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Est. April 5, 2002
November 16, 2017 - Issue 718

U.S. Is Post-Racial? 


"Not all of it can be attributed to a Donald Trump presidency,
even though he has proven to be a racist, a misogynist, an
Islamaphobe, a bully, and a friend to white supremacists. 
He certainly has unleashed the dogs of division, but what
we are seeing right now has been around for a long time. 
Trump is not the cause of the national toxin, but
he is the symptom."

Just because Barack Obama was elected president and then re-elected the hopeful among us celebrated by noting that the U.S. could be considered post-racial. Say what?

Those who voted for Obama twice had high hopes that the country had, indeed, moved beyond the hatred and bigotry of the preceding two centuries. Even given that there has been progress in mitigating the racism and all the other profoundly negative “isms” in some areas of the national life, the pockets of hatred have grown and have become more emboldened than ever, and its denizens have become more open about it.

Not all of it can be attributed to a Donald Trump presidency, even though he has proven to be a racist, a misogynist, an Islamaphobe, a bully, and a friend to white supremacists. He certainly has unleashed the dogs of division, but what we are seeing right now has been around for a long time. Trump is not the cause of the national toxin, but he is the symptom.

For example, just this week a cartoon appeared in a local paper in the Capital District of New York that perfectly illustrates the racism that underlies the society, in general. The paper in which the cartoon appeared is a middle-of-the-road daily, which many of its right-wing subscribers describe in a pejorative way as “liberal.”

The cartoonist, Tom Stiglich, portrayed the cover of Gentlemen’s Quarterly, which recently named Colin Kaepernick its “citizen of the year,” for his brave and bold move in kneeling before a professional football game when the national anthem was played. He was protesting the continuing crisis of the killing of black men and boys (or any minority) by police and the general racism that has only slightly subsided since the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s.

No sooner had Kaepernick taken a knee when hordes of right-wingers, starting with the president, piled on to criticize, claiming (incorrectly on purpose) that he was disrespecting the flag, the national anthem, and the military. They might as well have thrown in motherhood and apple pie.

Stiglich, however, favored a portrayal of Kaepernick as “malcontent of the year,” completely ignoring the reasons for his taking a knee. Neither Stiglich, nor his supporters, nor any who agree with his take on the matter will give Kaepernick or any of the other hundreds of football players (in other sports, as well) from high school to other professional teams credit for having a good reason for their protest. It was not against anything, except the injustice of extrajudicial killing of black and brown folks and the general racism that they must withstand every day of their lives. A nationally syndicated cartoonist should have enough savvy to know the difference between a “malcontent” and someone who is standing up for rights and justice in a society in which both are hard to come by for anyone of color.

The standout quarterback was a 4.0 GPA student in high school and threw his first touchdown pass as a nine-year-old. He also was a possible pick for major league baseball as a pitcher. For all that he had accomplished in high school, in college, and in professional football, for the huge percentage of the country who live and die by the sports scores and play on the field, he should have been revered as a sports hero. At the very least, those on the political right should have given him the respect for standing (or kneeling) for the rights of those whose rights are daily taken from them.

Nativists and others who see only what is good for their country (and therefore, themselves) rallied around Trump and others in power to denounce Kaepernick and other players who began to take a knee for rights and justice. Stiglich, the cartoonist, knew very well that he would be pandering to right-wingers and war-mongers in vilifying Kaepernick, because he portrayed the quarterback wearing a Che Guevara tee shirt, wearing a button that said “I (heart) Fidel Castro), and capped it off with a button of the American flag with a red slash across the flag. He didn’t miss much, but perhaps he knew that “taking a knee” had become an international affair and the furor over it had reached other countries, showing them the state of race in America. It hasn’t been a pretty picture.

And of course, to top it all off, Stiglich portrayed Kaepernick with an Afro that was bigger than even Angela Davis’ back in the Sixties. He knew that would get the juices of the white nationalists and supremacists flowing. They didn’t need much encouragement, since Trump had worked them up by referring to those players who took a knee as “sons of bitches,” and said that they should be punished for their temerity. The president spouted the same, sorry line about disrespect for our “military heroes,” when they had nothing to do with the protest. In fact, some of the more courageous ones pointed out that they were fighting to preserve the right under the First Amendment to protest, just as Kaepernick did and many others followed.

What’s hypocritical in the president’s tirades about it is that he never served in the military (going to a military school doesn’t count), because he had a bone spur and got deferments for other reasons. In that, he joined many other war lovers who never served in uniform.

The pity is that a cartoonist on a national stage could so pervert the reason for the protest and still have his drawing published in a slightly-right newspaper without any explanation or comment, just as they do in their letters to the editor, which are so often wildly off in accuracy and common sense.

Colin Kaepernick started something with his taking a knee and those in power, both in the National Football League and the halls of government across the country, would like him to just disappear. That won’t happen, but there will be some signs of further progress, when members of town boards, city councils, state and county legislatures, and the Congress either take a knee or keep their seats in solidarity with a brave football player. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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