Mixed Media

It's Time to Separate the South From the Confederacy

| Sat Aug. 22, 2015 9:00 AM EDT
The statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, Tennessee

On Wednesday, the Memphis City Council cast its final vote to remove a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a downtown park. Despite the considerable pushback against the decision, I can't help but feel a little hope that progress is being made in my home state.

Not to be mistaken for the garish Forrest statue in Nashville, this one is a tarnished bronze likeness of the Confederate general, slave trader, and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The statue tops a concrete burial vault that houses the remains of Forrest and his wife. The memorial has stood in Health Sciences Park (formerly Forrest Park) since 1905, when, 28 years after Forrest's death, a group of wealthy, white Memphians dug up the general and his wife and entombed them in a vault beneath this statue in downtown Memphis. Astride his horse, Forrest faces north, positioned so he doesn't seem to be retreating.

In the aftermath of the Charleston massacre and a renewed push to take down Confederate flags and other symbols of the Confederacy, the Memphis City Council voted to remove the statue and return the remains to Elmwood Cemetery, where Forrest was originally buried in accordance with his will. Surprisingly, much of the indignant outcry has surrounded the idea of moving the remains rather than removing the statue. In some of my recent personal conversations, people have expressed their outrage at such an "extreme" move.

A Confederate flag is draped over the base of the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest at a celebration of his 194th birthday in July. Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal via AP

Indeed, they do. At the ceremony unveiling the statue in May, 1905, nothing was said of Forrest's order to massacre more than 300 African-American Union soldiers who had already surrendered at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, in 1864. His role as a leader in the KKK was never mentioned. Instead, the Forrest Monument Association spoke of his chivalry, and of heritage and honor. As Nate DiMeo notes in a recent episode of his podcast, The Memory Palace, the statue was unveiled "at a specific moment in time": The city's African-American population was increasing, and racial tensions were building. The memorial was a tip of the hat to an idealized past, and those who supported it hoped the symbol would inspire a similar future. "Memorials are not memories," DiMeo says. "They have motives."

The emphasis on tradition, heritage, and honor sounds familiar to me. I grew up in a tiny farming community about an hour and a half east of Memphis, in a place where those values tended to come before equality and the respect for anyone who isn't white. My history classes were full of winding excuses about how the Civil War wasn't really about slavery. It was a struggle over state's rights, and economic power. Obviously. Dixie was a place of hospitality and heart—if you were white. Nathan Bedford Forrest's name was everywhere. It was attached to a nearby state park, a handful of statues, and even the ROTC building on my college campus. DiMeo sees the current controversy as a collision between the present and history, but I've been staring at that collision since I was too young to know what it was.

DiMeo says that despite Forrest's alleged regret at the end of his life for his actions, he's no American role model. He imagines adding a plaque to the Forrest statue and others like it. "Maybe [the plaque] should just say, maybe they should all say, that the men who fought and died for the CSA, whatever their personal reasons, whatever was in their hearts, did so on behalf of a government, formed for the express purpose that men and women and children could be bought and sold and destroyed at will," DiMeo says. I tend to agree.

There are people I've known my whole life who are fiercely protective of the Confederacy and its symbols. They mean well when they speak of heritage and honor, but their pride comes at the expense of those who have suffered far worse than we ever have. Their refusal to recognize that perpetuates a racism that is so insidious that it is confused with cultural values.

I love where I came from. I love the mile-wide stubborn streak I inherited from my deeply Southern grandmother, a woman who is strong and outspoken, because as the daughter of poor sharecroppers, she had to be. I love the syrupy sound of our accents, and I love dark, heady summer nights filled with fireflies. I love being part of a community that is armed with casseroles whenever tragedy catches someone unaware. I do not love the Confederacy, and I do not stand for its murderous agenda or its skewed racial hierarchy. We cannot change the past, but as Memphis removes the statue and tries to move forward, so should the South. It's time to separate the South from the Confederacy.

Listen to The Memory Palace episode on the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue, "Notes on an Imaginary Plaque…"

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Undocumented Immigrant Bravely Calls Out His Racist Employer, Donald Trump

| Wed Aug. 19, 2015 3:52 PM EDT

In a new series for New Left Media, a 24-year-old undocumented immigrant who works as a busser at Donald Trump's Soho hotel recently opened up about what it's like to work for a man whose immigration platform rests on characterizing Mexican immigrants like himself as criminals and rapists.

"I know I could lose my job for just talking about Trump, but it doesn't make me proud everyday to go to work under his name," Ricardo Aca said in a video profile.

Aca reveals that he crossed the border at the age of 14 with his family and has been living in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn for almost ten years. He went to high school in New York City and earned an associate's degree in commercial photography. Having been here for most of his adolescent to adult life, Aca has grown accustom to the negative stereotypes many have against immigrants.

"I feel like Republicans think Mexicans are lazy, but I personally work three jobs, my stepfather works two jobs," Aca said. "Everything that my family has we have earned it by working."

While other Republican presidential hopefuls have attempted to distance themselves from Trump's anti-Mexican rhetoric, Aca said their own immigration platforms aren't much different from those of the real-estate mogul.

"I may have an accent, but I'm not stupid," he said.

Aca's bold statements provide a personal spotlight on the growing anxiety some immigrants are experiencing as they witness Trump maintaining his position as the Republican front runner.

"We don't know if we should laugh or if we should cry,” Mexican columnist Guadalupe Loaeza told the Washington Post earlier this week. "We think he's really a nightmare."

But Aca offers a more hopeful outlook, saying he doesn't believe most Americans share the same views as Trump. After the video's publication, the payroll department at Trump's hotel restaurant ordered Aca to bring the renewal of his working permits. When he walked entered through the kitchen, he told the Times his fellow co-workers, sushi chefs, and line cooks applauded him.

In Fort Benning, US Army Shuts Down Misogynist Trolls

| Wed Aug. 19, 2015 11:31 AM EDT

This coming Friday, two female lieutenants will become the first women to graduate from the US Army's grueling Ranger program—an honor that requires all candidates to complete an intense, 62-day training course at Fort Benning in Georgia.

Training includes running at least five miles several times a week, swimming for miles in a combat uniform, finishing a 15-mile march carrying a 65-pound pack, and doing an astonishing number of push-ups in two minutes. Women had been historically excluded from Ranger school because it was thought they lacked the strength and stamina to complete the program.

Like clockwork, Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver's history-making achievements have prompted skeptics to question whether their training might have been tweaked to defer to their feminine frailties. Did Griest and Hayer receive favorable treatment? Is the whole thing just some politically correct publicity stunt?

Thankfully, the individual behind the US Army Fort Benning's Facebook account is proving to be quite the dauntless social media staffer, expertly shutting down the misogynist trolls who have been commenting on the page.

(h/t @nycsouthpaw)

Palehound's Debut Album Is Smart And Engrossing

| Tue Aug. 18, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Dry Food
Exploding in Sound

It's hard to pin Ellen Kempner down. Recording as Palehound, the Boston native just produced a smart, engrossing debut album (following a strong EP), which deftly juggles skittish rockers and woozy ballads, covering a dizzying amount of ground in less than a half-hour. Her lyrics can be intriguingly oblique, than come into sharp, funny focus for tart stories of desperate need and fumbled connections. "I'm pushing back your tongue/With my clenched-teeth home security system," she croons languidly on "Easy," fending off a "swollen, sickly guest"; in the toe-tapping "Cushioned Caging," which would be a big hit in a better world, she concedes, "I knew you were a close call/I loved you/It's all my fault." Throughout Dry Food, Kempner's quietly emphatic voice is subtly compelling, inspiring great expectations for whatever she does next.

John Oliver Calls Out Televangelists Who Exploit Religion to Make Millions

| Mon Aug. 17, 2015 9:43 AM EDT

On Sunday, Last Week Tonight took on the shady world of televangelism, an industry that—unlike actual congregations doing real work to help others—is built on promises to "heal through faith" in exchange for hefty, tax-free donations. As John Oliver described, the business thrives on the premise that "wealth is a sign of God's favor and donations will result in wealth coming back to you."

The most vulnerable people are often targeted, while celebrity televangelists rake in millions.

To help expose the industry's fraudulent doings, the show conducted a seven-month correspondence with leading celebrity televangelist Robert Tilton that revealed a disturbing set of tactics he employed to convince people to send money his way. Oliver even established his own satirical church to show just how easy it can be to scam worshipers. Welcome to Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.

Janelle Monáe Has Your New Black Lives Matter Protest Chant

| Thu Aug. 13, 2015 3:39 PM EDT

Janelle Monáe and her badass record label, Wondaland, led a Black Lives Matter march in Philadelphia yesterday, and today she released a powerful new mix of her bonus track, "Hell You Talmbout," off her latest effort, The Electric Lady. On the new version, Monáe is accompanied by labelmates Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and George 2.0. The track features chants of "Say his/her name" along with the names of recent victims of police brutality over a heart-pounding drumbeat.

And if you're looking for more protest tunes, check out our playlist here.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

3 Times Sesame Street Has Hilariously Parodied an HBO Series

| Thu Aug. 13, 2015 12:56 PM EDT

HBO just announced that it has struck a deal to air Sesame Street for the next five years on the network. The iconic show, which has aired on PBS for 45 years, will start running on HBO later this fall. Don't worry: The show will continue airing on PBS following a nine-month window during which HBO has exclusive rights to run it. Big Bird and co. have have had an ongoing relationship of sorts with the premium cable network, producing amusing spoofs of some of HBO's most popular shows under the moniker "GrouchBO." Expect more hilarious send-ups like these when Sesame Street officially joins the HBO lineup.

True Mud

Birdwalk Empire

Game of Chairs

Lowe's Manager Bows to Request After Racist Customer Refuses Black Delivery Driver

| Wed Aug. 12, 2015 12:11 PM EDT

WSET.com - ABC13

Last month, a black driver working for a local Lowe's in Danville, Virginia, was on his way to deliver a package when he received an abrupt order from his manager to return a shipment back to the store.

"I asked him why I couldn't do it and he said because you're black and they don't want you at the house," Marcus Bradley told WSET-TV.

With his longtime coworker Alex Brooks riding in the truck's passenger seat, the two returned to work. When they arrived, Brooks told the station, a white driver replaced Bradley. Brooks says he refused to complete the delivery with him.

"It was one of those things like, 'These guys will get over it. They're tough guys, they're delivery guys.' And that's kind of where I just had to put my foot down and say I couldn't do it with them," Brooks says.

When WSET tracked down the Lowe's customer, she saw nothing wrong with her demands. "I got a right to have whatever I want and that's it," she said.

Lowe's corporate has since terminated the manager who bowed to the racist request. As for Bradley, he returned to work the next day.

"I mean I gotta work," he said. "I'm going to keep going to work like I've always done. But I would think Lowe's would take it into consideration to think about what they're doing next time."

"We've reached out to the drivers and one of our senior executives went to the store to apologize to them in person," a spokesperson told the Washington Post. "We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and we should never have accepted the terms of the sale with the individuals who were delivered to.”

It's unclear if Bradley's manager personally sympathized with the customer's outrageous demands. But Lowe's corporate may want to beef up its basic training with the message to managers that the customer is not always right.

John Oliver Creates the Perfect Video to Help With America's Lack of Sex Education Standards

| Mon Aug. 10, 2015 9:37 AM EDT

In the United States, sex education is legally mandated in only 22 states, with just 13 requiring that information to be medically accurate.

"We essentially have a weird patchwork system that varies wildly and not just from state to state, but from district to district, and even from school to school," John Oliver explained on the latest Last Week Tonight.

The lack of accurate information, combined with educators' continued efforts to avoid the issue altogether, has major consequences for young people across the country. As Mother Jones has previously reported, the effects can be alarming: In Mississippi, where sex education deems homosexuality a crime and condom demonstrations are banned, the state ranks second in teenage pregnancy, with a third of all babies born to teenage mothers.

"There is no way we'd allow any other academic program to consistently fail to prepare students for life after school," Oliver said. "And human sexuality, unlike calculus, is something you actually need to know about for the rest of your life."

To help, Oliver enlisted Laverne Cox, Nick Offerman, and other celebrity friends to create the perfect sex education video. Watch above.

The Mynabirds New Album Is Thoroughly Winning

| Mon Aug. 10, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

The Mynabirds
Lovers Know
Saddle Creek

With her smoky voice and brooding aura, Laura Burhenn could easily have been an elegant torch singer in an earlier era. On the thoroughly winning Lovers Know, her third album as The Mynabirds, the charismatic LA-based singer modifies with the folksy chamber pop of previous albums, opening up the sound to accommodate synths and electronic beats, hinting R&B influences. While these flashier elements might suggest a big shift in direction, Burhennn's soulful gravity is unchanged. From "All My Heart," where she growls, "I don't want half of anything," to "Velveteen," which finds Burhenn sighing, "I'm fragile, as fragile as can be" (not entirely persuasively), she captures the emotional highs and lows of restless yearning with rare skill.