Racism’s Loud Echoes in America

W.J. Astore

What is your best guess at when the following passage was written?

Under a leadership of charlatans and bullies this great Republic clumped about among the nations like a lout, feared by most, respected by none. Nor were things much better at home where a thinly disguised racism was in the saddle, the people’s worst instincts were appealed to, and the noble sentiments of patriotism were reduced to the cliche of the bigot’s bumper sticker.

A sensible guess would be roughly 2018, focusing on the Trump administration. But it was published in 1973 by Richard Dougherty in “Goodbye, Mr. Christian: A Personal Account of McGovern’s Rise and Fall.” Dougherty, of course, was writing about the Nixon administration and its infamous Southern strategy.

Well, as my wife immediately noticed, things are worse today, since many Republicans have abandoned any pretense to thin disguises when it comes to racism. Two stories caught my eye this weekend. The first was Stacey Abrams’ angry and accurate denunciation of Republican voter suppression efforts as “Jim Crow in a suit.” As a friend put it, “the vote suppressors in Georgia are at work even now trying to block their [Black churches] ‘souls to the polls’ tradition.” The second was Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s statement that he wasn’t afraid of largely white pro-Trump rioters in the U.S. Capitol in January since they “love this country,” but he would, he confessed, had feared them if they had been BLM (Black Lives Matter) protesters. Johnson bizarrely added that the pro-Trump protesters “truly respect law enforcement” and “would never do anything to break a law.” Assuming Johnson isn’t completely mad, he’s obviously pandering to the Trumpian base as he’s up for reelection in 2022. Or perhaps he’s a mad panderer.

Senator Ron Johnson (NBC News)

Again, America is allegedly a democracy. We should be doing everything we can to increase the number of people who vote. We shouldn’t be passing laws to make it more difficult for people to vote, specifically minority voters. Such laws are not only sordid and cowardly, they’re un-American.

About Senator Johnson: Strangely, I find his brazen bigotry to be useful. Useful in reminding us that America has far to go before we put racism behind us. Politicians used to use dog whistles, so to speak, to make racist appeals to like-minded haters. Now they simply say the quiet part out loud, not caring who hears it, because they figure they can get away with it. They think it’s a winning tactic. We have to prove them wrong. Racism, whether blatantly obvious or thinly disguised, must be rejected by all Americans.

To return to the quotation from Dougherty: How many nations around the world respect America for its ideals and actions, and how many pretend to respect us because they fear our bullying and loutish actions? Honest answers to this question should disturb us. Division at home and fear abroad is a recipe for neither domestic tranquility nor international comity.

We can do better, America.

18 thoughts on “Racism’s Loud Echoes in America

  1. The last four years legitimized racism. It was no longer necessary for lawmakers to “keep it under wraps.” It became politically expedient to flash it about: among politicians, the media, and among the electorate.
    Trump’s election made it so. What happens to him going forward – whether he remains a force to be reckoned with in the GOP or as an independent – doesn’t matter. His election was like midnight at a costume ball: all the masks finally came off.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Thank you Mr. Astore for your analysis. I enjoy your perspective because you have been a military officer and a historian. It is especially important that you have been a Lt. Colonel when you denounce the foolishness of war. I too have seen the waste of war, both material and human, and hope humanity grows up and learns to settle differences like adults instead of 5 year old bullies.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just read this article from Foreign Affairs that (I thought) gave an accurate description of why the country seems so polarized, with race being only one polarizing issue. Since you may need a subscription to read the article I will summarize it as concluding that the majority of the population is in agreement and the reason we seem so polarized is that the people in power use polarization to acquire and maintain power. The author points out this has been the case throughout our history so we are seeing nothing new.

    Interestingly he offers the idea of ranked choice voting to enable new political parties to have an influence without forcing people who support them to lose their vote.

    Here is a link to the article

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ll use a quote that a football coach used to describe the Chicago Bears after dominating them during most of the game; only to lose unceremoniously in the end.
    “They are who we thought they were
    We let them off the hook!”
    We’ve been caught up in racist reptilian thinking since before we first made landfall. There is no defense for human beings caught up in the snares of such destructive processes. Sadly racism is supported in the very structure that is supposed to create it’s demise. We are surely a troubled nation when leadership cannot see this as a quality that defines our nation. America should not be let off the hook!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What demonstrates the hypocrisy of United States behavior regarding what it claims to stand for is the unquestioning support of Israel as that country continues its ethic cleansing of 70 years in broad daylight and with no apologies confident that the US will protect it with a veto at the UN and with unlimited military supplies funded by $3.8 billion in aid each year, usually topped with additional gifting from Congress. US aid money built the paved roads settlers use to travel between settlements and Israel proper, roads Palestinians are forbidden to take though all of the land was once theirs.

    We denounce restrictions on voting, but Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have no vote in the government of the country that absolutely controls everything they do. With no civil rights, West Bank Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law with a 98% conviction rate. Just as it was once the case in the US that the black man had no rights that the white man need respect (Supreme Court 1857 Dred Scott decision), now, in 2021 it is the case that the Palestinian has no rights the Israeli need respect without a peep from the United States!

    The kind of thing that was typical treatment of blacks in the American South typified by Bull Conner’s use of fire hoses goes on right now in the West Bank where Israeli settlers (allowed to carry firearms) openly beat Palestinian farmers (forbidden to carry arms) and destroy their olive groves while members of the Israeli Army (the IDF) stand by watching if not arresting the Palestinians. Many American Jews, with Jewish Voice for Peace in the forefront, are aghast at what Israel does, but Uncle Sam continues full support as Israel goes further and further to the right. There has even been a march in Tel Aviv with marchers shouting “death to Arabs” while Palestinians are regularly evicted from their homes in East Jerusalem. How is it that Americans can claim to repudiate the Proud Boys, but say nothing about what the Israeli government does making the Proud Boy philosophy of “this country is only for one group of people” official government policy?

    A former minister of the Knesset (2015 to 2019), Ayalet Shaked, said that Palestinian mothers should be shot because they give birth to snakes. How does this differ from the only good Indian being a dead one? This was said before she took office, but it was no deterrent to her becoming Justice Minister.

    Apartheid is glaring in this number one recipient of US foreign aid. Trump moved our embassy to Jerusalem followed by Biden leaving it there. The tail is wagging the dog, proof of the power of lobby money in DC and there is no end in sight. The “special relationship” is putrid and must end.

    For all the horrific details, visit the website of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. yes, clif9710. war and politics, they are siamese twins, co-adhered to each other’s brains and whose hearts have atrophied. the ‘system’ is rigged to insure their deformities persevere. most nation states, i repine, wear their deformities and disguises unapologetically, even after midnight when the masks are discarded and naked hubris remains to collect the plaudits.

    our family have been hopelessly enmired in the dystopia of israel’s genocide against the dispossessed palestinians since we deracinated from british columbia to the hashemite kingdom of jordan in 1988 as environmental consultants. we realized the gotterdammerung in palestine was not about religion at all, as so many bible-obsessed evangelicals and crazed christians believe. rather, it was about establishing a hegemonistic outpost in the oil-saturated middle east for US/UK elites’ petro-interests. even the palestinians’ fellow muslims in saudi and the trucial states consider them a nuisance who should be muzzled and neutralized. now, 33 years later, nothing has changed. in fact, the dystopia has transmogrified into palestinians’ being more egregiously enshackled in the prison that is their homeland.

    israeli peace-activists help illuminate the horizon over palestine, just as the election of barack obama as US president once did.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’ve been exposed to some heavy stuff on your journey. I appreciated your honesty in this revealing chapter of odyssey. I’ve been following Yasha Levine ( he penned Surveillance Valley ), and his wife Evgenia Kovda. He’s written a cool series about the Jewish migration from Soviet Russia to Israel. It’s a story that includes occupying land, poverty,
      class struggle, and judgement. They weren’t welcomed with open arms; they were just useful tools for greedy Jewish leadership and their despicable policies.
      Thanks for your insight, my dictionary was also excited to hear of your post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. true utejack, but ‘heavy stuff’ is probably a euphemistic equivoque for what our family has forborne… tho’ not, of course, in the same category as those who have witnessed their loved ones blown away, tortured, dismembered, and ‘disappeared ‘ across our beleaguered planet’s war zones. at least all 7 of our bantlings remain alive and persevere as adult witnesses and outreach contributors to a more equiponderent, less-traumatized, proactively engaged, and environmentally sustainable social order in their respective domestic and international zeitgeists. it seems craven of us ossified octogenarians that we end our lives w/ a saturnine reliance on the younger generations to rectify what we could not, despite brobdingnagian levels of commitment and dedication.


        1. Perhaps your right action wasn’t set fluctuating for your visual pleasure. But never doubt that it set in motion purer outcomes. Vibration resonates in circular waves that revisit it’s origin over and over and over again. One never knows the appropriate effects created by your heart felt creations. But there’s surely a good vibration that will sonance another healing note upon the scale of your composition.


          1. coruscating images, utejack… like circinnating ripples that spread in orbits away from a pebble thrown into a pond. thank you for your metaphoric insights from the brush of a word-painter.


            1. Thank you for adding the more vibrant hues onto my limited pallet. My shading is still in learning mode; but one day if I continue to sit in your class… I too will be able to set down some master strokes such as yours upon these threads of intersecting reflections.


              1. nescient nonsense, utejack; your masterful strokes already surpass what we in the recipient vulgate could offer. your strokes are as matchless as your humility.


  7. Dizzying Dither
    Say it
    Put it in the spin cycle
    Rinse your conscience

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Monday insisted that his disturbing rhetoric against members of Black Lives Matter while defending the overwhelmingly white Capitol rioters was “innocuous” and not “racial.”

    “There was nothing racial about my comments, nothing whatsoever,” the perturbed senator explained in response to a reporter’s question. “This isn’t about race, this is about riots.”

    Earlier on Monday, Johnson said in a radio interview on WISN-AM: “I completely did not anticipate that anybody could interpret what I said as racist. It’s not.” He said his comments were not racist because some white people attend Black Lives Matters protests.

    Liked by 1 person

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