Essay Archive

Your Bumper Sticker is Not a Philosophy: Reflections on Voting and the Limits of Radical Purity

You hear it often when you reside on the left of the political spectrum in America, especially around election time. Sometimes it’s discussed and debated in whispers, other times in rather bombastic tones. It’s a debate about whether truly progressive folks, let alone radicals, should be willing to vote for clearly compromised Democrats, despite how [...]

Hard on Systems, Soft on People: Fighting for Social Change as If People Matter

“Be hard on systems, but soft on people.” I’m sure this nugget of wisdom has been around for more than a while, but it was only about a year or so ago that I heard it: spoken into the room where several were gathered — parents and faculty at our daughters’ school — to discuss [...]

Resurrecting Apartheid: White Police and Politicians are Waging War on Black America

It seems like no exaggeration to suggest that at this moment, a half-century after the greatest victories of the civil rights movement, America is drifting backwards towards apartheid. It’s not a word I use lightly, nor one we are accustomed to using when describing our current condition. Indeed, its not even a word that most [...]

Tears of a Clown: Robin Williams, Suicide and Some Reflections on Sadness

It’s hard to know how to begin this time. Mostly it’s because my head is spinning, but also it’s because this isn’t my normal literary wheelhouse, so there is no store of pithy anecdotes to which I can turn in search of just the right words. It is as simple as this, I suppose: Robin [...]

Nativist Americans: Immigration, Historical Memory and the Dishonesty of Modern Racism

Although I am hardly known for waxing nostalgic over the American past or its white people in particular, there is one thing that can be said for such folks in the old days. When they were bigots, they were honest enough to just tell you. No prevarication, no hesitation, no pretending to be enlightened or [...]

O’Really? Bill O’Reilly’s Ongoing War on Facts (and Racial Justice)

Poor Bill O’Reilly. I mean, it’s not as if we should actually expect him to know anything about black people or black culture in America. This is the guy, you’ll recall, who was actually amazed — amazed — a few years ago when he went to Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem, only to discover that black [...]

Because They Hate: Health Care Obstructionism and the Conservative Mind

It’s because they hate. There is no other logical explanation. After all, it’s one thing to oppose a piece of legislation and fight to keep it from being passed because you honestly disagree with it as a matter of principle. Decent people can disagree on policy. But it’s quite another to celebrate like frat boys [...]

White Noise: Immigration, Antiracism and the Spreading of a Neo-Nazi Meme

Nazis like shortcuts. Maybe it’s because of their aversion to work, which is mighty difficult to do when you spend all day on the Stormfront web board, talking about your favorite Norse God, or newest tattoo, or how the reason you can’t find a job is because the blacks and Mexicans took them all; the [...]

Of Platitudes Facile and Persistent: Reflections on the Predictability of a Right Wing Robot

Sometimes one has to wonder: are conservatives really that obtuse, or do they deliberately distort facts and data for political effect? Either way, let there be no mistake, Crystal Wright, who blogs under the moniker “Conservative Black Chick,” is possibly the most unadulterated prototype of a reality-challenged right-wing zombie ever to take up bandwidth, and [...]

Hate Swallows: Reflections on the Passing of Fred Phelps

By the time you read this, Fred Phelps will be dead. Fred Phelps, who more than anyone in the last two decades has come to symbolize the most viscerally evil edge of Christian heterosexism — and who made a name for himself by picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in combat with “God Hates Fags” [...]