Does America Still Have a Blackface Problem?

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has no intention of resigning. While he maintains that it was not him pictured in the controversial blackface image from his college yearbook, he has admitted to wearing blackface makeup on another occasion while dressing up as Michael Jackson. Many Americans think of blackface as an outmoded form of racism – others see the Northam incident as evidence that blackface is still very much a problem in America. More at Vox.

Blackface is in the news. But then, blackface always seems to be in the news. As long as there are costume party revelers, thickheaded college students, button-pushing artists, free-associating designers and plain old unrepentant racists, there will be blackface.

I understand why people’s initial reaction would be to recoil upon hearing of someone wearing blackface today. But the prosecutor in me can’t help but think of the years listening to judges tell juries that there is no crime without criminal intent… we must recognize that dressing in blackface as a way of dehumanizing the black community is different than trying to physically resemble an admired black person at a Halloween party. Intent is everything.

White people designed blackface to keep black people down, to intimidate, mock and stereotype. It began during the 19th century and wasn’t about white people honoring the talent of black people by dressing up to look like them. It was about mocking them and depicting them as lazy, stupid and less than fully human. It was a tool of oppression. As a college kid in Virginia during the 1980s, I knew that, and so did my classmates. But a whole lot of white people seem to not know that history, or understand why blackface is so offensive, whether it’s practiced by a college student or a new doctor.

How Do American Jews See Israel’s Elections?

American politics have become part of the Israeli elections with Bibi using his close relationship with Trump as a selling point. But what does the Israeli election cycle look like from an American Jewish perspective?

American Jews of all stripes are also gearing up to support or demonize their preferred or hated candidates and parties. Actually, it is not so different from what Israelis do themselves. But in the age of US President Donald Trump, where Israelis generally appreciate his support if not his style, many American Jews viscerally hate anything he does, even if it’s something in their interest.

But do American Jews know the difference between Bibi, Bogie, Benny and Bugie?

the strategy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bank on President Donald Trump keeps alienating many American Jews… Studies indicate that young American Jews, most of whom espouse progressive views, feel less connected to Israel than their parents do because they feel its policies run counter to their own beliefs, especially on the conflict with the Palestinians and policy on asylum-seekers.

…understanding Israel’s elections is part of understanding Israel. For example: It’s important for American Jews to understand that the Palestinian issue is basically off the table for this round of elections. It is important for Americans to notice that the ultra-Orthodox already hinted that any future cooperation with the center-left depends on the latter accepting that there will be no change in the status quo near the Western Wall. This means that if you wish to see the Netanyahu government gone (as I assume most American Jews do), you might need to accept that keeping an Orthodox Western Wall is part of the deal.

Is Black History Month the Best Way to Celebrate Black History?

February is Black History Month, which means that schools throughout America will be taking a closer look at the black leaders who shaped the civil rights movement. Not everyone is a fan of Black History Month, however, and some wonder why black history has to be relegated to the year’s shortest month.

…for one month, the nation makes it a point to honor the black innovators, leaders, and trailblazers it can’t seem to acknowledge any other time. And that is why it’s time to hold schools, government, media, and corporations accountable by urging them to stop the pandering in February and recognize black history — and its people — all year round.

And yes, that would require us to cancel Black History Month in February.

Black History Month remains more relevant now than ever, precisely because of its insistence on presenting an unvarnished look at American history. Yet many people seem to have either missed or purposefully ignored this important message. The good, bad and ugly parts of this history cohere in the astounding juxtapositions of racial progress alongside racist tragedies.

When others hear, see or talk about people in the black community, it is usually in a negative light. However, when we celebrate Black History Month, we focus on all of the positive ideas and creations black people give to the world. Black History Month gives those a chance to show others their creations — the music, the fashion, the stories — and other things that make them proud to be black.L

What Have We Learned from Jeff Bezos’ Enquirer Scandal?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took to Medium with a post titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” rebuking David Pecker, head of the National Enquirer, for trying to “blackmail and extort” Bezos with threats of leaking Bezos’ nude selfies. Bezos wasn’t having it, and decided to come forward with the story himself – exposing his own secrets, Pecker’s secrets, and a changing culture surrounding sexual images.

By using a digital platform to bring his side of the story directly to the masses, Mr. Bezos has done something both admirable and also a little scary. Most revealing — and I say this about a story that is lousy with revelations — is that it is perhaps the best illustration of the in-your-face aggressiveness that has made him the richest man in the world and arguably the most important tech visionary since Steve Jobs.

The National Enquirer’s proprietor, David Pecker, is a known crony of Mr. Trump’s… It is easy to sympathize with Mr. Bezos in his horror at finding his private text messages and selfies in the hands of a scurrilous publication like the Enquirer. But I suspect he also thinks it would be really, really convenient to turn the story into a Trump political scandal rather than a Bezos sexting and infidelity scandal.

Bezos’s remarkable response was less a risk than a reasonable assumption that people would be far more offended to learn of AMI’s alleged bully tactics than by a few lewd photos of a 55-year-old man. Certainly sex still sells, but in 2019 there is seemingly far less shame attached to explicit texts, or even extramarital affairs, than ever before — especially among the younger people likely to fuel Amazon’s future. And if there were still power in using sex to shame, Bezos’s actions may have even obliterated it for good.

How Much Would the Green New Deal Cost America?

The Green New Deal is no longer just a slogan. On Thursday an official plan was released detailing the GND’s many initiatives for shifting the U.S. economy towards renewable energies. But can America afford it?

…the Green New Deal will be paid for with soaring deficits, which could be quite dangerous. The plan’s environmental spending proposals would be temporary, but the new entitlement programs would be permanent. If MMT is wrong, and if ever-expanding deficits cause runaway inflation, the result would be a devastating collapse of the nation’s economy.

[There are] other factors that will affect the cost of zeroing the entire country’s carbon emissions. These include getting everyone to give up their gas-powered cars, trucks, furnaces, and factory machines in short order. It also depends on whether the Green New Deal ultimately levies taxes on carbon emissions. The resolution published Thursday doesn’t mention carbon taxes, but economists tend to like them. Revenues from a tax could be used to offset higher renewable energy prices.

The question of how to pay for the many public investments called for in the GND is still a bit of a political minefield. There are centrist Democrats who still believe in the old PAYGO rules, keeping a “balanced budget” within a 10-year window. There are Democrats who think deficit fears have been exaggerated and there’s nothing wrong with running a deficit to drive an economic transition. And there are Democrats who have gone full Modern Monetary Theory, which is way too complicated to explain here but amounts to the notion that, short of inflation, the level of the deficit is effectively irrelevant, as long as we’re getting the economy we want.

That discussion is just getting underway, and the better part of valor is to do what the GND resolution does: say nothing about it. Leave it for later.

Roundtable Extra: Israel’s Election Handbook – Merge or Perish

From Rosner’s Domain:

Rightwing parties under growing pressure to merge… Currently, the electoral threshold is the most difficult to project wild card in this election. Parties such as the Jewish Home, Kulanu, Labor and many others could become extinct because of it – and completely change the outcome of this election.

Click here to see the latest electoral predictions and updates on polling.


Today’s Hot Issues

Does America Still Have a Blackface Problem? How Do American Jews See Israel’s Elections? Is Black History Month the Best Way to Celebrate Black History? What Have We Learned from Jeff Bezos’ Enquirer Scandal? How Much Would the Green New Deal Cost America? Roundtable Extra: Israel’s Election Handbook – Merge or Perish