Was Darwin racist? My long ago answer

October 16, 2020

A cartoon of Charles Darwin and the crew of the HMS Beagle – believed to be the only image of the great naturalist on the voyage that inspired his theory of evolution – auctioned by Sotheby’s in December, 2015, for 52,500

The watercolour, painted while the Beagle was anchored off the Patagonian coast in 1832, around September 24, shows fossils and botanical specimens being hauled aboard for examination by Darwin, who commands the centre of the painting in top hat and tails. The event followed Darwin’s trip ashore at Bahia Blanca, Brazil. Painting is by by Augustus Earle, who was hired as shipboard artist by Capt. FitzRoy in October 1831, but had to quit the ship soon after this painting, due to ill health. From The Guardian.

No, Darwin was not racist.

I know many Darwin students, and science students, usually concede that Darwin was “racist by today’s standards,” but better than most of his pre-Victorian and Victorian colleagues. I think that’s an unnecessary and very much inaccurate concession. Darwin simply was not racist.

To come to that conclusion, one needs to read a bunch of Darwin’s writings, and see what he really said. Darwin was bound by English usage mostly in the first half of the 19th century, and that produces confusion among people who assume “savage” is a pejorative term, and not simply the pre-1860 version of “wild” or “aboriginal.”

But beyond that, a look at Darwin’s life should produce an appreciation of the remarkable lack of bias he shows to people of color — though he does demonstrate bias against French, Germans and Turks, and it’s difficult to understand if he’s being sarcastic in those uses.

We discussed this issue way back in 2007, at Dr. P. Z. Myers’s blog, Pharyngula, back when it was a part of a series of science blogs hosted by Seed Magazine, which has gone defunct. P. Z. took an answer I gave in one post, and made a freestanding post out of it.

I was surprised, but happy to bump into the answer recently — because it remains a good summary response. It would have benefited from links, but in 2007 I wasn’t adept at adding links in other blogs (didn’t even have this one), and links were limited, as I recall.

So I’ll add in links below.

Here’s my 2007 answer to the retort, “Darwin was racist,” with no editing, but links added.

Here’s the post from P. Z. Myers, featuring my answer.

Since Ed Darrell made such a comprehensive comment on the question of whether Darwin was as wicked a racist as the illiterate ideologues of Uncommon Descent would like you to believe, I’m just copying his list here.

  1. Remember the famous quarrel between Capt. FitzRoy and Darwin aboard the Beagle? After leaving Brazil, in their mess discussions (remember: Darwin was along to talk to FitzRoy at meals, to keep FitzRoy from going insane as his predecessor had), Darwin noted the inherent injustice of slavery. Darwin argued it was racist and unjust, and therefore unholy. FitzRoy loudly argued slavery was justified, and racism was justified, by the scriptures. It was a nasty argument, and Darwin was banned to mess with the crew with instructions to get off the boat at the next convenient stop. FitzRoy came to his senses after a few days of dining alone. Two things about this episode: First, it shows Darwin as a committed anti-racist; second, it contrasts Darwin’s views with the common, scripture-inspired view of the day, which was racist.

  2. Darwin’s remarks about people of color were remarkably unracist for his day. We should always note his great friend from college days, the African man, [freed slave John Edmonstone,] who taught him taxidermy. We must make note of Darwin’s befriending the Fuegan, Jeremy Jemmy Button [real name, Orundellico], whom the expedition was returning to his home. Non-racist descriptions abound in context, but this is a favorite area for anti-Darwinists to quote mine. Also, point to Voyage of the Beagle, which is available on line. In it Darwin compares the intellect of the Brazilian slaves with Europeans, and notes that the slaves are mentally and tactically as capable as the greatest of the Roman generals. Hard evidence of fairness on Darwin’s part.

  3. Darwin’s correspondence, especially from the voyage, indicates his strong support for ending slavery, because slavery was unjust and racist. He is unequivocal on the point. Moreover, many in Darwin’s family agreed, and the Wedgwood family fortune was put behind the movement to end slavery. Money talks louder than creationists in this case, I think. Ironic, Darwin supports the Wilberforce family’s work against slavery, and Samuel Wilberforce betrays the support. It reminds me of Pasteur, who said nasty things about Darwin; but when the chips were down and Pasteur’s position and reputation were on the line, Darwin defended Pasteur. Darwin was a great man in many ways.

  4. Watch for the notorious quote mining of Emma’s remark that Charles was “a bigot.” It’s true, she said it. Emma said Charles was a bigot, but in respect to Darwin’s hatred of spiritualists and seances. Darwin’s brother, Erasmus, was suckered in by spiritualists. Darwin was, indeed, a bigot against such hoaxes. It’s recounted in Desmond and Moore’s biography, but shameless quote miners hope their audience hasn’t read the book and won’t. Down here in Texas, a lot of the quote miners are Baptists. I enjoy asking them if they do not share Darwin’s bigotry against fortune tellers. Smart ones smile, and drop the argument.

  5. One might hope that the “Darwin-was-racist” crap comes around to the old canard that Darwin’s work was the basis of the campaign to kill the natives of Tasmania. That was truly a terrible, racist campaign, and largely successful. Of course, historians note that the war against Tasmanians was begun in 1805, and essentially completed by 1831, when just a handful of Tasmanians remained alive. These dates are significant, of course, because they show the war started four years prior to Darwin’s birth, and it was over when Darwin first encountered Tasmania on his voyage, leaving England in 1831. In fact, Darwin laments the battle. I have often found Darwin critics quoting Darwin’s words exactly, but claiming they were the words of others against Darwin’s stand.

  6. Also, one should be familiar with Darwin’s writing about “civilized” Europeans wiping out “savages.” In the first place, “savage” in that day and in Darwin’s context simply means ‘not living in European-style cities, with tea and the occasional Mozart.’ In the second, and more critical place, Darwin advances the argument noting that (in the case of the Tasmanians, especially), the “savages” are the group that is better fit to the natural environment, and hence superior to the Europeans, evolutionarily. Darwin does not urge these conflicts, but rather, laments them. How ironic that creationist quote miners do not recognize that.

P. Z. closed off:

Isn’t it odd how the creationists are so divorced from reality that they can’t even concede that Darwin was an abolitionist, and are so reduced in their arguments against evolution that they’ve had to resort to the desperate “Darwin beats puppies!” attack?

Sadly, many of the posts in that old home for Pharyngula eroded away as the old Appalachian Mountain range eroded to be smaller than the Rockies. Time passes, even the rocks change.

Darwin’s still not racist. Creationists and other malignant forces revive the false claim, from time to time.

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Kristallnacht survivor begs us to remember

November 10, 2015

USHMM: Shattered storefront of a Jewish-owned shop destroyed during Kristallnacht (the

USHMM: Shattered storefront of a Jewish-owned shop destroyed during Kristallnacht (the “Night of Broken Glass”). Berlin, Germany, November 10, 1938. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.

I get e-mail from time to time from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.

Tonight, November 9, is the anniversary of Kristallnacht in 1938. Jill Pauly lived through it. She tells her story so that we will remember, that we will never forget. “Kristallnacht” is German for “night of crystal.” But in this case, the crystal was broken glass, the broken windows of Jewish shops and homes.  Kristallnacht was the “Night of Broken Glass.”

Dear friend,

I’ll never forget how scared I was 77 years ago on Kristallnacht.

This wave of antisemitic attacks throughout Germany and Austria caused my family to flee our small German town. We drove to a relative’s apartment in Cologne, and my grandparents forced my sister and me to sit on the car floor so we wouldn’t see the violence on the streets.

That evening and for many following it, the men in my family drove all night to evade German officers and avoid becoming some of the 30,000 men who were arrested just for being Jewish.

This was a major turning point for my family, when our lives became dangerous and our future uncertain. Learn more about experiences of families like mine, as well as the origins and aftermath of Kristallnacht.

LEARN MORE

Jill Pauly speaks with Museum visitors. US Holocaust Memorial Museum

LEARN MORE

Kristallnacht was a watershed moment in Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews, indicating an increase in radical, violent antisemitism. Many Jews tried to emigrate as soon as possible after the pogroms.

Today, Kristallnacht is seen as a warning sign of the Holocaust—an indicator of the horrors to come that far too many people ignored.

The Museum strives to learn from this history in order to prevent atrocities in the future. This is why we recently launched, in partnership with Dartmouth College, the Early Warning Project. It aims to give leaders from around the world more reliable information on the risk of mass atrocities to inspire action and help save lives.

On this anniversary, I encourage you to learn more about Kristallnacht and reflect on how we can respond to threats of genocide today.

Sincerely,

Jill Pauly
Holocaust Survivor and Museum Volunteer

Photo: Jill Pauly speaks with Museum visitors. US Holocaust Memorial Museum

“Never again” starts now, if we start it.


May 6, 1882: Race and immigration policy collide

May 6, 2014

Today is the anniversary* of our nation’s first** law generally governing immigration.

It’s a history we should work to change, to put behind us, to move away from.

Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants from the United States for 10 years.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, page 1 - National Archives

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, page 1 – National Archives

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, page 2 - National Archives

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, page 2 – National Archives

We cannot paint over this part of history.  The Chinese Exclusion Act was racist in intent, and racist in content.

What should we learn from it?  Among justifications for the law were claims that immigrants from China were taking jobs from citizens, especially in California.  Chinese workers imported to build the Transcontinental Railroads sought new employment once the routes were built.

Reality probably differed a lot.  Chinese entrepreneurs, with money they had earned working on the railroads, established news businesses.  Yes, a lot of Chinese were getting jobs.  They were mostly new jobs, in new businesses, boosting the economy and creating more jobs.  That came to an almost-screeching halt.

Did America learn?  This law was renewed, then made permanent — not really fixed until World War II, when China was an ally in the War in the Pacific, against Japan.  Even then, it wasn’t a good fix.

The law was repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943 during World War II, when China was an ally in the war against imperial Japan. Nevertheless, the 1943 act still allowed only 105 Chinese immigrants per year, reflecting persisting prejudice against the Chinese in American immigration policy. It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated previous national-origins policy, that large-scale Chinese immigration to the United States was allowed to begin again after a hiatus of over 80 years.

Can we learn from this history, for immigration reform now? Santayana’s Ghost wonders.

How much is resistance to immigration reform based on racism, the sort of racism that kills the U.S. economy?

The Chinese Exclusion Act proved to be an embarrassment for Uncle Sam:  “A Skeleton in His Closet,” by L.M. Glackens, published in Puck magazine on Jan. 3, 1912. Uncle Sam holding paper “Protest against Russian exclusion of Jewish Americans” and looking in shock at Chinese skeleton labeled “American exclusion of Chinese” in closet. Image from NorthwestAsianWeekly.com

The Chinese Exclusion Act proved to be an embarrassment for Uncle Sam: “A Skeleton in His Closet,” by L.M. Glackens, published in Puck magazine on Jan. 3, 1912. Uncle Sam holding paper “Protest against Russian exclusion of Jewish Americans” and looking in shock at Chinese skeleton labeled “American exclusion of Chinese” in closet. Image from NorthwestAsianWeekly.com

____________

*    I note the image says it was approved by President Chester Alan Arthur (who had succeeded to office after President James Garfield was assassinated a year earlier).  The New York Times calls May 6 the anniversary of Congress’s passing the law; if Arthur signed in on May 6, it was probably passed a few days earlier.  May 6 would be the anniversary of its signing into law.

**  The Chinese Exclusion Act was preceded by the Page Act of 1875, which prohibited immigration of “undesirable” people.  Who was undesirable?  “The law classified as undesirable any individual from China who was coming to America to be a contract laborer, any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country.”  It was not applicable to many immigrants.  The Page Act was named after its sponsor, Rep. Horace F. Page of California.

This is based on, and borrows from, an earlier post at MFB.

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Fred Klonsky’s 10-minute drawing: What Megyn Kelly really meant

December 15, 2013

Ten minute drawing. Megyn Kelly’s Santa Claus. Drawing by Fred Klonsky

Ten minute drawing. Megyn Kelly’s Santa Claus. Drawing by Fred Klonsky

If you’re not following Fred Klonsky for his education issue updates, follow him for his drawings.


Especially on his birthday, don’t call Darwin racist — he wasn’t

February 12, 2013

Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, and several other anti-science and historical revisionist groups come unglued every February about this time — February 12 is Charles Darwin’s birthday.  He was born in 1809, on the exact same day as Abraham Lincoln.

Part of creationists’ coming unglued revolves around that fact that the science behind evolution grows stronger year by year, and at this point no argument exists that creationists can make against evolution that has not been soundly, roundly and thoroughly.  This makes creationists nervous in a discussion, because even they recognize when they lose arguments.   Creationists don’t like to lose arguments about how well Darwin’s theories work, because they erroneously believe that if Darwin is right, God and Jesus are wrong.

God and Jesus cannot be wrong, in their view, but intellectually they see they are losing the argument, and they grow desperate.  In their desperation they grasp for claims that shock uneducated or unfamiliar viewers.  Since about 1970, among the more shocking arguments one can make is to claim one’s opponent is racist.

Claiming Darwin, and hence evolution, boost racism, slaps history with irony.  Creationism’s roots were in denying that Europeans and Africans are evolutionarily equal, a claim necessary to allow slave holders to enslave Africans and go to church on Sundays.  The Civil War is 150 years away, the Emancipation Proclamation 148 years old, and even die-hard creationists generally have forgotten their own history.

Creationists accuse Darwin of being a racist, they claim evolution theory is racist, and they claim, therefore, it cannot be scientifically accurate.  There are a lot of holes in that chain of logic.

This is Darwin’s birthday.  Let me deal with major wrong premise, and give creationists room to correct their views with accurate history, so we don’t have a shouting match.

Way back in 2008, nominally-liberal evangelical preacher Tony Campolo got suckered in by a conservative evangelicals claim to him that evolution and Darwin are racist.  Below is my answer to him then — I think Campolo learned his lesson — but this builds on the claims Campolo made which are really copied from creationists.

In short, Darwin is not racist, and here are some explanations why, with a few updated links and minor edits for Darwin’s birthday, and Lincoln’s birthday, in 2013:

Tony Campolo is an evangelical Christian, a sociology professor and preacher who for the past 15 years or so has been a thorn in the side of political conservatives and other evangelicals, for taking generally more liberal stands, against poverty, for tolerance in culture and politics, and so on. His trademark sermon is an upbeat call to action and one of the more plagiarized works in Christendom, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming” (listen to it here). 

Tony Campolo

Rev. Tony Campolo

Since he’s so close to the mainstream of American political thought, Campolo is marginalized by many of the more conservative evangelists in the U.S. Campolo is not a frequent guest on the Trinity Broadcast Network, on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” nor on the white, nominally-Christian, low-budget knock-off of “Sabado Gigante!,” “Praise the Lord” (with purple hair and everything).

Campolo came closest to real national fame when he counseled President Bill Clinton on moral and spiritual issues during the Lewinsky scandal.

His opposite-editorial piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2008, “The real danger in Darwin is not evolution, but racism,” is out of character for Campolo as a non-conservative evangelistic thinker — far from what most Christians expect from Campolo either from the pulpit or in the college classroom. The piece looks as though it was lifted wholesale from Jerry Falwell or D. James Kennedy, showing little familiarity with the science or history of evolution, and repeating canards that careful Christians shouldn’t repeat.

Campolo’s piece is inaccurate in several places, and grossly misleading where it’s not just wrong. He pulls out several old creationist hoaxes, cites junk science as if it were golden, and generally gets the issue exactly wrong.

Evolution science is a block to racism. It has always stood against racism, in the science that undergirds the theory and in its applications by those scientists and policy makers who were not racists prior to their discovery of evolution theory. Darwin himself was anti-racist. One of the chief reasons the theory has been so despised throughout the American south is its scientific basis for saying whites and blacks are so closely related. This history should not be ignored, or distorted.

Shame on you, Tony Campolo.

Read the rest of this entry »


Seats still open for “In Their Own Voices” teacher workshop on racism, at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

October 16, 2012

E-mail from the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, with a training opportunity for teachers:

In Their Own Voices workshop

October 20-21, 2012

Arkansas Dept. of Education professional development workshop at Little Rock Central High School NHS

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site invites Arkansas educators and community advocates to participate in a two day workshop focusing on challenging racism prevalent in and out of the classroom and the community. This program, an approved ADE professional development workshop, will bring participants together for an open reflection and dialogue on the effects of racism and the diversity of our own self-understanding. The overarching goal for our In Their Own Voices workshop is to afford our participants an opportunity to identify their own biases and feel comfortable in their space to approach such issues as race, bullying, tolerance and other-isms in the classroom and the community. To apply, please click attachment below and send to Agnolia Gay at agnolia.gay@gmail.com

Registration for workshop

Move quickly! (That’s this weekend.)  If anyone from Dallas is headed up, please let me know.

Little Rock Central High School

Little Rock Central High School, National Historical Site Visitors Center –  (Photo credit: bigskyred)


NAACP, 103 years old today

February 12, 2012

The national Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) rose up to fight racism on February 12, 1909, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

For the NAACP, today is Founders Day. I get e-mail:

NAACP

Dear Ed,

Today marks the 103rd birthday of the NAACP.

For more than a century, Americans have relied on the NAACP to right the nation’s injustices, often against seemingly impossible odds.  From ending the barbaric practice of lynching to dismantling segregation to fighting for equality of opportunity for all Americans, the NAACP’s first century changed the world. And our second will be no different..

Founders’ Day has always been a time for reflection and renewal for the NAACP family. We are grounded in our past and focused firmly on the future.

Please join us Wednesday, February 15 for an historic phone briefing hosted by the leadership of the NAACP, as we discuss the next century of NAACP priorities. The call starts at 8:00 PM Eastern/5:00 PM Pacific, and space is limited to the first 5,000 callers. Click on the link below to RSVP, and we will send you call-in details on Wednesday afternoon:

http://www.naacp.org/phone-briefing

This will be a special event— a shared moment of fellowship with thousands of other members of the NAACP family as we recommit to changing the world, again.  Click on the link to RSVP.

http://www.naacp.org/phone-briefing

Sincerely,

Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman, and
Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO
NAACP.

PS:  Founders’ Day is an excellent time to Join or renew your NAACP membership. Click here to go to our online Membership center:  www.naacp.org/join.

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Cartoonist’s patent racism — disqualifier for New Jersey Hall of Fame?

December 24, 2011

What, exactly, are the requirements to be elected to the New Jersey Hall of Fame?

Thomas Nast is the great cartoonist whose pen launched crippling blows to the institutions of corrupt politicians including Tammany Hall’s Boss Tweed.  Nast generally gets the credit for inventing the symbols of the two major national parties, the donkey for the Democratic Party (or jackass, as in the first cartoon), and the elephant for the Republican Party, the party Nast favored.

Santa Claus’s commonly-accepted image owes a lot to Nast, who drew Santa Claus supporting the Union efforts in the Civil War.  Between 1855 and 1900, Nast supported the winning cause in at least seven presidential elections, illustrated the effects of America’s industrialization and rise as a world power, fought political corruption and campaigned for equal legal rights for immigrants and ex-slaves.

Thomas Nast's tribute to the Emancipation Proclamation in Harper's Weekly, 1863 - Ohio State University image

Thomas Nast’s tribute to the Emancipation Proclamation in Harper’s Weekly, 1863 – University of Michigan, Clements Library image; click image for a larger version

Lady Liberty?  Columbia?  An invention of Nast.  Nast’s image of Columbia was more than minor inspiration to the French friends of America who created the Statute of Liberty.  New Jersey is guarded, literally, with one of Nast’s creations.

Through it all, he clung to biases that, amplified by 1870s and 1880s politics, some people find less-than-acceptable today.  When Catholics raised money from Europe to establish schools in America so Catholic children would not undergo Protestant indoctrination, Nast sided with the public schools (and, perhaps, with the Protestants).  When immigrants, whose rights he defended, blindly turned the control of their votes over to corrupt political machines, he depicted those immigrants as louts, thugs and oafs.  On the issue of temperance, he sided with those who wanted to restrict alcoholic beverages, in opposition to German and Irish brewers and distillers.

Through it all, his pen brilliantly and clearly stated his positions, in images.  Nast’s work inspired Edgar Degas and Vincent van Gogh.

What should we make of the late-to-the-table complaints about Nast’s induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame?  Opponents say Nast lampooned Catholics.  True.  Nast lampooned anyone whose policies he opposed.

Zeno presents a very good case that the opposition is wrong-headed, and ironic, coming from the voluble-and-usually obnoxious Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (a self-proclaimed name that many people find inaccurate), a guy who might well be a target of Nast had Nast and Donohue occupied the same place in time.  (Though I quote Zeno at length here, go to his site to read the full piece.)

It was a theme to which the cartoonist returned whenever he wanted to inveigh against Romish influence (the Church was on record in opposition to the separation of church and state) or Irish immigration (Nast had decidedly nativist tendencies). Today we can look at Nast’s cartoons and see them as over the top. In high dudgeon, however, Bill Donohue cannot help but demonstrate once again his unerring instinct for avoiding le mot juste in favor of the words least apt:

[H]e demonized bishops by portraying them as crocodiles with miters for jaws; and he also depicted them as emerging from slime while prowling towards children.

Really, Bill? You had to go there? Silly man.

You just depicted Thomas Nast as a prophet.

Nast’s work provides us with a conundrum.  On one hand he ardently and fervently supported the Union against the Confederacy, especially with regard to emancipation of slaves.  On the other hand Nast ideologically opposed the Democratic Party — perhaps an easy thing to do in those days when the Democratic Party was on record supporting slavery — and portrayed anyone with Democratic links as a beast or thug.

Should Nast’s biases against Catholics and Irishmen who unthinkingly gave their poll power to Boss Tweed disqualify Nast from a spot in New Jersey’s Hall of Fame?

Here is a list of people elected to the New Jersey Hall of Fame over the past four years:

CLASS OF 2008

Buzz Aldrin
Clara Barton
Yogi Berra
Bill Bradley
Thomas Edison
Albert Einstein
Malcolm Forbes
Robert Wood Johnson II
Vince Lombardi
Toni Morrison
Norman Schwarzkopf
Frank Sinatra
Bruce Springsteen
Meryl Streep
Harriet Tubman

CLASS OF 2009

Bud Abbott & Lou Costello
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Althea Gibson
Jon Bon Jovi
Jerry Lewis
Guglielmo Marconi
Shaquille O’Neal
Phil Rizzuto
Paul Robeson
Carl Sagan
Walt Whitman
William Carlos Williams

Unsung Hero:
Captain Brian Brennan

CLASS OF 2010

Count Basie
Judy Blume
Justice William Brennan
Danny DeVito
Larry Doby
Michael Graves
Carl Lewis
Jack Nicholson
Alice Paul
Les Paul
Phillip Roth
Susan Sarandon
Wally Schirra
Frankie Valli
President Woodrow Wilson

Unsung Heroes:
Marc DiNardo & James D’heron

CLASS OF 2011

John Basilone
Tony Bennett
Governor Brendan Byrne
Mary Higgins Clark
Admiral William Halsey
Franco Harris
Leon Hess
Queen Latifah
Bucky Pizzarelli
Martha Stewart
Joe Theismann
John Travolta
Bruce Willis

Unsung Heroes:
9/11 Victims & First Responders

Generally a well-deserving group of heroes, don’t you think?

Careful students of history may blanche a bit at one name there, in consideration of the flap against Nast.  Woodrow Wilson had his own biases — he resegregated the White House as president.  He opposed civil rights for African Americans.  He invited the racist, pro-Ku Klux Klan movie, “Birth of a Nation,” into the White House and praised it for its accuracy and advocacy.

Wilson led the nation into World War I (after promising he would not), and he campaigned unsuccessfully for a peace treaty that might have prevented World War II, had he been listened to.  Wilson campaigned to create an international peace-keeping organization, the League of Nations, an agency doomed to failure because the U.S. Senate rejected Wilson’s every imprecation to ratify the treaty that ended the Great War and created the agency.

Can Bill Donohue actually make a case that the great cartoonist, Thomas Nast, does not belong in a pantheon that includes Frank Sinatra, Bruce Willis, John Travolta, and ex-con Martha Stewart?  Is Nast not at least as deserving as Woodrow Wilson, on the same grounds?

Nominations for the class of 2012 include Aaron Burr, the vice president candidate whose overweening ambition nearly derailed the nation’s Constitution in 1800, the man who shot Alexander Hamilton fatally, and a man who plotted the overthrow of the government of the U.S.

Nast is nominated in the “General” category.  The others nominated there are Alexander Calder, Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Addams, Doris Duke, Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Porter Wesley, Joyce Carol Oates, Milton Friedman, and Gov. Tom Kean.

Uh, Bill?  Did you see Milton Friedman there?  Yeah, he was a great economist and he made popular television and book explanations of economics (that Republicans eschew today, to the detriment of free markets and political freedom) — but should he be there considering his work for the Pinochet regime in Chile?  I mean, Bill, can we be consistent?  Chile is a chiefly Catholic nation, you know, and surely the murders of 10,000 Catholics should weigh in here, shouldn’t it?

(New Jersey’s ability to produce such a body of notables is, itself, notable.  Probably each of those people deserves commemoration in the New Jersey Hall of Fame.  Second place, two spots in the New Jersey Hall of Fame.)

Is this really what Catholics are reduced to, today — a pointless, silly campaign against commemorating a great cartoonist?  May we assume Donohue and the Catholic Church oppose Nast across the board, in Nast’s campaigns against corruption, his work against slavery and support for the Union, and his support of the rights for immigrants?

Perhaps Donohue should review the situation, like Fagin.

And you, Dear Reader, should go vote for Thomas Nast’s inclusion, warts and all.

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Goldie Taylor at TheGrio.com: Why Obama shouldn’t have to “show his papers”

May 1, 2011

More, Resources: 


No, race isn’t the cause of our economic and education woes

March 11, 2011

Just when you think the conservatives can’t possibly sound any more like fascists of the 1930s . . . I mean, can we just repeal Godwin’s law and call a racist fascist argument, a racist fascist argument?

Paul Krugman, whose Nobel Memorial Prize for economics galls conservatives more than left turns bothered J. Edgar Hoover, noted the other day that Texas is in a series of fixes.  This is important because Texas is what Wisconsin’s governor claims Wisconsin should be:  Shorn of union interference in almost all things, especially in public service sectors including education.  Krugman wrote in his column, “Leaving Children Behind”:

Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.

But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

But wait — how can graduation rates be so low when Texas had that education miracle back when former President Bush was governor? Well, a couple of years into his presidency the truth about that miracle came out: Texas school administrators achieved low reported dropout rates the old-fashioned way — they, ahem, got the numbers wrong.

It’s not a pretty picture; compassion aside, you have to wonder — and many business people in Texas do — how the state can prosper in the long run with a future work force blighted by childhood poverty, poor health and lack of education.

But things are about to get much worse.

A few months ago another Texas miracle went the way of that education miracle of the 1990s. For months, Gov. Rick Perry had boasted that his “tough conservative decisions” had kept the budget in surplus while allowing the state to weather the recession unscathed. But after Mr. Perry’s re-election, reality intruded — funny how that happens — and the state is now scrambling to close a huge budget gap. (By the way, given the current efforts to blame public-sector unions for state fiscal problems, it’s worth noting that the mess in Texas was achieved with an overwhelmingly nonunion work force.)

Krugman was too easy on Perry.  In his campaign last year, Perry claimed that Texas had plenty of money, a surplus, even.  In debates with Democratic candidate Bill White, Perry pooh-poohed the notion that Texas had a sizable deficit, certainly not the $18 billion deficit White named.

No, the Texas deficit actually is north of $25 billion.  (Linda Chavez-Thompson, the defeated Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, addressed Perry’s denial in a line that very few reporters bothered to report (or report accurately):  “Do you know how many zeroes there are in 18 billion?” Chavez-Thompson said. “11, when you count Perry and Dewhurst.”)

But blogger Iowahawk would hear none of that — no, the issue isn’t bad government and poor fiscal management.  Texas loses out in education because its got more racial minorities, he wrote at some length.

Other bloggers who should know better, or at least should be struck by the repugnance of the claim that race is the problem, spread the claim, including Paul E. Peterson at EducationNext and Mark at Pseudo-Polymath.

Krugman’s original point was untouched by any of these guys.  Texas is in deep trouble, on many, many fronts.  One of the more common comments on Texas education is, “Thank God for Mississippi!”  Mississippi’s having closed down its education system rather than integrate, and continued underfunding and mismanagement since the federal government forced the reopening, keeps Mississippi at the bottom of almost all state rankings regarding children.  That means Texas isn’t dead last.  Texas’s very real problems will affect racial disparities in achievement, but they are in no way caused by racial disparity, or race of the students.

Notice, too, how Iowahawk changed the comparison.  Krugman noted dropout rates.  Unable to muster a direct rebuttal to Krugman’s point, Iowahawk switched to comparing scores in NAEP.  It’s not the same thing by any stretch.

No Texas teacher would say Texas performs better than any other state in stopping dropouts.  While we might brag a bit on how we’ve increased scores on the ACT and SAT, it’s not across the board, and it’s not enough.  (It’s a miracle with the stingy funding, and it will likely stop with the proposed budget cuts — but we’re proud of our ability to make improvement despite obstacles carefully placed by state policy makers.)

Notice, too, that dropouts tend to perform more poorly on standardized tests.  If one wishes to screw around with the statistics for spin, one might note that by forcing students to drop out, Texas raises its scores on NAEP.  I seriously doubt any Texas educator conducts a campaign to get dropouts to boost NAEP scores, but let’s be realistic.  (Which is not to say that there is not a lot of action to mask the dropout problem; a Texas high school is responsible for the academic achievement of kids who drop out, or more accurately, the lack of academic achievement.  Dropouts count against a school’s performance rating, and count hard.  Every school on the cusp of “Exemplary,” or “Recognized,” or “Unacceptable,” has a campaign to track down dropouts to find that they have enrolled in another school to whom blame can be passed, or that they have left the state or the nation, and so don’t count in Texas at all.  One wishes one could school administrators and legislators in Deming’s Red Bead Experiment.)

It’s impossible to claim Wisconsin union teachers are to blame for any Wisconsin woe, when Texas, with it’s strong anti-union stands and ban on unionizing among teachers, performs worse, on average.

Will busting the unions put Wisconsin in the black?  It didn’t work for Texas.

Will busting the unions help Wisconsin schools?  You can’t make that case based on the information from Texas.  In fact, Angus Johnson conducted a more serious analysis of statistics that may provide a better view into the issue, and they tend to show that unionized teachers improve education performance.

Surely these guys understand where their argument ends up.  It is absolutely untrue that Texas’s minorities dragged the state into deficits.

We know where Texas deficits came from.  Several years ago Texas cut property taxes, a key source of education and other funding for the state, promising to make up the difference with corporate tax reforms.  But the corporations blocked significant reform.  Texas has been running on empty for six years, and now the deficits are simply too big to hide.

Unwise tax cuts, made for political gains, that put Texas in the dumper.

It wasn’t unions, and it sure wasn’t the large population of hard-working, tax-paying, union-needing Hispanics and blacks and Native Americans who got Texas in trouble.  They didn’t get the tax cut benefits, for the most part.

Race is not the cause of our education and budget woes, except in this way:  Racists, especially the latent, passive-aggressive sort, will not hesitate to cut programs that they see benefiting minorities.  Those education programs that have done the most to reduce the achievement gaps between the races, boosting minority achievement, are the first to go under the Republican budget meat cleavers.  The proposed cuts are not surgical in any way, to preserve education gains.


Conviction in Massachusetts church arson — hate crimes laws at work

November 4, 2010

Did you see this press release from the U.S. Department of Justice?  Prosecutors got a conviction in a 2008 arson of a church in Massachusetts.

Here’s the press release:

For Immediate Release
November 1, 2010

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Massachusetts Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Burning African-American Church
WASHINGTON—Benjamin Haskell was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor in Springfield, Massachusetts to nine years in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in the 2008 burning of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, a predominately African-American Church, on the morning after President Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president of the United States. In addition, Haskell will pay more than $1.7 million in restitution, including $123,570.25 to the Macedonia Church.

On June 16, 2010, Haskell, 24, of Springfield, pled guilty to conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate the mostly African-American parishioners of the Macedonia Church in the free exercise of the right to hold and use their new church building, which was under construction, and to damaging the parishioners’ new church building through arson and obstructing their free exercise of religion because of their race, color, and ethnic characteristics.

At the earlier plea hearing, a prosecutor told the court that had the case proceeded to trial, the government’s evidence would have proven that in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2008, within hours of President Barack Obama being elected, Haskell and his co-conspirators agreed to burn down, and did burn down, the Macedonia Church’s newly constructed building where religious services were to be held. The building was 75 percent completed at the time of the fire, which destroyed nearly the entire structure, leaving only the metal superstructure and a small portion of the front corner intact. Investigators determined that the fire was caused by arsonists who poured and ignited gasoline on the interior and exterior of the building.

Haskell confessed to the crime and admitted that prior to the presidential election, he and his co-conspirators used racial slurs against African-Americans and expressed anger at the possible election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president. Haskell admitted that after Obama was declared the winner of the election, he and his co-conspirators walked through the woods behind the Macedonia Church to scout out burning it down. Then, in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2008, Haskell and his co-conspirators went back to the church, poured gasoline inside and outside of the church, and ignited the gasoline.

“The freedom to practice the religion that we choose without discrimination or hateful acts is among our nation’s most cherished rights,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “As seen here today, the Department will prosecute anyone who violates that right to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The burning of the Macedonia Church because of racial hatred and intolerance was a vicious attack on one of our most cherished freedoms—to worship in the religion of our choice safely and without fear of discrimination,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz. “The successful investigation, prosecution, and punishment of those who committed this hateful act is a clear statement that law enforcement will do all in its power to protect our citizens’ civil rights.”

“While the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is charged with investigating some of the most violent crimes, I consider the arson to be one of the most serious and dangerous offenses. Not only was this case about the burning of a house of worship, it cut to the very heart of our most valued rights, that of religious freedom. I want to acknowledge all of our partners who assisted in bringing the individuals responsible for this fire to justice,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Guy Thomas.

“Today’s sentencing represents just one more step toward closure and healing, not only for the victims of this hate crime, but for the Springfield community as a whole. The FBI, along with its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, remains committed to protecting each and every citizen’s civil rights, and will aggressively investigate any violation of those rights, bringing the perpetrators to justice,” said Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul H. Smyth and Kevin O’Regan of the U.S. Attorney’s Springfield Office, and Nicole Lee Ndumele, Trial Attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.


Kudos to Glenn Beck (oops)

July 26, 2010

Van Jones, who is a reliable source, said that Glenn Beck refused to jump on the bandwagon of those calling for Shirley Sherrod to step down — Jones said Beck had doubts about the story told by the video tape Breitbart and Fox ran.

Is that true?

Jones talked about the flap caused when Andrew Breitbart and Fox News teamed up to spread the false story that Shirley Sherrod had acted in an illegally racist fashion:

In an interview with NPR’s Michele Norris, Jones said that, although his background is “much more colorful” than Sherrod’s, he can empathize with what it is like to be at the center of a media firestorm.

According to him, “we are in an age where people can absolutely engineer false stories and inject them into the media blood system in a way that we just don’t know how to deal with very well.”

Jones said that dirty tactics — selective editing, smear campaigns and a lack of reportorial due diligence — damage American society as a whole.

“One of the things that I think we’ve got to be clear about is that these kinds of attacks are not just attacks on individuals,” he said. “They’re attacks on the democratic system.”

Listen to the NPR interview — Jones credits Beck with doing the right thing near the end of the interview.

See!  (If Jones is right about Beck) It just shows that there is hope for the temporal and secular salvation of all humans.

Good on Glenn Beck.

That’s one small step for a conservative, leading — we hope — to a giant leap for Glenn Beck, coming back from the Dark Side.

Update:  Snatching a smear from the jaws of ethical behavior:

Beck couldn’t just do the right thing and leave it there — he worked to find ways to attack the reputation of Shirley Sherrod.

Damnation!  If one of these Tea Party conservatives does something right, ethical and just, they get itchy, and have to go find a cat to throw, a dog to kick, and an old lady to push down in a mud puddle.  They are just congenitally incapable of virtuous action.  Van Jones caught Glenn Beck doing something right, so Beck, hating Jones, America’s future and the left so much, retracted it.


Creationist: Murdering Jews may be preferable to lying to prevent the murder

November 14, 2009

I’m cutting the monster a lot of slack with the headline.

P. Z. Myers publicized the e-mail exchange involving Bodie Hodge, a minor deity at the anti-science, creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AiG).  Myers was nice to the guy, contrary to the usual creationist cartoon of Myers as somehow immoral for being a non-worshipper of gods.  Well, he was nicer than I would have been.  But Myers expects Christians to exhibit no sense of shame, no common sense, and twisted morality.  I expect bettter of them.

A reader posed that age-old question to Hodge:  Is the Christian rule against lying so strong that a Christian should tell Nazi troops where Jewish families are hiding?  Hodge weasels later by saying he hopes he never has to make such a choice, and that he really doesn’t know how he’d act in that situation.  But this comes only after he says that telling  a lie to Nazis to save Jews will get one burned in hell.  And then he goes on to note it’s better to be in good with God than to act morally.

In other words, better to become an accomplice in the murder of Jews than to stand up against murderers.

I don’t get how these charlatans of religion, reason to such a point.

What would Jesus do?  We know.  When the crowd was threatening to stone to death a woman guilty of adultery and she sought refuge with Jesus, Jesus stood up to the mob and saved her life.  Just execution of Biblical law or shelter the accused, Jesus stood against the murder, even murder sanctioned by the religious rules of the community.

We also know that scripture endorses deception from time to time.  You know these AiG clowns are charlatans when they say stupid stuff like this.  Hodge tries to explain away another case of deception by inventing a scenario not found in scripture in which the lie doesn’t get told.

He’s forgotten the story of Jacob and Esau, and how Jacob and his mother conpsired to deceive Isaac in order to steal away Esau’s birthright (Esau and Jacob were twins, by the way).  Jacob got away with the deed, was then blessed by God.  He took a new name:  Israel.  He lived on to be the seed of Judaism, the religion Jesus followed and the foundation of Christianity.

To AiG, it appears that scripture is just a dusty old book, except when they can twist it to support their bigotry.  Here’s irony for you:  The story of Jacob is in Genesis.  You know, as in “Answers in Genesis.”  They don’t even know their own namesake book!

Here in America, as a nation we overcame that morality-or-religion problem with Huck Finn.  The ill-educated young teen, an absentee to grammar, faces the moral decision as he floats down the Mississippi with Jim, an escaped slave who has saved Huck’s life and is in other ways a very good friend.  Huck notes that the preachers are all agreed that Huck’s moral duty is to turn Jim in as an escaped slave, to condemn Jim to a continued life of slavery, should Jim survive the lashing.  Huck Finn puts the dilemma squarely:  Whether to obey God and turn in Jim to the authorities, or to burn in hell and let Jim live the life of a free man.  Huck agonizes, but decides:  He’ll burn in hell rather than give away his friend.

Myers wrote:

As a non-Bible believing amoral godless atheist, my first thought was that this is trivial: you lie your pants off. The ‘crime’ of telling a lie pales into insignificance against the crime of enabling the death of fellow human beings.

According to Bodie Hodge of AiG, though, I’m wrong. The good Christian should reject lies, Satan’s tools, in all circumstances, and should immediately ‘fess up the location of the Jews. He backs it up with Bible quotes, too.

If we love God, we should obey Him (John 14:15). To love God first means to obey Him first–before looking at our neighbor. So, is the greater good trusting God when He says not to lie or trusting in our fallible, sinful minds about the uncertain future?

Consider this carefully. In the situation of a Nazi beating on the door, we have assumed a lie would save a life, but really we don’t know. So, one would be opting to lie and disobey God without the certainty of saving a life–keeping in mind that all are ultimately condemned to die physically. Besides, whether one lied or not may not have stopped the Nazi solders from searching the house anyway.

As Christians, we need to keep in mind that Jesus Christ reigns. All authority has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), and He sits on the throne of God at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33; Hebrews 8:1). Nothing can happen without His say. Even Satan could not touch Peter without Christ’s approval (Luke 22:31). Regardless, if one were to lie or not, Jesus Christ is in control of timing every person’s life and able to discern our motives. It is not for us to worry over what might become, but rather to place our faith and obedience in Christ and to let Him do the reigning. For we do not know the future, whereas God has been telling the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

Gosh. I never thought of it that way. So…all those Christians who sheltered Jews during WWII are actually burning in hell right now for their sinful wickedness? That is so counterintuitive, it must be true!

One more time we should side with morality, and against creationist distortions of Christianity and morality.

With all the learning they get at that reeking cesspool the creationism museum, you’d think they could demonstrate the moral fiber of a tobacco-chewing, food-stealing, school-cutting runaway teen, Huckleberry Finn.

Full AiG post below the fold (I expect them to strike it down when they rethink; let all Christians pray to God they do rethink).

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#1 hoax site on the web

July 5, 2009

This may be the #1 hoax site on the web:  Martinlutherking.org. Certainly it is a site dangerous for children, because it cleverly purports to be an accurate history site, while selling voodoo history and racism.

A racist group bought the domain name (note the “.org” suffix), and they’ve managed to keep it.  The site features a drawing of Martin Luther King, Jr., on the first page.  The racist elements are subtle enough that unwary students and teachers may not recognize it for the hoax site it is.

It is both racist and hoax:  Note the link to a racist argument on “Why the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday should be repealed;”  note the link to a hoax page, “Black invention myths.”

Students, nothing on that site should be trusted. Teachers, warn students away from the site.  You may want to use that site as a model of what a bad site looks like, and the importance of weighing the credibility of any site found on the web.

Why do I even mention the racist, hoax site? Because it comes upi #3 on Google searches for “Martin Luther King.”  Clearly a lot of people are being hoodwinked into going to that site.  I’ve seen papers by high school students citing the site, with teachers unaware of the site’s ignoble provenance.

Update: The site is owned by Stormfront, a white supremicist organization.

Here are a few good sites on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; you can help things by clicking on each one of these sites, and by copying this list with links and posting it on your blog:

More resources:


Racism

July 5, 2009

Here.

The anti-Obama blogs are really going too far.


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