Pushing back the radical right

As the Republicans have given up any pretense at wanting to govern for all of the population and are in fact busy dismantling the welfare state and civil rights where they can, resistance has been mounting. In North Carolina, where this rightwing agenda has been pushed particularly hard, 80,000 marched in the largest civil rights demonstration since the sixties:

It was a proud day for this Raleigh native. On Saturday, a crowd of riled-up citizens the North Carolina NAACP estimated to be upwards of 80,000—the largest such gathering in the South since the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march—headed to the state capitol to protest the extremist policies of North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature.

Black and white, young and old, gay and straight, the people gave voice to a full roster of outrages, from racist attacks on voting rights to the state government’s refusal to expand Medicaid to half a million vulnerable Tar Heels to limitations on women’s reproductive freedom. From a four-year-old girl carrying a sign that read “Nope to Pope!” (referring to Art Pope, the state’s multimillionaire budget director and Koch ally) to the indomitable Rosa Nell Eaton, a 92-year-old veteran of the Civil Rights movement, they were united with one message: “Forward together, not one step back.”

“I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood; I had a natural high.”

“I certainly wasn’t afraid. And I wasn’t afraid because I was too angry to be afraid. If I were lucky I would be carted off to jail for a long, long time. And if I were not so lucky, then I would be going back to my campus, in a pine box.”

NPR reports the death of Franklin McCain yesterday, one of four black North Carolina A&T University students who sat down at the segregated lunch counter at the Woolsworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 1, 1960. Franklin McCain, together with Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond walked into Woolsworth and sat down at the lunch counter. When they were denied service, they refused to leave and stayed until the store closed early.

That simple protest was the start of a renewed wave of civil rights protests in America, as shown in this NPR timeline and triggered dozens of similar sit-ins in the days after their protest, with a thousands protestors showing up at the Greensboro store on the 6th, when a bomb threat by desegration opponents closed both the Woolworths and a nearby department store.

Though the city of Greensboro has long since embraced Franklin McCain and the other three protestors, originally they were called the A&T Four and it’s not surprising the university library’s page on them still refers to them as this. (This site features a long radio interview with McCain, but you’ll need Realplayer to play it.) Another interview, dating from 1979 is available at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro site.

For more on the sit-ins, the Greensboro Sit-ins: birth of the Civil Rights era website is invaluable. To hear more from Franklin McCain as well as Joseph MacNeil and Jibreel Khazan, the local North Carolina NPR station, WUNC has put up interviews held when the Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Center and Museum was opened in 2010, housed in the same Woolworths building where they’d started it all.

Franklin McCain was active in the civil rights movement for the rest of his life. He graduated from A&T and worked as a chemist in Charlotte, North Carolina until he retired. He was seventytwo.

Y’all better quiet down!

Sylvia Rivera was a gay trans woman, veteran of the Stonewall Riots that kickstarted the gay liberation movement in the US in 1969. Here she’s addressing a gay and lesbian crowd at the 1973 Christopher Street Rally, only four years later, a crowd that doesn’t want her to speak at first, tensions between trans and cisgendered gay people already high as a more assimilatist gay movement tries to rid itself from its more “embarassing” elements.

Republican senator in not quite evil enough to disown gay son shock!

Dave Lartigue is unimpressed by a Republican senator suddenly realising gay people aren’t that bad after all just because his own son has come out:

Some are praising this guy’s sudden awareness that maybe gay people can be human beings too as a triumph of family love or, at the very, most minimal, least, a “baby step”. But is it? Will Senator Portman be able to examine this feeling and logically extend it? “What if my son were poor? What if he were in need of basic healthcare? What if he were a woman?” We can all hope, but it seems unlikely. No less a monster than Dick Cheney is all for gay marriage, and for the same Gay Kid reason. Doesn’t change anything else about him.

Being able to accept your son is gay is about the minimum required to be a decent human being; you shouldn’t get a cookie for that. Nor should you be proud of the fact that the only reason you suddenly realise that gay people deserve human rights is because somebody you know is gay, as most people can reach that conclusion without necessarily knowing an out gay person.