Trent Lott officially resigns from the U.S. Senate

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After 35 years in the U.S. Congress, Mississippi Republican Trent Lott officially stepped down from the U.S. Senate last night after casting a series of late votes.  Once at the pinnacle of power as Senate Majority Leader, he is famous for saying at former Segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmod ran for president, we voted for him.  We’re proud of it.  And if the rest of the country had followed our (racist) lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems (Uppity Nigra’s) over all these years, either.” He leaves the Senate to pursue other interests-presumably, as has been reported, a lucrative gig on K street as a lobbyist, corporate whore, and free lance segregationist.   Mississippi’s right-wing governor, Haley Barbour, has a self-imposed ten day deadline to huddle with GOP grand dragons and select another pinstripe Klansman to replace Lott. 

A recipe for indifference

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I love cooking shows and the Food Network.  I’ve been bothered by the lack of ethnic diversity on the channel, but I am buoyed by creative and cheerful southern cooks and restaurateurs like Paula Deen.   Miss Paula is probably my favorite. People with her charm and warmth are part of what make living in the south tolerable.   Her recipes are full of rich ingredients and served with love.    It’s more than just cooking for Miss Paula; it’s almost her way of saying thank you to God for the many blessings he’s bestowed, and for the comfort of good food, good friends, and close family.   

Fine dining is a combination of all of those important ingredients and she understands that intuitively.  Like entertaining and fine dining, column writing is an art.  Among the ingredients of good column writing:  a sense of humor, a strong vocabulary, and the ability to tell a story.    George Will, the conservative Washington Post Columnist that also has a gig on ABC’s public affairs program, “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” is reputed to be a columnist of legendary prowess.   

He and other conservatives have overplayed the sanctimony in their crocodile tear commentary over the last several years.  We’ve been consistently treated to well coordinated campaigns of right–wing talking points while they’ve been surreptitiously engaged in a long ideological march to remake our courts in their overwhelmingly white, right-wing and indifferent image.   George Will’s latest Sunday column is no different.  However, along with a dash of tasty hypocrisy and indifference, he also adds some special ingredients: fantasy and prevarication. 

Will measured the ingredients in his column to deliberately poison people like me with severe allergies to white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.  Will’s foils this week are liberals, and by extension, Barack Obama.  Obama announced his “opposition” to the Leslie Southwick nomination some time back.  As I’ve said before, he must do a helluva lot more than issue a press release to stop my criticism. He gon’ hafta do some heavy lifting’ instead of going through the motions of opposition as he usually does.  

Anyhoo, Will does a great job of minimizing the racial insensitivity of this nomination and this nominee.  He has the audacity to criticize African American critics of this nomination and dismisses out of hand the fact that only one African American sits on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and more than 37 percent of Mississippians are African American, Will says, “This “diversity” argument suggests that courts should be considered representative institutions, like legislatures, and that the theory of categorical representation is valid: people of a particular race, ethnicity or gender can be understood and properly represented only by people of that same category.”   

I hate taking mofo’s to school, but I’m forced to in this instance. First, Will’s argument with respect to the courts not being representative institutions, like legislatures, is totally, and completely disingenuous.  We all know that for purposes of ideology, the makeup of the courts are methodically tracked by liberals and conservatives alike and any omission that fails to recognize this constitutes hypocrisy.    

According to the Alliance for Justice,  “Judge Southwick’s views are especially critical because the Fifth Circuit has been subject to extraordinary partisan engineering: during the Clinton administration the Republican Senate blocked two moderate nominees to that court to hold seats open for the next president. For one of the seats, President Clinton first submitted a nominee in mid-1997; for the other he submitted a nominee in early 1999.”   

“Indeed, Judge Southwick’s home state Senator Trent Lott stated about the Senate’s role in confirming Clinton judges: “Do I have any apologies? Only one: I probably moved too many judicial nominations already.” Benefiting from this obstructionism, President Bush exploited the opportunity to appoint deeply conservative judges like Priscilla Owen and Edith Brown Clement to the court.”  

Second, there is the issue of this nominee’s more ominous rulings regarding employment discrimination.  The Richmond v. Mississippi Dep’t of Human Services, case is instructive of Southwick’s views on racial discrimination. Again, the Alliance for Justice, Bonnie Richmond, a social worker for the Mississippi Department of Human Services was fired when, at a meeting that included top agency executives, she used a racial slur, referring to an African American co-worker(who was not present at the meeting) as a “good ole n*****.” The Mississippi Court of Appeals, in a 5-4 decision joined by Judge Southwick, upheld the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board’s decision to reinstate her.   

“The majority found that, taken in context, this slur was an insufficient ground to terminate her employment, because there was no specific rule she violated, because it “was not motivated out of racial hatred or racial animosity directed toward a particular co-worker or toward blacks in general,” and because it did not give rise to workplace problems other than offending the coworker who was called a “n*****.”   

“Two of the dissenters, deeply troubled by the majority’s preoccupation with context and its failure to acknowledge the “inherent offensive [ness]” of the slur, observed: “The … majority opinion seems[s] to suggest that absent evidence of a near race riot, the remark is too inconsequential to serve as a basis of dismissal. Such a view requires a level of myopia inconsistent with facts and reason.”  

This legal analysis fascinates me because it seeks to minimize the power of the most inflammatory racial epithet in the lexicon.  It is disingenuous in the extreme to rule that the Mississippi Department of Human Services had no legal basis for terminating her.  They damn sure did and the fact that everyone in that room was white should speak volumes.  This remark was reported by high-ranking white executives in the agency and they called Bonnie Richmond on her bullshit.  They fired her ass as they shoulda done.   

Southwick, and a majority on the court of Appeals, ruled, in effect, that whites exercising the prerogatives of state power never have the right to use it to defend the rights of African Americans.  Had Bonnie Richmond made a covert anti-Semitic remark, or had the shoe been on the other foot, and a black used a racial epithet toward a white co-worker, we wouldn’t even need to have this discussion. George Will consciously participates in the misidentification of the victim in this case as a man, which so far has turned up twice, in both the Post and the Wall Street Journal. I suppose calling a woman a N***** behind her back is politically less palatable and mean spirited.   

The post-hearing report by the Alliance for Justice reveals, “In response to a written question posed by Senator Durbin (D-IL), Judge Southwick indicated that he could not find a single non-unanimous case, of the more than 7000 opinions that he wrote or joined, in which he voted in favor of a civil rights plaintiff or wrote a dissent on behalf of a plaintiff.”  

What we have here, in the selection of judges like Southwick, and the failed nominations of Michael Wallace and Charles Pickering for the same seat, is a continuation of the patterns of discriminatory intent and the conscious and deliberate support of white supremacy that Mississippi Senators have engaged in from time immemorial.   

Widener University Law Professor Mary Ellen Maatman, in a stunning article, “Speaking Truth to Memory: Lawyers and resistance to the end of white supremacy,” wrote, “The stark truth is more complicated and unpleasant. Lawyers built the systems of disfranchisement and segregation that rendered Deep South African Americans second-class citizens. When those systems were threatened, lawyers fought to sustain them. From the White primary’s end in 1944 until the overturn of miscegenation laws in 1967, a cadre of elite Deep South lawyers and judges used a remarkably consistent rhetoric to defend White Supremacy by opposing Black suffrage, the Fair Deal, desegregation, federal civil rights legislation, and legalization of interracial marriage.” 

 “For these lawyers, opposition to legally mandated racial equality arose from their knowledge that White Supremacy in the Deep South depended on the twin pillars of de jure disfranchisement and segregation. This understanding, coupled with an undying belief in White Supremacy’s tenets, drove their work before and after they led massive resistance to Brown. Indeed, their resistance to Brown was but one part of a long legal campaign for restoration of the White Supremacy and embedment of supremacist assumptions in “the law of the land.” In short, they wanted to ensure that African American “inferiority”would be inscribed in American “hearts and minds”—and the law—“in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”  

Maatman argues that this bitter history of opposition should be viewed as a whole.  In this way, Judge Southwick’s unwillingness to see discrimination in the jury selection of black defendants, his willingness to punish black defendants for striking hostile white jurors for cause, and his mistreatment of a gay parent in a child custody case-makes perfect sense.  Mississippi’s judiciary clearly has different strokes for different folks and the arbitrary and capricious star-chamber quality of its administration of justice merit the strictest scrutiny.    

Instead of acknowledging the truth, Will stoops to call out Obama for his tepid opposition as if he’s an errant child, and defends the elevation of white supremacy and homophobia to constitutional legal principles fit to defend “Why does Obama think Southwick should have ruled differently in the two Mississippi cases? Because he thinks Southwick applied the law inappropriately? Or because he does not like the result? Obama is seeking the office from which federal judges are nominated.  Southwick explained himself, in writings and testimony to the Senate.  Now Obama has explaining to do.”  

Along with Obama’s explanation of his tepid opposition to the Southwick nomination, George Will needs to explain why he continues to stir the pot of racial indifference and homophobia and willingly serves it up to the public as something wholesome.

 

Dixie Dianne’s Betrayal

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Dianne Feinstein The Battle Flag of the Confederacy 

Some Democratic Senators are lackluster, some are unreliable, and some, like Dianne Feinstein, are unpredictable.  Civil Rights groups like People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice were blindsided Thursday when Feinstein voted for another of Trent Lott’s Brooks Brothers suited racists to assume a lifetime appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

People for the American Way, The Alliance for Justice, and The Leadership Conference for Civil Rights can usually be depended upon to bring their A game and effectively rally folk to block bigots of this caliber.  They failed this time. However, the fight isn’t over.  There is the option to mount a filibuster on the floor; the problem is that once nominations are reported out of committee, they become harder to kill.

 

For unfathomable reasons, Dianne Feinstein has made a deal with the Devil and punched the ticket for one of his malevolent minions to serve for life as a federal judge.  For a San Francisco Democrat, there is nothing liberal about cutting deals with a man who reveres segregationists and longs for the good ole days of massive resistance. 

All of this for a judge who makes light of the fact that he ordered the reinstatement of a white female state employee that called a black female co-worker, “a good ole nigger.”  As I’ve said before, there is no circumstance where it is ever acceptable for a white person to call a black person a nigger in freakin’ Mississippi.  Never.  For this betrayal, I shall resurrect the moniker given to her by local Marxists during a dispute over the confederate flag flying at the civic center in San Francisco: Dixie Dianne.

During her tenure as Mayor of San Francisco, the Marxists had the temerity to oppose the flying of the confederate flag because it is a symbol of hate and white supremacy and they cut down the flagpole rather than allow her to have the flag hoisted up again.  

African Americans are a beleaguered but cohesive minority in California and it is time for the progressives in our community to let Dianne know how we feel about her collusion with the enemy.  If you live in California, you can call her Senate Offices at 202 224 2841.  This should be Dixie Dianne’s last term given her advanced age, but if she runs one mo’gin in 2012, somebody should primary her.

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Dixie Dianne’s betrayal has had one fortuitous consequence.  She has provided the Democratic frontrunners in this contest one more opportunity to prove their progressive fealty or their politically expedient treachery.  Judge Southwick’s nomination is coming to the Senate floor whether we like it or not. If the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Majority Leader green light a filibuster, it will happen.  Even if they don’t concur, Hillary and Barack have the power to force one.  We will see if they oppose this bastard because they have too or because his nomination is an offensive stench in the nostrils of freedom loving people everywhere.

Reading an obligatory statement into the record will not do.  Voting against cloture will not do.   Putting up an aggressive fight and making several lengthy statements on the floor and to the media that make it clear that their opposition is not merely for show; and their active and visible participation in floor strategy that kills this nomination, that’s what we must demand. 

I’ve had family in Mississippi since about 1840.  My mother’s family was enslaved on the Watkins and Dove plantations near Newton and Jasper counties.  This fight is personal for me.  Upon entering Mississippi, one notices the distinct smell of oppression in the air.  It is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced if you weren’t raised in the south.  Just a few days in Mississippi changed me in ways I still can’t explain.  What black people have endured over the course of the state’s history is really mind blowing.  Elevating another instrument and facilitator of that same oppression will not be tolerated.  Enough is enough.