Why I Do Not Call Out Trump

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In case it matters, several people have asked me why I do not publicly call out Trump for his language about Mexicans and deportation. The reason is simple: it seems self evident that Trump is an obnoxious, foul-mouthed, racist, sexist, homophobic, crude, ignorant, dishonest, narcissistic, dangerous creep.

In addition, it has never been my habit or my interest to call out people with whom I have little or no association. By that I mean that I am a Democrat so I tend to be critical of other Democrats — especially those in power.

 

So, yes, I call out Obama rather than Trump at this moment in time. Obama has deported 2.8 million people. Few Democrats (those I hear from) seem to care. Trump has deported none. One has a record on deportation; the other does not. Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans is over the top crude. Yet, Obama has had his abusive rhetoric, too — “they don’t play by the rules” — when he knows full well there are no rules to play by.

Whether this is right or wrong on my part, I am not in a position to say.

To draw a parallel, I was never the parent who continually pointed out or obsessed over the wrong-doings of other people’s kids. I was always more interested in whether my own kids were doing right. I felt that was my duty and where I could have the most impact. It was also out of love for them. I wanted the best for them.

However, if anyone needs me to say it (and I’m always surprised anybody really cares what I think or say): I dislike Trump and his rhetoric immensely. And I am distressed that America produced him and has allowed him to get this close to the Presidency.

Dear Mr. Trump: You Do Not Represent Me

IMG_0293Dear Mr. Trump,

At the Republican National Convention last week, you invoked the names of parents whose children had been killed by undocumented immigrants. You indicated your impression that you represent them and their interests.

I want to let you know that my child, too, was killed by an undocumented immigrant. But you do not in any way represent me or my interests.

The picture here was taken of Leigh Anna Jimmerson, my 16 year old daughter, and her 19 year old boyfriend, Tad Joseph Mattle, on the night they died. You may be able to tell from the expressions on their faces that they were happy, beautiful people. I can tell you that to her family, Leigh Anna was Christmas, as they say. She was the Dancing Queen. Mardi Gras all year long.

On the night of April 17, 2009, an undocumented drunk driver slammed into them as they were stopped at a red light at a busy intersection in Huntsville, Alabama. The driver was being pursued, at a high speed, by a police officer. They died immediately. Tad’s car exploded on impact and Leigh Anna’s body burned up.

I am fortunate in that I was able to forgive the undocumented drunk driver. I never felt any anger toward him. I felt no hatred toward him. It just seemed to me that it had been a terribly bad night for everyone involved. I have often been grateful that in addition to the sadness that I carry with me every day of my life, I am not also burdened with bitterness.

imagesFor what it might be worth to you, this picture is one of my favorites of Leigh Anna. It was taken two years before she died. She had elected to go with me to a rally the Ku Klux Klan was having in Athens, Alabama. They were protesting illegal immigrants. We went to a counter protest. She was a little nervous, as you can imagine, but she wanted to go anyway. Once there, she held this sign which, as you can see, was as big as she.

As we were leaving the rally, a Klansman or Klan supporter said something rude to her (she never would tell me what he had said). I heard her say to him, laughing: “Love you back!”

At the trial the driver was convicted on two counts of murder. After the sentencing, he asked to speak to the families. He acknowledged what he had done. He asked for our forgiveness. Later, in a private conversation with him when he was on his way to prison, he told my husband and me that, if he could, he would change places with Tad and Leigh Anna.

The morning after the crash, the police officer who chased him said that he was perplexed that the faster he drove pursuing the driver, the faster the driver went.

The police never came to our house that evening. They never acknowledged their role in the death of my child. In the death of my dreams. The police officer who pursued the undocumented man never asked for my forgiveness. To my knowledge, he never faced any official consequences.

My heart goes out to the other families who have lost their children under similar circumstances. I do not ask them to forgive the one who took their child and their dreams. I understand not being able to forgive. There are those in my family who have not been able to forgive either. There is no shame in not being able to forgive someone who has caused you such grief.

You, however, are neither in a position to forgive or not to forgive. Instead, what you are doing, in my opinion, is encouraging people like you, people who neither are in a position to forgive or not to forgive, to get some sort of mean-spirited pleasure out of condemning people they have never met and who have never harmed them.

10208382_BG4I have a favor to ask of you, Mr. Trump. I want to ask you not to encourage mean-spiritedness towards undocumented immigrants. I want to ask you to speak about them in ways that would honor Leigh Anna and her gentleness of spirit. I would ask you to speak about them in ways that reflect the love she exhibited every day of her life. I would ask you to show the kind of courage she showed in attending a protest of the Ku Klux Klan when she was scared and when they, too, were acting out of mean-spiritedness.

Until you do, Mr. Trump, please know that you do not represent me or my interests.

Are We Native Americans Your Pets?

Photos, Bios, Mike Wilson @ San Xavier, Mission - Dia de los Muertos Pilgrimage, by Hyatt 10-31-09

Photo courtesy of Michael Hyatt

Last week I had the pleasure of having Mike Wilson and his partner, Susan Ruff, in my home for a few days. Mike is a tribal member of the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona. The reservation on which the nation is situated straddles the United States / Mexico border. I got to know Mike and Susan when I was filming my documentary, The Second Cooler, in which Mike appears.

Mike is an original. He is a Native American who joined the United States Army and trained at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He became a member of its Special Forces. Sent to El Salvador in the 1980s, his duty was to “win the hearts and minds” of the Salvadorans. That means that he was to encourage Salvadorans to assent to US domination.

While there, he had what in Christian circles is sometimes referred to as a Road to Damascus moment during which he encountered who he was and what he was doing. He concluded he was a “North American imperialist” in El Salvador.

He says that he was “called” out of the Army and into seminary, then called back out of seminary “by faith”. He was prompted by his conclusion that the Church had become an instrument of imperialism. He spent a year as a lay pastor, however, at the Presbyterian church in Sells, the capital of the Tohono O’odham Nation. For those who do not understand the idea of being “called”, it refers to a belief that God has placed a special task on a believer’s shoulders.  Today, Mike says, everything he does is because of his faith in God.

One of the issues which Mike, Susan, and I discussed at length under the cool arbor on my deck was Mike’s frustration with white people who will not confront tribal leadership on life and death issues. In this short clip from The Second Cooler, Mike talks about the running conflict he has had for years with tribal leaders of the nation. The context in the clip is the criticism he was receiving from his Presbyterian Session in Sells.

Mike With water

From The Second Cooler. Adam Valencia, photographer.

The conflict has to do with the fact that Mike puts water on tribal lands for migrants crossing there illegally. The migrants, who come from Mexico, Central America and elsewhere disproportionately are indigenous. Tribal leadership forbids him putting out water because they believe it encourages migrants to cross through their lands.

Part of the problem is that the militarization of the US / Mexico border, especially at the Arizona border, has been deliberately designed to push illegal immigrants into the vast, treacherous Sonora Desert which makes up much of the Nation’s land. Figures are difficult to come by, but estimates range from a very conservative 7,000 to approximately 21,000 since 1997 when records began to be kept.

Mike also has had a running conflict with immigrant advocates in Tucson. Advocates there, who are white or Latino, work day in and day out to rescue migrants, call attention to their deaths nationally, and keep records of deaths. Yet, they will not tell tribal leadership that they are wrong to contribute to migrant deaths by refusing to give them water.

Mike wants white and Latino advocates to stand up to tribal leadership arguing that human beings are suffering and their lives are hanging in the balance.

White and Latino advocates will not. They argue that to do so is a form of racism: “White people have told Native Americans what to do for too long.” And so, Mike not only is persona non grata among tribal leadership, he is persona non grata among the non-Native advocates in Tucson.

While we talked, I remembered a remark he made at the screening of The Second Cooler in Tucson at the Arizona International Film Festival in 2013 during the Q&A. A number of those whom he had tried to persuade to support him by standing up to tribal leadership were in the audience that evening. I recalled him having said to no one in particular, “What do you think we Tohono are? Your pets?”

Mike believes, and I agree, that preferring to let migrants die rather than stand up to the people who could help save their lives is, in and of itself, a particularly toxic form of racism. As Mike pointed out while we talked, refusing to stand up to people who hold other people’s lives in their hands because of their racial or ethnic identity is applying a different standard to their actions or lack thereof. I believe that a separate standard is necessarily a lower standard reflecting a lingering belief that Native Americans are too emotionally delicate, too childlike, to take criticism. And, because they are Natives and made fundamentally different from Whites, according to the logic, they are inherently incapable of racism.

Or, as Mike asks in the clip from The Second Cooler, rather than stand up to tribal leadership or wrestle with the nuances of racism, is it just “easier to let the migrants die”?

This is the racism which we can deny by taking the moral high ground of ultra sensitivity to Native Americans’ feelings.  We can deny our and Native racism while colluding in the brutal deaths of thousands of Mexican indigenous. Applying any moral yardstick, how can we justify this? Do migrant deaths really matter? Are Tohono O’odham tribal leaders full grown men and women?

Or are Native Americans our pets?

 

Why Melissa Hillman’s Privilege Argument Was Backwards

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Hillary Clinton

A recent article by Melissa Hillman for Quartz created a stir among loyalists in Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s camp. Hillman insisted that “privilege is what allows Sanders supporters to say they’ll ‘never’ vote for Clinton under any circumstance.”

That is inaccurate. There are those who are well outside the ranks of privilege who will not vote for Clinton. Period.

Quartz, a digital global business news publication culls its 150 writers from conservative business journals including Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, as well as the New York Times. Its core market is global business people who want international markets. In other words, they are among the market oriented neoliberals where Clinton finds many of her supporters.

The truth is that there are those who will not vote for Clinton precisely because of their lack of privilege or because of their work among those who lack the kind of extraordinary privilege Quartz readers have or aspire to have.

One is Luis Efrain Serrano, an illegal (the term he prefers) Latino and an activist with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] Out Of LA in Los Angeles. The organization exists to end deportations and the criminalization of illegal immigrants. He believes the privilege argument is backwards.

People are voting for Clinton, Serrano believes, “because of their privilege. Wealthy or middle class white folks would not be as negatively affected by her as those of us who are less privileged.”  The Democrats “give us weird little reforms like DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] which help us out a bit. We are ok with them only because things are so bad.”

Ultimately, Serrano wants systemic change. Although he does not support Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, Serrano believes a Trump election could aid in forcing the collapse of the establishment. He believes Trump has shaken “the neoliberal establishment which Clinton represents because he exposes an economic system that they have kept hidden.” Reality is that the Clinton establishment, in Serrano’s opinion, has “perfected keeping people oppressed and distracted.” Trump has brought that into the open.

Serrano concludes, “for those without privilege, there is no strategy in electing Clinton.”

Zac Henson is a self-proclaimed “mad redneck” with a Ph. D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management but who makes his living delivering papers and driving for Uber in East Lake, Alabama.

Henson, too, is concerned about the political system. He also wants to challenge individualized ideas of what constitutes oppression or privilege. No one, is all oppressor or all oppressed,” he thinks. Instead, he believes, we need to talk more about “multiple overarching systems of power.” For instance, he says, “I’m white and male, so there are certainly advantages that I have in certain situations. But, I’m also mentally ill, working class, and Southern, so there are disadvantages that I have to deal with too.”

As for the election, Henson’s identities and philosophies slide between Clinton and Trump. Like Clinton, he believes in multiculturalism and diversity. But like Trump, he opposes economic globalization. He believes each has been engaged in an all-out war on the working class from both the left and the right. Partly because of Clinton’s neoliberalism, and the neoliberalism of the Democratic establishment, the white working class “literally has no place else to go but to Trump, which is both worrisome and sad.”

Trump, however, “is a monster arising in a cauldron of white working class rage and a generation of abandonment of the white working class by the left.” Because of the war on the working class, “people are frustrated, mad, and confused. It seems as if the American Dream is a distant memory.”

Even someone like me, he says, “who is a community organizer, an antiracist, a feminist, and a communist can see Trump’s appeal to people who are just desperate. So, I’ll probably just vote for Jill Stein, even though I know that it’s a throw away vote. Not much of a choice, if you ask me.”

Jorge Mújica Murias is the Strategic Campaigns Organizer at Arise Chicago, an organization devoted to combatting worker injustice. A Latino, he ran for Congress as a candidate for Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District in 2009 and for Alderman for the City of Chicago in 2015. A socialist, he supports Jill Stein of the Green Party.

“My reason for not supporting Clinton is simple,” Mújica says. “I want to do away with the two-party system.”

He wants to see the Democratic Party split. “I want to help give a solid third party status to the Green Party. I don’t want people re-electing Hillary in 2020 because Ted Cruz runs against her nor do I want to see Chelsea Clinton running against Trump. Giving a solid third party status to the Green Party might open up the system.” Just as he would like to see the Democratic Party split, Mújica continues, “I would have hoped to see the Republicans splitting and founding a third party, the Tea Party. That is not going to happen apparently. But we can make it happen in the Democratic party if people will not cave in and vote for Clinton.”

Pippa Abston is a pediatrician in Huntsville, Alabama. She counts herself among the privileged in no small measure because she has health insurance. She tends daily to people, however, who do not – and she cares about them.

Based in large part on what she has seen in her practice, she believes that those who already lack political and socioeconomic privilege would be placed at higher risk in a Clinton presidency.

Clinton, she believes, “has ignored the need to insure every single person in the US for healthcare and has accepted President Obama’s incremental approach with the Affordable Care Act [ACA].” The ACA, according to Abston, is unethical because it leaves out some already marginalized groups. Those groups include poor adults in those states like Alabama which does not allow them access to Medicaid, undocumented immigrants, documented immigrants because of a five year waiting period, and those who live just above the poverty line but cannot afford insurance even with the ACA.

An ethical person, Abston says, “would not find it acceptable to leave anyone out.” Clinton, on the other hand, is “a utilitarian who is able to abstract human beings into numbers and treat them interchangeably, trading out some lives for others. This is not ethically acceptable to me.” Because she sees children and their parents every day in her office, she says, “I can’t possibly forget what they need and I can’t possibly vote for Clinton who could put them at risk.”

As are Serrano, Henson, and Mújica, Abston is concerned about the entire political system. Clinton, she says, represents a political philosophy, neoliberalism, which she finds “abhorrent.”

It is an “imposter on the left” but it is not truly leftist, because it “transfers power and representation even further away from the public sphere into the oligarchy, and then tells the powerless that they can lift themselves up if they try harder.”

By occupying the left as an imposter, Abston says, the neoliberal wing prevents the development of a true left, a true democratic movement “by convincing supporters it is the left they are seeking, that it cares about them, but it does not. I find this even more repugnant than the right wing, which is at least moderately honest about its nefarious intentions.”

Like Abston, I, too am a person of multiple privileges. I am white, upper middle class, and enjoy a high social status. I am a Ph. D. historian, liberation theologian, ordained Baptist minister, and film maker. Much of my professional life consists of advocacy for illegal immigrants, domestic labor, and guest workers in the US legally with an H2 visa.

Free trade agreements are closely associated with the displacement of the millions of Latinos who are in the US illegally as well as with the creation of a billionaire class in Mexico and elsewhere. Free trade agreements and neoliberal economic policies generally are a priority issue for me.

Although Clinton has recently distanced herself from the looming Trans Pacific Partnership, in the past she has applauded it as the “gold standard” of trade agreements.

Trade agreements favor the well being of corporations over that of human beings. They are in large part about the creation of “investor states” which legally transfer local, state, and national sovereignty to corporations which may sue governments which act to adversely affect, or threaten to adversely affect, corporations’ profits. This includes such things as labor regulations, environmental efforts, and regulations over pharmaceutical businesses.

Clinton has waffled on free trade agreements. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Dr. Jill Stein, on the other hand, consistently have opposed them.

Each seems to understand that the agreements are not really about trade — they certainly are not about the creation of a multicultural “global village” — they are about the offshoring of national sovereignty and the creation of a new legal framework to create and protect new, sinister investor states. They are about displacing more and more vulnerable peoples around the world and making it next to impossible for the rest of us to do anything about it. I have written more on the sovereignty problems with free trade agreements here.

This article is based on anecdotal evidence, of course, as was Melissa Hillman’s. But it should go some distance in demonstrating that she is wrong about privilege being the reason for people on the left opposing Clinton. Instead, the reasons for many of us include deep concerns about America’s working class, the current failure of the two-party system to address systemic economic problems, and neoliberal economic policies. Many of us have concluded that Clinton is not only a poor choice to lead America, she is downright dangerous for all of us.

Crucifixion at Orlando: A Meditation on John1:14 and God’s Trans Nature

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Source: NYTimes

In light of Saturday night’s massacre of 50 gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and transgender people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we Christians must repent of our narrow vision of who God is. By repent, I mean that we must change our way of thinking. This is what I believe the Bible has to offer as I meditate on the crucifixion at Orlando.

 

It is often said that “God never changes”. I do not not see it that way. God not only changes, God is by nature change. God is so fundamentally about change that, according to the writer of John’s gospel, God is trans.

In verse 1:14 of his gospel, John wrote in the most beautiful way that before the present age began, God already was trans. Before the present age, God was abstraction then transitioned to Good News. Before the present age, God was Word then transitioned to Flesh. Before the present age, God was Poem then transitioned to Prose.

What was right for one context and in one age was not right for another context in another age. In the abstract Beginning, the world had been a place of liveliness and peace. It had been a garden. But by about 30 CE, or thereabouts, the world had become a place of paranoia on the part of pharaohs and caesars obsessed with national security and of religious leaders obsessed with their arrangements with pharaohs and caesars.

Living on a brink which was crumbling, as they presumed, because of a seismic shift in the order of things, they were in a profound and continual existential crisis. Because they were in a profound, existential crisis, they caused to suffer anyone who threatened their existential well-being. Whether the threat was real was not the issue. The issue was the existential crisis and the on-going dreadful sense of being under attack.

They were terrified. By the same token, they resorted to acts of terrorism.

They turned to the ways they believed would allow them to hold onto order, the status quo, the cash coming in, oil for the chariots, and regalia for the soldiers. They turned to humiliation and death. They turned to the terrorism of crucifixion. At first it was only one or two bandits. The next thing anyone could remember, it was 72,000 bandits crucified along the Appian Way. (Not that they really were bandits; they were revolutionaries who had announced that God was the God of Life and not the Idol of Death.) Once it reached mass execution proportions, crucifixions had become official announcements to the masses that Caesar was God.

That Caesar was God was a lie. God knew it was a lie. Thus, God decided that God could no longer be the authentic Lord of Life so long as God stayed Word. God had to transition to Flesh in order to maintain God’s integrity as Lord of Life.

And so the God who since The Beginning had been trans made God’s transition from Word to Flesh as a sort of counter announcement.

If we are familiar with the Bible, we know what happened next: after about 3 years or so, God, too, was crucified.

What happened in Orlando was a re-run of sorts. It seems to me that if the crucifixions are to end, we might do well to reflect on who God is. We might consider that God had no fixed nature. We might consider that God was trans.

48861807.cachedIn memory of all those died at Pulse, June 11, 2016.

The Panama Papers, Free Trade, and the Offshoring of National Sovereignty

panamapapers02As the Panama Papers are rolled out, many are wondering how they connect to the Panama Free Trade Agreement, technically called the Panama United States Trade Promotion Agreement.

It is far too soon to know what exactly the content, meanings, implications, and ramifications of the Panama Papers are. What we can say with certainty, however, is that trade agreements are not all about trade. At least not in the sense that most of us think when we hear the word “trade”. For example, in everyday life I might trade you a batch of homemade cookies for your help with my computer. So we apply that concept to trade at the national level. Mexico provides the United States with tequila and we provide Mexico with Jack Daniels. Americans get margaritas; Mexicans get whiskey sours. Seems like a win-win, right?

It is just not that simple.

Free trade is about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It is about the displacement of peoples and about the offshoring of both jobs and national sovereignty. It is about creating “investor state treaties” with extra-national legally binding means to protect corporations and their investors from such things as local environmental protections.

As the Panama Papers seem destined to prove, they also are about offshoring the profits via tax havens which should have been turned into taxes to benefit the rest of us.

As we learned with the North American Free Trade Agreement, what was really going on was what was called the “opening of markets”. How does the US’s Archer Daniels Midland [ADM], for example, a heavily subsidized, gargantuan producer of factory farmed corn, open up a market in Mexico? By taking the market away from Mexico’s often indigenous “people of the corn”.

As you can see in this video, corn is a staple of the Mexican diet, Mexican culture, and the peasant Mexican economy. There was no shortage of people wanting to produce corn in Mexico. So, to open up that market, the tariffs that ADM had to pay to export its corn to Mexico, were removed. That means that by removing the tariffs, protections for the indigenous Mexican farmer, ADM was put into direct competition with peasant farmers in Mexico’s heavily indigenous, southern state of Chiapas, for example. This is what made the trade “free”. It was unobstructed by tariffs.

But, there was more to it than that. As a prerequisite for Mexico being able to enter into the NAFTA, it had to remove the subsidies it had long provided it’s peasant corn farmers, subsidies which had helped them stay on their lands and maintain their economy and their culture. However, subsidies paid to US factory producers of corn were not removed. Instead, subsidies to them increased. According to the Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidies Database, between 2005 and 2012 US factory corn producers received $84.4 billion in subsidies.

In a simplified nutshell, NAFTA created about 10 Mexican billionaires while it pushed 1 1/2 to 2 million peasant farmers off their lands and into migration including illegal immigration into the US.

NAFTA also was about the offshoring of good paying jobs in the United States. It, along with previous agreements, created a “maquiladora” zone in Mexico which took advantage of displaced farmers and others. Maquiladoras, or “maquilas” as they are often known, are factories. They are owned by US companies, for example, which export their parts and equipment for assembly, processing, or manufacturing in Mexico. The parts and equipment are exported without the paying of tariffs. The product is made by Mexican workers often making no more than $5.00 a day and with very little in the way of safety regulations or recompense for injuries sustained on the job. The products then are exported back to the US, tariff free, and sold to consumers at artificially low prices.

Of course, there had been Americans making those products before and often had received good pay and benefits. Those jobs were taken from them; they did not walk away from them.

It does not take a Ph.D. in economics to understand what was going on. The rich were made richer and the poor were made poorer. My film, The Second Cooler, helps explain the relationship between NAFTA, the displacement of indigenous peasant farmers in Mexico, and the offshoring of US jobs. 

NAFTA and other free trade agreements, or FTAs, were also about the offshoring of national sovereignty. The offshoring of national sovereignty is not unprecedented. The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, was established in 1945 in The Hague, to settle legal disputes submitted to it by member states. It was in the World Court, for example, that Nicaragua successfully sued the United States over the bombing of its harbors and buzzing of its cities during the Reagan sponsored Contra counter-revolution.

The International Criminal Court, established in 2002, created an international jurisdiction and a means by which individuals could be prosecuted for such crimes as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Both these agencies were formed to protect nations and peoples. But NAFTA and other FTAs, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership offshored national sovereignty in a new way and with a new purpose: the protection of investors and corporations. It is for this reason that NAFTA is often said to be an “investor state treaty”. It is not just about tariffs, subsidies, and the movement of traded materials and products. It is about the creation of an international court system which transfers sovereignty from local, state, and national governments to a NAFTA panel of decision makers when legal disputes arise.

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NAFTA Symbol

Chapter 11 of NAFTA describes a means for “investor state dispute settlement”. It allows corporations to sue the United States, Mexico, or Canada, the NAFTA member states, for compensation when actions by their governments damage their sales or profits. Several Canadian groups have challenged the constitutionality of Chapter 11, but lost at the trial level.

For example, Methanex, a Canadian corporation, filed a US $ 970 million suit against the US. It claimed that a California ban on Methyl tert-butyl ether [MTBE], which had gotten into California’s wells, had hurt Methanex’s sales of methanol. In this case, the NAFTA panel found in favor of the US and Canada had to pay court costs.

But in another case, Mexico had to pay Metaclad, a California based US corporation, $15.6 million after a Mexican municipality refused a construction permit for a hazardous waste landfill Metaclad wanted to construct in San Luis Potosí. In Metaclad Corp. v. United States, the NAFTA panel ruled that the municipality of San Luis Potosí did not have the authority to ban construction on the basis of environmental concerns.

Apotex, a Canadian pharmaceutical company, is suing the US for $520 million because it says that a Food and Drug Administration generic drug decision harmed its “opportunity” at sales and profits.

Lone Pine Resources, Inc., which is incorporated in Delaware but headquartered in Calgary, Canada, is an oil and gas exploration, development, and production company. It has filed a US $250 million claim against Canada because Canada wants to prevent fracking exploration under the St. Lawrence Seaway. The lawyer for Lone Pine Resources accurately refers to NAFTA as an “investor protection treaty”.

The World Trade Organization [WTO] was organized in 1995 — 3 years after the signing of NAFTA and months after NAFTA began to be implemented in 1994. There are 162 member states. It provides a framework for negotiating further trade agreements and a means by which disputes can be resolved.

The aim of the WTO is to enforce participants’ adherence to WTO agreements.

The Panama Free Trade Agreement, which President Obama signed in 2011, not only was about eliminating tariffs and about consolidating access to goods and services. It was about favoring private investment in and between the United States and Panama.

I won’t pretend to have looked at the Panama Agreement as closely as I have the NAFTA and CAFTA agreements. But my research has yielded this: in addition to trade and other economic issues, it had to do with intellectual property, labor, and environmental policies, among others. Among the primary criticisms of the agreement, for example, has been its effect on copyright laws which have served to infringe upon free speech. Again, what we are seeing is about much more than trade.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] is now creating a new “investor state system”. The signatory nations are the United States, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. This is the agreement which President Obama has promoted and for which he received “fast track” authorization. That means the ability to negotiate in secret.

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Lori Wallach

Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, has described the TPP as “NAFTA on steroids” and a “corporate Trojan Horse”. You can listen to an interview by Amy Goodman with her for Democracy Now! here. Wallach, Gretchen Morgenson, and other trade policy analysts emphasize that these trade deals have less to do with trade than with the offshoring of national sovereignty to international corporations.

One of the primary concerns has to do with the erosion of the right of the US Congress and state legislatures to enact public interest policies prohibited in these pacts.

If the TPP goes into effect, existing agreements like NAFTA will be reduced, they say, to those provisions which do not conflict with the TPP. As with NAFTA and other trade agreements, the TPP would create an extra-national judicial system designed to protect corporations and their investors. It would give them the right to attack US financial regulations in front of tribunals composed of three private sector attorneys. Those attorneys would operate under World Bank and United Nations rules of arbitration.

In other words, the “investor state system” with its own judicial apparatus allows corporations to bypass US courts and laws and to sue American governments for money damages over any regulatory efforts the corporations say undermine not only their current profits but their “expected future profits”. Among the TPP nations, there already are cross-registered 11,933 corporations.

Here are a two examples of what already is happening. Chevron is using an “investor state” tribunal to try to avoid paying $18 billion — that’s billion — to clean up contamination is caused to the Amazon River. This fine was ordered after 18 years of litigation and rulings in courts in Ecuador and the US. Philip Morris is using it to attack Australian and Uruguayan plain packaging laws for cigarettes.

Already governments have paid more than $675 million to corporations under these “investor state” provisions. Seventy percent of them have been for non-trade policies including environmental and health policies.

You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics to understand who the primary beneficiaries of this system are. You don’t have to have a JD [Juris Doctorate] to figure out how difficult it could become for state and nations to have the legal ability to enforce environmental, financial, and other public interest regulations. I, for one, am waiting to see exactly what all the Panama Papers will reveal. It seems apparent they will reveal an insatiable appetite among the wealthiest of the wealthy for ever more wealth at the expense of the 99%. They also will reveal a clear connection, if my prediction is correct, to free trade agreements and the the offshoring of national sovereignty to a global “investor state” which protects the interests of the globalized 1% class and which makes it legally difficult to do anything about it.

 

Sanders’ “Stupid Trump” Comment to Rachel Maddow

th-1Yesterday, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow talked with Democratic presidential party hopeful, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in Madison, Wisconsin. She mentioned Republican contender Donald Trump’s recent remark that “women should be punished for having an abortion”. Sanders reply, in part, was that it was a “stupid remark”. Sanders also said that the idea of punishing a woman for having an abortion was “incomprehensible”.

Predictably, Sanders’ remark has been construed as having been dismissive of a woman’s right to choose. Sanders’ remarks to Rachel Maddow in full as well as his history on the issue ought to be brought into play.

Below is Sander’s reply (edited by me for brevity), but you can read the entire transcript here if you wish. You also could watch this video of the exchange which will indicate very well that the emphasis in Sander’s remarks was on Trump’s incomprehensible stupidity as well as on too much of American media’s “flavor of the day” approach to reporting.

Sanders said, “But to punish a woman for having an abortion is beyond comprehension. . . . I don’t know what world this person [Trump] lives in.  So obviously, from my perspective, and if elected president, I will do everything that I can to allow women to make that choice and have access to clinics all over this country so that if they choose to have an abortion, they will be able to do so.

The idea of punishing a woman, that is just, you know, beyond comprehension. . . .

You know, you mentioned a moment ago, Rachel, that the media is paying attention to Donald Trump.

Duh? No kidding. Once again, every stupid remark will be broadcast, you know, for the next five days.

But because media is what media is today, any stupid, absurd remark made by Donald Trump becomes the story of the week.  Maybe, just maybe, we might want to have a serious discussion about the serious issues facing America.  Donald Trump will not look quite so interesting in that context.

MADDOW:  Are you suggesting, though, that the media shouldn’t be focusing on his call to potentially jail women who have abortions?  Because that’s another stupid —

SANDERS:  I am saying that every day he comes up with another stupid remark, absurd remark, of course it should be mentioned. But so should Trump’s overall positions. . . .  All that I’m saying is that Trump is nobody’s fool.  He knows how to manipulate the media and you say an absurd thing and the media is all over it.”

Maddow later asked the other Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Clinton, whether Sanders’ remark was “just another Donald Trump stupid comment”.

Clinton replied, “No, absolutely not. I’ve been on the front lines of the fight to preserve a woman’s choice and ability to make these difficult decision, that is why I was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood action fund, that is why I was endorsed by NARAL, I am a leader in trying to make sure that our rights as women are in no way eroded.”

Clinton continued, “And to think this is an issue that is not deserving of reaction demonstrates a lack of understanding of how serious this is. It goes to the heart.”

You can watch a video of the exchange between Maddow and Clinton here.

In my opinion, Clinton either misunderstood the nature of Sanders’ remark and Maddow’s question or did not want to address it. If you look at the video and look at the transcript, it seems clear to me that Sander’s was not reacting to a woman’s right to choose as an issue, he was reacting to the absurdity of Trump’s remark about “punishing” women and to the absurdity of media’s absorption with his every idiotic utterance. Instead, she changed the subject (as I truly might have if I were running for office) to her record, her endorsement by NARAL, and the Republican party’s record. The gist of Clinton’s remarks was that Sanders did not fully appreciate the issue.

In sorting through this, it might be helpful to look at Sanders’ voting and support record on a woman’s right to choose and related issues. Source: OnTheIssues.com.

  • (1993) Sanders supported the protection of women’s reproductive rights
  • (1997) said women should have the right to choose regardless of income
  • (1999) voted NO on barring transporting minors to get an abotion
  • (2000) voted NO on banning partial-birth abortions
  • (2001) voted NO on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad
  • (2002) voted NO on funding for health providers who don’t provide abortion info
  • (2003) voted NO on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life
  • (2003) rated 100% by NARAL [Pro Choice America], ostensibly for his pro-choice record
  • (2005) voted NO on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions
  • (2006) supported emergency contraception for rape victims at all hospitals
  • (2006) rated 0% by the National Right to Life Committee, ostensibly for his pro-choice stance
  • (2007) he voted NO on barring Health and Human Services grants to organizations that perform abortions
  • (2007) supported access to and funding for contraception
  • (2007) supported providing emergency contraception at military facilities
  • (2008) voted NO on defining unborn child as eligible for SCHIP [State Children’s Health Insurance Program]
  • (2009) voted NO on restricting UN funding for population control
  • (2009) focused on preventing unwanted pregnancy, plus emergency contraception
  • (2011) supported requiring pharmacies to fulfill contraceptive prescriptions
  • (2013) supported banning anti-abortion limitations on abortion services
  • (2015) supported access to safe, legal abortions without restrictions

Here is Clinton’s voting and support record using the same source:

  • (2001) Recommended by Emily’s List, a group which endorses Democrat women candidates who support right to choose
  • (2003) Voted NO on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life
  • (2003) rated 100% by NARAL, ostensibly for her pro-choice voting record
  • (2005) voted YES on $100 million to reduce teen pregnancy via education & contraceptives
  • (2006) voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions
  • (2006) sponsored bill providing contraceptives for low-income women
  • (2006) sponsored bill for emergency contraception for rape victims
  • (2007) supported providing emergency contraception at military facilities
  • (2007) supported ensuring access to and funding for contraception
  • (2008) voted NO on defining unborn child as eligible for SCHIP
  • (2009) supported focusing on preventing pregnancy, plus emergency contraception

Here is a graphic provided by the Bing Political Index which shows that, on the issue of abortion, Sanders is to the left of Clinton and Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, is to the left of them both.

Of course, that clearly is debatable depending on how you read the evidence as to who is the stronger candidate. If you look at length of years supporting a woman’s right to choose, Sanders might look better. If you look at an emphasis on education, Clinton might look better. On this particular issue, they both look good to me. Sanders has what seems to me to be an impeccable record on a woman’s right to choose. This should not be overlooked or obscured because during a moment’s completely comprehensible frustration, he decided to tell it like it is.

 

 

The Not So Grand Jury: My Experience

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I recently served two weeks on Madison County, Alabama’s grand jury. For those who may not know, the grand jury is the legal agency which decides whether there is “probable cause” to indict. That means it is the grand jury which decides whether someone arrested for various criminal offenses, including misdemeanors and felonies, will face a jury trial.

 

Wikipedia offers the following information:

A grand jury is a legal body that is empowered to conduct official proceedings to investigate potential criminal conduct and to determine whether criminal charges should be brought. A grand jury may compel the production of documents and may compel the sworn testimony of witnesses to appear before it. A grand jury is separate from the courts, which do not preside over its functioning.

The experience was deeply disturbing to me. Using the Wikipedia article as a reference point, I can say without reservation that “investigating” had little to do with my grand jury experience. Nor was I ever under the impression I could compel the production of documents or appearances of witnesses.

During the two weeks, we jurors actually deliberated over the course of only about seven days. During that time, we made decisions about whether to indict on somewhere between 500 and 600 cases. Those cases included something like 1,000 charges because many cases involved more than one charge. We were not allowed to keep our charges list nor our notes which is why I cannot be more specific about those numbers. That information was destined for the shredder.

The first afternoon included an introduction to illegal drugs, illegal drug production, illegal drug paraphernalia, and what are called “precursors” which refers to such things as Sudafed, glass tubes, spoons, and others things used in the production of meth. The officer passed around baggies of white power, rocks, and marijuana of various types.

The reason for this became clear as the days progressed: the majority, although not the preponderance, of the cases had to do with the production, trafficking, or possession of illegal drugs.

I had the impression, too, whether correctly or incorrectly that there was a subtext: illegal drugs are ubiquitous and dangerous and so are the people associated with them. There were no other show and tells: no introduction to knives or guns, for example, although weapons charges were among those we considered.

The officers who often appeared as witnesses relayed that many of the drug charges began with officers pulling drivers over for traffic violations — failing to use their turn signal, driving with their bright lights on, changing lanes improperly. This often would lead to the officer’s claim that he or she then smelled marijuana. That led to inspections. When no drugs could be detected, the canine units were brought in.

There was one instance in which the officer said he could not find any drugs on one particular defendant nor could he find drugs in her car. However, he said, he saw her take a pill as she was standing outside the car and throw it into the car. He said he never was able to locate the pill, but her car was a mess which, he felt, explained why he could not find it.

We were indicting, in many cases, people who were found to be in possession of a single pill without having a prescription for it.  We indicted for possession of a single tablet of Xanax, Adderall, or Hydrocodone, for example — all of which at one time or another I have had in my medicine cabinet. I have used these medications, to be sure, with a prescription, but I did have them and used them.

Disproportionately, it seemed to me, these traffic stops, according to the testimonies of the officers, were on Huntsville’s poorer and predominantly African American north side. One of my fellow grand jurors was black and a detective. I asked him, during the second week, “is what we’re seeing here cases of ‘driving while black’?” He laughed and gave a noncommittal answer — saying neither “yes” nor “no”. “Driving while poor?” I asked. He shrugged.

There was only one other African American juror. All appeared to be middle class. There were no tell-tale signs of chronic poverty such as bad teeth. This was of interest to me because it seemed to me that the grand jury did not constitute a jury of the peers of most of the people who had been arrested and whom we were indicting.

The few arrests in the southeast, where I live, were arrests at a certain notorious motel where drugs are often trafficked and at big-box stores where shoplifting was a problem as it was at Parkway Place mall and at other big-box stores around town.

It also seemed to me that the grand jurors were more lenient or more understanding of those with whom they could identify. For example, the jury did not want to indict a man who had shot a neighbor in the stomach after provoking him then shooting around him in the air when the man came onto his property. When I protested that this met the test of “probable cause” in the intention to commit bodily harm, I was met with protests of “how would you feel if you were in his position”?

One of the cases we heard was an exceptionally complicated assault case involving a transgender person. Sometime during the alleged assault a man died although not because of the assault. This was according to the coroner’s report.

The lawyer who presented the details of the case said that the family wanted the person charged to pay some price — meaning a jail term. I felt that conveying that information was inappropriate since it is not the family’s day in court, not the family facing indictment. I believe this is a good legal principle. I said as much to the DA six years ago when the man who killed my daughter and her boyfriend was coming to trial for murder. While suggesting to the other members of the grand jury that I did not think the family’s wishes should be taken into consideration, I also pointed out that the person had been in jail already for seven months and with other prisoners who did not conform to the alleged assailant’s gender identity. I could not imagine that the assault, in this particular case, could ever result in more than seven months.

But the family wanted to see us “do something”. So the jury voted to indict. After voting, one of the members of the grand jury asked the attorney, “Where is it (the transgender person) now?”

After the first afternoon’s deliberations, it became very clear to me and others that we were, in essence, “rubber stamping”, as another juror put it, previously made decisions on the part of the District Attorney’s [DA’s] office.

It also became abundantly clear that we would never understand what was going on in far too many cases. I began to listen out for these words: “confession” and “video”. If I heard those 2 words, I raised my hand to indict. One reason is that it all went extremely fast as you can imagine with 550 cases or so in seven days. There were times I did not vote because I had not been able to locate the case on my case sheet to track the charges and the testimony was over by the time I found it. Another reason is that the testimony often was jumbled. In many cases, the officer or other witness had not reviewed the details in the months or years that had transpired between the arrest and his or her appearance before the grand jury.

There was one case where the witness, who was well-dressed and articulate, gave a long, detailed, well-organized testimony with names. After looking at the names of three people being charged on our case sheet, one alert juror asked her to tell us how they fit into the case. After naming each one, she said she did not know them. We were taken aback as was the DA. These were the only people named in the case. We never understood what happened there. Right witness, wrong case? We obviously voted not to indict.

In other instance, this same alert juror asked the officer to explain to us again what tied the defendant to the case? The officer seemed embarrassed and admitted he had not been the arresting officer and was picking up a random case. As there seemed to be nothing in the case to tie the charge to the defendant, we voted not to indict.

Out of the 550 or so cases, we “true billed” or voted to indict in about 500 cases. There were only one or two instances where we did not deliver what the DA expected. Once, the DA came back to us and told us we had made the wrong decision. The DA outlined for us why we should have true billed the charge. We re-considered and eventually true billed it. The other “no bills” or votes not to indict for the most part came at the instruction of the DA. These were for lesser charges in a case with multiple charges. The DA did not want the defendant to have lesser charges to which he or she could plead guilty.

The DA or testifying officer told us on many occasions that the defendant had “priors” or prior arrests or convictions. Although I think that might useful information in some situations, I did not think that should be taken into consideration when voting whether to indict on a new case. We supposedly were looking for “probable cause” in these particular cases not deciding whether the defendant was of good moral character.

Often, I and others had to ask the officers to slow down or speak up. Once when I asked an officer to slow down, he gave me an arresting officer’s intimidating glare which he held for a good five seconds. I suppose he had forgotten that I was not a good candidate for intimidation.

During the second week, we were given what was called an opportunity to “inspect” the Madison County jail and the juvenile detention home. This inspection, one juror quipped, amounted to a tour of North Korea given by a North Korean official — it was designed to let us see what the DA’s office and the Sheriff wanted us to see and nothing else.

The visit was carefully planned. We ate lunch with several wardens and Sheriff Dorning. I asked one of the jailors whether this was the same lunch the inmates were having. The answer was “no”. After asking, I was told that the budget for each prisoner’s food is $4.00 a day. I asked whether the inmates ever got to go outside. The answer was “yes” and was told the routine.

On a tour of the facility, they took us to the outside area. It was a small concrete room, with walls about 20′ high (I’m not good with estimations of this nature) and a concrete floor. At the very top of the walls, there were a number of windows through which you could glimpse the sky. There was an open roof covered with a mesh wire top. I was not under the impression I was outside despite the fact that I could feel a breeze just as I am not under the impression that I am outside as I write this although there are three windows in my office. This is the area, we were told, where the inmates could jog if they wanted. Again, not being good with these estimates, I cannot suggest how big the room was, but I can say that jogging in there would have been next to impossible.

We never interacted with the prisoners. We were shown empty cells which housed eight to a cell with one open toilet. We were shown where the prisoners ate. The only prisoners we saw were those few who were being checked in or out and were in a waiting room.

One of the wardens was a tiny woman. When asked if she was afraid of the prisoners, she said “no”. She said that she helped raise some of the prisoners. When I asked what she meant, she said some of the prisoners had never had anyone tell them what was appropriate or inappropriate behavior. She said some of the prisoners kept in touch with her after leaving the jail.

I asked Sheriff Dorning a version of a question I had asked many times of people I have interviewed. “If you could change one thing to make it such that there was no need to lock up 700 people a day in Madison County, what would you change?” His answer was, “Bring back prayer in schools.”

The detention home for juveniles gave me a somewhat better feeling. I had the impression that the wardens cared about the kids. To be sure, it was a jail. Each child was locked in his or her room at night behind a metal door. There was a small window in each room.

Yet, there was a school room with no more than twenty desks. There was plenty of food and safety. There was a much bigger gym than the “outdoor” space at the County jail where the kids were encouraged to play and work off steam. There were encouraging posters around with ideas on how to get along socially. We were treated to cookies and Kool-Aid.

There was a school nurse who had an office. The warden said that every possible ailment and disease had been diagnosed and, as far as possible, treated. Almost all the kids needed dental work. But, the nurse also had diagnosed or been part of diagnosing several types of cancer, lupus, and HIV / AIDS. Once they left, their treatments often stopped.

Most of the kids were from about 12 to about 16 years old. There had been a few as young as seven.

The children were only allowed visits from their parents and grandparents. When asked why they could not have siblings, the answer was that too often siblings would bring them marijuana. A few parents had been known to bring it to them.

I asked the warden whether any of the kids ever expressed a desire not to leave. He said occasionally that had happened, but not often. He said that if they allowed marijuana in the detention facility, there would be many who would rather stay indefinitely than leave.

I am glad I had the opportunity to serve on the grand jury. It made me feel good to do my civic duty. At the same time, however, I felt I had been complicit in America’s unjust mass incarceration system. I wondered who the primary beneficiaries of our indictments were. As an ordained Baptist minister, I believe I have some obligation to change the system if only by helping others understand what little I have learned of it through this experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whom Will We Crucify Tomorrow?

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Salvador Dalí

Jesus of Nazareth. Crucified because he was a threat to the Roman Empire’s national security state.

On Holy Saturdays, we Christians contemplate whom we will crucify tomorrow (although we don’t care to admit it).

Thumbs up? Thumbs down? What say you?

Josseline Janiletha Hernandez Quinteros (frozen, aged 14, El Salvador)  —  a “deterrent” said the Southwestern Border Strategy

Tamir Rice — a palpable threat said the officer on the day we commemorated the assassination of JFK

Transgender Asian prostitute  — “where is It now?” said the Alabama grand juror as the  amused attorney laughed (I swore I would not reveal her name)

Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, captured by Al-Qaeda — it was a mistake said Obama, we thought they were terrorists . . . . “collateral damage”

The Cracker (he flies a Confederate flag!) — “Don’t you get it? You ‘set the system’ “, said Jon Stewart after sipping coffee in the Oval Office

Gaddafi — “we came, we saw, he died” said Clinton (Hillary), laughing

Ricky Ray Rector — “will you save my pecan pie for later?” he asked the executioner, arranging his dessert on the side of his plate while Clinton (Bill) mentioned “I want to make sure he’s good and dead” (paraphrase) in Arkansas

Marissa Alexander, standing her ground — “we’ll tell you when to stand your ground” said the Florida jury as it sentenced her to 20 years

Frank Kameny, one of Dirksen’s “lavender lads”, ipso facto a threat to the National Security State and thus had to be fired

James Byrd, Jr. dragged to his death by white supremacists — “I don’t believe in capital punishment,” said his only son, “please spare the men who killed my father . . . . ”

Whom will we crucify tomorrow? What say you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Were My Integrationist White Parents Racists? Does It Matter?

23173695_127488861487I grew up being absorbed by race and racism. They were not just problems or issues. They were the distressing realities of my life. In the last few years, I have found my mind turning again and again to this very difficult problem.

My parents were among those very few Deep South white opponents of segregation and its racist underpinnings. We lived in two of the most volatile places in the South during the Civil Rights Movement — Albany, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama. Not a day went by when I did not hear my parents’ outrage over the way colored people, as we said before people were Black or African American, were treated. I have recounted some of our experiences a number of times, for example in this article published by the Raven Foundation, in a review of the film, Selma. I won’t repeat those stories here; instead I will offer some new ones.

My father, a lawyer who moonlighted as an adjunct history professor, was outspoken in social and family situations and in his classrooms. Albany’s Chief of Police Laurie Pritchett, Mayor Asa Kelley, Georgia’s Governor Lester Maddox, Alabama’s Governor George Wallace — all were routine objects of my father’s contempt which he expressed heatedly and daily. Far too many smoke-filled family gatherings ended in shouting, followed by silences. I began to dread them, much as we all loved one another.

My mother, a trained social worker, brought the Head Start program to Albany. An integrated Federal program, she was soundly criticized by other white women. But she persisted. One of the things she wanted to impart to her colored students was that they were beautiful. She constantly told them how beautiful black skin was, how pretty black girls were.

Once, I recall our housekeeper, Belle, came to the front door selling green beans she had grown. My mother, coming down the interior stairs with a visitor, met her in the front hall. The visitor, a white woman, cautioned my mother not to buy the green beans. “You know how niggers are,” she said in front of Belle, “they cut their hair over the beans. You’ll get nigger hair in them if you buy them.” My mother was struck dumb not knowing how to respond. Later, she called Belle on the phone, crying, and tried to apologize.

I tell this to try to convey that by any reasonable human standard, my parents could not be counted as racists.

Yet, to be completely honest about them, I have to fast-forward several decades.

Even though he had quit 20 years earlier, my father’s smoking finally caught up with him. In 2006, about five days before he died, he went home from the hospital with Hospice personnel. A black woman with Hospice came into room where we had installed his bed. He looked at her and said, “Have you come to cook for us?”

In the dimly lit room several nights later , the night he died, he began to sing “I Dream of Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair.” Why, Daddy, I asked, do you sing that? “Oh,” he said with the wide eyes of the dying, “that is a song all about a girl and they came and took her from her native plantation. She never got over that.” I said, “Daddy, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that interpretation.” He replied, “Oh, yes. There are all kinds of racism in the world.” I told my father good night. Those were the last words he ever spoke.

Well into her eighties, with dementia getting its hooks into her, my mother, too, continues to be absorbed by race. She does not understand that some battles have been won or that, if not won, ground has been gained in post-Black Is Beautiful America. She continues to tell every black woman she meets how beautiful her skin is, often touching them.

I cringe when she does this. I cringe because it feels inappropriate. I cringe because if I were in their shoes, I would not like it. I also cringe because the women who are the objects of her attention often pull away or visibly show that they are offended. Invariably, because my mother has been in various nursing homes where they are employees, they cannot challenge her directly, although I can see that some would, given the chance. On more than one occasion, I have tried in a subtle way to plead with them before I leave my mother in their care to understand that she means well, she just doesn’t understand what she is doing.

Were my parents racists? Is my mother? What is your take on this? And, does it matter?