May 30, 2021 – Tulsa 1921 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 378

Description: 100 years ago this week, white mobs in Tulsa, Oklahoma burned down the Black neighborhood of Greenwood (known as Black Wall Street) and committed massacres. Bill and Rachel explore the unique economic factors that created Greenwood.

Links and notes for Ep. 378 (PDF):

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

Lend Lease 15 – Oklahoma and Oregon Resist the Great War – Dec 8, 2019

Description: In 1917, Oregon Senator Harry Lane votes against the US joining World War One and Oklahoma socialists rise up violently against the draft in the Green Corn Rebellion. Bill, Rachel, Nate.

Links and notes for ep 15 (PDF):

Music by Stunt Bird.

March 20, 2018 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 218


Topics: The growing movement for teachers’ strikes in West Virginia and beyond; the issue of anti-homeless architecture and technology. People: Bill, Rachel, Nate. Produced: Mar 18th, 2018.

Episode 218 (56 min):
AFD 218

Related links

AFD 218 Links and notes (PDF)


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Music by friend of the show Stunt Bird.

If you said it, then you meant it, Oklahoma GOP chairman

The AP reports that the Oklahoma Republican Party chairman is in hot water over a Facebook post comparing SNAP (food stamps) recipients to wild animals that you shouldn’t feed:

The original message, posted Monday, said 46 million Americans participate in the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, or SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps. The post then said the National Park Service encourages people not to feed wild animals because they ‘‘will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.’’

As is usually the case with other like-minded posters in such situations, he thinks everyone just didn’t get it and it’s all a big misunderstanding:

Party chairman Randy Brogdon said on Facebook that the post was intended to illustrate the cycle of government dependency. He apologized ‘‘for any misconceptions that were created.’’

Worth noting:

About 604,000 people receive SNAP benefits in Oklahoma, mostly the elderly, disabled, and children.

That’s almost 7% of the Republican-dominated state’s entire population — which is a pretty comparable figure to a Democratic-dominated state like Massachusetts, but not a glowing testament to the dependency-ending benefits of conservative governance.

In predictable fashion, fellow Republicans objected more on the optics than the substance:

‘‘It is not a representation of the party as a whole and it makes the party look uncaring,’’ said state Senator Stephanie Bice, a Republican.

(My bolding.)

However he may have phrased it, that vehement opposition to and dismissive view of food stamps is the mainstream position of the Republican Party. Hard not to “look uncaring” when you are uncaring. Dressing it up rhetorically in a nicer outfit doesn’t fix the underlying problem.

In the immortal words of one Christopher Brian “Ludacris” Bridges in his 2008 commentary, “Politics As Usual”:

Talkin’ slick and apologizin’ for what?
If you said it, then you meant it.
How you want it: Head or gut?


Previously from Bill on Similar Topics:

“How the South Really Operates”
“The American South: Take the Money and Run”

United States Census Southern Region

United States Census Southern Region

Beyond SAE: The bigger picture on college racism

“There will never be a n—-r at SAE!” That’s the chant recorded over the weekend that got the University of Oklahoma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity shut down. In the video that went viral on social media, you see a group of White students on a bus chanting the song to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” They look excited and well practiced at an obviously racist song, as if it had been passed from member to member across generations. They look as if this behavior is normal for them.

Almost immediately after the video went viral, there was a response from both the University and the fraternity’s national president. The closure of the Oklahoma chapter of the frat was quick and everyone from school officials, fraternity officials and even the schools football team severed all ties possible with them. All claiming that the behavior of the members was unacceptable, and that this kind of racism wasn’t something they stood for. The National SAE Organization has permanently revoked the membership of the students involved in the video. The University has reported to have expelled a few of the members, and the SAE house has been shut down, so other members have to find their own housing without the help of the University.

But let’s not act like this is new. This isn’t a lone, isolated, or one-time occurrence on one college campus. This isn’t even the only time Sigma Alpha Epsilon specifically has had issues with racism. Back in 2011, SAE members at Cornell University in New York during a hazing killed George Desdunes, a 19 year old Haitian pledge, by forcing him to drink until he passed out and then neglecting to take him to the hospital. When charges were brought up against the students involved, the students were only charged with misdemeanor hazing.

While the punishment that the students at University of Oklahoma received was justified, it’s clear that this event was far from isolated. Because of social media and sites like Twitter, Vine and YouTube, these random acts of racism are being proven to be less random and more of a product of the institutionalized racism that is still a big problem in the US.

On Tuesday, March 10th a group called NJShutItDown initiated a Twitter conversation about the topic using the hashtag #NotJustSAE that focused on the experiences many People of Color had with Fraternities and Sororities at primarily White Institutions. In the hashtag, people shared personal experiences, as well as news stories about racist themed parties centered around holidays like Cinco de Mayo and Martin Luther King Day. At many of these parties, white students are dressed up in blackface and wearing dreadlock and afro wigs. In all of them, the students seem at ease with their racism.

The ease with which these students can don blackface, chant about lynchings and even murder other students isn’t isolated. It’s a problem, and it’s been a problem for a long time now. To these students, this behavior is thought of as just “college fun,” and before social media it was treated as kids being kids in isolated, disconnected incidents. It’s unacceptable, and while it’s good that University of Oklahoma took action immediately, more schools should follow their lead.

March 4, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 118


Topics: Proposing a Democratic Party agenda for 2016; the conservative reaction to the new AP US History test. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: March 2nd, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– What should Democrats run on in 2016? We pitch some themes to mobilize voters who usually stay home.
– Why is there so much conservative controversy over the new AP US History test (or US history in general)?

Episode 118 (41 min)
AFD 118

Related links
Segment 2

ThinkProgress: Oklahoma Committee Votes Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History
ThinkProgress: Oklahoma Bill Banning AP US History Would Make Students Study Ten Commandments, 3 Speeches By Reagan
Education Week: Republican National Committee Condemns New AP History Framework – Curriculum Matters
The Economist: The president’s patriotism: It’s complicated


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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Black Wall Street: We did it by ourselves and were punished.

When Black people and other People of Color speak out about the lack of representation for them in any medium there is usually a lot of pushback. Replies range from pointing to the one example of non-White representation they can find, to the more extreme and exclusionary “If you want to be represented, make it yourself!” The latter is an interesting piece of advice, but it’s entirely too simple.

Moreover, it ignores the fact that Black people have for many years have been doing just that, only to then be punished for it. Throughout history, in instances where Black people in the U.S. tried to make their own place in society, they were met with extreme opposition.

In Memphis TN in 1889, because the success of his grocery store was taking Black customers away from the competing White-owned grocery across the street, Thomas Moss was lynched.

In 1923, the town of Rosewood FL, a primarily Black town, was destroyed after a rumor was spread that the town was housing an escaped Black prisoner. In both cases, and in many other instances of lynchings or any attack on Black communities, the Black victims were attacked because White people were uncomfortable with the idea of Black Success — or even Black Self-Esteem and Assuredness.

The bombing of Black Wall Street (otherwise known as the Tulsa Race Riot) is a textbook example of the results of this discomfort. In the early 1900s, the city of Tulsa began to grow at a rapid pace. By 1921, just after the first world war, the city was already going through its second oil boom.

The Black neighborhood of Greenwood, although not oil-rich, was prospering in its own right. Segregation meant that the Black residents could not patronize most place outside of the area, but they could own businesses, homes, and more in Greenwood. They did so, establishing good businesses by the hundreds. The neighborhood flourished and became a center of Black affluence, earning it the nickname “Black Wall Street.”

Then, predictably, in May 1921, there was a crime reported. A young White woman was assaulted, and the assailant was said to be a young Black man. The young man under suspicion was arrested and, shortly after the rumors of the events spread, a mob of angry and armed white men decided to take matters into their own hands. They were met by a counter-mob, of Black men, and then the confrontation escalated when shooting broke out.

By the next morning, on June 1, Greenwood had been burned almost to the ground, and up to 300 people were killed. Residents even reported that planes had gone over the neighborhood and dropped crude bombs on businesses and residential buildings. Troops were deployed to try to restore order, but it was too late. The destruction left many of the residents homeless and living in tents for almost a year.

Postcard in the collection of McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa, showing the fires the day after the destruction of Black Wall Street. (via Wikimedia)

Postcard in the collection of McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa, showing the fires the day after the destruction of Black Wall Street. (via Wikimedia)

There is a lot of speculation on what the actual motivation behind the attack was. Although it was initially stated that it was because of the alleged (and later dismissed) attack of the young White woman, there was already high racial tension before then. White residents’ membership in The Ku Klux Klan had grown rapidly in the few years before the attack, and many of the White people in the Tulsa neighborhoods just outside of Greenwood were poor.

Seeing the neighborhood just next door doing so well probably made the already existing tension even worse. The initial accusation of an assault on a White woman by a Black man was a common trope in, and racist excuse for, lynchings or attacks on Black neighborhoods that were doing well economically in the South.

Whatever the motives behind the attack were, this is still a horrendous moment in U.S. history. Although the neighborhood was able to eventually rebuild itself over the next five years, it still goes to show that even when Black people are able to build their own communities, there is still the threat of people on the outside destroying everything.

Maybe instead of the emphasis just being on Black people “making their own” there could be an equal emphasis placed on others not destroying what we do make.