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…

(Nigel Parry / CC-BY)

When Joe Biden signed a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday last week, it was greeted with much fanfare. The president invited to the ceremony Opal Lee, the 94-year-old civil rights activist who has long campaigned for federal recognition. Vice President Kamala Harris waxed poetic about the law’s significance in a televised speech. In the media, it was hailed as a historic event. …

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (US Embassy of Nigeria / Public Domain)

During President Biden’s diplomatic trip to Europe, a favorite phrase of Washington wonks kept popping up: “rules-based international order.” A few days ago, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg used these words four times in a speech in which he warned of the “challenge” that “authoritarian regimes like Russia and China” pose to the “rules-based order.” During a March summit with Chinese diplomats, Secretary of State Antony Blinken touched on the same themes, saying that the “alternative to a rules-based order is a world in which might makes right and winners take all.” …

John Brooks is the commander of the Community Response Group, a specialized anti-protest task force SPD formed in response to the uprising over the murder of George Floyd. Hired in 1992, Brooks rose through the ranks to the position of captain by way of the training unit, where he helped design SPD’s riot tactics.

Killing a suicidal man

  • In his first decade on the job, Brooks was involved in the killing of a suicidal man. In 2001, SPD officers including Brooks confronted a 23-year-old who was armed with a knife and threatening to commit suicide. …

(Yuliya Ward)

Content warning: Death, descriptions of a dead body

I didn’t get to attend my brother’s funeral. He was teaching in Kazakhstan when he contracted COVID and died last month at the age of 41. The service took place only a few days after he passed, so there was no time to travel there and with all the restrictions in place, I wasn’t sure I could’ve anyhow. So, I had to watch my brother laid to rest on a Youtube video. It was only 11 minutes long. The video started with his wife Yuliya going to the hospital morgue to identify…

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…

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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