Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Thursday, November 04, 2004  


News: Hate found home in military

One significant source of recruits to the racial hatred movement is an ironic one. The U.S. military has chronic problems with service members who are members of groups such as the Aryan Nations, Skinheads and Ku Klux Klan. Some are veteran members of hate groups before they join the service. Others are recruited by fellow service members. The irony, of course, is that persons who are members of both the military and a hate group are living a contradiction. They claim to be dedicated to providing manpower for the protection of the American citizenry. But, they hate and would like to eliminate much of that same American citizenry.

TJ Leyden, a long-term enlisted man and former Skinhead, is now an advocate against racism. He maintains a website to communicate his message and speaks with college students about the undercurrent of hatred that pervades American society. A student at the University of North Carolina recently interviewed him.

Last Friday night, TJ Leyden took his audience in McKnight Hall through the many changes in his life. Leyden, a former neo-Nazi skinhead, was not at the University to send out a positive message to the audience. Instead, he came to speak out against the many hate crimes and racism that continue to exist in our society.

. . .He talked about the punk-rock movement in the early 1980s as a trigger for his behavior. Leyden met his future skinhead friends at concerts and found it flattering that they accepted him for who he was.

Being from a small town that was mostly white, Leyden found it easy to accept becoming a racist with the push of his new friends. Eventually, he got into drugs and began believing his friends were the most important people in his life. They would go on minority hunts that led into hate crimes.

Once he joined the military, he found how easy it was to recruit new members for the organization. At the time he joined, the military allowed members of hate groups to join, as long as they remained passive. Despite the minor policy, Leyden was able to recruit hundreds of young, eager teenagers.

Leyden told students about the grooming process hate groups use to recruit. You will notice it resembles the process used by sexual predators. He would observe youths and identify "the lonely white kid." Suddenly, someone would take an interest in the isolated child. His new friends would have a use for him -- as a fellow proponent of hate. According to Leyden, the opposite approach was also useful. Popular white youths would be recruited. After their engagement was confirmed, they would be asked to bring friends into the movement. He says he spent the greater part of his years in the military as a recruiter, but not for the service.

The past-times of Skinheads include learning about national socialism, their ideology, getting tattoos that reflect membership in the movement and seeking out nonwhite Americans to insult or commit crimes against. The teenagers and servicemen recruited are diverted from more normal interests to focus their attention on their activities as racists.

Leyden says fatherhood led him to question his support of racism.

When his son was 3 years old, he realized the effect his racism had on his son. While watching morning cartoons, his son made a comment using the "n-word." As a first response, Leyden admitted he was excited that he had raised a true racist. However, as time passed, he realized something about his son he had not before. He saw how his son lacked the innocence a 3 year old should have.

Like many bigots, Leyden had led a double life. He pretended to be respectable in settings where his racism needed to be hidden, but was a true believer in white supremacy behind the facade. Leyden spent 15 of his 21 years as a very active racist as a member of the U.S. Marines. He gradually moved away from his allegiance to the racist movement. But, not without a price. His former friends have threatened to kill him. And, having trained with them in the military, he knows they know how.

Reasonably related

~ Visit TJ Leyden's website, StrHATETalk.

~ Read Campus Speak's biography.

~ One of the most infamous crimes by members of the U.S. military, who were also members of a hate group, occurred nine years ago at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The murder of a young African American couple in downtown Fayetteville, N.C. Dec. 7 and the arrest of three members of the 82nd Airborne division for committing the heinous crime touched off calls for a probe of Ku Klux Klan infiltration of the U.S. military.

Jackie Burden, 27, and her friend Michael James, 36, an unemployed welder, were shot in the head at point blank range. They had been strolling along the street when they were accosted by the three paratroopers identified as Pvt. James Norman Burmeister II, 20; Pvt. Malcolm Wright, 27; and Specialist Randy Lee Meadows, who drove the getaway car. All were white paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne at nearby Fort Bragg.

According to a police report, the soldiers had been drinking and decided to go "hunting" for Black victims. They left the bar and soon encountered Burden and James. The paratroopers provoked an argument, then one of the soldiers pulled out a handgun and shot Burden and James five times. The men were arrested soon after.

The scandal led to one of the Army's periodic efforts to cleanse itself of hate group members. Read more about it here.

posted by J. | 11:16 PM

Tuesday, November 02, 2004  

Law: Challengers violate Voting Rights Act

I don't know the outcome of the presidential contest as I write this. But, I do know a matter has been raised that should not fade away whatever the result. That matter is permitting partisan challengers to confront voters and claim they should not be able to vote because of age, identity or residency. The practice violates the intent of the Voting Rights Act, which is that barriers not be erected to prevent people previously excluded from the electorate, racial minorities, from voting. The Republicans' practice of having thousands of challengers descend on polling places in African-American communities came under national scrutiny during this election.

The Columbus Star reports.

COLUMBUS, Ohio: The Republican Party posted thousands of people inside Ohio polling places to challenge voters' eligibility Tuesday after a dispute that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court just hours before the balloting began.

Republicans said they wanted challengers in precincts because of concerns about fraud, but Democrats filed lawsuits accusing the GOP of trying to suppress turnout and intimidate black voters.

But a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the orders of two federal judges and ruled 2-1 early Tuesday that the presence of challengers was permitted under state law. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to step in.

In their rulings, the lower courts identified using partisan poll challengers as a method of intimidation. The roots of that approach to preventing minority voting date back to Reconstruction. As conservative white Southerners convinced the federal government to look away, they mounted a campaign of violence to prevent the freedmen from voting, a practice still new to the former slaves. Within a few years, virtually all African-Americans were removed from electoral rolls. That was the status quo until after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 -- not yet forty years ago. The GOP's Southern Strategy is partly a reaction to the VRA. The Republicans wooed white Southerners opposed to desegregation and particularly incensed that blacks would be allowed to vote. That resentment is still revealed today in the use of poll challengers. If the GOP were really concerned about voter fraud, their challenges would not be almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods. Nor are their allegations of massive voter fraud by minority voters legitimate. The most fraudulent elections in America were the result of machine politics, from which blacks and Hispanics were often excluded.

We have a very conservative Supreme Court. One of its jurists, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, (pictured) began his political career as a Republican challenger of black and Hispanic voters in Arizona. Some people who were there say he sometimes had to be physically removed from polling places to keep him from bullying voters. Still, I believe it is time for SCOTUS to consider state laws that allow partisan challengers to confront voters. If the Voting Rights Act is to have any meaning, it must be enforced. It cannot be enforced adequately as long as this practice is allowed.

posted by J. | 10:50 PM

Sunday, October 31, 2004  

Politics: Keyes girds himself against 'evil'

I am not following the Alan Keyes versus Barack Obama battle royale because there is any doubt about the outcome. Unless the Democrat buggers the bursar in Times Square at noon on Monday, he will win the race for the senatorial seat in Illinois hands down. It holds my interest because of the unendearing oddity of Keyes. As the campaign of the interloper from Maryland heads to its inexorable conclusion, the candidate continues to describe his opponent as the embodiment of evil.

The Chicago Tribune has the story.

Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama talked politics Friday with Mayor Richard Daley over corned beef sandwiches and matzo ball soup, while Republican rival Alan Keyes slammed Obama for backing "evil" positions on abortion.

. . .Keyes, meanwhile, spent Friday pulling in small but enthusiastic crowds in southwestern Illinois, telling them that electing Obama and other Democrats would be disastrous for American society. Keyes chastised Obama for positions favoring abortion rights and more legal protections for same-sex couples. Even though the two both say they oppose gay marriage, Keyes said Obama is disingenuous, because he is against a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.

"On every issue of moral concern to the future of this country, he has taken the position that corresponds to the wrong choice instead of the right one, to the wicked choice instead of the good one, to the evil choice, instead of the choice that is compatible with American principles and American conscience," Keyes said. "And those are choices that we must reject if America is to survive. That is what is at stake in this election campaign."

Alan Keyes has no business being in Illinois. Not only is not really a resident, he has focused little attention on issues of importance to the state. Instead, his campaign is a lackluster effort to raise the profile of the anti-abortion movement nationally. Keyes suffered a blow in regard to his second big issue, also national, last month. He strongly opposes homosexuality and has described gays as hedonists. Meanwhile, his daughter, Maya, may be a lesbian. As the Chicago Reader reports, that possibility became known after snoops online traced a blog written by a gay woman with a Right Wing politician for a father to her. Ms. Keyes has been silent during the last month. But, people aware of the situation are bound to see the irony.

Keyes use of the word 'evil' to describe Obama attempts to convert a disagreement about issues of public policy into a conclusion about the morality of the person holding them. Perhaps the ploy will work with far Right voters, who are often Christian fundamentalists. But, I suspect it will further alienate voters who do not share his extremely conservative views.

Reasonably related

Does the Maya Keyes affair matter? A Chicagoan says yes.

posted by J. | 10:00 AM