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Julian Brave Noisecat: The US is still not ready to look at the ugly racism against Native Americans
By now, you’ve surely seen the video.
On the steps outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, a white teenager sporting the red cap accoutrements of the Trump campaign stands nose-to-nose with a bespectacled Native American elder singing and playing a hand drum. The teen is smirking – his expression, for me, oozes entitlement. Behind him an unruly crowd – all male, all white, many also wearing the conspicuous Maga apparel – is jeering the elder in a frenzy of Lord of the Flies privilege. (In another video, some of the boys can be seen cackling while war-whooping and making the tomahawk chop gesture popularized by sports teams with Native American mascots like the Atlanta Braves.)
Against the rabble, the old man is steadfast. In the stare-down, he never breaks eye contact. He just keeps singing. Off-camera, you can hear one or two voices rising with his. [..]
But, as the days have passed, it seems that as soon as the story becomes more complicated – when a fuller picture emerges in all of its messy human detail – the Indigenous are no longer deserving of compassion. If it was Phillips who approached the Covington students, commentators suggest, then maybe the cacophony of laughter, war whoops, tomahawk chops and that smug grin was not what we saw: racism.
I hoped that this time their empathy was real, that the condemnation could withstand the obfuscation that is always the follow-up story: that the Native elder was the aggressor, that the black youth gunned down by the cops was actually a crook, that the hard-working immigrant is stealing your job. But it appears that a great deal of this nation – including its supposedly liberal Fourth Estate – is not ready to look at the nasty complexity of racism, power and privilege squarely in the face and tell the truth.
Last week, we stood outside our schools and marched through neighborhoods and took over downtown LA and the teachers of Los Angeles have prevailed – for now, sort of.
We received a raise that will not even cover the increased cost of living since our last raise. We won class size reductions that will make teaching slightly less challenging. Our students will have a nurse in every school and more counselors and librarians. This was a fight for the future of public education in the second largest city in the US and it represented the struggle of all public school teachers in this country.
The public overwhelmingly supported us with several news polls showing that support at around 80%. Parents and others in the community joined picket lines and brought us food and water. Motorists blasted their horns and hollered encouragement. They slowed down as they drove through puddles so as not to splash us and sometimes stopped to tell us how much teachers have meant to them. They trusted us when we said that the investment in our students was insufficient. They knew that we would rather have been in our classrooms teaching and that we walked out for the sake of those students.
The forces arrayed behind President Trump in the government shutdown fight are now sending out decidedly conflicting signals. Some want Trump to dig in more firmly behind the xenophobic nationalism symbolized by his wall, as if he can break the Democrats’ will through sheer force of intractable anti-immigrant recalcitrance. Others are urging him to reach out to Democrats with concessions designed to accommodate their desire for humane immigration solutions.
This gives Democrats an opening to put forth their own proactive immigration agenda in the days and weeks ahead — to further divide the opposition, yes, but more to the point because it’s the right thing to do from a good governing standpoint. [..]
Trump’s public position is weakening. The restrictionist right wing he’s appeasing — the one that Trump and Miller played to by salting the “compromise” with poison pills, the one that would revolt if Trump made actual concessions to Democrats — is increasingly isolated.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ability to harness the news cycle hasn’t died down one bit now that the newly-elected New York congresswoman has settled into office. Most of the AOC coverage over the past week continues to be TMZ-ified, focusing on Aaron Sorkin’s stuffed-shirt scolding of younger members of Congress and exaggerating Ocasio-Cortez’s supposed conflict with other Democrats.
The congressional freshman from the Bronx continues to calmly and unapologetically use her fame for good, however. She used this weekend’s news cycle to continue highlighting the evils of wealth inequality, and to draw attention to serious policy fixes for the problem.
On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez attended a symposium where author Ta-Nehisi Coates asked her if it was moral to have “a world that allows for billionaires.” Ocasio-Cortez swiftly said it was not. She hastened to note that individual billionaires, such as Bill Gates, may well be good people. But “a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.”
AOC continued to hammer this point home later the same night on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert, explaining (yet again) that her proposed 70 percent marginal income tax rate would only be on money made above the first $10 million a year — and that a similar marginal tax rate reached 90% when Dwight Eisenhower was president.
“Do we want to live in a city where billionaires have their own personal Uber helipads,” she asked, “in the same city and same society as people who are working 80-hour weeks and can’t feed their kids?”
Even this White House, infamous for self-delusion, must realize it’s in deep trouble. Two more polls released Wednesday show the depth of President Trump’s problem.
The Morning Consult-Politico poll finds that “57 percent of registered voters disapprove of Trump’s job performance — more than any other survey in Trump’s two years in office — while 40 percent approve. The 17-percentage-point deficit matches two previous lows of the Trump presidency.” Sixty percent of independents now disapprove of his performance. As time goes on, more Americans blame Trump for the shutdown (“49 percent of voters [say] he is responsible in the latest survey — up 6 points since the shutdown began”).
The CBS News poll has even worse numbers for Trump. [..]
Trump cannot bear to face the possibility of defeat on the issue that was most central to his campaign and most closely tied to his theme of white grievance. As with trade, however, his fixation with avoiding defeat leads to further erosion of his power. He faces a lose-lose choice: Give in now, as humiliating as that might be, or alternatively, continue a fruitless fight that will sap his chances of political survival and still not avoid eventual defeat.