization of humanity. That is how the matter stands with regards to capitalism in general.

White supremacy & Science

However, even from the very beginning, those capitalists that made their profits most directly through the exploitation of people of color had a special bone to pick with science. From a philosophical point of view, they based their system on the decidedly unscientific view that the self-proclaimed “white” people were superior to all people with darker skin, and this gave them the right to “own” these people, as well as their land and resources. They were able to do this because of the uneven development of geographically separated groups of humanity at the dawn of the capitalist era. By 1619 enough uneven development had accumulated in the 3.3 million years since we started making tools in Kenya, that some groups of humanity were hundreds and even thousands of years behind others. Since those that got to capitalism first lived in parts of the globe that received less sunlight, their skin was lighter. In the eight decades following 1619, they fraudulently misappropriated the name given to the composite colors of sunlight as their own, and on that basis proclaimed that they were superior to all others. White supremacy was born, and from the beginning they had a problem with science because, beyond the fact that they really aren't the color white, is the fact that sunlight is made up of all the colors of the rainbow, none of which is white.

White supremacy needed science as sure as the slave plantation needed the cotton gin, but it also richly funded a corruption of science known as “scientific racism.” This is important because while the human mind is capable of concocting many fantastic notions, ones with money behind them have staying power. Thomas Jefferson was one of its practitioners and benefactors. He founded the University of Virginia, as “an institution with slavery at its core,” so that the southern plantation owners wouldn't have to send their sons to the anti-slavery north to get a quality education, saying “we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead.” But he spent many years searching for a biologic basis for white superiority, doing “scientific investigation” and promoting such drivel as Africans “secrete less by the kidnies, & more by glands of the skin...Perhaps too a difference of structure in the pulmonary apparatus.” Jefferson's version of “science” came with certain baked-in conclusions, he owned 607 slaves during his lifetime. Truth had a predetermined destination. And so it went at UVA after he died, and so it went for science as a whole. It corrupted science to its core. A little while ago “scientific racism” was accepted science, and the rot spread far beyond the narrow fields associated with biology.

Effect on Trump's coronavirus approach

Two of Trump's most infamous racist outrages also show us his great disdain for science. They are his enduring opinion that the “Central Park Five”  are guilty, and the birther conspiracy theory that Barack Obama wasn't born in the US. Deep prejudice supports both, and both have been conclusively proven false by solid evidence, and scientific investigation, including DNA in the case of the “Five.” Yet, Trump clings to his prejudice, and refuses to believe the science, putting who-knows-what pseudoscience in its place. Trump's refusal to believe what science has to say about his racist conspiracy theories is harmful, his refusal to believe what science has to say about COVID-19 is deadly.

The more strongly Trump leans on this bastardized “science,” the more likely he is to see all science as a con job in the service of some partisan interest, and to disregard it beyond its ability to deliver his desired results. That's Trump's problem with science, and it undergirds everything else that has been a catastrophe in his novel coronavirus response.

At every step of the way his lack of respect for the science has result policies that cost lives:
  • He was slow to respond to the threat.
  • He has refused to endorse or promote scientific solutions.
  • He failed to ramp up testing.
  • He refused to allow a “Manhattan” style project to create a vaccine.
  • He promoted dangerous “snake-oil” solutions from his bully pulpit.
  • He has disregarded any national health scientists he can't corrupt.
This bring us to Director Robert R. Redfield and the corruption of the CDCAccording to CNN:
In the early 1990s, Redfield, then one of the Army's top AIDS researchers, was at the center of a scandal over a purported HIV vaccine. Allegations that Redfield oversold data and cherry-picked results sparked an internal Army investigation into his work.
Redfield was also found to be in violation of Army code over his relationship with a conservative AIDS nonprofit run by a prominent evangelical activist who has promoted abstinence-only solutions to the disease.
As you can see, Redfield was the model of scientific integrity. In 2018, Trump put him in charge of the CDC. Now the once renowned Center for Disease Control is a caricature of its former self. Before Trump all but sidelined it, its COVID-19 response was a tale of one failure followed by another, followed by mealy-mouthed advice to meat packers about voluntary steps they might take to keep their employees safe, if it isn't too much trouble, since Trump is forcing them back to work.

This is just one example of how the Trump administration's corrupt of the science has played a big role in its failure to prevent a catastrophic loss of life.

2) Trump didn't believe COVID-19 could hit here.

In his heart of hearts, he thought of it as a disease of “those people.” When he was first warned about it, he was sure it was just some Asian flu that would stay over there. When it became clear that would not be the case:

3) Trump thought banning foreigners coming from China was sufficient.

Don't you just get sick and tired of hearing him brag about that? Before the ban at least 430,000 people had already flown in from China since 31 December, and another 40,000, mostly Americans, came back in the two months after the ban started, with very shaky screening and self-quarantine. It was like he really thought “our” people can't carry it. Then, as the pandemic developed, it became clear that the virus was taking the most lives in the New York-New Jersey hub where it had been imported from Europe. Probably because it took Trump 40 days after the China travel ban to institute the European travel ban, like “those” people can't bring it here.

4) The Trump administration refused the W.H.O. COVID-19 test.

As early as 11 January 2020, Chinese scientists posted the genome of the new unknown virus, and with a week virologists in Berlin had produced the first diagnostic test for the new disease. By the end of February the World Health Organization had distributed the test to 60 countries. The US refused the "foreign" WHO test, and then screwed up attempts to produce an American made test. Trump was depending on his travel ban as the sole means of stopping the virus.

Even after the FDA came out with their own viable test, they were slow in rolling it out, and then with restrictive guidelines that barred people who weren't already sick from getting it.  More recently, Trump has stated publicly that he wants to slow testing down because he lives in a fantasy world in which a tree falling in the forest makes no noise if no one is there to hear it, and COVID-19 cases exist only if you test for them. The US was still trying to roll out a viable test as late as March, and even today most experts say COVID-19 testing in the US is far below what is needed to contain the virus.

5) Trump sees it as a disease of disposable people.

The very concept of “disposable people” developed even more harshly under conditions of slavery than wage labor. Racism made them less than human, and slavery made them property, and property is disposable. Everything we know about Trump from his practice as both an owner and employer tells us that he is of that mind. Since COVID-19 appeared to mainly kill people over 65, especially those in nursing homes, Trump saw those as disposable people not worth a serious effort. When it was revealed to be taking down a growing number of younger people, he downplayed the significance because a disproportionate number have been people of color.

5) Trump scapegoats people of color for COVID-19.

This begins with his blaming China for the pandemic and his annoying attempts to label it the “Chinese Virus”, then on to blaming immigrants, defunding the WHO, and now blaming the home life of meat packing workers for the COVID-19 hotshots in meat packing plants.

6) Trump uses the pandemic to promote his white supremacist agenda.

He has intentionally politicized certain coronavirus counter-measures such as staying home and wearing masks when out, to promote a macho white supremacist image. He has used opposition to state shutdown measures to support the re-emergence of some of his “very fine people” from Charlottesville as the white supremacist wing of the boogaloo movement complete with battle fatigues, Hawaiian shirts, and AR-15s on state house steps demanding “liberty.” He has been utterly consumed with the optics of the fight against the virus, and its effect on his flagging re-election possibilities, and shown a depraved indifference to his duty to limit the human carnage. All that was before his down-right fascist response to the people's just outrage about the murder of George Floyd.

Trump's approach to the pandemic has been greatly influenced by his white supremacist outlook, and the epidemic failure of that policy has cost tens of thousands of American lives of all colors. This shows how racism hurts everybody, and in this present case, Trump's racism has been deadly for all.

Protesters are essential workers in the fight against both racism and COVID-19

One of the objections raised to the massive shows of unity in the US and around the world is that they violate social distancing guidelines, and might lead to more COVID-19 cases. Ironically, some of those objecting were encouraging every state to “open up” two weeks ago. Fortunately, these protests have been outdoors where virus transmission is very rare, and smartly, the vast majority of the protesters have been wearing masks. They are aware of the risk, but know that it is worth it because white supremacy is also sabotaging the fight against COVID-19, and it could easily take another hundred thousand American lives unless this white supremacist regime is removed from the White House.

Clay Claiborne

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


When I first heard that Trump was privately questioning the broadly agreed upon count of US coronavirus deaths, now quickly approaching a hundred thousand, saying that number was exaggerated, and they were really much lower. I wondered "How does that work in his mind?"

Surely, he wasn't doubting that thousands of Americans, roughly 85,000 (roughly indeed!) as I write this, that rang in the New Year with the rest of us, are now in body-bags, or coffins, after having tested positive for coronavirus, or having shown every sign of having succumb to COVID-19. Even I will agree that there is plenty of Fake News to be found, but surely, he doesn't think these people are faking their deaths? He must have another angle.

Then I remembered some commentary I heard on Fox News that argued that it was unfair to blame coronavirus for all these deaths because often there were contributing factors, or comorbidities involved, and knowing where Trump gets his Fake News, I thought: That must be where his mind is going!

When we hit that hundred thousand mark, is it really fair to say coronavirus has killed a hundred-thousand Americans? After all, most of those people were old and used up. You wouldn't get much for them in a wrongful death lawsuit. “Loss of Future Income? Give me a break! They're costing you money. You should pay me,” says the COVID's advocate.

It's like if you were apportioning blame or damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, in which Coronavirus, Diabetes, and Hypertension were all involved. You wouldn't say all damages should be paid only by Coronavirus, while letting the other parties get off Scot-free. That wouldn't be fair! That's how Trump, the businessman, would look at it. So, probably he is thinking that of that hundred thousand, coronavirus bears only a part of the blame, but is given all of it. Is that how he is arriving at a lower number?

Trump is threatening to sue China for coronavirus damages, whereas they are just another party damaged by the virus. That's stupid. That led me to thinking about how I would attempt to defend coronavirus is such a lawsuit, if I was the COVID's advocate.

It would be the height of folly to attempt to avoid paying any damages, given the mounting empirical evidence and death toll, but I think I could limit the damage to my client by arguing along these lines:

It's true that my client has amassed a small fortune through genome patents, name usage rights, and other deals with Big Pharma, and it would like to do the right thing. In settlement, COVID is willing to pay damages to every country equally, in so far as possible, for the deaths it is responsible for in each country. However, when the United States, despite certain obvious advantages with regards to economy, infrastructure, and health technology, summits a claim for 84,119 deaths, while South Korea summits one for 260 deaths, Norway for 229, South Africa for 219, Panama for 256, Israel for 264, and so on, I must protest, as the COVID's advocate, that this carnage in the US can not entirely, or even mainly, laid at my client's feet.

We recognize the requirement that a party seeking damages has to be able to show that they took such steps as considered reasonable and ordinary to limited the damages. For example, if someone scratched you, causing an open wound on a limb, and you sought no medical treatment, you didn't even apply first-aid, but instead let it fester unattended, until the limb had to be amputated, you can hardly lay that limb at the feet of the person who scratched you.

So, I would argue that if my client, coronavirus, a virus that is novel to all who have not battled it, and so really does treat all people as equals, has been found responsible for say 300,000 deaths worldwide, even with my client taking on board all the claims against other comorbidities that have contributed to COVID deaths worldwide, and the United States is but 5% of the world's population, then, even without taking into account the advanced state of economy, infrastructure, and medical technology in the United States, factors that should have limited the damages there, my client's responsiblity should be limited to that same death rate in the US. So 5% of 300,000, or roughly 15,000. The rest are due to the criminally negligent way “damage mitigation” was handled by the national leadership of the United States. Those deaths were cause because they didn't take my client seriously soon enough. They didn't take the steps to mitigate the damage that were taken in so many other countries. They looked on while the fire was kindling, and didn't call the fire department until half the house had burned down.

My client, COVID will accept responsibility for roughly 15,000 of those 100,000 American lives. For the remainder, perhaps you should sue the Trump Administration.

That's how I would argue the case if I was the COVID's advocate.

Clay Claiborne