Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The "wise Latina" Comment

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

- Judge Sonia Sotomayor, 2001
Emphasis Added
That was long, but I put the full text because the context is important. Reading all of this together provides a context that has been missing in the debate over President Barack Obama's supreme court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The harshest critics have branded the judge as a racist, while others have suggested that the comments were a mistake. However, it should be obvious to any honest and informed observer that such a statement is neither racist nor mistaken. It seems clear that these words represents a basic truth: one's personal experiences matter in the decisions they make.

Some, including the President, have argued that the "wise Latina" sentences represented a poor choice of words. This would be a plausible explanation if the statement stood in isolation. However, in context it is clear that the original meaning of Judge Sotomayor's words has been twisted beyond recognition. Many on the right have repeatedly stated that she said she is a better judge than a white man because she is a Latina. Some have even extended this to be a statement of superiority, that the judge thinks she is better than white people.

It always amazes me that white people manage to get away with saying that minorities said things we never said.

Clearly, Judge Sotomayor was arguing a point with which there should be no argument: one's personal experience matters. If that were not true, than it would be OK to have an all white male Supreme Court for now until the end of the age. However, we know that such a bench would not be a good idea. How do we know that? From experience. We used to have an all white male Supreme Court. During this time, the Court denied citizenship based on race, upheld racial segregation, and ignored discrimination against women. I doubt that an African American who had the experience of using sub-standard, segregated facilities would agree that separate could be equal.

Think about it. Minorities have experiences that whites don't have. These experiences can prove useful in deciding difficult cases. If it were as simple as knowing and applying the law, then there would be no need for the multi-level appeals process that we have today. However, as we all learned in elementary school (or at least were were supposed to learn), it's the job of the courts, especially the Supreme Court, to interpret the law. Interpretation is always difficult, because different people always have different interpretations of the same thing. This is no different when it comes to the law. Again, all judges would agree on everything if this was not true. We know that judges often disagree sharply on the interpretation of certain laws. This disagreement is due, in part, to a difference in experience. Each judge forms there interpretation by drawing from a wealth of knowledge and understanding build up over many decades of experience. These experiences help them to understand a situation and, ultimately, pass judgement.

Considering all this, it's reasonable to assume that a diversity of experience would be a benefit to the court. I don't know how well Judge Sotomayor's parents spoke English when the emigrated from Puerto Rico, but I would assume that here experience growing up in a home with immigrant parents would give her a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding those who speak English as a second language, and better equip her to rule in cases dealing with such an issue. If there were a case involving discrimination against African American students in a public high school, I would hope that, being an African American who was once a student in a public high school, I would have a more intimate understanding of the forces at play, and thus be able to render a better ruling than someone who understands the situation only from words on a paper or brief verbal arguments.

But let's extend this even further. We live in a society in which whites constitute the dominant culture group. This creates white privilege, and one of the many unfortunate side effects of white privilege is that it is largely invisible to whites. This produces mass hypocrisy, such as when white commentators bemoan the fact that a Latina judicial nominee will be influenced by her experience as a minority, forgetting that their experience as a member of the racial majority impacts their own views. Another side effect is that, except for when they decide to complain about "reverse racism," whites are not forced to confront issues of race. Of course many do because they want to make our nation a better place and understand that the only way to do so is to confront and seek to correct its flaws. However, whites usually have the choice to ignore race but such blissful ignorance is not an option for minorities. This means that minorities usually have spent more time exercising the intellectual muscles that deal with racial issues. Their views are often more developed, complex, and comprehensive as this is a necessity for survival and success. As far as I can see, this allows for minorities judges to decide cases with greater clarity and thoughtfulness than an average white judge. Does this mean that minority judges are automatically better? No. But it does mean that in this particular area their life's experiences have forced them to develop skills that many whites have not, and when they do it is almost always by choice, not by necessity.

Furthermore, let's remember that one of the purposes of the court is to protect the rights of citizens. Who do you think needs more protection from the court: the oppressed minority or the dominant majority? Clearly the minority. Given this, there is a real benefit to having a minority perspective on the court - something which is currently non-existent (unless you count Justice Thomas, which I don't). Thankfully, there is one woman on the bench, but I'm pretty sure that women make up more than 1/9 of America.

So, would a "wise Latina women" be able to "draw on the richness of her experiences" to reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life"? I would say most certainly. But then, I guess according to conservatives I could never reach a fair conclusion on such an issue because I myself am a minority.

And white people are never biased.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Quick Note

Black people don't like Clarence Thomas. So when Republicans complain that Democrats got to oppose Thomas without alienating black voters, it just makes them sound out of touch and stupid.

Bonnie Sweeten Proves I'm Still a Default Criminal

This is the last thing that I wanted to write this morning.

Over the last few days, the nation has been gripped by the story of a mother and daughter abducted. The family is from Bucks County, just outside of Philadelphia, the same region I have lived in my entire life.

Today, I awoke to find out that it was all a hoax. I also found out for the first time (although there were probably others paying closer attention who already knew) that an Amber Alert had been issued, and that the mother, Bonnie Sweeten, had lead police to believe that she had been abducted by two African American men.

This was incredibly disturbing for me. Sweeten became just another in a list of white women in high-profile cases who faked crimes and described her assailant as black. In 1994 Susan Smith murdered her children, but told police that they were abducted by a black man. At the hight of the last presidential election, Ashley Todd faked being attacked by a black, male Obama supporter. One would imagine that there are other, less known instances of similar things happening.

Why do I find this so disturbing? Well, I really worries me that the default description of a violent attacker is "black man." How often do people trying to fake an attack blame a white woman, unless they're trying to frame a specific individual? Clearly, these women believed the best way to make their false reports more believable was to blame black men. Black men are seen as they typical violent criminal in the United States.

Even more disturbing is that we believe them. Having the attacker described as a black man makes society more likely to believe them. We build archetypes of what a criminal is supposed to be like. When someone fakes an attack, describing the attacker as a black man is effective because it does not disturb our preconceived notion of what a violent attacker is like.

Statistically, this is not rational. In a past "Stat of the Day" feature, I pointed out that whites are five times more likely to be attacked by a white person than by a black person. Yet, while whites are more likely to be attacked by other whites, they are more likely to believe that someone was attacked by a black male. Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez points out the other side of this when discussing the Bostion-area Criagslist serial killer: we act shocked when white people committ crimes.

As I'm writing this, in the background Sara Jane Moore is being interviewed on the Today show. Matt Laurer points out how "unlikely" a criminal she is. How is that supposed to make me feel? What am I supposed to think when I hear that and realize that I do fit into the common conception of a violent criminal? How am I supposed to feel about the fact that, in this country, I'm still a violent criminal?

We have to realize that the way the media protrays black men - whether it's the latest in a long list of peretrators of violent crimes on the local evening news, or as out of controll thugs on white-owned BET - has a real impact on people's lives. It's the media that allows the majority of Americans to believe the myth that blacks are overwhelmingly more criminal than whites. For example, many justify racial profiling, saying that police are just targeting the groups that are more likely to comitt crimes. Yet, we know that whites are more likely to be found with contraband when stopped and searched by police. The media, especially those who claim to be real journalist, are being irresponsible by creating a false image of race and crime in the United States.

What's most disturbing for me is that this happened in Philadelphia. The idea that there are people living in my community who see someone like me as the typical criminal, and the fact that she believed that others in the area were disturbed enought that such a strategy would work - it all deeply troubles me.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of hearing about how far we've come, or how Barack Obama is an achievement of Dr. King's dream, or how black people are not treated equally. I live in a country where the default definition of rapist or carjacker or mugger or kidnapper includes me because I'm a young black man. Is this supposed to make me proud. Is this supposed to make me feel like an equal member of this society? It doesn't. And I'm not ashamed to say that I'm not proud to live in a nation where I'm the default criminal.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Do the White Kids Have to do This, Too?

Consider these Backgrounds

Barack Obama:

  • Columbia University
  • Harvard Law School, first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review
  • Notably successful community organizer
  • Constitutional law professor, University of Chicago
  • Effective state legislator for seven years, popular on both sides of the aisle
  • History-making U.S. Senator
Sonia Sotomayor:
  • Princeton University
  • Yale Law School, editor of the Yale Law Journal
  • Professor and Lecturer at Yale and Columbia
  • Federal judge for the past 17 years, nominated for positions by both Democratic and Republican presidents
Colin Powell:
  • Four Star General
  • National Security Advisor
  • Only African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • First African American Secretary of State
Bill Richardson:
  • Congressman
  • Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Governor and Chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association
  • Secretary of Education
  • Harvard Professor
  • International Diplomat

I began with this list just by looking at President Obama and Judge Sotomayor, both of whom have such similar biographies. As I was putting together their list, I also though of General Colin Powell, who provides a representative from the right. He reminded me of Governor Richardson, who also has exceptional foreign policy bona fides.

What all four of these individuals represent are successful and socially accepted minorities with exceptional resumes. Success at Ivy League universities. A diversity of experience. The ability to excel at complex task. Great respect among colleges. Looking at them, I can't help but wonder, why don't we require the same from potential white leaders?

Consider George Bush, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. By now we all know that Bush was able to go to Yale and Harvard in large part because of his father. He did not perform particularly well at these schools, and went on to be a rather unsuccessful business man. John McCain also performed poorly at the Naval Academy, although he did earn our nation's respect by showing genuine heroism as a prisoner of war. He went on to become a long-time U.S. Senator. Sarach Palin didn't do poorly at just one college - she went to five in six years to get her bachelor's degree. Of the three, McCain is the only one who can make a real claim to being a better than average elected official.

Would we accept such a resume from a non-white public figure?

What if Barack Obama was a sub-par high school student, but was admitted to Columbia and then to Harvard only because they needed to fill a quota of African Americans and didn't care who they got? What if when he got to those schools he performed poorly? What if as a community organizer he had run the organization he lead into bankruptcy and chaos? What if as a state legislator and U.S. Senator he had done very little of note? Would he still be President of the United States?

Or, what if he had attended Michigan State and Temple Law school - two quality schools with much less prestige - and still performed very well there? Would we have as much respect for him?

What if Sonia Sotomayor had struggled at multiple schools over six years to get her bachelor's degree, barely made it out of law school, barely passed the bar, and, a year and a half ago stumbled into a federal judgeship? And what if, during that brief time as a judge, she came under fire for ethics violations? Would she still be a legitimate possibility to fill a Supreme Court vacancy?

Or, again, what if she did very well at a less notable school? How would we look at her?

Now, go back to my original question - why don't we hold white people to the same standards? Why is it that non-whites must be exceptional - better than all the rest - in order to qualify? Why, when it's OK for whites to be good, do blacks have to be great? Why would a John Edwards cross the threshold of acceptability as a presidential candidate before Barack Obama? Why Joe Biden over Bill Richardson? How are Republicans questioning the qualifications of literally the most experienced SCOTUS nominee in 100 years?

And, what does this mean for me, and the thousands of non-whites like me who don't go to Ivy League schools, and who will likely work "regular-people" jobs when we graduate? For all the hoopla and national "good jobs" that surrounded President Obama's election, I still wonder "can I be president of the United States? Can I as a black man with a less than 4.0 GPA from a semi-public, North Philly university really be president?"

Why do we think it's a good thing to tell little black boys that they can be president if they work hard like Barack Obama? We don't tell them they could be president if they slack off like George Bush. The "Be Like Barack" movement is nothing more than an acceptance of inequality: "You still have to work twice as hard to get as far as white people, but you can still do it, so it's all good."

It's not all good.

Scratch that.

It ain't all good.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on Likely SCOTUS-Justice-To-Be Sonia Sotomayor

President Obama has selected federal judge Sonia Sotomayor as the next new Supreme Court justice. If confirmed, she will be the first Latina and the third woman to serve on the court. Here are some relevant things that popped in my mind while watching coverage:

  • NBC analyst noted that the pick should excitete liberals because she is Latina. What? Let me just say that I'm a liberal and picking minorities for the bench alone doesn't excite me (can anyone say "Clarence Thomas").
  • Speaking of Justice Thomas (what a horrible oxymoron), I'm feeling a little left out now because there will be a Latina on the bench but not an African American.*
  • It should be intersting to see how the Republicans play this. This could turn out to be the first real racial battle of the Obama era. According to the talking heads, Republicans may choose to attack Sotomayor on her decison on a controversial reverse-discrimination case, and we all know how much the right-wing loons love to talk about how hard it is out here for white men. Also, consider that for the Republicans this means making a big show of interrogating the first Latina nominee, even though they don't have enough votes to actually stop her from being confirmed. That is, unless Al Franken still isn't seated in time and they decide to filibuster, which would be even worse for them.
Overall, I'm proud of Obama. I thought that, being a minority himeslef, he would buckle under the pressure of not wanting to appear anti-white and pick a boring, safe white guy (not that I'm opposed to white men serving on the court). Instead, it appears that he was able to check off all of the important things on his list and at the same time make the court more diverse. Good job, Mr. President.

*I'll regret saying that sometime in the future, but I couldn't resist.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Louis Ramirez - Apparently, it's OK in PA to Beat People to Death

How incredibly disgusting can the racist debate over illegal immigration get? How much further can or xenophobia plunge us into a love of lawlessness? Apparently, in my home state of Pennsylvania, it can get to the point where beating a man to death is OK. I received this e-mail yesterday:


After they had beaten Luis Ramirez to death, the white teenagers who attacked him sent an ominous message to Luis' friends:

"Tell your f**king Mexican friends to get the f**k out of Shenandoah or you'll be f**king laying next to him."1

Just over a week ago, two of Ramirez's killers were acquitted of all serious charges by an all white jury2, with the jury foreman making it clear that justice for Ramirez had no chance in the small town of Shenandoah, PA:

"I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury were racist. I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury had their minds made up maybe before the first day of trial...And I believe the four boys that were involved the most are racist. I absolutely do..."3

The Department of Justice is now looking into Ramirez' death.4 But that's only part of what's needed. Where are the leaders in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Why has Governor Rendell had nothing to say? His silence is shameful.

Until our elected leaders speak up, we can expect more stories like Luis'--not just in Shenandoah, but across the country. Governor Rendell owes it to Pennsylvanians and Latinos everywhere to condemn and speak out on what's happened. Together we can demand that he does. Please click the link below to add your voice and ask your friends and family to do the same. It takes only a moment.


If Luis Ramirez's death were an isolated event it would be outrageous enough. Sadly, it's part of a growing trend of racially motivated violence against Latinos, particularly in rural communities. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Latinos rose 35% between 2003 and 2006.5 And as author David Niewert writes, the target of hate crimes goes beyond their immediate victims: "The purpose is to terrorize the target community, to drive them out, eliminate them."6

That kind of intimidation only works only if the people who are targeted remain silent, and officials in positions of power remain unaccountable. That's why we need to speak out and let folks across the country know we won't tolerate hate and violence towards our communities. It starts with demanding that the Governor of Pennsylvania make clear that anti-immigrant hate has no place in Pennsylvania. It's time for him to show leadership now.

Join us in calling for him to speak out:


Thank you and Adelante!

The Keystone Progress Team
The Presente.org Team


1. "Town struggles with fallout from immigrant's fatal beating," CNN, 7-31-2008

2. "Jury acquits teens of murder in Mexican immigrants' beating death," Associated Press, 5-2-2009

3. "Jury Foreman Calls Other Jurors Racist," WNEP, 5-2-2009

4. "Luiz Ramirez Hate Crime Petition," MALDEF, 5-5-2009

5. "The Year in Hate," Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 2008

6. "A jury's hate-crime verdict in rural Pennsylvania reinforces the racial divide," Crooks and Liars, 5-3-2009

Note that this letter includes references to articles detailing this information. This is not made up. This man really was beaten to death.

When I read this story, two things came to mind:

1. Do we really believe that being an illegal immigrant makes it OK for you to be beaten to death? I mean, really, we must consider that this was part of the thinking of the jury. Would these teens have been able to get away with this if this man was an average white 25 year old. I mean, just imagine a white man visiting Philadelphia from some other part of the state is waiting for a subway, when he gets into an argument with three black teens. The white man is beaten to death. We all know that those three black teens would be tried for felony crimes as adults. Connected to this, doesn't this underline the ways in which the immigration debate has created unsafe conditions for all Latinos in the United States, even those who have been U.S. citizens their entire lives? I mean, really, when you hear about these attacks, are the attackers first doing research to verify that their victims are indeed illegal immigrants?

2. I immediately flashed back to the Jena 6 incident, in which six black teens were charged with attempted murder for beating a white classmate. This, of course happened after a series of events left the African American community in Jena, LA, feeling threatened and targeted. These events included the hanging of a noose on a "whites only" tree that black students attempted to sit under, threatening words from the District Attorney seemingly directed toward black students, and an alleged incidents in which blacks students were threatened with a gun by white students, were able to take the gun, and then were charged with robbery for taking the gun. The real disgrace in the Jena 6 fiasco was not the exceedingly harsh level of the charges against the six black teens, but the fact that they came from a DA who showed a pattern of overacting to the actions of blacks, even when they were legal, but underreacting to violence against blacks. It is ironic that we here little about the Louis Ramirez incident, but we saw many Americans rush to the defense of the Jena DA.

What this really highlights is who can and cannot be a victim in this country. Black teenagers can't be victims. It just doesn't fit the archetype we've created. So when we look at their encounters with the law, we can't see the injustices perpetrated against them; we only see the wrong they've done. So, when the Jena story broke, almost all the focus was on the beating. On the rare occasion that anyone focused on the events leading up to that incident, the focused in on the hanging of the noose, something that dealt with race in the general. However, to focus on the way in which the legal system, particularly that corrupt DA, had victimized the black youth of Jena was virtually impossible.

Likewise, in the United States, an illegal immigrant (at leas a brown illegal immigrant) cannot be a victim. These white teenagers essentially had a free pass to do just about anything to Louis Ramirez, because there is almost no way that a jury would unanimously agree to seriously punish them for attacking an illegal immigrant. This incident is just the latest illustration of a truth that minorities have know for the entire history of this country: when it comes to certain people, the rule of law just does not apply.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Race, Drugs, and Michael Phelps

Last week, swimmer Michel Phelps, arguably the greatest Olympian in the modern history of the games, returned to the sport for the first time since pictures of him smoking weed surfaced. I was shocked, and, frankly, offended by the way in which the situation was discussed. Understandably, many in the media were excited for Phelps's return after the way he electrified the Beijing games. From a sports perspective, everyone should be excited.

However, there seemed to be a sentiment that what Phelps did to "get in trouble" was trivial, and that he should be let alone. He's behavior was portrayed as OK, normal, expected for a young man his age. It was argued that he should be shielded from harsh criticism. The will to forgive and forget is astonishing in this situation.

For perspective, we can compare Phelps to another world class athlete who is just now re-emerging after participating in illegal activity: Michael Vick. Look at the way this Michael has been turned into a villain. Granted, we live in a society where being mean to dogs is much more frowned upon than smoking weed. Still, as I watched the coverage of Phelps, I couldn't help but wonder, What role, if any, does Phelps's race play in the way we evaluate his behavior. Had that been Allen Iverson or Ryan Howard or LaDanian Tomlinson in that picture would there be the same near-unanimous desire to forget the whole thing?

Maybe there would, but I just can't help but think that the reaction would be substantially different. Not completely opposite, but still different.

This all made me think about what Tim Wise said in This is Your Nation on White Privilege:

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
Seriously, what if it had been then candidate Obama with the pregnant teenage daughter? He would have been laughed out of the election. In fact, he wouldn't have even run, because he would have known that he had no shot. White girl gets pregnant: "good job not giving the baby up," "everyone makes mistakes," "kids are kids." Black girl get's pregnant: "she's irresponsible and promiscuous," "another welfare queen," "what's wrong with them?" As much as we like to pretend that we're a colorblind society that wouldn't have such a double standard, we know it's the truth.

But back to marijuana. Why such a different response to blacks and drugs. They are portrayed as criminals who deserve to go to jail. The use of drugs is a major part of the false image that has been drawn of African American youth. It's used as a way to rationalize disparities in education, employment, and incarceration. Black athletes who use drugs are immoral, irresponsible, and bad role models. White athletes just made mistakes.

Michel Phelps v. Allen Iverson
Barry Bonds v. Mark McGuire
Brett Myers v. Michel Vick

There is a higher standard for black athletes. There is higher standard for blacks in general. Another comparison:

George Bush: recovering alcoholic, bad grades, failed businesses, and governor with relatively little power
Barack Obama: head of Harvard Law review, good student, successful community organizer, law professor, successful state legislator, and U.S. Senator

Yet, who is accused of succeeding because of "affirmative action"? Who was labeled as inexperienced?

So that's sports and politics, with a dash of education.

Then there's the world of celebrity. Why isn't rock music vilinized the way rap is?

Why is Brittany Spears more acceptable than Beyonce? Why are white sexually explicit movies artistic and intellectual, while similar black movies are soft-porn trash?
MTV: American
BET: Immoral

We could also look at religious commentary.

George Bush can speak at a religious school with racist policies (Bob Jones University did not allow interracial dating without a parent's permission), but Barack Obama is racist for attending Jeremiah Wright's church? And while we're on the subject of Rev. Wright, how is it that he can be labeled as racist for making statements based in truth - because American indifference to the world can inflame hatred, and the U.S. does have preventing blacks with STDs from receiving treatment, and Hillary Clinton really doesn't know what it's like to be a black man - and he's called a racist, but John McCain can make explicitly racist comments and no one flinches?

How do we decide what religious leaders get to be just religious leaders, and which ones must be turned into political figures.

But, I've gone off on a tangent again. The point I set out to make is that blacks are routinely held to a higher standard that their white counter parts. This is especially true when it comes to drug use, and particularly well illustrated in the case of Michel Phelps. Personally, I like Phelps and as a sports fan am not too concerned with his "recreational" activities. I don't think it was a good thing to do, but I'm not loosing any sleep over it. However, in context, I thing the reaction to Phelps shows just how pervasive racism is in our society. If Michel Phelps were black he'd be in a totally different situation right now. That, my friends, is just a small look into the true nature of race in America.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why Do Republicans Think They'll Ever Get Black Votes

It seems like for the past two election cycles, Republicans have been talking about how they need to expand their party to include more minorities. It's as if they think that by simply saying that they want black people to be Republicans, we'll suddenly become Republicans, never mind the issues. I find it hard to believe that the reason many blacks never or almost never vote Republican is not obvious to the GOP, and every now and then they do something to make it so much more obvious.

Take a look at this clip from the Rachel Maddow show last night:

Please allow me to go into teacher mode as I do some explaining on the nature of the United States Senate.

The Senate is not just a group of people who come together to do a yes-or-no vote on potential laws. The Senate is divided up into committees (like the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, etc.) and each committee has a specific content area. So, when there is a bill that comes before the Senate, it first gets assigned to a committee in that content area. The people in the committee are supposed to be experts in that area, and they debate the bill, call on other experts or people impacted to testify on it, and then vote to either kill the bill or to let the entire Senate vote on it (I know, this is a very basic explanation).

In addition to legislative duties, committees handle the other responsibilities of the Senate. They may do investigations into things like torture, or the legitimacy of college football's BCS system, or things of that nature. The Judiciary Committee plays a key role in confirming court nominees.

The number of Democrats or Republicans on each committee is determined by their representation in the Senate as a whole. So, for example, if there are 60 total Democrats and 40 total Republicans, and there is a committee with 10 members, 6 will be Democrats, 4 Republicans. The highest ranking Democrat will chair the committee. Even though the Republicans in this scenario (and in real-life 2009) would be in the minority, the role of highest ranking Republican is still important. It's a real leadership position and, as mentioned in the video above, the face of the party on the committee.

This is where Senator Sessions comes in. If you watched even just the opening to the video, you'll see why there is little doubt in my mind that Senator Sessions is a racist. At the very least he was back in 1986, and I have no reason to believe that his views have changed over what amounts to little more than my brief lifetime. And let me be clear, by racist I mean a willful participant in maintaining and advancing systemic white dominance. I can't think of a more polite way of describing Sessions's actions as a U.S. Attorney.

Now, thanks to the actions of my new Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, Sessions is set to become the highest ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. This is the same Judiciary Committee that is handles the nomination of federal judges who will decided contentious civil rights cases. This is the same Judiciary Committee that will debate laws defending the rights of minorities.

This all reflects poorly on Republicans for obvious reasons: it's a potential PR mess for a party looking to appear as more that a regional movement with racist undertones. However, a closer look reveals more. In the Maddow video, Steve Benen notes that many on the right WANTED Sessions to assume this leadership position. This came as no surprise to me, because I have long believed that Republicans actually agree with the views Sessions espoused while a U.S. Attorney. To see this, we don't have to go farther than their resistance to extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or the 2000 election.

We have to stop looking at people like Jeff Sessions or Trent Lott as anomalies in the Republican party. They're really reflections of the dark underbelly of the party's powerful right wing. People like Gayle Quinnell ("Obama's an Arab"), or the Obama Monkey Guy, or the Obama Waffles People, or all the other crazies at McCain-Palin rallies or teabagging marches (here or here or here, for example) are not isolated incidents. They are the Republican party. It's not a coincidence when Sarah Palin quotes a white supremacist in one of her speeches. It's not surprising when the RNC comes within a hair's breath of electing a party chairman who had to quit his whites-only country club to run for the position. This is the true Republican party.

Is it any wonder, then, that most black people tend to stay as far away from the GOP as possible.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How Race Impacts Perspective

Just a quick note: I've been less active in writing lately, due to some computer problems. Hopefully, I'll reach a final resolution soon.

Now, on to the topic at hand. I stumbled on this video of Andy Campbell while spending some time on YouTube. I don't really know who Andy Campbell is, but I thought this video of him presented an interesting case study.

Now, on the surface, this seems all good, but let's dissect what this gentleman is saying.

1. First off, it's clear that his overall theme here is to prove that he's not a racist. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing - I wouldn't want anyone to think I was a racist either. However, it always makes me suspicious when someone is tries this hard.

2. He attempts to link himself to Civil Rights leaders. This is a tactic that you often see when people want to prove they're not racist. They lift these figures up, in spite of the fact that they have no real understanding of what these people stood for. This brings me to my next point:

3. He characterizes Dr. King. Campbell says "Dr. Martin Luther King talked about creating a colorblind society, not a color conscious one." Yet, didn't Dr. King spend much of his life drawing attention to racial inequality and fighting to eradicate it? How can one do such a thing without being conscious of race? I find it hard to believe that Dr. King would ascribe to the colorblind philosophy of the 21st century, because this perspective compounds racial inequality by making it invisible.

4. Throughout his mini-lecture, Campbell refers to the Civil Rights Movement and civil rights in general in a way that suggests he sees these things as issues of the past. He refers to "history's civil rights activists," as if there aren't people working for still-denied civil right today. He applauds HBCUs for helping to "right wrongs" at a time when many American colleges and universities denied access to blacks, but ignores persisting, and in some ways growing, inequalities in the area of education.

5. He asserts that segregation is the preeminent force in perpetuating racism and prejudice. In doing this, Campbell does two frightening things. First, he ignores the systemic nature of racism. In reality, racism is a societal force, kept alive by both the desire to sustain and the ability to ignore white privilege. Second, Campbell constructs racism as a person-to-person phenomenon. By doing this, racism becomes about stopping individual persons from doing or thinking mean things, rather than addressing the real societal force that is reflected by those person-to-person interactions. In short, racism can't be solved just by blacks and whites living together, because such integration doesn't match the depth to which racism has infiltrated our society.

6. Here we go with the buzzwords: self-segregate. Oh, yes, because this is all black people's fault now. He calls self-segregation "counterproductive" to the "goal of racial harmony". Well, first one must ask what this "racial harmony" looks like. Is it the apparent hope of many white talking heads, that we reach a time when we can finally stop talking about race (not necessarily because it no longer needs to be discussed)? Or does it mean actually addressing and solving problems? If you subscribe to the latter description, then you must also think that it's worthwhile to discuss the ways in which persistent racism creates the desire for blacks and other minority groups to "self-segregate" into supportive communities where they can be experience a reprieve from the constant barrage of racism. However, instead of Campbell engaging in this discussion, he blames black people for delaying his fantasy world in which discussion of race magically disappears.

7. Back to the "great Civil Rights Movement," of which Campbell seems to be so fond. He describes its goal as "making us all equal." Funny, I thought we were always all equal. I thought the point of the CRM was to demand equal right for blacks. You know, full political, economic, educational, and social access. The full rights of citizenship. All still things we haven't gotten yet, by the way.

8. And then he polishes it all of with the whole "My family was discriminated against, too," and "I have black friends," only he puts a new twist on it. Listen, religious prejudice is wrong, but it's not the same as racism, so don't try and claim that you have an upclose and personal experiene based on you're family's experience with religious prejudice. You don't. And the fact that you're family is diverse is a great thing, but what are you trying to prove by bringing that up? That you're not racist? That you're color blind? Oh, and how is it that people who talk about color blindness can be so quick to jump to "my brother in law is Japanese," or "my best firend is black"? If you're so colorblind, how is it that the race of your friends and family are so close to the forefornt of your mind?

9. He says we shouldn't define ourselves based on race. And I think "Of course you can say that because you're white. I don't have a choice." And then he acknowledges that his whiteness makes it easier to say, but asserts that he's still right. Dude, white privilege is stairing you in the face to the point that you almost admit it, but still contradict yourself by insisitng we ignore the role that racial idenity plays our society. Wow!

The above video was posted as a response to the discussion seen here. It's clear from this video that the root issue is twofold: (1) striving for the goal of colorblindness, and (2) the belief that HBCUs exists only because blacks were turned away from other schools in the past. The fact of the matter is that predominatly white colleges and universities (which would be most of them, including mine) can sometimes be a hostile place minorities and their viewpoints. I'm fortunate enough to go to the first univiersity to offer a PhD in black studies. We also require that all undergraduate students take race studies courses that dig deeply into these issues. This makes us unique among HWCUs, but still, the hostility towards these classes is clear among the student bodies. Some students choose to go to schools where they can be among other African Americans and not endure some of the baggage that comes with HWCUs. So, you see, HBCUs, along with government housing, and minority scholarships, and affirmative action, address current problems, not just past problems.

And, finally, when are we going to wake up and realize that someone like Campbell can make such a completely rediculous staement and seem normal or even admirable only because he's white. There are more holes in his argument than in a block of Swiss cheese, yet he still represents the mainstream of American thining on race. We should all be disturbed with the nature of the racial discussion in our nation.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

News: US Citizens Illegaly Deported

From ABC News / The Associated Press:

Pedro Guzman has been an American citizen all his life. Yet in 2007, the 31-year-old Los Angeles native — in jail for a misdemeanor, mentally ill and never able to read or write — signed a waiver agreeing to leave the country without a hearing and was deported to Mexico as an illegal immigrant.
He's not the only one:

In a drive to crack down on illegal immigrants, the United States has locked up or thrown out dozens, probably many more, of its own citizens over the past eight years. A monthslong AP investigation has documented 55 such cases, on the basis of interviews, lawsuits and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. These citizens are detained for anything from a day to five years. Immigration lawyers say there are actually hundreds of such cases.

It is illegal to deport U.S. citizens or detain them for immigration violations. Yet citizens still end up in detention because the system is overwhelmed, acknowledged Victor Cerda, who left Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005 after overseeing the system. The number of detentions overall is expected to rise by about 17 percent this year to more than 400,000, putting a severe strain on the enforcement network and legal system.

The result is the detention of citizens with the fewest resources: the mentally ill, minorities, the poor, children and those with outstanding criminal warrants, ranging from unpaid traffic tickets to failure to show up for probation hearings. Most at risk are Hispanics, who made up the majority of the cases the AP found.

Read More

"... o're the land of the free, and the home of the brave," right?

So, essentially, over the past eight years, US citizens have not been free in their own land. People who are citizens of this country, and disproportionately the mentally ill, children, and minorities, are being kicked out for no reason. If you think back to the Stat of the Day that centered on the increase in hate crimes, on of the new factors is crimes against Latinos due to the recent immigration debate.

So, we can see one of the nasty effects of racism in this country: people automatically assume that Latinos or Asians or blacks with African accents are here illegally. Are people so paranoid when it comes to someone with a British accent? Do we fear being taken over by the French and Germans? No. Clearly this debate on immigration is racially tinged, and is spilling over to impact the lives of American citizens. To make it worse, I fully expect the many will pay such offenses little mind, because racism has so warped our minds to think that such actions are justified, just as after 9/11 many felt it was completely reasonable to profile anyone who appeared Middle-Eastern.

The more I read and learn the more a realize how little this country has actually changed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Speak For Yourself: Buchanan thinks more Latinos bad for US

Is Pat Buchanan racist? Is he a xenophobe who wants only whites to live in the United States? Well, there are lots of clips I could show you to let him answer that question for himself, but I'll post this more recent exchange with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchel.

Pat Buchanan, speak for yourself:

So, Buchanan sees a rising Latino population as a threat to the United States? Well, that's what he just said, isn't it? Not surprising, considering his earlier statements (I just can't help but post them):

I could probably make too many comments on this just for one post. But I must say that I am appalled by the notion that Buchanan thinks in order for the US to be successful as a nation, we must all, essentially, become white. It seems to me that he's saying we must all be assimilated into "traditional American" culture, which, let's face it, means White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture, a culture that has traditional accepted white male dominance. He openly hopes to return to earlier periods in our history, when immigration quotas favored western Europeans and essentially blocked Asians from coming to the United States. He sees a growing Latino population as a threat to our way of life. He referred to the 1960s as a time when cultural changes ruined our nation's culture. By the way, such changes included letting black people vote, letting brown people come to the United States, and treating women like children. They also included a shift in academics in which non-white people were actually taught about themselves in school, and actually learned that not everything good that was done in history was done by white people. People also started talking about oppressive things done to non-whites in history, such as slavery, colonization, and continued racism. Oh, the horrors.

Buchanan is very explicit in his argument that we must keep America white. My only question is, why is he still so respected? Trust that I'll have more to say on this in the coming days and weeks.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The New Confederacy: Tea Bag Revolution

So, while watching the latest installment of the Rachel Maddow show, I find out that what I've named the new Confederacy has moved into a new stage of aggression. On tax day, they will be tea bagging to protest taxes (which, by the way, Obama and the Democrats cut for the vast majority of United States citizens).

That's right, tea bagging, blatantly paying homage to the Boston Tea Party a protest that lead up to the American Revolution, were the American colonies separated from Great Britain. Although, considering that none of these protesters live in colonized areas, but are full-fledged citizens with all the rights associated with such status, they remind me more of Confederate rebels than those early Revolutionary patriots.

Another similarity with the Confederates: protesting something that isn't actually reality. The Confederates seceded because they were afraid Lincoln would abolish slavery, which he had no plans of doing. These people are tea bagging because they fear that Obama will, among other things, raise their taxes, even as he has just cut them.

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the signs in the video says "YES WE CAN SECEDE."

Accompanying this activity are the usual sentiments associated with the New Confederacy:
  • Obama wasn't born in the United States, so he's not the president
  • Obama is inherently opposed to American values
  • Obama is a threat to the nation and must be defended against, even to the point of Revolution
These are the people who were mad at the left for not liking George Bush after he stole the 2000 election?

I must ask, if this were Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, would be be seeing this? Of course the right would not like either of these Democrats or any other white Democrats in the White House, but to what degree does Obama's race contribute to the level of animosity and rebelliousness expressed by the New Confederates? Is it possible that some just can's stand the idea that THEIR president is black?

Stat of the Day: Being Searched By the Police

According to the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2005, whites, African Americans, and Hispanics were essentially equally likely to be stopped by police for a traffic stop.

However, once stopped, blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be searched or to have their cars searched.

  • 3.6% of whites were searched
  • 9.5% of blacks were searched
  • 8.8% of Hispanics were searched
This report does not provide information on what percentage of searches, disaggregated by race, produced illegal contraband. However, according to the Drug War Chronicle past reports which have included this information have shown that whites are more likely to have illegal contraband. This pattern is born out in various statewide studies, which, hopefully, will be included in future "Stat of the Day" features. The Drug War Chronicle also points out that a political powers sought to suppress information on racial profiling in a past report.

Read the full Bureau of Justice Statistics report for 2005 (pdf)
Read the full Drug War Chronicle article

From what I can see, there is at least a reason to suspect an intentional suppression of data that may reveal flaws in the so-called War on Drugs. This data would be a severe blow who are reluctant to condemn police action when it comes to race. Many argue that it's appropriate that blacks and Latinos make up a disproportionately high number of persons searched, as evidenced in the data above, because we're the ones with the illegal stuff to be searched for. However, the data seems to suggest that this is untrue. Whites are actually more likely to have contraband. This undercuts the rational used for racial profiling.

Now, of course blacks and Latinos make up a greater proportion of the persons searched, arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to prison, and we tend to receive harsher prison sentences than whites who commit the same crimes. So if you judge who has more contraband or commits more crime by simply looking at conviction rates or prison populations, of course it will appear that minorities commit most of the crimes in America. However, the data cited above and that I will continue to post in the near future, suggest that this may not be true.

An earlier "Stat of the Day" stated that only 13% of drug users are black, but 35% of the those arrested, 55% of those convicted, and 74% of those sent to prison for drug possession. It's easy to see how this could happen when blacks are more likely to be searched.

So, what should the take away be from this?
  1. There are racial differences in the likelyhood of being searched.
  2. Racial profiling is ineffective. What sense does it make to more frequently search a demographic that less frequently has contraband?
  3. Considering all this, how can anyone refute the fact that there is still oppression of minorities and white privilege in the United States?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

News: Black College accused of Racism

From CBS News / The Associated Press

A historically black college in South Carolina has been sued after three white faculty members say they were passed over for jobs or let go for because of their race, federal officials announced Wednesday.

Alleging that Benedict College "engaged in unlawful practices," the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also said that the Columbia school had agreed to pay $55,000 to each of the three former instructors.

Under a settlement reached between Benedict and the EEOC, the school also agreed to remind staff about its employment policy prohibiting discrimination, provide administrators, faculty and staff with training and make periodic reports to the EEOC

Read More
I really hope that there is no foul play involved here, and I guess we'll never truly know because the case has reached a settlement. However, I must say I wouldn't be surprised if there was some impropriety on the part of Benedict College. I say that not because of anything I know about Benedict, because I know next to nothing about the school. But one of the things that I find disturbing about my black brothers and sisters is the desire to put black people into positions over more qualified persons, even when it's not the best option. As much as we hate to admit it, it happens, especially when we get into power.

That's not meant as a knock on affirmative action, which I think, when done right, promotes qualified people who would have otherwise been overlooked. But when we try to "do everything black" we end up doing things wrong. We can't let our black pride lead to bad decisions.

Stat of the Day: Hate Crime Increase

So, obviously, I'm not going to be able to do these EVERY day.

Also, feel free to submit a stat, and you can even submit one to counter one that I've posted, just be sure to include a source.

In 2006, the FBI reports a 7.8% increase in the number of hate crimes from the previous year.
Source: Human Rights First
As I can gather, this is the most recent information available.

After reading the Human Rights First analysis and then thinking about what has been going on over the past few years that could cause such an increase, the following comes to mind.

1. Persistent anger about 9/11. There's still a lot of people out there who are angry about the terrorist attacks and blame all Muslims or Middle-Easter persons.
2. Immigration. In 2006, people were hot about this issue. I suspect that the recent economic crisis doesn't help things. (side note: does this make anyone else think about about then Senator and candidate Obama's "bitter" remarks?). I fear that many Latinos have and will continue to fall victim to hate crimes because they are associated with illegal immigration, even if they themselves are U.S. citizens.
3. LGBT Rights. As this has become a more publicly contested issue, I suspect that more violence has been committed against members of the LGBT community. It was September of 2005 that NBA star Shaquille O'Neal helped arrest a man accused of attacking a gay couple (he does everything but shoot free throws well).

Overall, this is a disturbing trend, because it suggest not only that hatred is on the rise, not the decline, in this country, but that it is increasingly manifesting itself in violent and criminal behavior. While Latinos make up an increasing share of the U.S. population, they face increased violence. While members of the LGBT community gain more rights, they also face more violence. And, while we have a black president, we also have a population that has generated more threats on his life than for a typical president.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, April 6, 2009

This White Privilege Thing

Just some thoughts here...
Recently, I've been thinking a lot about this whole concept of white privilege. Growing up as an African American in suburban Philadelphia, I've always had an awareness that certain avenues were open to whites that I could not as easily pass through. However, it wasn't until I was about to go to college that I read an article that pulled together all the things that I knew about race into the concept of white privilege.

As part of my preparation for my summer teaching internship in 2005, I was required to read "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh. On the one hand, the article was eye-opening for me, because, like most people, I was used to discussing race only in terms of how it impacted non-whites. There was a certain liberation in the idea that discussing whiteness was legitimate, that it should be a part of the public conversation on race, and not just something non-whites talk about privately. On the other hand, the article didn't strike me as particularly controversial or outlandish. It really seemed to be stating the obvious.

Over the years that followed, I have continuously been amazed at how offended many are by the idea of white privilege. I guess I still have held on to a shred of youthful innocence that makes it hard for me to believe anyone wouldn't clearly see the advantages of being white in America. It makes me wonder:

1. Why are white people so uncomfortable talking about their whiteness? Two possibilities come to mind. (1) Some have been raised to be "colorblind" and not see their own color or the color of anyone else. I have to say that this is noble, but dangerous, because by turning a blind eye to race, we render ourselves incapable of recognizing racism. What other problems get better if you ignore them? Cancer? Crime? I think one of the unfortunate consequences of well-intentioned colorblindness is that it makes whites incapable of seeing the benefits that come along with their lighter skin. (2) Some whites are just not comfortable with the idea that they have achieved success based on anything other than merit. From childhood, children in the Untied States are taught that this is a meritocricy, where people are rewarded for what they do, not for who they are. White privilege threatens this ideology. It worries me that we may be so obsessed with the fanticy of America that we can't see the truth of America. And the sad part is, if we would realize how unlike a meritocricy our society is, we could then work to fix the problems and become more of a meritocricy.

This brings up another point.

2. Why are whites so obssessed with advantages given to non-whites, but incapable of acknowledging their own advantages? Seriously, if you listened to some whites, particularly those on the conservative right, you'd think that being black was some sweepstakes or something. You'd think that being white was a disadvantage.

But, of course, many would the say "oh, no, no, no. We've come a long way but there's still much work to be done," in an attempt to acknowlege that there is still racism that impacts non-whites negatively. So...

3. If we can acknoledge disadvantages for non-whites, why can't we acknowlegde the resulting advantages for whites? I mean, it seems simple. If we're running the 100 meter dash, and you get to start 10 meters ahead of me, then I'm at a disadvantage. Well, that also means that you have an advantage.

4. Why do some whites think that the concept of white privilege teaches that all white people are raicst? Why can't people distinguish between calling individuals racist and saying that we live in a society that is set up to privilege one group over others? To me, it's clear that whites don't choose white privilege any more than they choose to be white. But it seems some people can't understand the difference between individual prejudice and systemic racism.

So, like I said, just some thoughts on this whole thing. I feel bad constantly saying "white people" because I don't want to generalize. Mainly, I just wantetd to through these ideas out there and see where the discussion goes. Hopefully, we have lots of differing views out there so that we can really dig deep on these issues.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Stat of the Day: Diversity in Public Education

According to the Pew Hispanic Center Publication:

  • In the 1994 - 1995 school year, 35% of white public school students attended nearly all-white schools (less than 5% non-white); In the 2005 - 2006 school year, this number shrank to 21%
  • Over the same period, the number of Hispanic and black students attending nearly all-minority schools grew. For Hispanics, this number grew from 25% to 29%, and for blacks from 28% to 31%.
What are the implications of this, assuming their is academic value in diversity?

Source: The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of U.S. Public Schools, by Rick Fry

White Privilege: Tim Wise

Not long ago I posted a set of videos attacking the teaching of white privilege, among other things, at the University of Delaware. For this post in our ongoing series on white privilege, I decided to post a video that takes an opposite view. In this video, Tim Wise makes the case for the existence of white privilege.

I don't want to offer too much commentary here, but I do want to say that I appreciate the incorporation of historical context in his development of the concept. So watch, enjoy, and comment. Do you agree? What are the strengths and weaknesses in his argument?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

LC21?: Why Focus on Minorities?

Haven't had one of these in a while. Here are some questions to think about.

Why, when we talk about race, do we focus on minorities? Why do we always talk about what non-whites can or can't do?

Why, during the presidential campaign, was the focus on how Barack Obama's blackness would help or harm him? Why was their not a focus on how John McCain's whiteness would help or harm him?

Why, when we talk about education do we discuss what minority students need or deserve, or how they contribute to their own successes or failures? Why don't we ask the same of white children?

Why do we spend so much time trying to figure out what's wrong with black people? Why don't we try to figure out what's wrong with white people?

Why do we focus on understanding Latino culture, or what it means to be black, or the life of Asians? Why not talk about what it means to be white?

Why don't we talk about whiteness?

Stat of the Day: Incarceration Rates

Nationwide, black men are sent to prison on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men.

Oh, No. Here We Go. More from O'Rilley the Hate-Monger

This headline made me sick:

O'Rilley's Writing Obama Book.
This just made me wish that hate was a commodity. I wish there was only a finite amount of hate in the world that couldn't be waisted on ignorant baboons like Bill O'Rilley.  The man makes me sick, and the idea that he could be considered even close to being a journalist, or that his show could be considered anything close to news is preposterous.
Here's POLITICO's blurb on the book
Bill O'Reilly, currently on his "100 months at #1" media tour, told Cindy Adams that he has another book in the works.
"My next book, out the latter part of 2010, is on Obama," O'Reilly said. "He's becoming a historical figure not because he's black, but because his liberal agenda is taking the country in a direction we've never been before."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

News: Philly Cop Under Fire for Racist Comments

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

A college class assignment may have gotten a Philadelphia police officer into some hot water.

William Thrasher, a white cop in the 22nd District, at 17th and Montgomery, has been put on desk duty after an article written by a Temple University student quoted him describing his disgust for black people in the district where he works, likening them to animals and calling their problems "typical n---- s---," or "TNS," during a ride-along with the student Jan. 30.

The article enraged The Guardian Civic League, an organization of black Philadelphia police officers, which is calling for his dismissal.

Read More

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chair of RNC = Leader of Free World

Michael Steel, chair of the Republican National Committee, and source of perpetual entertainment for Democrats, apparently thinks that his job is on par with being president, and he even left the door open to the possibility that President Obama is jealous of him.

Each time this man opens his mouth, I simultaneously am amused and a little less desiring to acknowledge my blackness. Again, why does Steel have to come along just as Obama was really getting people to warm up to black politicians?

Stat of the Day: Racial Violence?

Ever hear people talk about how it's really black people who are so racist because they are so much more likely to commit violent crimes against white people then the other way around? Conservatives often use this argument to paint a picture of white America under attack from blacks. This is an image in which blacks are some great threat to the white community.

Well, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, withes are about 5 times more likely to be attacked by another white person than by a black person.

So, maybe instead of [some] white people being so afraid of blacks, instead of conservatives use this to argue that white racism isn't really that prevalent and "reverse racism" is the real problem, and instead of people trying to justify the over representation of blacks in America's prisons and jails, people should look a t the actual facts.

Source: United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2004, Statistical Tables, (U.S. Department of Justice, 2006)
*** Based on analysis of tables 40 and 42; originally found here; Justice Department tables here

Friday, March 27, 2009

White Privilege: Teaching Race at The University of Delewar

For a long time I debated myself on writing on the topic of white privilege. Did I really have the skill to describe and debate such an important and complex topic? Did I really want to get into all of that? I could keep a whole blog for a long time on just the topic of white privilege. Recently, with all the talk of living in a post-race society now that we have a black president, and with the current discussion here at LC21 and over on Free Racine, I decided that this was an important topic. However, how would I bring it up? I pondered this for a while until I stumbled onto the clips that I have posted below.

I found these clips posted at an apparently conservative blog called Founding Bloggers. It's an infomercial/PSA about a former University of Delaware residential life orientation program that was essentially exposing students to the concept of white privilege. In the videos, members of trustee boards are warned not to let similar programs destroy the reputations of their schools. If you live in the Philadelphia media market, you may remember this story.

Now, of course, I have my own opinion on this. If you follow my blog you can probably guess that I agree with the basic aim of the residential life program, although I wouldn't approve of all of the activities as they are described by those in the video.

So, here you have it, my foray into the hotly contested area of white privilege. For now, I'll keep posting videos from voices on either side of the issue, with some of my own commentary mixed in. One of these days, I'll get around to writing in depth my own observations.

Enjoy and Comment!

Stat of the Day: Black Vote in Presidential Elections

I was thinking about how everyone complained during the election that blacks were being racist by voting for Obama. I decided to look at the previous Democratic nominees, who, surprise, surprise, were white, and see how their share of the black vote compared. What I found was that Obama did perform better than them, but not by much. Democrat's also managed to win more than half of the Latino vote in the past three presidential elections, with Obama gaining a higer percentage than either Gore of Kerry.

source: CNN.com

So, based on this, I have to conclude that African Americans, and to a lesser extend Latinos, just like voting for Democrats. Did the race of the candidate play a factor in the past election? Likely it did for many voters, but there were so many other factors (the quality of campaigning, the state of the economy, and the approval rating of the sitting president, among them) that to call minorities who voted for Obama racism would be inappropriate.

It could also be pointed out that McCain won 55% of the white vote. I wouldn't call all whites who voted for McCain racist.