N.O. MAYOR LANDRIEU ON CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS
Brave, articulate and timely political rhetoric is so rare these days; rhetoric that makes a case. This is why I, and many others, took note of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s compelling, concise and self-effacing explanation for the removal of Confederate Monuments.
His decision to enforce the overwhelming sentiment for removal resulted in death threats and protests. So the speech wasn’t his only act of bravery.
He actually debunked the notion that we’re somehow ignoring our nation’s history through the removal of such monuments fairly deftly.
The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth…
The fact that these monuments were little more than propaganda, makes the removal of them that much more obvious.
I would encourage you to watch the 19 minute speech below. Also, there was a write up in Esquire on the speech, which included its transcript.
A highlight for me was Landrieu’s own admission of previous obliviousness, and the formative conversation he had with jazz musician (and New Orleans native son) Wynton Marsalis:
As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought.
So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race. I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes.
Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?
Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?
We all know the answer to these very simple questions.
I do hope we can all take our own journey on race.
TEEN VOGUE ON RIGHT WING RADICALIZATION
Two weeks before the horrific stabbings of three men on the Portland MAX light-rail system who’d sought to de-escalate a man verbally berating two teenage women, Teen Vogue featured an article questioning why we focus so much attention on addressing the radicalizing influences on Muslims, while refusing to do so in the case white supremacist ideologies.
Do I read Teen Vogue? No. Is this a better question than most news sources give column-width to? Probably.
Since 9/11, American citizens are 7 times more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim attacker. Yet, when we speak about the two in comparison, even elected officials refuse to relay that reality to the public.
The article is a bit of a social-media catchall—it is Teen Vogue, after all—but don’t we recognize some undead ideologies venturing out from the shadows lately. Isn’t radicalization radicalization; terrorism terrorism?
Considering the astronomically low probabilities of being killed by a terrorist (foreign-born or domestic), these real and present danger component is ostensibly lacking.
The perpetrator of the stabbings in Portland is clearly deranged; and yet his derangement is far from unmoored from conflagrating ideology. Just as ISIS preys upon the vulnerability of their own targets, so the messaging of white-supremacy is predatory.
Ideas and ideologies can gestate real tragedy. How to address this is complicated. But why the reluctance to name the evil of their roots?
Still, I also can’t help but be deeply moved by these 3 men who put themselves in harm’s way to intervene.
WALMART BANS RACIST CUSTOMER
Speaking of intervention, many saw the viral video of a Walmart customer berating a fellow customer at a store near Walmart’s Bentonville, AR headquarters.
Walmart has indicated that this woman is no longer permitted in their stores, which is a strong, important signal.
But, I was also impressed by the customer and employee who calmly intervened; and absorbed the woman’s bigoted ire themselves. At one point the woman filming (who had the audacity to try to reach for medicine near the other woman’s cart) becomes distraught.
The woman tells her, “This is not your country.”
She replies, “This is my country!”
“We don’t want you here,” the woman snarls.
The store manager intervenes, “That’s not true. You are wanted here!”
He then insists that the abusive customer leave. The camera pans over the employee, a slightly gawky, unassuming white man, and the black customer who had also come to her aid. And I’m thinking, “Now that’s an unlikely tag-team.”
I think the awareness on the part of this Walmart employee to not only handle the situation, but to offer the affirming counter-narrative to this hectored latina shopper was something worth noting. I’m thinking he may not be in his dream job, but, guess what, he stepped up in the moment of truth.
I also appreciated this young black woman’s bravery. She knew what she was seeing, no doubt. Not on her watch. She also simple came to shop, but ended up doing battle; even taking some shrapnel.
Those two are also America at its finest.
Hasan Minhaj is a first-generation Muslim American from Davis, CA. He’s a correspondent for The Daily Show on Comedy Central. (He gave this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.)
He did a comedy special for Netflix called Homecoming King (is was filmed live in Davis, CA and also because it features a homecoming-related thread).
Props for the recommendation go to:
It can skew pretty blue, but it also turns out to be a pretty category-defying mix of comedy and American immigration memoir. It is funny, smart, warm and well-produced. Worth a watch.