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This week marks one year since the murder of George Floyd ignited the nation in the largest social uprising in American history. Today also marks the 100th anniversary of one of the worst acts of racial violence in the country, the Tulsa Race Massacre, during which mobs of white residents attacked, murdered, and devastated Oklahoma's thriving Black Wall Street and its residents.

Last night, organizers in Tulsa canceled Monday's planned "Remember & Rise" event, intended to honor survivors of the riots, after the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that it could be a target for white supremacists. White supremacists “historically have used simple tactics, such as vehicle ramming, small arms, edged weapons, and rudimentary explosive devices to target individuals perceived as having ideologically opposing views, racial minorities, or law enforcement at mass gatherings or crowded public spaces,” the report states.

Do they really think we don't know that by now?
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The past year has led to hundreds of arrests, countless public apologies, a handful of passed local measures, and immeasurable outpourings of grief, rage, pain. Today, a look back on where those 365 days—a blip on the grand timeline of our racist history—place us in our ongoing reckoning with white supremacy and anti-Blackness in America.
In Alamance County, a battle for racial justice confronts a bloody past and an uncertain future
Carli Brosseau, ProPublica

A frustrated Black Lives Matter activist. A die-hard Confederate loyalist. A sheriff who won’t back down. In a place where protests are restricted and violence feels imminent, many cry: "We don’t want to die no more." 

Last summer, a group gathered in Graham, North Carolina, demanding the removal of a marble statue of a confederate soldier that had stood watch over the town square since white citizens of Alamance County erected it in 1914. A man in the crowd seized control of a brass bell to drown out the protesters.

Avery Harvey grew up in the area, but had never witnessed so many Black people downtown until that day. He was thrilled by the acts of Black defiance unfolding, and declared himself an activist on the spot. The sound of the bell drew him in.

A lot changed that day—for Harvey, and the rural county as a whole. He's been arrested and pepper-sprayed under ever-changing protest laws, and confederates have ambushed him on the street, bent the pipes to his hot water heater, and poured sugar into the gas tank.

The bell in the park no longer has a clapper. Harvey has been shopping for a mallet that won't be mistaken for a weapon. "We're going to occupy that space, and we're going to ring the hell out of it," he said. "Other people might be scared. But I'm going to ring that bell."

This new undertaking from our partners at ProPublica and The News & Observer dives deep into how shutting down one town's protests was a joint effort, involving local officials, law enforcement, and pro-confederate vigilantes. [Link]
1. Wrestling With the New Deal
Zachary D. Carter, The American Prospect

"American democracy at its best is only a shadow of the Platonic ideal. But however we might critique individual decisions or programs, as Rauchway emphasizes, the threat of a far-right takeover in the 1930s was very real. The New Deal beat it back by reinventing American government, from the electrical grid to the course of rivers to Social Security to farm support to the buildings where we go to work and our children attend school. And in the process, it established a new democratic promise for the country: a commitment that the American government would and could be an expression of peaceful common purpose for all Americans. This promise was not fulfilled in the 1930s, but the world we live in today would be unrecognizable without it."

Although it may not meet the standards of modern progress, there's no denying that The New Deal offered a comprehensive retelling of the American state—and one that has been with us ever since. In this stellar review of historian Eric Rauchway’s Why The New Deal Matters, Carter sheds light on the way different political leaders thought about both the radical potential of the New Deal and its problems. "When we fight over the New Deal, we are really arguing about the very meaning of America."
2. Southern Baptist seminaries are choosing whiteness over witness
Kenyatta R. Gilbert, Sojourners

"If Black Christian preachers are not thinking about how whiteness works in Southern Baptist life, they can become merciless critics of movements such as Black Lives Matter and the Poor People’s Campaign while simultaneously being, at best, uncritical, passive allies of evangelical fundamentalism bound politically to pro-establishment right-wing politics. At worst, they can serve as unwitting sympathizers for Confederate flag-wielding, 'anti-establishment,' right-wing extremists."

Many institutions have made moves to express their opposition to racism over the last year, even if a majority of public responses were symbolic gestures. But the presidents of Southern Baptist seminaries went in what seemed to be the opposite direction last fall, issuing a joint statement that disavowed critical race theory. 

Black clergies were not surprised at the message, coming from a denomination that had sought to defend its racist history and had criticized efforts at racial reconciliation and truth. Two prominent Southern Baptist-affiliated megachurch pastors—Ralph West and Charlie Dates—announced their out-migration from the denomination.

The origins of critical race theory are tied to legal studies, and—like evangelical fundamentalism itself—were forged in reaction against liberalism. But as long as historically white denominations tether their theological vision to whiteness and its protocols, Gilbert writes, setting up public-facing diversity and inclusion dialogues will continue to be deemed by whites as benevolent and even revolutionary.
3. Magic Actions
Tobi Haslett, n+1

“Chanting the name of a dead man while sprinting with hundreds down an avenue, I’d never felt an ecstasy more complicated or a freedom less false.” 

Police trials are rare. So is national uprising—or whatever we call it now. Over the last year, among countless other semantic changes in American culture, “rebellion” and “uprising” both quickly rose and fell from widespread use. The preferred term devolved to “protests" amid a constant overlap between differing attitudes and tactics.

While an official narrative may have yet to emerge from the chaos of last spring, "it was stunning to watch the corporate media try to summon one and fail," Haslett writes. To the list of scattered victories toward the tail end of last year—the weakening of police unions, severance of several law enforcement contracts with universities and public schools, and some shrinking police budgets—we need to add an ideological one: Black radicalism has hacked a path back to the mainstream political scene. Read this one, folks.
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