American Midnight, by Adam Hochschild

I don’t know why I add my 2 cents to every book and movie I read or see, because there’s so many people out there doing the same and it’s sort of pointless.

But one things this book and author did which has been driving me crazy for about 100 years, is he made a very forceful distinction that what we used to call “race riots,” was just a way of making ourselves believe that it was black people who were rioting. He states clearly that almost all the riots that we refer to as race riots were “white race” riots.

And the very sad thing about this period: of 1917 to about 1922 is that that it has continued to infect this country, even to this day, as Trump, son of a Klansman and raised to hate blacks and women, tries to scuttle congressional negotiations on the border, in order to have an issue to run on.

In the very last pages of the book, he mentions Fred Trump’s arrest during his participation in a Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens, but anyone with even some slight memory of hearing about Hollywood and “naming names,” and Eugene McCarthy and even the movie Oppenheimer where they’re grilling everyone about being a member of a union or the communist party, knows that the crimes that started in World War I under the administration of Woodrow Wilson continued year after year, including the disenfranchisement of blacks in the south.

But I just read one of the most astute opinion essays the NY Times has ever published — and I’ll look for the link later — but the thrust of the article is how our institutions and in particular the Supreme Court — have blank-washed history to make the story of for example, native Americans and the white immigrants that came to this country, non-existent. She was using Killers of the Flower Moon as an example: the main character of that movie is basically killing, beating and even poisoning his wife, an Osage Indian with whom he has two children, in order to steal her money. The Robert DeNiro character is a horror: talking about the superior qualities of the Osage and his love of the Osage, all the while plotting to murder them so he can marry into their money and take it.

And then recently, I saw a brief clip of Bill Maher talking to Quentin Tarrentino about the movie 1917. I shut off the interview because I loathe Bill Maher and am just barely able to tolerate Quentin, but in the brief moment I heard Bill Maher say that they couldn’t make 1917 today because there are rules about minority representation and inclusion and, he said, “unfortunately there were no blacks in world war 1.” Well this is utterly false and a perfect symbol of the word I invented up there: “blank-washing.” More than 300,000 black men participated in World War I, mostly as ditch diggers and other menial tasks, and they were heavily segregated. (This is still the Woodrow Wilson era, who was probably one of the most racist presidents we have, up until the recent you know who.) In addition there were fighting troops, namely the Harlem Hellfighters, who suffered worse casualties than many of the white companies. And this book talks at length about their hope that they would be treated as Americans but were instead hounded out of prosperous cities like Tulsa by white rioters, and the white terrorism of lynching blacks continued for another 50 or 60 years, and sometimes still takes place. But as far as Bill Maher is concerned, no blacks served in World War I and because of the burden of having to include p.o.c. in movies, 1917 couldn’t have been made.

Anyway, this book is an eye opener and should become a standard text for understanding the last 120 years of American behavior and why, as Joseph Campbell put it, Woodrow Wilson joined America with England’s attempt to remake the world as a white one.

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