Welcome to Vidor, a town most famous for its racism

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A welcome sign for my hometown that sits alongside I-10. (Michael Corcoran )

When folks ask me where I’m from, I have a stock answer: You’ve probably never heard of it and if you have, whatever you heard probably wasn’t good.

Vidor, Texas, is a little strip of fast food restaurants and gas stations that bisects Interstate 10 at the midway point on its journey from “sea to shining sea.” It’s a place where you stop to stretch your legs, void your bladder, and scarf down something greasy before moseying on to someplace better, like Biloxi.

With a population of about 11,000, Vidor is primarily famous for two things.

The first is country…


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Black youth listen to speakers at a BLM rally in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 12, 2020. (Anthony Crider / CC-BY-SA 2.0)

In a 1968 interview, Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton said “The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution.” This little soundbite is often quoted but the context is usually left out. Newton was talking about the potential for youthful revolutionary fervor to be blunted and co-opted by reforms. He continued: “I doubt that under the present system any kind of program can be launched that will be able to buy off all these young people.”

At the time, the mood among America’s youth was indeed revolutionary. Opposition to the…


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When hurricane Harvey struck Texas, utterly devastating my hometown and many other parts of the state, the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo featured a cover that read “Deus Existe!” (“God Exists!”). It had an image of submerged Nazis doing the old “Sieg Heil” from beneath the floodwaters. The outlet, which had received so much support from Americans during its own tragedy, returned the favor with tactless cruelty. I was livid. Though I moved away from the state more than a decade ago, I consider Texas my home and I have many elderly relatives living there.

Scrolling through Twitter, I was…


‘America is Back’ to business as usual. Biden made a promise that ‘nothing will fundamentally change’ and he’s keeping it

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(Gage Skidmore // CC-BY-SA 2.0)

On Friday, President Biden addressed an international security conference, announcing proudly that “America is back.” Though it was aimed at US allies, it was as much a message to Biden’s base, who desperately yearn for the United States to return to the supposed glory and prestige it enjoyed before Donald Trump so rudely profaned its highest office. It’s a continuation of Biden’s alliterative campaign messaging about “building back better.”

There’s a parallel between Biden and Trump’s rhetoric that reflects the reality that both conservatives and liberals are backward looking. The MAGA folks want to go all the way back to…


It’s here.

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(A. J. T. Johnsingh / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

When I was in college, I saw a picture in a textbook of small children picking through a gigantic trash dump in Brazil. Known as catadores, these kids scour the garbage looking for food, recyclables and items to sell. According to the caption, the owners of the landfill hired armed private guards, who would sometimes shoot the children — the trash had monetary value because it could be rendered into pig feed and sold.

That little bit of text in the margins of a sociology book always stayed with me. I was struck by how sick, surreal and absurd it…


The conservative shock jock is dead, but the toxic style of politics he fostered will be with us for decades

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Rush Limbaugh after being awarded the Medal of Freedom by first lady Melania Trump. Photo: Mandel Ngan /AFP/Getty Images

I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh. This was not by choice, mind you. My father, a distributor who serviced grocery stores all across East Texas and Louisiana, kept the dial fixed on conservative talk radio whenever he was in the car. Half his job was driving, so on any given day he probably spent between four and six hours listening to this stuff in transit. I often went with him on these trips, so I got a hefty dose of it as well.

Limbaugh’s fans were called “dittoheads” because when they called in, they usually began their comments with…


Though it’s often hailed as a biting commentary on policing, the hit HBO show is a love letter to the idealized ‘natural police’

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Vacant row houses in Baltimore’s Shipley Hill. (Baltimore Heritage / CC0)

George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police last summer forced a reevaluation of media. Responding to the moment, networks and streaming services rushed to pull any shows that could be deemed racist, replacing them with curated content by Black creators. The long-running ridealong program Cops was cancelled, and many began to question depictions of police in fictional shows, like Law & Order and even the satirical Brooklyn Nine Nine.

HBO’s the Wire was largely untouched by this wave of reexamination. With a talented majority-Black ensemble cast, incredible writing and high production value, the prestige crime drama is rightfully beloved…


The feds, police and military have traditionally upheld white supremacy, yet liberals expect these institutions to combat it?

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(Twitter)

It has now been a little over a month since far-right fanatics stormed the Capitol Building in a deadly riot aimed at stopping the final certification of the election results. Every day brings news of more arrests by federal agents, with the running total now topping 200. All across Twitter, thousands of self-deputized virtual G-men are still tagging the FBI in their posts, doing their part to help increase that count. …


The revelation that their leader was an informant casts the fascist frat in a whole new light

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Proud Boys at a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina (Anthony Crider // CC-BY 2.0)

A couple years back, I was using Facebook to identify members of fascist groups for my research. I collected about 2,700 profiles of members involved with all kinds of far-right subcultures, ranging from skinheads and Klansmen to Siege-pilled nihilists and peckerwood street gangs. It took me about two months to locate all those using a fairly simple method. Fascists use little shibboleths to signal their beliefs online — Pepe memes, Odal runes, Totenkopfs, numerical codes, etc. …


Centrists embrace the meme but never the man

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Sen. Bernie Sanders sits on the bleachers on Capitol Hill before Joe Biden is sworn in. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

On January 20, Joe Biden became the president. Bernie Sanders became a meme. A picture of Bernie at the inauguration, bundled up in his jacket and mittens, went viral. Soon it was being remixed into dozens of famous images as well as scenes from film and TV. My public response may have been a laughing emoji, but in my heart, it was sad reacts only.

Bernie has always been a memeable political figure. His authenticity and endearing personality formed the basis for some memorable visual gags produced by his youthful devotees back when his campaign was in full swing.

Many…

Justin Ward

Journalist, socialist, activist. Founder and co-chair of DivestSPD. Bylines at SPLC, The Baffler, GEN. Follow on Twitter: @justwardoctrine, @DivestSPD

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