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 music because Vidor is where the singer George Jones was living that time he drunk drove his tractor to the liquor store because his wife hid his car keys. My town also produced a few B-list country stars, like Clay Walker and Tracy Byrd. …

America’s bloody history of mass racist violence — and the radical Black response — barely merits mention in most high school texts

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Flag outside of the NAACP headquarters in New York City protests lynching (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

Content warning: Article contains descriptions and images of violence against Black people.

When HBO’s Watchmen series debuted, it dominated the national conversation for weeks. The show opens with a vivid depiction of the destruction of the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa in 1921. Known as “Black Wall Street,” this thriving Black community was razed to the ground by a frenzied white mob. All told, upwards of 300 Black people were murdered that day, their homes, schools and businesses reduced to ash by Molotov cocktails and flaming turpentine balls lobbed from prop planes.

The episode had such an enormous impact largely because it was the first time many Americans had ever heard of one of the most horrific massacres in US history. Out the four of the most commonly used high school history textbooksOut of Many, A People and A Nation, Unfinished Nation and American Pageant — only one references the destruction of Greenwood. …

Equal parts comedy and tragedy, the Jan. 6 riot was the perfect capstone of a presidency as ludicrous as it was horrific.

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(Sambeet D / Pixabay)

Karl Marx once wrote that all great people and events recur in history twice: “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” He was talking about Louis-Napoleon, the mediocre nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, but he could have just as easily been referring to our (soon-to-be-former) president. Throughout his four-year term, Trump was saddled with epithets like “Orange Hitler” and “Cheeto Mussolini.” Popular among Twitter liberals, these monikers capture the contradiction in how Trump’s opponents see him.

He is at once a monster and a clown. Trump is the “national nightmare” and “an existential threat to the Republic.” …

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US House Representative Marcia Fudge. (Tim Evanson / CC-BY-SA 2.0 )

In December, Politico put out an article tracking president-elect Joe Biden’s progress toward his campaign promise to build the most diverse cabinet in history. Titled “Biden’s White Guy Quota,” the piece goes through each of Biden’s picks, rattling off their races and genders, then notes how his team stacks up against the cabinets of previous executives.

It’s an exercise that’s absurd beyond parody.

The article’s authors observe that there’s an upper limit on the number of white men Biden can pick — the titular “white guy quota” — and still hit his goal. They make an exception for Pete Buttigieg, a white guy who would “diversify the Cabinet in his own way as the first openly gay Cabinet member.” …

He has no vision. He won’t accomplish anything. He’s perfect.

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(Gage Skidmore / CC-BY-SA 2.0)

It seems like forever since Bernie Sanders dropped out of the primaries. The intervening months have brought an endless parade of op-eds and open letters from prominent leftists— Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, those ex-SDS Boomers, etc. — pleading for their comrades to suck it up and vote for Joe Biden. These aren’t really worth dwelling upon in any detail since they all can be boiled down to: Biden is bad but Trump is worse.

I’m not going to give you the same spiel about harm reduction or whatever nor am I going to spout a bunch of clichés about how Donald J. Trump is an “existential threat to the Republic.” Unlike a certain liberal historian with a large Twitter following, I won’t feed you a bunch of balderdash about how Biden hews to the center of the party, and as the party base moves left, so will he (he won’t). …

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(Teddy Eytan / CC-BY-SA)

Liberals aren’t taking the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg well. Since word of her passing broke, news and social media have been packed with garment-rending tributes to the late Supreme Court justice as well as despair and anger at the highly likely prospect that President Trump will be the one to fill her seat on the bench.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t wait until the body was cold before announcing his intent to confirm Ginsburg’s replacement as soon as possible. …

The historical through line in how the far-right deals with crisis

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The west coast is burning. Just as flames are tearing through forests and communities at terrifying speeds, rumors about antifa arsonists and Soros-funded firebugs are spreading uncontrollably online. And like the wildfires, conspiracy theories are proving difficult to contain. Federal and local law enforcement have tried to counter this misinformation only to be denounced as Deep State agents.

While some people have been arrested for individual acts of arson, officials have found no evidence that any of these incidents were politically motivated or connected to any sort of organized effort. …

His shooting may have been unjust, but in the eyes of the law, it probably wasn’t ‘unreasonable’

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There’s a reason why the chant “no justice, no peace” is a staple of protests against police violence. The slogan is evergreen. It states simply and plainly what the deal is: Give us justice, then there will be peace. And it’s a compact that is constantly broken. The latest wave of unrest that has broken out since Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake is rooted in a lack of justice — or an expectation of it.

As infuriating as they may be, the actions of officer Rusten Sheskey, the officer who shot Blake seven times in the back, will most likely be deemed lawful. …

Some of SPD’s worst officers are the best paid.

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Seattle Police Department deploys blast balls against demonstrators on July 25, 2020 (Derek Simeone / CC-BY)

In 2011, a get-together in South Seattle ended just about as badly as a party could. Some folks were listening to some tunes and drinking in their friend’s backyard when their fun was suddenly interrupted by some unwanted guests: The Seattle Police Department.

Three officers responding to a noise complaint asked to be let into the backyard but the tenant demanded a warrant. When they couldn’t show one, he asked them to leave. And after some back and forth in the front yard, Sgt. Bruce Creamer had the tenant arrested for obstruction. …

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The phrase “first responder” has a certain cachet to it. It’s invariably accompanied by the word “hero.” First responders are always “there when you need them” to “save lives” and “keep us safe.” These sentiments about first responders are rooted in the collective memory of Sept. 11. Prior to 2001, “first responder” was primarily used to refer to EMTs, but it became a catch-all to refer to all public safety services.

In an article making the case for retiring the phrase, former fire chief Robert Rielage notes that “first responders” was a way to save space in news reports about the Sept. 11 response. …


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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