Pirate Laureate of the High Desert Outback of the American Dream
The Barbwire Molly Ivins Memorial Columniator Hall of Flames


Editor's Note

THIS PHILISTINE INVADES ACADEMIA. On Feb. 12, I was scheduled to share the podium at a "Racism in America" discussion at the Incline Village Library. My co-panelists were announced as Sierra Nevada College Prof. Christina M. Frederick, PhD, and Prof. Precious D. Hall, PhD, of Truckee Meadows Community College.

Due to impending weather conditions threatening treacherous roads , I did not participate. I submitted my Feb. 13 Tribune column as the conclusion of my prepared remarks, hereinbelow, which were uploaded to library staff for distribution at the event. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.Andrew

An Alternative National Anthem

   Everybody knows the dice are loaded.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
   Everybody knows the war is over.
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
   Everybody knows the fight was fixed.
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
   That's how it goes.
Everybody knows.

   Everybody knows that the boat is leaking.
Everybody knows that the captain lied.
   Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died.
   Everybody talking to their pockets.
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
   And a long red rose.
Everybody knows.

   Everybody knows that you love me, baby.
Everybody knows you really do.
   Everybody knows that you've been faithful,
Give or take a time or two.
   Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
   Without your clothes.
Everybody knows.

   Everybody knows that it's now or never.
Everybody knows that it's me or you.
   And everybody knows that you live forever
When you've done a line or two.
   Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
   For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows.

   Everybody knows that the plague is coming.
Everybody knows that it's moving fast.
   Everybody knows that the naked man and woman —
Just a shining artifact of the past.
   Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
   That will disclose
What everybody knows.

   And everybody knows that you're in trouble.
Everybody knows what you've been through
   From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach at Malibu.
   Everybody knows it's coming apart.
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
   Before it blows.
And everybody knows.

Everybody knows. Everybody knows.
   That's how it goes. Everybody knows.

By Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson.
© 1988 CBS Records, Inc.

I hope you understand I just had to go back to the island.
Leon Russell, 1942-2016

Before the Washoe County Library's "Tahoe Talks: Racism in America" symposium
Incline Village, Nev., Library / February 12, 2019

Dear Participants:

I regret that I cannot attend this evening. Please feel free to call or write with any questions. This material, including links and references, may be accessed online starting tomorrow at Barbwire.US/ Thanks for your interest and activism.

By Andrew Barbano, First Vice-President
NAACP Reno-Sparks Branch No. 1112

Several decades ago, IBM launched a forgettable advertising campaign offering "simple solutions to complex problems."

So here's my simple solution to the complex problem of racism in America.

The efficient causation, to use an arcane term favored by Biblical scholars, is easier than God to describe: Slavery.

Like many Americans, I grew up listening to teachers and professors, purportedly much smarter than me, asserting that the real reason for the Civil War lay in the friction between agrarianism vs. industrialization.

In the opening scene of the over-rated "Gone With the Wind," no less than future Col. Rhett Butler hisself informs the insulted war-loving Tarleton twins (one played by Superman George Reeves) that "there's not a single cannon factory in the south."

As the Soviet Union learned, it's hard to sculpt hundreds of inspiring statues to agrarianism. So Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest were recruited as stand-ins. They still foul skylines across the country.

No less than Emmy-winning documentarian Ken Burns ("The Civil War," PBS, 1990), waffled when asked the great question. He said that if slavery was not the principal cause, it was still there like a snake coiled up underneath the table.

I don't know if any statues were ever erected memorializing Confederate snakes.

Slavery is a cartoonishly foolish but grimly profitable pursuit. Current estimates assert that no less than ONE MILLION people in the United States are held in "involuntary servitude," the current euphemism for "the peculiar institution" practiced by the likes of Scarlett O'Hara.

The best depiction of the cause of America's chronic cancer actually came in a cartoon by the creators of "South Park" included in Michael Moore's Oscar-winning documentary "Bowling for Columbine." In less than five minutes, it showed how fear of post-Civil War militant freed slaves spawned the National Rifle Association and Nathan Bedford Forrest's Ku Klux Klan.

No less than Jesus Christ and God Almighty were recruited to justify slavery. Didn't it say in The Bible that God gave man dominion over all the little animals?

People with dark skin were genetically and intellectually inferior, basically cattle who could sorta talk. They thus needed management and tending along with a good whupping if they didn't get the message — kinda like hitting a jackass upside the head to get his attention.

Glory hallelujah!

Ken Burns' documentary was correct in stating that the Civil War gave slaves freedom but little else. Welcome to a century of Jim Crow where law enforcement was used to conscript former slaves into renewed slave labor over petty offenses. Jim Crow was thus the forerunner of todays' for-profit, privatized prisons which force prisoners to make stuff. They also lobby legislatures to create new crimes in order to increase their contracts. What a country.

As journalist Dennis Myers points out in his splendid black history lesson in the current Reno News & Review "in 1861, Congress enacted the Crittendon Resolution declaring the purpose of the Civil War to be preservation of the union and not the abolition of slavery." ("Courage and Repression," cover story, Reno News & Review, 2-7-2019)

No less than Abraham Lincoln said pretty much the same thing. It took a working man's poet from Detroit to put me on the right path.

In my freshman year at Fresno State, my greatest teacher, Phillip E. Levine, set me straight about my youthful racism.

He noted that oppressed classes are often awarded mythologically magnificent sexual prowess as a coping mechanism for their lowly lot in life.

In the United States, that's black people. In England, that appellation gets applied to Welsh coal miners, Levine noted.

The late, great Levine went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award and appointment as poet laureate of the United States. I ended up in Nevada.

So, combine fear of post-emancipation black revolt with black sexual voraciousness, and you get 14 year-old Emmitt Till murdered for allegedly talking to a white woman while visiting Money, Mississippi in 1955. (The accuser recently said she made up the story.)

Dr. Jose C. Canales, another of my Fresno State profs (and a believer in the agrarianism vs. industrialization rationale), nonetheless left me with another useful yardstick for the status of U.S. race relations.

He said that just as the ethnicity of bullfighters provided an index of the lower classes in Spain, the under-rungs on the societal ladder in the US could be accurately reflected by the ethnicity of the heavyweight boxing champion. As each class advanced, another replaced it. Indeed, the Irish were supplanted by Jews and Italians who were succeeded by African Americans. While the heavyweight title has long since gone overseas, look at the lower-weight classes and you will find them dominated by Latinos.

Nevada economic development shills like to tout that we no longer deserve the appellation "Mississippi West." I disagree and the facts are on my side.

Witness the current endemic racism in the Lyon County School District and the Yerington Police Dept. Witness how the Reno Police Dept. entrance exam is biased against African Americans. Witness the increasing volume of civil rights complaints coming over the transom of the Reno-Sparks NAACP.

At our most recent law enforcement forum, current NAACP President Lonnie Feemster asked every Washoe County law enforcement leader "when's the last time you did a surprise t-shirt check?"

Police officials who have done so in other communities have found white supremacist and neo-Nazi undershirts below on-duty officers' uniforms.

When Mr. Feemster asked the question, he was met with embarrassed silence.

OK, so everybody knows what the problem is. What's the solution? Let's take a trip to radical city from tomorrow's newspaper...

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Copyright © 1982-2019 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 50-year Nevadan, editor of and; and former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. He is the executive producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration and serves as first vice-president and political action chair of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail

Barbwire by Barbano moved to Nevada's Daily Sparks Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in them parts ever since.
Whom to blame: How a hall-of-famer's hunch birthed the Barbwire in August of 1987
Tempus fugit.

Betty J. Barbano
2-7-1941 / 12-27-2005

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