Search This Blog

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sheriff Morgan's 'Dred Scott' Attitude--Time for School, Sheriff

"So, I would tell you that statistically, anyone that makes an argument that the United States of America is a racist nation is focusing on specific instances of where we may have had problems with race relations.  But, it certainly does not paint any organization or any individual or any nation as racist."  Sheriff David Morgan, August 23, 2013 (on video tape).


Sheriff David Morgan had much more to say and the Street Report will be schooling the Sheriff on those remarks.  The Sheriff of Escambia asked his Internet audience that night, "So, what are the issues in the minority community in Escambia County?  Many are real and many are perceived. And, I will tell you that most of them are perceived.  And here is why."

Sheriff Morgan's remarks then dropped into the abyss of whitewashing America's racist history, current state of institutional racism, and general inanity.

Even the Sheriff's opening foray reveals his arrogance and utter contempt for the Black community or the African-American community in Escambia County, and, indeed across the entire country.  He told members of the "minority community" that whatever you think is real, is not.  In other words, your viewpoint; the facts you may bring to the discussion; your grievances and concerns; and, the priority of issues you deem important for yourself, your family, your neighborhood, and your community--are illegitimate--they are just "perceived" issues and priorities and facts--and I, Sheriff Morgan, will set you straight and tell you what is "real."

Sheriff Morgan's attitude is a not so distant echo of the 1856 Dred Scott U.S. Supreme Court decision in which Chief Justice Taney wrote that it had been a settled issue for more than a century that the "[Negro] had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." Substitute "real issues" for "rights" and Sheriff Morgan's meaning is clear.

Let's go to the videotape, as famed broadcaster Warner Wolf used to say.

Sheriff Morgan:  In His Own Words

The following transcript, which I wrote, captures every word Sheriff Morgan said on the original August 23, 2015, broadcast.  The excerpt starts at roughly the 7:30 mark and ends at roughly the 9:20 mark.

After telling his audience what is "perceived" and what is "real," Sheriff Morgan tells his audience that you can draw a straight line from where we were as a country at its constitutional founding to where we are today:  "Again, let's go back to the history of our nation and where we currently are today."  Thus, if America is not racist today, it was not racist at its founding.  This will become clearer as we move into through his presentation.

Begin Morgan Quote

Not that many years ago the thought of electing an African-American president would have been unthinkable in the United States of America.

And I would remind black Americans that you are a little less than 13 percent of the entire population of the United States.  Less than 13 percent.  Now, that's every man, woman, and child in the United States of America of black ancestry.  Had every one of those people been voter eligible, only 13 percent could have voted for President Obama.  But, President Obama has won two elections as President of the United States."

Now, what does that mean?

That means a whole host of white people, and Hispanic people, and Asian people, and American Indians cast a vote for President Obama.

The statistics are that if we were such a racist nation, why do we currently have an African-American president?  Why was General 'Chappie' James the first four-star black general? And why was General Colin Powell promoted to Chief of Staff and later Secretary of State? Why do we currently have an Attorney General Eric Holder, who is also a black American?

End Morgan Quote

A First Critique of Sheriff's Morgan's Statements

The good Sheriff apparently has difficulty with higher math.  He claimed that if all 13 percent of "black Americans" had voted for candidate Obama, then "only 13 percent could have voted for President Obama."

The other problem with Sheriff Morgan's analysis is that it is too simplistic to capture the real dynamics of the 2008 presidential race.  Senator Obama won the presidency despite racial resentment playing the strongest role in a presidential race in two decades--not because America had entered post-racial bliss.  In other words, Senator Obama triumphed within a racially charged negative political atmosphere, not a benign or positive one.

Let us examine the "higher" math first.

According to the Roper Center's 2008 exit poll, the nation's repository of political exit polls, in 2008, then Senator Obama garnered 95 percent of the "African-American" vote, 65 percent of the Hispanic vote, 62 percent of the Asian vote, 66 percent of the "Other" vote, and 43 percent of the white vote.

According to the Roper Center's 2012 exit poll, President Obama received 93 percent of the African-American vote, 71 percent of the Hispanic, 73 percent of the Asian, 58 percent of the "Other," and 39 percent of the white vote.

But, these figures do not come in a vacuum.

The American electorate has been changing, with the proportion of white voters declining and the proportion of non-white voters increasing. The University of Virginia's Center for Politics pointed out that "between 1992 and 2008 the nonwhite share of the electorate doubled, going from 13 percent to 26 percent.  Helped by an aggressive Democratic registration and get-out-the-vote campaign in African-American and Hispanic communities, the nonwhite share of the electorate increased from 23 percent in 2004 to 26 percent in 2008 with African-Americans going from 11 percent to 13 percent, and Hispanics going from 8 percent to 9 percent."

Sheriff Morgan's rather bland statement, "That means a whole host of white people...cast a vote for President Obama" implies that conservative white people like Sheriff Morgan cast votes for Senator and then President Obama.  Actually, in 2008, Senator Obama carried 85 percent of the Democratic base--white liberals and non-whites.  He also carried 53 percent of the "white moderates" vote, according to the Center for Politics' analysis.

Yes, Senator Obama attracted white votes, but they were liberal and moderate on race issues.

Between 1976 and 2008, the Democratic Party's and the Republican Party's coalitions have shifted and become more racially polarized.  According to the Center for Politics, in 1976, President Carter's coalition consisted of 21 percent liberal whites; 59 percent white moderates or conservatives; and, 20 percent non-whites.  Governor Clinton's coalition was 28 percent liberal whites; 42 percent moderate or conservative whites; and, 31 percent non-whites.  Senator Obama's coalition was 28 percent liberal whites; 33 percent moderate or conservative whites; and 39 percent non-whites.

By the same token, the Republican Party since 1976 has been a virtually all-white political party with the share of its coalition being non-white, falling from 10 percent in 1992 to 4 percent in 2008.

"Symbolic racism" or "racial resentment" is a social science construct to measure white attitudes towards Black people (see Tesler and Sears, pp. 18-9).  It consists of four themes: "(1) blacks no longer face much discrimination, (2) their disadvantage mainly reflects their poor work ethic, (3) they are demanding too much too fast, and (4) they have gotten more than they deserve."

Social scientists have operationalized "symbolic racism," that is, figured out how to measure this construct to produce valid and reliable results.  Since 1986, the American National Election Study has included the following four statements:

(1) "Irish, Italian, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up.  Blacks should do the same without any special favors."
(2)  "Generations of slavery and discrimination have created that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class."
(3) Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve."
(4) "It's really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well as whites."

The political scientists Michael Tesler and David O. Sears in their 2010 book, Obama's Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America, reported (pp. 59-60) that "racial resentment clearly had a much larger impact on general election votes in 2008 than it had at any earlier point in the prior two decades.  This strongly supports our central claim that the 2008 election was more sharply racialized than any campaign in the prior two decades, contrary to the hopes and wishes of the Obama campaign."

Examining how positive or negative evaluations of Senator Obama correlated with support or opposition to public policy issues (in 2008, mind you) Tesler and Sears found (p. 92) that "any issue Obama takes a public stance on might soon become polarized according to racial predispositions....Such a racialized environment would have the potential to make reaching common ground on public policy an even more difficult task in the age of Obama."

And, when Tesler and Sears examined Obama's "otherness" in relation to how Americans perceived and felt about Muslim Americans, as well as how Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain, and then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin all tried to paint Senator Obama as somehow not quite a real American or possibly a Muslim or someone close to terrorists.

Tesler and Sears found (pp. 139-40) that "Attitudes about Muslims were much more important in evaluating Obama than other partisan figures, and such effects were not merely artifacts of the correlation of anti-black and anti-Muslim attitudes."

In other words, the McCain-Palin ticket which attempted to make Obama into something strange, something alien, something other, activated right-wing animosities that Obama had to overcome in order to win the presidency.

So, how did Senator Obama win?  According to Tesler and Sears (pp. 73-4), Obama succeeded in doing three things:  One, "he activated much greater support among racial liberals" than other Democratic candidates.  Two, he "succeeded in activating Democratic partisanship" and negative views of the sitting Bush administration.  And three, he attracted "racial moderates who were inclined to vote with the prevailing short-term forces of the election year."

On November 6, 2008, the progressive media monitoring group, Media Matters, issued a report on the vitriolic hatred spewing from the mouths of conservative talk radio hosts. Wrote Media Matters: "radio host have compared Obama to the Antichrist, as well as to Hitler and Mao and suggested that his loyalties lie outside the United States, including with some radio hosts, with Kenya and Kenyan political figures.  The first-ever nomination by a major party of an African-American has also inspired extensive, racially tinged commentary on conservative radio, with direct attacks on Obama, his qualifications for office, and the motivations of his supporters."

Obama won, Sheriff Morgan, not because America had entered the nirvana of a post-racial America, but despite the fact that first Hillary Clinton and then the McCain-Palin ticket made Obama a racially polarizing figure.

Oh, and General Colin Powell?  The smell of the McCain-Palin campaign led him to endorse Senator Obama in October 2008.

Sheriff Morgan:  In His Words, Again

Begin Morgan Quote

So, I would tell you, statistically, anyone that makes an argument that the United States of America is a racist nation is focusing on specific instances of where we may have had problems with race relations.  But, it certainly does not paint any organization or any individual or any nation as racist.  Because the facts do not support those premises.

End Morgan Quote

Let's see.  About 250 years of slavery, another 100 years or so of near-slavery during post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow, and another 50 years or so of the New Jim Crow (the prison industrial complex) constitutes "specific instances of where we may have had problems with race relations"?

That's like saying that between 1934 and 1945 the Jews of Germany "may have had problems with Jewish-German relations."  You think?

Concluding Observation

I could cite chapter and verse on the racist foundation of the constitutional republic to preserve white supremacy in the face of Britain entertaining the policy of freeing the slaves; the racist foundations of the American and global capitalist economy; the widespread benefits of slavery to whites in the southern and northern states; northern corporations collaborating with white supremacists in the southern states to virtually re-enslave African-Americans for profit; the collaboration of the federal government with southern state governments to allow widespread lynching and Jim and Jane Crow laws to disenfranchise and impoverish African-Americans; and, the War on Drugs producing the New Jim Crow which resulted in a War on the Black Family and Black Men in which 1.5 million Black men have gone missing.*

Or, I could cite study after study showing disparate racial impacts on wealth, income, health, education, environmental safety, or any other metric.

But, what would be the point?  Sheriff Morgan exists in an alternate universe of American history and has a 'Dred Scott' mentality.

* Note See:

Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jennifer Frank, Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, New York: Ballantine, 2005.

Gerald Horne, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, New York: New York University Press.

Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, New York: Basic Books, 2014.

Greg Grandin, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014.

Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War II, New York: Anchor Books, 2008.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, revised edition, New York: The New Press, 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Morgan's attitude towards race relations reminds me of Alan Greenspan's Objectivist delusion regarding the regulation of financial markets. He wasn't disabused of that lunacy until markets collapsed in '08.

    Similarly, Morgan will hold onto his antedeluvian notions until lawsuits against the county start to drain the public purse and protests make it hard for the business people who support him to conduct commerce.

    Frank Zappa said it best: "There's no way to delay that trouble comin' every day".