Crafty Conservative Confederate Flag Move Obscures Larger Issue

Dylann Roof’s massacre of innocent, prayerful African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church forced the confederate flag back into the national dialogue. Roof’s brazen act of domestic terrorism led a number of southern conservatives, including some prominent elected officials, to call for the removal of the flag from all manner of public buildings. These calls have understandably been made and perhaps mark the beginning of a new period of enlightenment among some. But let’s keep our eye on the ball. I fear that all of the attention on the flag provides cover to politicians who want to ignore the larger problem. Some of the same politicians talking about bringing down the flag are doing so to avoid talking about the proliferation of guns.

Roof was able to do what he did not just because he was a racist. He committed this heinous act because he was a racist with easy access to a gun that allowed him to marry his warped fact- and context-free view of Black people (and Jews and immigrants) with a bravado that only a gun can provide. Yes, the confederate flag was his symbol. But it was the gun that created the tragedy.

The flag is a symbol of hate. No amount of historical revisionism can undo the fact that it was created to represent a movement to maintain slavery and the subjugation of African Americans. According to Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America, in a speech before the Virginia Succession Convention, “The great truth, I repeat, upon which our system rests, is the inferiority of the African. The enemies of our institutions ignore this truth.” Succession, and the flag created to symbolize it, was built on a foundation of racism and White supremacy. Allusions to “States’ rights” or “heritage” are simply attempts to apply historical deodorant to cultural stench.

It is a shame and disgrace that there had to be a mass killing to get some people to understand the symbolic power of that flag. But let’s not give so much energy to fighting a flag. The more profound and badly needed fight should be about America’s bloodlust at the barrel of a gun. It’s now pretty easy to be courageous and call for the flag to be removed. Far more courage needs to be mustered to deal with the gun lobby, which cowers otherwise intelligent people into pathetic political positions.

The gun lobby is the most powerful force in America. It’s ability to generate fear and irrational behavior among allegedly intelligent elected officials and others rush to defend it is amazing. Their power is so profound that southern conservatives would rather throw the confederate flag under the bus than talk about the real and pervasive issue of gun proliferation. Let that marinate for a while. The confederate flag, a heralded symbol of pride and southern heritage that has served as a foundational piece of southern culture is being taken down after more than 150 years rather than deal with the real issue of guns in America. Pulling down that flag can’t happen without its juxtaposition with a more powerful force – the gun lobby.

America will never be fully free until with deal with this very real issue.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University in Washington, DC. His next book, More than Just Partisanship: Conservatism and Black Voter Suppression, is forthcoming. He blogs at

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Sunday, July 05, 2015
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Michael Fauntroy Discusses My Brother’s Keeper on NPR News

Here is the link to a report on NPR in which I discuss My Brother's Keeper.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, May 06, 2015
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Michael Fauntroy Discusses American Voter Preference on Minnesota Public Radio

Here is a link to a March 25, 2015 edition of MPR News on Minnesota Public Radio in which I join host Kerri Miller and Huffington Post reporter Amanda Terkel for a discussion about the potential 2016 presidental candidates and what voters are looking for in the next president. It's always good to be on with Kerri and I really enjoyed the discussion.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, March 25, 2015
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Michael Fauntroy Analyzes State of the Union Address on Minnesota Public Radio


Here is a link to the January 21, 2015 edition of The Daily Circuit on Minnesota Public Radio in which I join host Kerri Miller and Huffington Post reporter Amanda Terkel for a discussion of President Obama's State of the Union address and the Republican response.



Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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New Video: Michael Fauntroy Discusses Marion Barry on Fox5 DC

I had the pleasure of sitting with my friend and classmate Allison Seymour and her co-anchor Steve Chenevey to discuss Marion Barry's legacy.



Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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New Video: Michael Fauntroy Analyzes US Senate and Gubernatorial Races

Here is video of my appearance on WUSA-9, the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, in which I discuss the outcome of the Virginia U.S Senate race between incumbent Senator Democrat Mark Warner and Republican nominee Ed Gillespie and the Maryland gubernatorial race between sitting Lt. Governor Democrat Anthony Brown and Republican nominee Larry Hogan.


Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, November 06, 2014
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Michael Fauntroy Discusses 2014 Midterm Elections on Minnesota Public Radio

Here is a link to the November 5, 2014 edition of The Daily Circuit on Minnesota Public Radio in which I join host Kerri Miller and Julia Azari of Marquette University to discuss the results of the 2014 midterm elections.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
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2014 Takeover Takeaways: It’s All About Turnout

It was a great night for Republicans as they nearly swept all the important U.S. Senate races and won some governorships that seemed very unlikely. There has been a lot of handwringing about the role of President Obama, ISIS, and even ebola in the outcome. I think the results were driven by two seemingly conflicting emotions – anger and apathy. Add in the impact of age and other demographics in the makeup of the electorate and you get a clear understanding of what happened.

My Takeway

• Nearly two-thirds of voters in recent polls have expressed anger about the country’s direction. The president’s approval ratings are at their lowpoint in his administration. Roughly 60 percent of Republicans said their votes were anti-Obama votes. Congress has even lower approval ratings at 78 percent. A CBS poll showed that the economy was the most important issue facing the country. Nearly 80 percent of those who cited the economy are worried about its direction. Nearly two-thirds of voters think the country is on the wrong track. That helps to explain some of the results. We should be careful not to overplay the anger narrative, however, as very few House incumbents lost.

• Apathy is notable as well. Many of the younger voters who helped deliver Barack Obama to the presidency have not stood up for him in mid-term elections. The Democrats depend on notoriously fickle brew of younger voters and minorities, two groups that are inconsistent in their turnouts. In 2012, young voters, African Americans, and Latinos represented 19%, 13%, and 10%, respectively, of the national electorate. This year, those same groups represented 13%, 12%, and 8%, respectively, of the national electorate, according to CBS News. The smaller share of the electorate was not because White turned out in overwhelming numbers. It was because younger voters and minorities stayed home. This is a really key issue. These groups are impatient and are not yet ready to vote change from the top all the way down to the grassroots. And if my students are the gauge, there is serious doubt about the legitimacy of our political system. Young people are suspicious and think their votes don't matter.

• Age/Race/Ideology. Mid-term electorates tend to be older, Whiter, and more ideologically conservative, three characteristics that bode well for Republicans. In 2012, older voters, Whites, and conservatives comprised 16%, 72%, and 35%, respectively, of the electorate. This year, those numbers grew to 23%, 75%, and 36% respectively. While that’s great for Republicans in in mid-terms, it leaves them vulnerable in presidential elections. It also makes clear that America is a bifurcated electorate: one for mid-term elections. The other for presidential ones.

It should be noted, however, that there is also a strong structural component to these results. The Democrats had to defend a number of seats in red states. The Republicans will face the same challenge in 2016, in which there are a number of competitive seats currently held by the GOP.

Quick Hits

  • I think it's hard to call this a mandate for Republican governance. One of the issues that Republicans have consistently opposed, a minimum wage increase, passed in a number of traditionally red states: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Newly elected Republicans from these states will have a hard time arguing against a national increase given what has happened in their own states.
  • Republicans now have ownership in American public policy. They have to now produce legislation that can pass through both chambers. That is no small order given the recent factionalism within the GOP. Look for the tea party wing to push hard and cause continued problems for congressional leadership.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
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Donald Sterling is Low Hanging Fruit (And V. Stiviano is a Gold Digging Public Servant)

The only people surprised by the audio recording of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his convoluted racism are those who have no idea who he is or what he is about. He is a well-documented and repugnant racist who for decades used his wealth to and privilege to negatively impact the lives of countless Black and Brown people for his own enrichment. He is a disgrace and has long deserved the scorn and ridicule that has now befallen him. But there should be no celebrating at his loss. Sterling is low hanging fruit in a larger, more significant reality: There likely are leaders in all fields of human endeavor who share his beliefs about minorities; it’s not much of a stretch to believe he has similarly low views of women. And the control the Donald Sterlings of the world have control over wide swaths of jobs, housing, and access to education. Scary.

The firestorm engulfing Sterling should not obscure this reality. From Congress and state legislatures to universities, from Wall Street to Hollywood, and from religious institutions to professional sports leagues, Sterling’s kind of racism still lives an active life. That truth constitutes a much bigger story than Sterling and his Benedict Arnold mistress. Applauding the NBA, which did nothing as his racism perfected over the years, now is to celebrate the grabbing of low hanging fruit.

Racism is a part of the human condition. It has been among us forever and will continue indefinitely. It cannot be eradicated as like a virus. The best way to deal with it is to expose the stupidity and ignorance that drives it and punish the pockets of those who perpetrate it. Enter V. Stiviano, gold digging public servant. For whatever reason, and by “whatever reason” I mean money, she kept company with a decrepit racist. In so doing, she was either blissfully ignorant or excessively tolerant of racism. While releasing the audio is probably revenge-driven, her action did the public the great service by expanding the conversation about racism from the fringes of America to the boardrooms  of the super rich.

Too often a racist is an ignorant person with no particular impact beyond his or her own words; think angry talk show caller. Here, we reconfirm that racist ignorance can be found in high and powerful places; think the guy who owns the radio network. That is an important change because those in the latter group have the means to impact the policies that perpetuate racism. We now can put a face on those people. They’re Sterlings.

So as the dust settles around this case and everyone recedes to the sidelines, let us not forget that there is a larger story worth following. Yes, Donald Sterling is a repugnant racist who is finally getting a taste of some bad medicine. Yes, V. Stiviano is a double-dealing gold digger. More importantly, though, is that the permanence of racism should not only be addressed in times of controversy. It should be exposed and treated for what it is: a dangerous scourge that merits continuous exposure in all aspects of society.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University and specializes in race and politics. He blogs at and can be followed on Twitter @MKFauntroy.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
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Black Youth, Social Movement Activism, and the Post-Civil Rights Generation

Here is my conversation with Professor Sekou Franklin, author of the forthcoming book, After the Rebellion: Black Youth, Social Movement Activism, and the Post-Civil Rights Generation. The interview airs on my podcast, "The Forum with MIchael Fauntroy" which premiers every Friday at Noon Eastern on the Tavis Smiley Network on Blog Talk Radio.

Listen To Politics Internet Radio Stations with Michael Fauntroy on BlogTalkRadio



Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Friday, February 07, 2014
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Member Stations Diminish PBS Black History Month Programming

Black History Month always leaves me conflicted. I believe the entire nation benefits whenever attention is paid to the contributions of groups of Americans. I also believe the month of February is viewed by many as historical drudgery. I think its hard to argue against the notion that most schools do a pathetic job educating students on Black history. Even with my misgivings about how Black history is projected there have been outlets for compelling and informative storytelling. PBS has often been a ray of sunshine in the dreary, cloudy media scape when it comes to Black History Month programming. It has for years provided meaningful programming that far exceeds what is offered on other networks. I am saddened to have to rethink this position. If one compares the network and individual station schedules you may wonder just how committed PBS is to airing Black History Month programming at a time most people will actually be able to view it.

I was looking forward to watching “Spies of Mississippi” a documentary about 1964s “Freedom Summer” voter registration project in Mississippi. (Disclosure: The film’s director is a friend)  As a political scientist who researches and writes about African American political participation, this is the kind of film I need to see. The PBS website tells me that my first opportunity will be Monday, February 10 at 10:00pm. My Washington, DC PBS affiliate, WETA, has a different plan. They are airing “Antiques Roadshow” on Monday at 10:00pm and “Spies” will premier on Saturday, February 15th at 11:00pm.

The scheduling of “Spies” is not an isolated issue. A review of WETA’s schedule confirms that none of PBS’s Black History Month programming will air in prime time. No prime time Black History Month programming from one of the most powerful public television stations in the country that serves a media market with the highest proportion of African American university graduates and one of the nation’s highest proportions of African Americans. (Disclosure: I have proudly appeared on “The NewsHour” which is produced by WETA). In case you’re wondering, shows like “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock” are being kept in place. If a PBS affiliate in such an important market plays around with Black history month programming, then one can fairly conclude this is going on in various markets around the country. This diminishes worthy programming and the subjects it seeks to portray.

Black History Month programming is getting the short shrift because America can’t get enough  “Downton Abbey” and “Antiques Roadshow.” While I understand the economics, public television should not mimic the programming decisions of their commercial counterparts. American culture won’t be diminished if, during the shortest month of the year, the country gets to see more stories about the contributions of African Americans. 

I encourage you to look at the schedule of your own PBS affiliate to confirm where its Black History Month programming will air. Let them know if they are airing programs in accessible time slots.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University in Washington, DC and author of the book Republicans and the Black Vote. He hosts "The Forum with Michael Fauntroy" on the Tavis Smiley Network on Blog Talk Radio. He blogs at and can be followed on Twitter @MKFauntroy and Facebook at Michael K. Fauntroy.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Friday, February 07, 2014
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Joe McCormick on the Politics of Deracialization on The Forum with Michael Fauntroy

Joseph P. McCormick, 2nd, emeritus professor of political science at Howard University, enters the forum to explain political deracialization and give his assessment of the state of Black politics.

Discover Politics Internet Radio with Michael Fauntroy on BlogTalkRadio
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Friday, November 22, 2013
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Artemesia Stanberry on President Obama’s (Nonexistent) Pardon Policy

Professor Artemesia Stanberry enters The Forum to talk about mandatory minimum sentences and President Obama's dismal pardon and clemency policies.  


Discover Politics Internet Radio with Michael Fauntroy on BlogTalkRadio
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Friday, November 15, 2013
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Michael Fauntroy Analyzes McAuliffe’s Virginia Gubernatorial Win

Here is my conversation with Mike Hydeck of WUSA9 in Washington, DC in which I analyzed the Virginia Gubernatorial election.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, November 07, 2013
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Boyce Watkins Joins The Forum with Michael Fauntroy founder Dr. Boyce Watkins joins me for a discussion on financial literacy, Black culture, and Black leadership.

New Politics Internet Radio with Michael Fauntroy on BlogTalkRadio


Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, November 07, 2013
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