Welcome to Vidor, a town most famous for its racism

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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Though they’re presented as a humane alternative, non-profit youth shelters have a disturbing history

(Molly Adams | CC-BY 2.0)

The Washington Post recently ran an op-ed titled “No amount of detention is safe for a child. Here are better solutions for migrant kids.” It opens with concern over Joe Biden’s announcement that a youth detention center in Texas is being reopened. After acknowledging that the facility is a step up from literal cages, the author Rachel Pearson qualifies her statement by pointing to a paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics documenting the harm caused by youth detention of any kind.

Pearson cautions against the myth of more humane forms of detention, noting that the non-profit operating the facility…

The American Rescue Plan offers only short-term — and insufficient — fixes for persistent problems

( White House // CC-BY-SA)

A few days ago, after Joe Biden put his John Hancock on the new COVID relief package, his Twitter account ran a video of average people saying how they’ll spend the $1,400 stimulus check. Almost all of the folks giving testimonials plan to use the one-time check to pay recurring costs — bills, rent, food — that they’re having trouble covering. It leads with a woman talking about how she fell behind when she got sick and the check will help her “pay forward” some of those bills. Black people, who suffered disproportionately due to COVID, are featured prominently. …

Roosevelt passed the New Deal to stave off mass revolt. Absent the same pressures, Joe isn’t likely to follow in his footsteps

Foreground: Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA 2.0) Background: Pharoah Hound (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Throughout his campaign and in the early days of his presidency, Joe Biden has attempted to drape himself in the mantle of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, frequently invoking the name of the New Deal architect in interviews and speeches. Of course, liberal pundits have dutifully parroted this framing in the mainstream press. The best exemplars of this particular brand of partisan mythmaking are Democratic loyalist Jonathan Alter and his daughter Charlotte who wrote matching pieces on the subject in The Daily Beast and Time Magazine, respectively.

Alter the Elder’s article, published on the day of Biden’s inauguration, is titled “Biden’s First…

New bills under consideration in Southern states would make it illegal to film or taunt police officers

Seattle police officers attempt to push protestors back with riot shields at Cal Anderson Park on July 2, 2020 (Justin Ward)

Last summer, at the height of the protests over the murder of George Floyd, a teenage protester in Everett, Washington was arrested on assault charges. His crime? Dangling a donut on a wooden stick in front of sheriff’s deputies from several feet away and yelling profanities. The charges were later dropped after a review of the video showed no contact with the officers or anyone else. However, if a new bill being mulled in Kentucky passes, actions like this will be enough to get you jailtime in the Bluegrass State.

Senate Bill 211 would impose a potential penalty of up…

As dire as things seem right now, they could (and likely will) get worse

(Alan Levine // CC0)

With vaccines rolling out all over the country, folks are anxiously anticipating a post-COVID existence and life finally getting back to normal. Everyone is looking forward to looking backward on this era over beers at a crowded bar with a close friend and saying “Hey, remember that pandemic? What a wild time that was!” We’re pining for the day when all of this is comfortably behind us. We’ll let loose a deep belly laugh, our smiles no longer obscured by a surgical mask, and reflect on how surreal this experience was — or maybe not.

As psychologically comforting as it…

As the GOP drifts to the fringe, Democrats clinging to the delusion of bipartisanship are being pulled right along with them

“Socially liberal, fiscally conservative” war hawk Max Boot, the Never Trump Republican par excellence, speaks at the Naval War College (James Clark // CC BY SA 2.0)

A lot has been written by left media critics about the effect Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing has had on Democrats’ worldview. In the show, liberal politicos often win the day with a rousing speech that forces their opponents to capitulate through the sheer force of reasonableness, eloquence and moral clarity. The legacy of the show is a sort of idealism among liberal — “delusion” is more accurate— about how politics works.

This Sorkinian way of looking at politics was on display in a recent segment hosted by Vox’s Ezra Klein titled “What a more responsible Republican Party would look…

Remembering the uprising at Camp Logan

Court martial of 64 Camp Logan mutineers on Nov. 1, 1917. (National Archives / Public Domain)

Southeast Texas heat is oppressive. The air gets so thick and heavy with humidity that it weighs on a person. Sweat just clings to the body. And when that unforgiving sun is beating down, it’s enough to drive somebody mad. On Aug. 23, 1917, it was a brutal 102 degrees in Houston, Texas, when two white police officers decided to bust up a dice game in the Black part of town. It was around 10 a.m. when officers Rufus Daniels and Lee Sparks went looking for a Black youth who had fled the game. …

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…

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…

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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