Santa Claus is white!

Here we go again.  People are still debating whether a make-believe character can be a color other than their own.

The Mall of America — you know that place, America? Home of the widest variety of people on the planet? — anyway, the Mall has a Santa Claus this year who isn’t white, and that is making racists’ heads spin.

Many conservatives cannot stand the idea. Ronald Reagan would have never stood for it. nancy_reagan_mr_T_12(Here, of course, is where I insert a picture of Mr. T performing as Santa at the White House in the Reagan administration. Come on, you all knew that was coming.)

Santa is, of course, based on St. Nicholas, who was from Turkey, and thus was a darker skinned middle eastern man (just like Jesus!).

The idea that a fictional character like Santa must be white fits in with the conservative bubble, where everything involves them and has to fit into their world view or it either doesn’t exist (climate change, evolution) or it is changed to be just like them (Jesus and Santa).

But it’s not just Santa. I’ve seen science fiction geeks get all crazy when someone suggests that Superman could be black. “But he’s not!” they scream.

Well why not?  Geez, he’s not even from earth. He could be green with yellow polka dots. Why would that distract from truth, justice, and the American way? (OK, well, admittedly it would make it harder to pose as mild-mannered Clark Kent…)

There are indeed instances where the race or gender or sexual orientation of a fictional character is important to the story — but if it’s not, who cares? Why does it matter one bit what race Santa is?

For that matter, artistic license allows you to change the race of real people. Look at Hamilton, the wildly successful play. There was a conscious choice to cast people of all races to make an artistic statement even while the story itself tried to be accurate. So what? It’s art. Enjoy it and stop insisting that everything has to revolve around you.

black-santa-clause-star-tribune-800x430

Look how happy this kid is and how he doesn’t care about the Mall of America Santa’s race

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What we don’t understand about Trump supporters

Of course not all Trump supporters are nazis or racists.

However, they all apparently don’t have a problem with supporting a candidate who is supported by nazis and racists.

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cartoon by David Horsey

It’s that indifference that is what the rest of us can’t understand — a sort of selfishness that says “Meh, I’m not Muslim or black or gay or anything, so why should I care?”

“You should support the President-elect!” scream Trump’s followers — you know, the same ones who from day one did everything they could to discount and insult Obama’s presidency. But blindly following a President simply because he is President is the opposite of patriotism.

This is not about disagreeing with his political positions. This is not about debating tax policy or foreign policy. This is about how he and his cabinet treats other human beings.

Look, no one is arguing for an insurrection or treason against Trump. We are the loyal opposition.

And boy, are we in opposition.

Trump and the hidden racism inside us

by Guest Blogger Hoyce McGurgle

I keep hearing claims that the bigotry and xenophobia were only the motivating factors for a small amount of Trump’s voters. I don’t buy it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure most of them weren’t in the KKK and white supremacy groups (but I’m equally sure that people in those groups absolutely voted for Trump in huge numbers) but I don’t buy that race wasn’t a factor.

Here’s the thing about racism: it’s not always overt. Not even in ourselves. You don’t have to be wearing a white sheet or yelling “white power” or even be dropping the n-bomb to be a racist.

I grew up in rural PA. I grew up around people who would be highly offended if you called them racist. “I judge people based on their actions, not their skin color,” they’d say. I’d hear the same people later lament how an area was ruined because “those people” moved in, or lament getting lost in a black neighborhood as being “in the darker side of town.” Guess what: they’re racist.

I wish I could say I was immune but I wasn’t. When I was younger and figuring out the world, I harbored racist thoughts and ideas. Not like “hang black folks” or anything quite so overt, but I’d find myself more on edge if a black guy was walking down the street, when I was a kid working at a gas station I found myself watching the black kids who came in to ensure they wouldn’t steal anything. At the time I told myself it was because they were kids. “It’s not because they’re black,” I told myself. “I worked with a black guy, he’s a good guy and I like him.” That wasn’t true though, it was because those kids were black.

I’ve grown up since then, I’ve faced the misconceptions and lies that perpetuate that garbage and worked to identify and change my thinking. I was fortunate to be exposed to different thoughts and ideas by going to school which had a little bit more diversity than my home town (it was a local school after all) and then move to a city with a lot more diversity. Even still, it was work. I had to face that those thoughts and feelings were there and I had to examine them. I have to examine why I think and feel the things I do (on race an other topics). And it’s not over — bettering yourself never ends, it’s constant journey.

My point is: White folks who voted for Trump and his vile rhetoric — it was probably a lot more racially motivated than you realize. You really need to ask yourself some hard questions. It’s never too late to start being better.

Now, with all that said, not everyone who voted for Trump was a racist (self-realized or otherwise.) Not as many as claim it, but they’re out there. Some genuinely felt he was the candidate that would turn their economic misfortune around. There’s really no basis to believe he’s the guy who can or will do it, but that was their overriding motivation. And I get it, I really do. I only moved out of PA in 2006 because I was utterly unable to find a job, good or otherwise, and I found one here. I have seen the effects the housing market crash still has on my hometown whenever I go back. It’s bad out there. People are struggling to make ends meet. I’m one of them, even though Boston is doing better economically than PA.

But here’s the thing (and I know I’m about to invoke Godwin’s Law here but please stick with me, I’m almost done).

Germans voted for Hitler in 1932 primarily because of his promises to revive the economy (by vague and unspecified means), to restore German greatness, and overturn the Treaty of Versailles. His stance had been anti-Semitic since the moment he entered public life and he blamed them (along with Bolsheviks and liberals) for the nation’s ills.

I’m sure lots of the supporters of the Nazi party in the 30’s would say that they sought only to do better economically because they (and the rest of the world) were struggling, but not because of Hitler’s vile views on Jewish people. Sure, some hated the Jews, but not all of them. Some of them may have been lying to themselves, but I’m sure some were genuinely repulsed by his anti-semitism.

Unfortunately, I can’t give that defense any more credence than I do to those who claim in 2016 that they voted for Trump only because of their economic hardships and not his vile rhetoric.

Why you opted to elect an openly bigoted and misogynistic man who advocated attacking the rights of other human beings (as well as actually attacking women) is utterly irrelevant. You did it. You decided that your self interest was more important than the basic human rights of people who look, love or worship differently than you.

To my friends and family (and anyone else really) I say this: you are responsible for what he does next. If you care for the people he and his team have vowed to take rights away from you must hold him accountable and speak out when he does it. You must defend them and you must ensure that legalized discrimination and hate does not worm its way into our nation more than it already is.

And if you don’t — if you don’t care about those people just because they’re different than you — then, I’m sorry to have to tell you, but you’re a bigot.

 

Hoyce is a Boston-based transplant from the Pocono Mountains. Although he has a degree in History with an emphasis in Political Science, most of his writing tends to be for fantasy gaming or occasional posts on Facebook. He recently started a blog about gaming and posts updates on a strict schedule of “sometimes.” You can read his far less serious thoughts there at https://hoycesgaming.wordpress.com/.”

The Top 10 Reasons Hillary Lost

Clinton’s loss took everyone by surprise. Even Fox News had predicted her win. And did you see Trump’s expression on election night? Even he seemed astonished.

Everyone has a theory why this happened but the real answer is complicated. Anyone who insists there is just one reason is wrong.hillary2

Protest Voters. Many of my liberal friends seem to be only blaming those who voted for 3rd party candidates. There are always 3rd party candidates, and we’ll probably never get rid of them because there is a small percentage of voters who somehow think “This year for sure!” or otherwise delude themselves into believing these votes make a difference. They never do. And this was the year — when you had two candidates whose negatives were higher than their positives — where a 3rd party could have risen and won. None of them came close. If it didn’t happen this year, it never will.

Did this have an impact on the final vote?  Sure, but you always expect there will be a few percentage points going to some minor fringe candidate. Blaming the people who are always there and when you knew they were going to be there solves nothing.

They hate the Clintons. The Democrats just really underestimated how much people really don’t like the Clintons. Her negatives were huge. Most of it was unjustified and based on lies and right-wing propaganda, but justified or not, it was there. Nominating an unpopular candidate and then losing the election? Where is the surprise there?

And there were many Democrats who (like me) did not really like Clinton that much either but voted for her over Cheetoface. But there was no enthusiasm there. The enthusiasm gap really hurt us.

We Want Outsiders. Everyone is sick and tired of politics as usual. We’ve had enough Bushes and Clintons running things. On the GOP side, all the insiders lost their primary runs.

One reason Bernie Sanders had a lot of support is because, even though he had been in politics most of his life, he was the one railing against the insiders and Wall Street and “business as usual” — meanwhile, Hillary was giving speeches to Goldman Sachs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the image you wanted this year.

We Democrats didn’t pay attention to this anger. The people on both sides are angry and we ignored them and picked the insider.

This is not to say Bernie would have won. There would have been terrible attacks on him, but I don’t see how it would have been any worse than the ones leveled against Hillary. Had Hillary not run, we would have been in a better position, as there are some very qualified candidates out there who probably could have destroyed Trump.

Now, on the Republican side, the irony is that Trump is not an outsider. The man is a millionaire who knows nothing about what the average man goes through and has never in his life shown the slightest interest in them. But hey, he’s a great con man, and this will go down as one of the greatest cons of all time.

Racists and Bigots. You can’t deny that this was their year — finally, a candidate who stood for hatred! When the KKK and the American Nazi Party endorse someone, that’s a pretty good sign. Their people usually don’t get involved but they saw their orange savior on the hill, and were going to come out and vote for him no matter what.

We’ve already started to see what this means; hate crimes have gone up as these people have become bolder. And it’s just going to get worse — but that’s a topic for another post.

This, in many ways, is what always happens historically. Progress is made and there are those who will constantly fight against it and conserve their precious way of life (that’s why they are “conservatives”). This backlash against progress explains the Civil War, the backlash against the Restoration efforts afterward, the fight against civil rights, the fights over immigrants that is constant in our history, and so on. In the end, progress always wins but there are many battles along the way.

That Woman Thing. Here in Pennsylvania, Democrats swept the state offices that were on the ballot — Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer. The two that we lost? Senator and President — the only ones with female candidates. And we lost those by slim margins.

It’s not hard to imagine that there may be 2% of the population that is still so neanderthal that they won’t vote for a woman no matter how qualified.

Voter suppression. Republicans have done everything they can to keep Democrats from being able to vote. They’ve even admitted as such when they didn’t think anyone was paying attention. There were lots of stories about how the Republican-run states were closing precincts in minority neighborhoods, removing names from voting lists, and otherwise cheating to help their clown win, and they wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t effective.

Basically, Republicans will do everything they can to win an election except get the most votes.

Dirty tricks. Russia has now admitted it was helping Trump win. The FBI Director had a Trump sign on his lawn and did everything he could to discredit Hillary at a time when her chances were the greatest, and then recanted it all on a slow news day when hardly anyone noticed. Wikileaks posted fake emails. These things may not be the reason Clinton lost, but they certainly were a reason.

The Hubris of the Elite. This is a big one. I could write a book about this.

The real divide in America right now is not blue state versus red state — it’s urban versus rural. And the rural folks are being tired of being made fun of every night on the talk shows, tired of people calling them rubes for clinging to their religion, tired of being told they’re bigots. The “fly over” states are resentful of the “elite” who look down on the uneducated masses.

This is not new; it’s a basic populist message that has gained votes for generations.

I am not saying these people are right. A lot of them really are bigots, and deserve to be called that. They stand in the way of progress, wave their Confederate flags and refuse to serve gay couples. Many of them really are a “basket of deplorables.”

But they’re also not all like that. There are some good rural people who feel left out and who think no one stands up for them. They’ve seen their factories and mines close and take all the jobs in town away, and whatever economic progress is made always goes to the cities. They listen to Fox News and believe all their lies about what Obama is doing, and don’t realize that the programs he pushes helps them too. And they’re resentful and angry.

Many  could not stand Trump but (like many Democrats did with Hillary) they held their nose and voted for him anyway because it was better than the alternative. And that’s not going to change until the media and political elite stop treating them like idiots — even when they are idiots.

We Just Don’t Vote. The Republicans voted in the same basic numbers they always have, and we didn’t this time. Our numbers were down. So of course we lost. It doesn’t matter if there are more of us than them. If we don’t vote, they win.

In fact, a majority of Americans didn’t vote at all. If you insist on placing the blame on one factor, that would be it.

The government isn’t “them.” It’s us. We, the people. And as a society, we can’t bitch about what the government does if we don’t even do the most basic thing and get out and vote. It’s our fault.

That Damned Electoral College. For the fourth time in our history, the person with fewer votes won the election, and that’s twice now in the last 16 years — both times giving us absolutely terrible Presidents. (Hey, at least now George W. Bush can go down in history as the 2nd Worst President.)

Isn’t it ridiculous that the person the majority of Americans voted against gets to be President? (And, of course, Trump being Trump, he’s now claiming he has a “mandate.” What an asshole. And no, I’m not going to suddenly give him respect just because he has that office. I’ll respect the office, not the man.)

I’ve ranted about the Electoral College before, and if you’re interested, check this post and read the very extensive comments.

And finally, a disclaimer: This is a very basic overview and not the treatise that could and will be written about this terrible election.

Not all Republicans are racists, but…

…it sure seems sometimes that all racists are Republican.

Look, here’s a bunch of racists holding a protest in front of a NAACP building while proudly wearing their Donald Trump hats. The treason flag of slavery is draped behind them as they hold a sign saying “white lives matter.”racists

One of their signs reads “14 words” which stands for the white supremacist slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

You’ve seen these people at Trump rallies. They don’t get kicked out. Rather, it’s the black people who get removed. (Link, Link, link, link …)

The GOP needs to stand up to these people, but instead they seem to be embracing them — or at least tolerating them, which is tantamount to endorsing their position.

“Oh yeah?” someone is sure to respond. “Well, there are racists in the Democratic party too!” — then they’ll ironically point out either (a) some idiot on the fringe who hates white people and who is not endorsed or even tolerated by the Democratic party; or (b) a black politician who says something like “maybe the police shouldn’t target people of color.” If you think those things are equivalent to racial supremacists who preach hate, then you need a nice long look in the mirror.

 

Earth, Wind, Fire, and Racism

I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before.  A memory that popped into my head when I read about the death of Maurice White, the leader of the band Earth, Wind, and Fire. ewf

Way back in the 70s, I was in High School in Richmond, Virginia, which Tom Robbins calls “The World’s Biggest Confederate Museum.” It was a turbulent time, with protests over busing and integration still going on.

I went to a high school in the suburbs where we maybe had ten black students total.

Now, my parents taught me to be a good, clean-cut kid. I never said a curse word, never drank or smoke or took drugs –I was a good, boring kid who was really into the drama club and music. My parents also were no bigots. They taught me that the “n” word was just as bad as the “f” word and there was no way I would ever say either.

Anyway, I remember listening to an Earth, Wind and Fire song on the radio and liking it (although I can’t recall which one right now). I had already been playing in bands and writing my own music, and I was really impressed with the musicianship and the complexity of the song.

And in my mind, I imagined the work that would go into it. And my mind conjured up an image of all the arrangers and composers working on that song.

And then I had a shock. An epiphany.

In my mind, all the people making the record were white. The black guys were just the singers. For some reason, my mind couldn’t imagine that the black guys could have accomplished such an ornate and complicated task of writing, arranging, producing and playing that song.

And I felt ashamed for my thought.

I certainly didn’t see myself as a racist, and I had thoughts like that? Me? I had been the campaign manager for one of the black kids who had run for class President and we won, making the local news and everything. I had black friends in the drama club. I had Funkadelic albums! How could I think something like this?

I realized how ingrained racism in our society could be. And I started thinking about it a lot. And then I thought about sexism in our society and how we take so much for granted and don’t question it.

It was an important first step for me. I still had a ways to go. For instance, it took many more years before I realized that gay people deserved to get married, but that was basically because society around me had not even gone in that direction yet.

Fortunately, the younger generation is growing up without the same environment I had. That kind of thinking is foreign to them. It’s us old folks that had to change (and that’s why, the older you are, the more likely you are to be racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Republican).

So thank you, Maurice White, for making me think about the biases we all have. And thank you for making me want to change them.

 

Jesus, Santa, and Hermione Granger: All white!

Here we go again.

It was only last year that Megyn Kelly from Fox News was insisting that not only is Santa Claus white (despite being based on St. Nicholas, who was from modern-day Turkey) but so is Jesus (who was a Jewish lad from the middle east).

This Christmas, people are complaining that a new play about the Harry Potter gang is wrong because it casts Hermione as a black woman.

Ron, Hermione, and Harry as adults.  Look, they got the teeth right.

Ron, Hermione, and Harry as adults. Look, they got the teeth right.

Hello? Hermione is fictional! She’s a made-up people! She doesn’t really exist! (And anyway, J.K. Rowling pointed out that at no time is Hermione’s race mentioned in the books — only that she has “brown eyes and frizzy hair.” And then “large front teeth.” And there’s another mention in a later book that talks about her “looking brown.” Seriously.)

Not all of the complaints about this are from racist bigots. Sometimes the biggest complainers are the fanboys who get an idea in their heads and decide that X version of a fictional character is the only one possible, and any variation is blasphemy. “Superman can’t be black!” they scream, ignoring the fact that Superman isn’t even human — he could be green and polka dotted (although that might make his secret identity a bit tougher to hide).

Sometimes the race of a character matters in a fictional story. I’m currently working on a steampunk novel featuring Teddy Roosevelt. The main character is a black woman, and that is very important to the plotline, since the story takes place at a time when neither women nor blacks had any real power.

But Hermione? Why not? Isn’t one of the biggest themes in the Harry Potter novel about how we should accept people for who they are and not discriminate? The bad guys were all concerned with “purity of blood,” remember? Isn’t it obvious that the race of their fellow students didn’t matter to the Potter gang? Before hooking up with Ginny, Harry had dates with Cho Chang (Chinese ancestry) and Pavarti Patil (Indian ancestry), right? And didn’t Rowlings have a pretty diverse cast (well, for something taking place in England)? Okay, enough — my inner nerd is escaping.

Re-interpretations of fictional works happen all the time. Geez, look at how many times Shakespeare is done in a new way. Fictional characters can change race and sex and everything.

Which, coincidentally, brings me to another book I am editing now: Alternate Sherlocks — a collection of short stories featuring some pretty well-known authors — with Sherlock Holmes in new versions: as a female child, as an alien, as a vampire, as a parrot …

I sure hope that the speciests don’t come after me for that one.