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, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity [Mayor Mitch Landrieu, speech, as transcribed by Derek Cosson, Pulse Gulf Coast, 2017.05.19].
Displaying Confederate symbols, whether statues on the street or Confederate flags on uniforms, sends a message of white supremacy:
These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city [Landrieu, 2017.05.19].
Mayor Landrieu says we should remember the Confederacy but not revere it:
The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered [Landrieu, 2017.05.19].
Gettysburg PD, listen to Mayor Landrieu. Be honest about history, respect all the Americans you serve, and remove the white-supremacist traitor flag from your uniforms.
When it comes to the recent vandalism in Aberdeen, Tennant said, residents have no way of knowing what was going through the mind of the person who painted the symbols. There’s no context, just a swastika painted on a wall.
“It’s just plain property damage,” he said.
While the swastika has a history that’s both positive and negative, Tennant said, graffiti on the side of a building is not positive.
No context? We live in a time and place where the swastika is universally recognized as a symbol of evil. We aren’t talking about the 90-year-old pre-World War II Native American symbols worked into the brick and tile of the Hotel Alex Johnson. We are talking about some punk who wanted to torque people off. He (yes, I’m assuming young and male) could have chosen any number of other graphics to rile the public—horned demons, f-words, middle fingers, penises, doobage, peace signs, Muslim stars and crescents. Instead, Herr Schpraymeister reached for the obvious go-to symbol of racial and religious hate. Even if our graffitist is just young and stupid, the only reason the swastika echoes in his young and stupid noggin is his absorption of willingness to ape cultural expressions of bigotry. He didn’t just damage property—he spread hate.
“ARYAN”—can you put that on a license plate? Not in Maryland, where “ARYAN” is one of 4,900 terms banned from vanity plates (also out in Maryland: “OLD FART” and “BEDWETR”… which could be synonyms for the Hitler Youth praiser).
Duffy, who has worked on key civil rights cases involving American Indian voting issues, said action by the state means that any personalized plate must be recalled because of a single complaint, no matter what the message.
“What this means is that every atheist can now wipe out anything that seems to refer to God,” Duffy said. “Will vanity plates for members of the armed forces suddenly be declared offensive if they offend a single pacifist? It’s absolutely preposterous.”
Even obscenity must be judged by the mores and standards of a community, not just one offended individual, Duffy said.
“Here, all we need is one lone citizen who is apparently invested with the complete authority to determine what is good taste and decency for all the rest of us,” he said. “It seems a little tyrannical to me” [Kevin Woster, “State Looks to Pull Anti-Bush License Plate,” Rapid City Journal online, May 3, 2007].
So, for your evening civics discussion, should the state allow apparent declarations of racist sentiment on its license plates?
Women’s rights are human rights. Whether black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, man or woman — we are all human beings that deserve the dignity of respect in this day and age.
Cory Heidelberger’s recent comments on his Dakota Free Press blog of female speaker Clare Lopez being compared to a “pole dancer,” and other statements referring to her as simply a sex object, shows a level of disrespect not just toward one female but for all women. Our society should not tolerate this sort of sexist behavior from anyone. As the saying goes, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”
Cory’s inability to discuss the ideas presented by a former CIA case officer and world-renowned intelligence specialist, Clare Lopez, is a statement in and of itself. But stooping to objectifying Lopez as a sex object is wrong and should never be tolerated in our society [Kathy Schaunaman, letter to the editor, Aberdeen American News, 2017.04.18].
In her April 18 letter, Kathy Schaunaman misreads my writing and misrepresents my character (“Blogger disrespectful to speaker,” Public Voice). The American News does a disservice to its readers by printing Schaunaman’s personal attack without printing the words I wrote that drew Schaunaman’s false assertions.
Letters to the editor usually address items that have appeared in the paper, not disagreements that arise between citizens in other venues. Printing Schaunaman’s letter about my blog post, which has never appeared or been mentioned in American News reporting makes about as much sense as printing a letter that I might write complaining about something my neighbor wrote on Facebook or said at the coffee shop.
I invite Kathy Schaunaman to apologize for her poor reading comprehension and the misrepresentations resulting therefrom. I invite American News readers to read the text that Schaunaman misread, the critique I posted online on April 6 of traveling speaker Clare Lopez’s dreary and deceptive conspiracy-theory slideshows. My text, titled “Anti-Islam Speaker Brings Propaganda Pole Dance to Aberdeen Tonight,” is available online on Dakota Free Press at http://bit.ly/lopezlies.
Thank you, dear readers, for going to the source, reading for yourselves, and making up your own minds [CAH, letter to the editor, Aberdeen American News, 2017.04.20].
Coincidentally, today’s AAN also features a letter from Jan Norby saying the racist rhetoric Lopez presented in Aberdeen deserved protest:
I wondered what would bring 200 people out to a recent meeting at the Dakota Event Center sponsored by the Americans First, Task Force. So, I did some research on their speaker, Clare Lopez, vice president for research and analysis for the Center for Security Policy.
The very first sentence stated Clare Lopez is a widely cited right-wing conspiracy theorist with ties to a number of hawkish policy institutes who formerly worked as a CIA operations officer. She is best known for her racist rhetoric about Muslims and her claims that the Muslim Brotherhood “infiltrated” the U.S. government and that President Obama “switched sides” on the war on terror. Lopez claims that her view of Islam is self-taught.
She is the author of a 2013 Gatestone Institute report alleging the group’s involvement in a decades-long plot to infiltrate the U.S. government and spread “Sharia law” like the Muslim Students Association and the Council on Islamic-American Relations, among other mainstream U.S.-based Muslim organizations.
I think this gives us a pretty clear picture of what 200 people came to listen to. Now I see why there were protesters outside the meeting. We should have been there supporting them! [Jan Norby, letter to the editor, Aberdeen American News, 2017.04.20]
Since 1988, we’ve never seen such a clear correspondence between vote choice and racial perceptions. The biggest movement was among those who voted for the Democrat, who were far less likely to agree with attitudes coded as more racially biased.
Finally, the statistical tool of regression can tease apart which had more influence on the 2016 vote: authoritarianism or symbolic racism, after controlling for education, race, ideology, and age. Moving from the 50th to the 75th percentile in the authoritarian scale made someone about 3 percent more likely to vote for Trump. The same jump on the SRS scale made someone 20 percent more likely to vote for Trump.
Bernie Sanders, are you sure you want to keep arguing that Trump voters aren’t deplorable? Trump is certainly deplorable, and the above data indicate his deplorable racism resonates with far too many Americans.
The South Dakota Advisory Council to the United States Commission on Civil Rights met Friday afternoon in Aberdeen to discuss ‘The Subtle Effects of Racism in South Dakota.”
D.J. Mounga, director of student life at Presentation College, said it can be hard to talk about subtle racism in a state with a history of so much overt racism.
That difficulty perhaps led to the program running over two hours late: I left at a quarter to six, and we still hadn’t heard from the 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. panels, never mind the 4:30 p.m. public testimony. I could say that running the meeting on Indian time was subtle racism against my White/Western sense of mechanical clock supremacy… but (1) I’m racist for even thinking the term “Indian time,” and (2) as SDAC-USCCR member and Rapid City lawyer Charlie Abourezk said in his astute opening remarks, racism is about the dominant race preserving its privilege and control at the expense of other races. The determining feature of racism, said Abourezk, is not prejudice but the superior position of whites and the institutions that maintain that position. No group or institution was trying to control me; the folks in the room were just trying to have a difficult conversation and allow everyone to be heard, regardless of my expectation that a public meeting strictly adhere to linear numbers and words printed in black and white.
How’s that for subtle?
That difficult conversation proved challenging for the Aberdeen Police Department. Asked to discuss how body cameras impact law enforcement interaction with minorities, Chief Dave McNeil and Sergeant Tony Bisbee gave a presentation that seemed designed to avoid any direct discussion of racial issues in local law enforcement. They presented three videos, none from Aberdeen or even, it seemed, from South Dakota. One video mentioned prejudice against Irish and Italians, which seemed laughably irrelevant to how Indians and Hispanics may feel dealing with cops and culture in Aberdeen. The video said police need to explain their actions so subjects don’t wrongly conclude that police are targeting them by race. Two videos of police stops—one taken by a civilian provocateur’s cell phone, not a police camera—showed police-civilian interactions with no apparent racial component. The presentation seemed to revolve more around justifying police action than changing it to check racism.
As a side note, Chief McNeil bragged about Aberdeen’s leadership in recruiting female officers. Advisory council member Scott D. German of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate pointed out that Chief McNeil consistently referred to unspecified police officers in his presentation with masculine pronouns.
How’s that for subtle?
Brandon Sazue, Sr., Chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, said he wholeheartedly supports police use of body cameras. He said body cameras would have changed the outcome of the incident where police tasered an eight-year-old, 70-pound girl on Pine Ridge. The girl had a paring knife in her hand. The girl died from the tasering.
Chairman Sazue then addressed the institutional racism he sees in South Dakota’s response to the pipeline protests on Standing Rock in North Dakota. Sazue said he spent three months at the Dakota Access protest as the leader of his tribe supporting the “water protectors.” He said he was arrested and strip-searched, treatment to which he said no white political leader would be subjected. Sazue said that Governor Dennis Daugaard sent South Dakota Highway Patrol to help put down the protestors and that South Dakota troopers beat tribal members with batons. Then Daugaard pushed Senate Bill 176, the anti-protest bill that Sazue says targets tribal people as troublemakers on the impending construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Sazue said Daugaard has invited tribal members to a meeting on March 29 to discuss pipeline protests, but Sazue says those consultations should have happened before Daugaard drafted SB 176 and before he sent troopers to Standing Rock. Daugaard’s racist actions have prompted Sazue to decline the March 29 invitation and to cancel the groundbreaking agreement his tribe signed with the state in 2013 for cooperation between Crow Creek tribal police and the Highway Patrol. Council member and USD professor Richard Braunstein expressed his dismay: he said he has cited the Crow Creek/SDHP agreement as a great step toward cooperation between the state and the tribes.
So much for subtlety.
Dr. Naomi Ludeman Smith, chair of arts and sciences at Presentation and member of the Aberdeen Area Diversity Coalition, discussed her experience as an “interculturalist” studying Aberdeen and South Dakota since moving here from Minnesota two and a half years ago. She said her first signal of racism in South Dakota came from a Highway Patrol officer who told her not to drive through the reservations at night. Having spent time in conflict zones like the West Bank and Belfast, Smith found that warning absurd. She said the real threat along the highway at night is animals.
Smith called the “Americans First” meeting last August here in Aberdeen “one of the most frightening gatherings of citizens that I have experienced.” She recalled the anger with which fellow citizens responded when she asked the speaker for the sources of his claims about places she has actually visited. She recalled the frightening rage of one Aberdonian at that meeting threatening another resident’s life. (Yeah, I kinda remember that, too.) She said the Diversity Coalition and the rest of us have a lot of work to do.
Rosholt entrepreneur and speaker Lawrence Diggs laid out his argument that race is a “bald-faced lie.” “Racism is not the real problem,” said Diggs. “The belief in race is the real problem.” Diggs said the lie of race is used to manipulate us. “Now you know it, too,” he concluded. “What will we do?”
Braunstein said, “That is a lot to take in,” and noted that the construction of social difference for the gain of certain interests is a valid concern. Then, for the rest of the meeting around for which I was able to stick, the conversation proceeded as it had before, without addressing that concern, dealing with race, social construct or not, as a real factor with real impacts on behavior and policy in South Dakota.
(You can read more about Diggs’s position in Dakota Free Press comment sections here and here.)
At the beginning of the meeting, Charlie Abourezk said racism is a charged word because we don’t deal with it consciously often enough. We encounter it only when its effects explode into public view, and we deal with it only long enough to quiet things down. The length and breadth of Friday’s conversations reflect the difficulty of the issue. The speeches I heard don’t fit neatly into one package or one tidy conclusion… which was Abourezk’s point. We don’t get to avoid the issue, like the cops. We don’t get to philosophize the issue away, like Diggs. Real people, like Chairman Sazue, are arrested and humiliated and withdraw from useful agreements on principle when faced with racist actions from the highest offices in our land, like Governor Daugaard’s. Like Smith, we live in an intercultural nexus, and we all have work to do.
In a somewhat testy conclusion to his warm welcoming remarks, Mayor Mike Levsen said Friday’s meeting was not at all about refugees or immigrants. “That question is decided,” said Mayor Levsen. “They’re coming, they’re here, we’re never going to be 98% white again.” The Mayor said people “with nothing else to do” can argue about it.
Diggs prefaced his philosophical discourse with one political observation: “When your chief strategist is a white supremacist, your chief strategy is white supremacy.”
Update 18:30 CST: In my original report, I cited Facebook friends who said they had found copies of the white-supremacist propaganda sheet The Stampede in Cenex stores in Belle Fourche and Philip. I spoke with a spokesperson for the communications and marketing division at CHS, which oversees the Cenex brand. CHS notes that the Philip store is no longer Cenex branded but owned by a CHS affiliate. CHS checked with the general manager and the store manager at each site, and those managers say The Stampede has never been displayed at their stores. CHS also checked all available Stampedes online to verify that no Cenex store has advertised in Rudy Stanko’s publication. I have edited the below text to make clear that Cenex should not be implicated in the distribution of this white-supremacist, anti-semitic material.
Update 19:05 CST: CHS provides this statement:
At CHS we take our company values and our commitment to being responsible stewards of the community very seriously and do not condone or support hateful speech of any kind. We have investigated this matter and have confirmed that neither of the retail locations mentioned in the article handle or distribute the publication in question. As a corporation, we have not participated in any form of advertising with the publisher [CHS, statement to Dakota Free Press, 2017.03.20].
Friends report this white-supremacist disinformation in Hot Springs, Caputa, Whitewood, Belle Fourche and Philip. Perhaps more alarmingly, Stanko appears to receive financial support from some South Dakota businesses who advertise in Stanko’s rag. The Philip, Belle Fourche, and St. Onge livestock yards appear as sponsors in the online PDF of March 13 Stampede:
I won’t put anyone in jail for spreading racist, anti-semitic propaganda. But I’ll have a conversation with any shopkeeper who displays Stanko’s white-supremacist propaganda about how that makes their business look. And if I had cattle to sell, I’d ask the sale yard managers at Philip, Belle Fourche, and St. Onge just how much of my fees will go toward spreading Stanko’s lies.
Don’t call me next Friday afternoon; my March 24 is spoken for:
On Friday, March 24, 2017, the South Dakota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will convene a public panel session to examine the subtle effects of racism in the state. The meeting will take place at the Public Safety Building, 114 2nd Avenue SE, Aberdeen, SD 57401, from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm (CDT). This meeting is open to the public, and parking is available on-site. Persons with disabilities requiring reasonable accommodations should contact the Rocky Mountain Regional Office at 303-866-1040 prior to the meeting.
The Committee will hear testimony from law enforcement, representatives of local, state, and federal agencies, tribal officials, community organizations, and advocacy groups. The session will also address the value of use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement, and minority policing that impacts Native Americans and immigrant communities.
Members of the public will be invited to speak during the open forum, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm. The Committee will also accept written testimony submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 24, 2017. This session is the first of three meetings to be held across South Dakota – over the next 12 months – to address the subtle effects of racism in the state.
After all testimony has been received, the Advisory Committee will issue findings and recommendations in a report to the Commission.
Members of the South Dakota Advisory Committee are: Dr. Richard M. Braunstein, Chair; Charles T. Abourezk, Rapid City; Melanie K. Bliss, Sioux Falls; Marcia N. Bunger, Spencer; Scott D. German, Peever; A. Gay Kingman, Rapid City; Lloyd C. LaCroix, Rapid City; Mike J. Levsen, Aberdeen; Renee B. Olson, Waubay; and Ira W. Taken Alive, McLaughlin.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan agency charged with studying and advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters and issuing an annual federal civil rights enforcement report. Advisory Committees to the Commission conduct reviews and produce reports and recommendations concerning state and local civil rights issues. Appointees to the Committees serve four-year terms and are unremunerated. For more information about the work of the Commission and its Advisory Committees, visit http://www.usccr.gov and follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/usccrgov [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, press release, 2017.03.13].
Body cameras on cops, minority policing, and “subtle effects of racism”—that sounds like a meeting worth attending.
That was the sign in many New England shop windows that faced my great grandmother, Annie Skalley, when she came to America from County Cork in the late 1800s.
Some time ago, my cousin Carol found one of those signs in a flea market and had it framed. It hung in her kitchen as an ironic reminder of how far our family had come in three short generations.
Carol’s father, the son of Italian immigrants, had enlisted in the U.S. Army and had been a medic in the Battle of the Bulge. A member of the greatest generation, he came home after the war to open a drug store that served our small town for decades. When he married my Aunt Anne, named after Annie Skalley, it was quite controversial for an Irish girl to marry an Italian boy. He endured his share of insults, which I won’t share here.
With every wave of immigration in America, some have promoted the fiction that the only ones who belong here, the only ones who really contribute to this remarkable country, the only “real” Americans, are people who look and sound and speak and pray like the person we see when we look in the bathroom mirror in the morning.
But when we set aside our fears and our pride, and look around us, we know that’s just not true.
Here, at the School of Mines, we prepare leaders in engineering and science and we advance the world’s knowledge. Some of these young leaders gather in the Newman Center on Sunday nights; others pray five times a day facing Mecca. Our exceptional students are the descendants of slaves and the descendants of Norwegian farmers. Some are indigenous here, others arrived as refugees from wars that still rage. They are the children of wealthy parents who have been provided every opportunity, and the children of unknown fathers who have aged out of foster care. As faculty and staff we have similar winding paths that brought us to this place.
All of us are part of the rich tapestry of talent that will help solve the great challenges of the twenty-first century. Each of us deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
Many of you are aware that over the past week someone has been placing posters around campus that remind me of the signs Annie Skalley saw as a girl. The same posters have shown up on at least two other college campuses in South Dakota. A lot of you may not have seen them at all, and are wondering why I’m writing this email to you. I’m writing because some of you have seen them, and have been deeply offended by them. When posters from outside groups appear on our campus, they are taken down, as is our standard policy.
The appropriate response to an objectionable idea is a better idea articulately conveyed. It is to reach out to our friends and colleagues and students and let them know – very explicitly – that we are glad they are here. It is to share our stories, share a meal, share a smile, share a word of welcome. We work together to solve hard problems and discover new things. We do so joyfully with friends who have different stories from our own.
One of our very successful alumni is Peter Stephans. Peter escaped from Hungary in 1956 and came to South Dakota, barely able to speak English. I met him shortly after I became the President of Mines at the company he now owns outside Cleveland. We drove in his sports car to have lunch at his country club. When the lovely meal was finished, I asked this very successful CEO what he remembered about the School of Mines, and his eyes filled with tears. “They welcomed me,” he said. “I had nothing. I was just a boy, a refugee very far from home. And they welcomed me.”
That is who we are. And no poster hung in the dark of night will change the fundamental decency of who we choose to be.
Have a pleasant and restful spring break. Please take some time with each other in the coming days, and with our students when they come back, for conversation and fellowship, each in your own way. That will make all the difference.
Heather Ann Wilson
President [e-mail to students, faculty, and staff, obtained by DFP 2017.03.03]