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

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

If Ralph Northam has to resign, why is Donald Trump still in office?

In 1989, Donald Trump spent $85,000 to take out ads in four New York City newspapers that called for nothing less than the legal lynching of five innocent boys, four African American and one Hispanic, accused of the raping a white woman who was jogging in Central Park. This is a taste of what he said in the small print:
Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer ... Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will.
And he always will. Even after Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist in prison, confessed to raping the jogger, DNA evidence confirmed his guilt in 2002, and the convictions of the Central Park Five were vacated, Donald Trump continued to say they were guilty.

The hate he felt for these five colored boys was racial hatred. I'm from Atlantic City. I know his history. But even with that history, I would not convict anyone today exclusively because of attitudes they held thirty years ago. The problem, when it comes to Donald Trump, is that he holds those same racist attitudes today.

In a 1989 interview with Larry King about the CP5, he said, "maybe hate is what we need if we're gonna get something done." These are the same racist methods he is using today. He gives his racial hatred a national stage regularly. He has brought it into the White House. He has taken children of color from their parent because of it. He most recently shutdown the federal government, causing much misery, so that he can keep up the racist agitation that is his WALL project.

So, my first question is: If Ralph Northam has to resign, why is Donald Trump still in office?
North by Northam: The Alt-Right targets "a radical leftist" governor
The Fox News crowd had been after the Virginia governor for weeks now because of his support for a liberal abortion policy. Two days before the story about a particular racist yearbook photo broke, The Washington Post reported:
President Trump, Republican lawmakers in Virginia and conservatives across the country attacked Gov. Ralph Northam and other state Democrats on Wednesday after they defended a failed bill that sought to reduce restrictions on late-term abortions.
“I thought it was terrible,” Trump said.
“Do you remember when I said Hillary Clinton was willing to rip the baby out of the womb? That’s what it is. That’s what they’re doing. It’s terrible.”
Northam, whose spokeswoman said his words were being taken out of context by Republicans, called the notion that he would approve of killing infants “disgusting.”

“I have devoted my life to caring for children, and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting,” he said.

The president’s remarks came after former U.S. senator Jim DeMint called the bill “vile” and said Northam should abandon it or resign.
So the racist right was already demanding Northam's resignation days before they found a way to bring almost everyone else on board.

They may have been focusing their attacks on Gov. Northam because his background as a pediatric neurologist makes his support for medical abortions especially compelling. The next day, Thursday, RNC Spokeswoman Kayleigh Mcenany was on Fox & friends blasting "the so-called moderate governor from Virginia, in essence a radical leftist" for what they consider the crime of "infanticide."

These demands for Northam's resignation were cascading just as the VA General Assembly's money committee was scheduled to meet on 3 February. They are threatening to strip $1 billion dollars from the state budget he submitted two months ago, crippling Northam's greatest accomplishment - expansion of Virginia's Medicaid program. Many House and Senate leaders also oppose the governor's plan to return $216 million in anticipated new revenues to lower income earners, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch. There are a host of reasons for wanting him out.

On Friday, the script changed because the now famous racist photo on Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook half-page was leaked. On Fox News Monday morning, Ed Henry said he'd heard it had been leaked by some of Northam's medical school alumni because they were upset with his stand on abortion. On Monday evening, Henry said many targeted Northam because the VA governor had the gall to call President Trump a racist. That must have made this particular tactic taste sweet to them. The photo was first posted on the Internet by the conservative website Big League Politics.

In the week before they broke this bombshell article, they had published no less than 10 stories about "the pro-infanticide Virginia Governor." Finally they had a story with legs! Mike Cernovich tried to take credit for the story in the inter-right squabbling that took place later, but BLP accused Cernovich of trying "to steal our scoop." They maintained they where responsible for the scheme of "accusing a sitting United States Governor of a blatant racism that will likely cause him to resign"[BLP bold]. They must have enjoyed breaking this story on the first day of Black History Month.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Northam's initial response to the breaking news:
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam apologized Friday after admitting he appeared in a racist photo in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook depicting one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
Northam said in a statement Friday evening that he was one of the two people in the photo and that he is "deeply sorry." The statement did not say whether Northam was the person wearing blackface or the person wearing a Klan outfit.
Later he release a statement that said:
“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.

“This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service.”
More ..

Still, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:
Northam’s statement left it unclear whether he was wearing the blackface or a white robe and hood.
On Saturday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:
Northam suggested that he had been overzealous in his initial apology, saying he did not have a copy of the yearbook because he never bought one and was unaware of what was on his page. After taking more time to look at the photo, Northam said, he concluded he was not in it.
Northam said, “This was not my picture. I was not in that costume either as blackface or as KKK. And it’s not me,” but it was too late. Pundit and politicians that had made statements based on his early confession didn't have the flexibility to rethink anything.

Others, who knew him at the time, also don't see him in the photo:
Dr. Rob Marsh, who was Northam’s roommate for two years at EVMS, said that when he first saw the photo, he didn’t think it was real. He said he was skeptical about whether Northam is either of the people in the photo.

“I don’t remember that ever happening,” said Marsh, who graduated from the school one year before Northam did and now has a medical practice in Middlebrook.

Marsh, 63, said Northam was “very respectful” to others as a medical student, and he never heard Northam “mock anybody of any other race.”
Dr. Betty Bibbins, an African American woman who graduated from EVMS in 1982 did not personally know Northam, but has long supported him. She remembers EVMS having a very open and inclusive culture, but acknowledged that racism existed in subtle ways during her time as a student. She also has doubts, saying:
“I have a lot of questions about where they got the picture from, how it got in the yearbook.”
A former EVMS yearbook page designer told the Richmond Times-Dispatch how the pictures for the yearbook were collected:
Seniors at Eastern Virginia Medical School were allowed to submit up to three photographs in a sealed envelope to appear alongside a formal school picture on their personal pages in the 1984 yearbook, according to a former student who said he helped design most of those pages.

Designers would open the envelope and draw spots numbered one through three on a page to show where each photo should go, said Dr. William Elwood, who served on the Harbour’s staff the year a photo of a man in blackface standing beside a man in Ku Klux Klan garb appeared on Gov. Ralph Northam’s page.

A corresponding number was written on the back of each photo and then they were returned to the envelope before being sent along with the pages to the printer, said Elwood, who did not know whether Northam submitted the racist photo, or who was in it.
There is probably enough room for error in this system that those who argued that Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be given the benefit of the doubt even when confronted with multiple live witnesses, should stand down before attempting to end a long political career over such a 35 year old finding.

What about the other racist photos?

The now famous photo on Ralph Northam's half-page was very far from the only racist or blackface image in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. Probably, the reason Northam was hesitant to deny it when first confronted with it is that, at the time, posing in blackface, or even a Klan outfit, would have been considered normal and uncontroversial. Even while denying he was in the photo, he said:
“While I did not appear in this photo, I am not surprised by its appearance in the EVMS yearbook. In the place and time where I grew up, many actions that we rightfully recognize as abhorrent today were commonplace.”
This brings to mind another point: As long as we are asking people to resign their current position for things they may have done 35 years ago, what are we asking of the adults in the room at the time? This happened in 1984. On Saturday, EVMS President Dr. Richard V. Homan apologized and said the school shares “the outrage, alarm and sadness voiced by our alumni, the press and many on social media.” Where is the outrage that they were running a school that would produce such a yearbook three decades after Brown vs. Board of Education?

The Richmond Times-Dispatch described some of these other images:
On the page opposite Northam’s — which includes the image he apologized for appearing in on Friday before saying Saturday he’s not pictured — there’s a photo of three men in blackface.

Another photo in the same yearbook shows one of the men wearing a wig and black paint on his face. At least one other blackface photo appears in the 1984 yearbook, with a caption referencing a song by the Supremes: “‘Baby Love,’ who ever thought Diana Ross would make it to Medical School!”

In another picture, a student gropes an unclothed mannequin: The caption reads, “I try never to divulge my true feelings while examining my patients.”
There were quite a few other racist images in that same yearbook.
Like the three in blackface on the page just opposite Northam's
Some added a misogynistic element to the racism 
Maybe we should start investigating these to determine who we should be demanding resign next. Then we could move forward to the 1985 yearbook, or maybe backwards to 1983. Of course, more than this one school would be reviewed. But perhaps our attention would be better focused on how such images are used by the white youth of today.

Students from Charles Stuart University in Sydney, Austrian posing as Klu Klux Klan members and in blackface in a picture posted to Instagram last year.
This should be of much more concern than anything posted by Northam 35 years ago. This photo was created by three high school students in Rochester, MN just this past November. This is the Trump effect.
Northam's confession

Northam's first "confession" should never have been accepted. He apologized for the photo but then said he didn't know if he was the one in the blackface or the one in the KKK outfit. In a crash meeting with Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax on Friday evening, he repeated this ambivalence. Fairfax said:
“He indicated that these were photos that did appear on his page for his medical school yearbook. He told me that while he didn’t recall the specifics of the event, he apologized, that he had thought that it may have depicted him.” 
What kind of confession is that? Imagine someone walking into the FBI office to confess to a recent high profile robbery. He claims that he was involved but he doesn't remember whether he was the gunman or the wheelman, and he doesn't know who the other person was. Sans supporting evidence, that "confession" would go nowhere.

This is exactly the type of "confession" that the NYPD coerced out of the Central Park Five. None of the five owned to being the rapist. Each claimed only to have helped hold her down, touched her breast, etc. They all said someone else did the rape, but they didn't agree on who. Their "confessions" didn't match. In his recommendation that the charges be vacated, District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said simply, "A comparison of the statements reveals troubling discrepancies."

If the original prosecutors had been honest, the prosecution of those five youth would have been stopped right there. If those reporters had integrity, they would demanded clarity as to which character in the racist photo was Northam before they reported that he was in the photo at all.

Jumping the Shark

After Northam came out on Saturday and took back Friday's confession by saying that after having studied the matter, he had determined that he was not in the photo in any capacity, he tried to explain why he was so sure. It was because he had vivid memories of something else he did that year. He told of how he had won a dance contest in San Antonio by moonwalking as a Micheal Jackson lookalike, and that as part of his costume he had used shoe polish to darken his face.

Faced with this retraction, and the need to seriously modify their claims against the governor, or develop independent proof that he was now lying and really was one of the students in the picture, many commentators, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, were seize by cognitive anchoring, couldn't find room to change their minds, and jumped the shark by saying that this use of theatrical makeup was also "blackface" and every bit as bad as appearing in blackface with a Klansman.

This maybe the worst thing they have done. They have collaborated in an attempt to redefine "blackface" from the use of theatrical makeup to look black for racist purposes, to the use of theatrical makeup to look black for any reason at all. This could be bad news for me if I were to try to do a play or narrative film exposing the racist history of blackface and wanted to use white actors in "blackface" makeup to best illustrate how that was done.

If you extend the logic that condemns Northam's sympathetic and winning portrayal of Micheal Jackson, because he darkened his complexion with shoe polish to make it more realistic (and not to parody), you probably should also accept that there can be no more compelling dramas about World War II, or the holocaust, because actors appearing in Nazi uniform for any reason should also be banned.

Their logic makes no sense at all!

Many backwards cultures, such as the ancient Greeks, didn't allow women to act on stage, and so the only way a female character could be portrayed in plays was for a male actor to be made up to look like a woman. While the culture that so restricted the role of women certainly should be charged with misogyny, only an idiot would accuse the male actor willing to represent these banned women on stage of hating women.

More on the history of blackface

Blackface was widely used in English theatrical productions even before the English started calling themselves "white." In fact, the first known use of the phrase "white people" came in a production by Jacobean playwright Thomas Middleton on 29 October 1613 named "The Triumphs of Truth." It is first uttered by a character in blackface playing an African king, who looks out over the English audience and declares:
‘I see amazement set upon the faces/Of these white people, wond’rings and strange gazes.’
There weren't a lot of African actors in England at the time, so those that wanted to portray people of color in their theatrical productions, either positively, or negatively, as was the case with Middleton, had to resort to theatrical makeup.

Before Middleton's play, there was a host of actors in blackface. Probably most famous was William Shakespeare's 'noble Moor' Othello, staged just a few years before Middleton's play. Ed Simon likes Shakespeare's portrayals of people of color:
Consider the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In sonnet 130, he says of his mysterious paramour that ‘her breasts are dun’; in sonnet 12, he references her ‘sable curls’; and in sonnet 127 he writes that ‘black wires grow on her head’. As is commonly understood, and taught, Shakespeare subverted the tradition exemplified by poets such as Petrarch who conceptualised feminine beauty in terms of fairness. Part of this subversion lay in pronouncements such as the one that states that black is ‘beauty’s successive heir’, a contention of Shakespeare’s that can seem all the more progressive when our contemporary racial connotation of the word is considered. 
If Shakespeare had applied the new "Michael Jackson" definition racist blackface, none of this could be seen on stage in his time, and a production of Othello would have to wait for our modern age.

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century actors in the role of Othello. (l-r) Gustavus Vaughan Brooke, Tommaso Salvini, Thomas Grist, Edmund Kean. Images from the Folger Shakespeare Library collection.
In "The hidden meaning of Northam's racist yearbook photo" on Saturday, I wrote about how white supremacists would use blackface to terrorize white people, and that the picture might depict two Klansmen, one in their traditional pointy sheet, and the other in blackface. On such uses of blackface, Christopher Lamberti, Brown University, wrote:
White men in black grease paint posing as African Americans frequently committed crimes in the South around the turn-of-the-century, and in Chicago as early as 1914, when the Defender complained, "With a blackened face crimes of all kinds are committed and laid at the door of an innocent Afro-American." The number of robberies and assaults by white men in blackface increased in Chicago during the early years of the Great Migration.
The paper had many such stories as “White Man, Blackened, Snatches Purse,” Defender, October 3, 1914; “Police ‘Wash’ Blackened Morons, Lo! They’re White” Defender Jan 7, 1922; “White Holdups Black Faces to Commit Crimes” February 2, 1918; “Black Face To Commit Assault On White Woman,” Defender, September 21, 1918; but far more systematic uses of blackface to stoke racism could also be found in the Chicago race riots of 1919.

The most destructive fire of the riots took place on a Saturday morning in a poor neighborhood  of Lithuanian and Polish immigrants situated behind the stockyards. It was meant to look like African Americans had started it, but later investigation revealed that it had been set by white men in blackface, most likely from the Irish neighborhoods west of the Black Belt. This racist "false flag" terror attack left thousands of stockyards workers and their families homeless.

Even after it was generally accepted that the stockyard fire had been set by white men in blackface, many anti-communists, including General Dickson, and the US Department of Intelligence, maintained that the men in blackface were "I.W.W. plotters."

[I should add, as a side note, that one of the things this campaign has already accomplished is that it has made any research into the real history of blackface just that much more difficult.]
This 1919 Chicago fire in a poor immigrant neighborhood behind the stockyards was set by white men in blackface to stoke racism
In a New Republic piece by Alison Kinney titled How the Klan Got Its Hood, 8 Jan 2016,  she tells us that their distinctive white uniform was a Hollywood creation. Before "Birth of a Nation" they were the "Invisible Empire," hiding in the shadows, although:
Some Klansmen wore pointed hats suggestive of wizards, dunces, or Pierrots; some wore everyday winter hoods, pillowcases, or flour sacks on their heads. Many early Klansman also wore blackface, simultaneously scapegoating and mocking their victims.
This was the blackface of Northam's racist yearbook section, not the blackface of Shakespeare, or a Michael Jackson fan. It is a triumph of white supremacy that those two are now being conflated and confused.

Back to the Present

As soon as the demands for Governor Northam's resignation caught hold in the mainstream, the same source that broke that story, Big League Politics, broke a story on Monday about sexual assault allegations against Virginia's LT Governor Justin Fairfax, who is African American.

And so it goes.

This just in:

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