That’s Racism, Everybody!

by Belle Waring on May 3, 2012

I wish people would stop being so confused all the time. If someone is “a racist” it is not because he is a like a Nazi with a uniform and everything, and pledges allegiance to the flag of racism, and goes around shouting “I hate Mexican people!” Well, to be fair, he might shout that if he were drunk and had smoked some of the cottonmouth killer, or were on MySpace. And those dudes in Stormfront exist. And racist skinheads too dumb to join Stormfront. Nonetheless, in ordinary speech one only means “hey, he said a thing that was racially prejudiced,” or “she told a racist joke,” or “he threw a crumpled-up beer can at that broke-ass African-American gentleman walking right beside the road (South Carolina doesn’t hold much truck with sidewalks) while shouting ‘f%cK you n1gger!,’” or “she collects these weird racist yam crate-labels from Louisiana in the ‘30s and I am not sure her motives are entirely pure.” (May God help me on this one, a collector sells them in Takoma Park at vintage fairs and sometimes I succumb. They’re so cool! She’s a 65-year-old Black lady, so she’s off the hook. OR IS SHE?!).

Anyway, otherwise very intelligent people such as Radley Balko go weirdly off the rails on this one. (Whom you should all read all the time, even though libertarians annoy you, because he is the only person in the history of blogging to ever get anybody off of death row by blogging about it. We arrange some excellent book events, and we make nice covers and John typesets’em all purty, but I’m pretty sure Radley’s got us beat ten ways to Sunday on useful blogging and we will never recoup, not with a thousand book events. Anyway he’s not the annoying kind of libertarian. Er, rather, he’s one of the least annoying kinds. He actually cares about the rights of poor people and has noticed that corporations as well as governments can infringe upon your rights, although he doesn’t focus upon this latter point as much as a left-libertarian would. Did I mention he saves people’s lives? His blog is rushing into burning buildings and dragging people out, and then it wants to go back in, and the chief’s trying to hold it back, because it’s inhaled all this smoke and all, but it busts free and saves three more children, but it just has three cute smudges of soot on its face, and then it kisses Natalie Portman. Then maybe it links to Ilya Somin, and you think, the hell he did?! Our blog is just drinking a cup of coffee, and making plans to kiss…Clive Owen? I may need to re-do the polling on this one.)

The other day Radley Balko pointed to a Reuters story which said, basically, that George Zimmerman fed his dog, and was an altar boy (no, but a real one), and loved his momma, and his Black neighbor would say on the record he had always been a sweet boy, what with his lawn-mowing, and waving, and suchlike. Radley seemed to think this showed…something new. “Turns out, the guy is a three-dimensional human being.” I protested, saying, who ever doubted Zimmerman was an actual person, in the round, who was kind to people sometimes? (Because everyone is, so I’m told. Hitler, dog, etc.) Radley responded: “I saw Tweets and blog posts from otherwise smart, calm people who immediately jumped to the conclusion that Zimmerman was a racist.”

Loves your mom, is altar boy, has a Black neighbor with whom you live harmoniously…all these things are compatible with being a racist! For damn sure they’re compatible with doing some racist shit, which may be more pertinent. I was inclined to pursue only the latter point, but what have we here? Oh, dag, Mr. Zimmerman, take it away down south, to Dixie:

I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book. Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into!

Aw, George, you didn’t have to miss none of that when you move from Manassas to Florida! You can just drive around scared to hit Cubans by the side of the road! Truth is, the demographics of the South are changing so much as an after-effect of construction jobs during the housing boom, there are plenty of Mexicans in Florida (plenty more when he wrote this, I imagine.) And of course there are always Black people. This tolls rather gloomily and out of spirit with the rest of the post all on a sudden. Ah, that’s because Mr. Zimmerman shot killed a Black teenager, isn’t it.

What was the other information provided in the Reuter’s story, which Radley’s commenter’s found so salient? There had been a bunch of serious, sometimes daylight burglaries committed in the storied “gated community” committed by Black men. Yeah, and you know what percentage of the county is Black? 32 goddamn percent. 32%! How is this not evidence that Zimmerman thought Martin was one of the people breaking into the houses, maybe just casing the joints, got out of his truck to follow him, wanted to detain him till the cops got there (which is called false imprisonment, everybody), pulled the gun to keep Trayvon from walking away, and then…? Something bad happened.

I’m sorry, but Zimmerman strikes me as a) racist, b) so dumb he could throw himself down on the ground and miss. His defense team is going to earn every penny they get paid by a huge donation fund of racists conservative citizens concerned that he might not see justice due to Obama and Eric Holder and the New Black Panthers and Acorn and Akon and that one chick who tried to make us use only lower case letters, and L’il Wayne, and the Rev. Al Sharpton and Flo Rida, because damn that is played out; why are people still going for that? My money’s always been on Zimmerman’s escalating and then just fatally screwing up. And on his being racist. His grandmoms worked as a babysitter for two black girls that ate with the family when he was little. Did they inoculate him against racism when they passed the rice? No. Would he have followed and shot a white 17-year-old who tried to force him to taste the rainbow? No. Do I believe his self-serving story about getting lost in his own 2-street subdivision (OK, maybe that part, actually) and then getting jumped on and getting the beatdown from Trayvon, with the ninja skills he learned at Menacing Black Youths Summer Academy? No Sir, no, no and no Ma’am. R-a-c-i-s-t.

UPDATE: I should really scan some of the yam crate labels, but I should really really stop looking at the evil, makes me have to lie down watching the blood beat in the capillaries of the back of my eye computer. Anyway they’re framed. Some aren’t super racist. Like the Black guy throwing dice and it says “Don’t Cry” Louisiana Commercial Sweet Potatoes Packed By Irvin Wimberly, Church Point LA. (But we all know Irvin Wimberly never packed a single motherloving sweet potato in his damn life. He might not of touched a sweet potato. Could be he was toiling away in the sweet potato fields, infected, like Levin, with the general quickening of energy in the sweet potato packers. Could be.) Here the man just looks sad because he (and we) can tell the dice are about to turn on him viciously. The most racist one is “King” Brand Porto Rican Yams; the king is a kind of idiotic-looking 10-year-old with a plush crown whose lips are printed too big. Now, because his skin is printed dark this isn’t immediately apparent; he’s not Sambo. But once you look it it, boy howdy.

Proof that my daughter learned better than I taught her: she said “those are racist.” I said: “documenting history of racism blah blah.” She, fixing me with withering scorn (she’s only just 9 at this point) “Mom, if an African-American family were coming over for dinner, would you take them down?” I was defeated. 1930s yam crate-labels: racist.

She knew Nigerian people had been at our old place when I had them up. African-American, see, that was the kicker, though in her opinion I should have never have hung them up. (They look so cute in the kitchen!) Belle Waring, hanging racist 1930s yam crate-labels all up in everywhere: doing something racist. I was willing to amend. They’re all just moping behind the toaster now. I don’t know what to do with them, honestly. Maybe give them back to the lady who collects them, but in the beautiful frames.

{ 226 comments }

1

Merp 05.03.12 at 2:58 am

There aren’t racist people, only racist acts.

And I promise to read Balko from now until Romney passes the Guaranteed Income for All Act (Romn-econ, the press will call it) if you give some examples of how the yam crate-labels are racist.

2

nolo 05.03.12 at 3:22 am

That was beautiful.

3

Matt 05.03.12 at 3:30 am

sometimes daylight burglaries
Something that’s true but surprises a lot of people is that a very larger percentage (maybe a majority- I’m too lazy to look right now, but a larger percentage anyway) of burglaries take place in the daytime. Why? Because people are more likely to be home at night, and burglars don’t like to run into people. Also, it’s not suspicious to be walking around in the day. That means that even if more burglaries take place in the day, it’s almost certainly not the case that someone you see walking around in the day is more likely to be a burglar, because there are more people around. This is a long-winded way of saying that it takes a _certain_ sort of person to start getting suspicious in the circumstances in this case.

There aren’t racist people, only racist acts.
What would this mean? Does this apply to clumsy people, thoughtless people, kind people, etc? If so, even if it’s true, it’s probably not that interesting (it would be a misleading way to say something.) If not, why this particular case?

4

Moby Hick 05.03.12 at 3:49 am

Google translates “He is a racist” into “Él es un racista”. Further checking found nearly 40,000 hits for “”Él es un racista” and none for “Él esta un racista”. So, I think the usage is pretty clearly established. Using “ser” indicates that racism is a permanent trait and therefore there are racist people, at least in Spanish-speaking population. And that population is very relevant in this case.

5

William Berry 05.03.12 at 3:52 am

Balko is a tough case. I read “The Agitator” blog all the time and I think it’s fair to say that Balko is one of the best out there on civil liberties. Brutal cops, the idiotic drug war, militarization of law enforcement, capital punishment, (apartheid) South Africa style incarceration, d0mestic police-state tactics in the GWOT, etc., he does it all. But the right-wing, Cato Institute-style conservatism leaves me cold. What part of “Social Compact” don’t libertarians understand?

Belle, as usual, is dead on.

6

V 05.03.12 at 4:01 am

I think the logic tying Zimmermann’s statements about Mexican thugs to Trayvon is really weak.

Zimmermann is Hispanic himself and thus, exceedingly unlikely to hate Mexicans as a class (whereas Mexican thugs who damage cars are universally hated in the US, even by other Mexicans). Anyway, even if I am completely wrong about this and Zimmermann hates that group, it is a very tenuous link to Trayvon Martin as racism against blacks is very different than racist feelings against Hispanics.

If you doubt that last statement, you should spend a lot of time talking to people in Texas like I do. Anti-black racism basically tracks proximity to the negative externalities imposed by poor black folks (e.g., if you have them as neighbors/classmates, you will exhibit significant negative attitudes; if not, your attitudes will be much more ‘enlightened’) and you can see this in the high amount of anti-black feelings shown by poor Asians, Hispanics, etc.. Anti-hispanic racism (or anti-Mexican if you prefer) is much more traditional I would argue (i.e., you think ‘Mexican peasants’ entering the country are lowering IQ, stealing jobs, etc like Steve Sailer) and there is no strong proximity effect (i.e., people who live in neighborhoods with strong Hispanic presences in Texas don’t seem more negative in their attitudes than otherwise identical Texans in other neighborhoods).

Anyway, this pattern seems to hold in MA, CA, SC, and FL (other states I have lived in) and though to some degree anecdotal does have some backing in poll data as well. Conclusion: racism against these two groups are two different phenomena and encompass two very different segments in American society

7

Moby Hick 05.03.12 at 4:11 am

Did Steve Sailor really take that many jobs all by himself?

8

mitslew 05.03.12 at 4:32 am

Zimmerman is racist but that’s not so much the point. I mean there is always going to be some racist piece of shit doing terrible things. The problem lies, for me, with the police response NOT to investigate the “white man” at the crime scene, while fully investigating the dead black body — evident in the fact that Zimmerman wasn’t questioned or even tested for drugs/alcohol while Martin’s body was. The parents weren’t even contacted until the following day. It’s just another dead black body. White is right, credible, and alive while black is wrong and expected dead.

9

Merp 05.03.12 at 4:41 am

Matt,

Short(-ish) answer: a “racist” act is one committed out of conscious or unconscious bias, prejudice etc. demonstrating bigotry toward a particular race. If I spit on a person of another race because he shouldn’t be walking on the same side of the sidewalk as me, that’s racist. If I mean to spit in a trash can and it accidentally hits a black person, that’s not. More importantly, it’s not the same act.

I’m not sure what you’re getting at with “thoughtless” and “kind” people. Some of that is dealt with in the post (well-rounded person and all that). I don’t know, maybe you can provide ones you’re thinking of that are grey, but for the most part racist acts are pretty black and white (that’s what the last link in the post is getting at).

Long answer: To make sense of this, consider the opposite. Let’s say that to be racist meant that you had racist thoughts, feelings, desires, etc. Racist cognitive states. Some are conscious, some are self-identified as being racist, some are not. Sometimes those translate into action, sometimes not.

Well, what follows? If that were true, then everyone on Earth would be racist, and we would only be able to speak of degrees of racism.

Now, this might be true from a purely descriptive standpoint. (I don’t think we have the technology or philosophical sophistication yet to determine whether it’s true, but it’s plausible it’s true). But it doesn’t match, at all, the way that “racism” functions in our discourse. To be guilty of “racism” is to be guilty of something coherent enough and uncommon enough that society can identify it and have “racist” and “not racist” be meaningful categories. “Having unconscious prejudicial bias against people with outgroup distinctions” satisfies neither of those criteria. “Acting on that bias” does.

Now, there might be some worthwhile application of the term “racist” to broader abstractions of social groups that wouldn’t turn on whether a specific act by an individual was racist. Fer instance, if you live in a society in which the economy completely depends on slave labor to harvest a crucial crop, and all the slaves are a different race than the non-slaves, it could make sense to think of anyone living in that society as being “racist”, even though they themselves don’t commit any “racist” acts. I’m not sure how much water this argument holds, but it sounds plausible.

In any event, I don’t think that’s the argument you were making, and even if “racist” can apply to social groups like that, it wouldn’t have any bearing on the appropriateness of referring to individual people as “racist”.

10

kent 05.03.12 at 4:53 am

I sometimes try to remember that truly good people — yes, including many who are (much) better people than I am — can disagree with me. I may disagree with you but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. So true!

But I have to say, the political blogosphere never, ever, ever reminds me of that. So much of it boils down to “they’re in the other tribe so they’re bad people.”

As I think back, the only bloggers who I can think of, who have not only made this point but made me *believe* it and think about it in a new way: (a) hilzoy, and (b) Belle. Dozens of major male bloggers writing tens of thousands of posts, and I can’t remember any of them striking this particular note.

Thanks for this post, Belle.

11

KeithEwards 05.03.12 at 5:25 am

V@6:
Zimmermann is Hispanic himself and thus, exceedingly unlikely to hate Mexicans as a class

I’d like to introduce you to my Father-in-law, Mr. Sanchez who has on more than one occasion ranted in my presence about Those Mexican Immigrants, repeating GOP talking points and all. He has separated in his mind himself and his family from those Others. I have yet to impress on him the fact that Rush and the gang don’t make a distinction between him and those Other Mexicans.

12

KeithEwards 05.03.12 at 5:27 am

I’d like to add that my father-in-law is a kind and gentle man, who talks to his cows every night and has always been supportive of my wife and I. We contain multitudes. True fact.

13

Kiwanda 05.03.12 at 5:32 am

How to Tell People They Sound Racist” is relevant here, in particular, why the “What they did” conversation is more useful (by being harder to derail) than the “What they are” conversation.

14

Belle Waring 05.03.12 at 6:14 am

V. “If you doubt that last statement, you should spend a lot of time talking to people in Texas like I do. Anti-black racism basically tracks proximity to the negative externalities imposed by poor black folks (e.g., if you have them as neighbors/classmates, you will exhibit significant negative attitudes; if not, your attitudes will be much more ‘enlightened’) and you can see this in the high amount of anti-black feelings shown by poor Asians, Hispanics, etc.”

Hey, you know what you just said V.? That racism is positively correlated with interacting with poor Black people. So if you live near poor Black people, or go to school with them, you’ll be racist, but only because of what dumbass shitheads poor Black people are. That’s why people in areas with high poor Black populations are racist: they know poor Black people! But all y’all ‘enlightened’ lefties, who universally come from the all-white states of…uh, Utah? Idaho or some shit? Or I guess the fortress all-white suburbs you so ruthlessly defend with all the guns you lefties are so well known for…owning and using all the time to protect your property? Uh. Anyway, you can afford to pretend not to be racist, because you don’t have to deal with the consequences of your attitudes, like you would if any leftists ever lived in any major cities with poor Black people in them. But poor Latino people, who have poor Black people shoved up in their faces all day, have no choice but to be racist, because, Christ, did I mention the Black people?

Daaaamn, that was RACIST. That was really like a million times more racist than anything I expected anyone to say, even if I imagined Steve Sailer might somehow turn up here. (Now I’m afraid he will because he googles his own name every 15 minutes.) Really dude (and I am 1000% certain you’re a guy, even if you want to suddenly claim you’re a woman, and I will ask you trick questions about getting your period), check yourself before you wreck yourself. You might say that sometime out loud and have someone take genuine offense. Those are “fighting words” if there are any. If I were a poor Asian person I might think, why did this asshole just call me a stone cold racist?

Additionally, do you know what there are in places like South Carolina? Leftists. Democrats. Lots of them. They lose, because they are a coalition of all the Black people and some of the white people and a shifting array of newcomers, and there are more of the ‘other’ white people. The kind you are. You know, having learned so much in your close friendships and long discussions with poor Asian people and Latino people and so on. You can peddle just a little more racist bullshit, and after that you can take your sandwich board home and eat it for all I care.

15

Belle Waring 05.03.12 at 6:20 am

Thank you kent; I consider it an honor to be lumped in any group with hilzoy, so I very much appreciate the compliment.

16

Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 6:48 am

@14, this RACIST thing, is it a purely personal vice? Is there any social context to it at all?
And if there is, what would be the least offensive way to articulate it?

17

Belle Waring 05.03.12 at 7:12 am

14: Is it a personal vice? Not purely, because a lot of people think like this, and they control, say, merely for example, the Republican Party in the State of South Carolina. Yeah, I went there.

There is no inoffensive way to articulate the view that if you are forced to interact with poor Black people you will naturally become racist due to the “negative externalities” they impose on their neighbors. I take these “externalities” to be thieving, stealing welfare money, slinging them rocks…what the hell else could he be talking about, forcing you to care about college basketball? Learning about natural hair care products for African-American women? That’s just regular old racism, and there is no need to drag in imaginary Latino and Asian friends. Imaginary impoverished non-Black minority friends are busy enough deflecting questionable charges of racism; they’re just cannon fodder here. Show some damn imaginary mercy.

18

Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 7:34 am

Alright, for example: I hear cabbies in Manhattan (not all of them, I’m sure, but apparently a lot of them) don’t like to pick up black passengers (though I’m sure they consider other characteristics too).

Some say they are racist. Others say they simply don’t like the odds of having to take them to more dangerous areas of the city, where it’s also difficult to find a passenger going back to Manhattan.

Which explanation do you think comes closer to the truth, or do both of them amount to the same thing: RACIST.

I’m just trying to understand.

19

Sam Dodsworth 05.03.12 at 8:18 am

I’m just trying to understand.

I really don’t think you are, you know.

20

Belle Waring 05.03.12 at 8:31 am

19: LOL SRSLY

21

Belle Waring 05.03.12 at 8:33 am

Once the apocryphal discussions with the NYC cabbies get started, I’m out.

22

Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 8:43 am

Well, in my mind, at least, I’m trying to understand why this (what I perceive as) transcendental-metaphysical approach to this subject is so popular ’round here, instead of rational socioeconomic analysis. But, yeah, I accept that in the realm of transcendental metaphysics I’m simply a racist trying to justify racism. It’s a sorta like “why do you like Saddam so much?” situation.

23

ajay 05.03.12 at 8:50 am

Data, just out of curiosity, do you have a moustache of any kind? Do you expect radical changes in the international political environment in the next six months?

24

Nick 05.03.12 at 8:55 am

It seems that placing too much stress on an essentialising and defining label for another person almost inevitably leads to problems.

25

rf 05.03.12 at 9:17 am

“Our blog is just drinking a cup of coffee, and making plans to kiss…Clive Owen? I may need to re-do the polling on this one.)”

I always saw it more as spooning Anthony Hopkins, fwiw

26

emmanuelgoldstein 05.03.12 at 9:59 am

Now, this might be true from a purely descriptive standpoint. (I don’t think we have the technology or philosophical sophistication yet to determine whether it’s true, but it’s plausible it’s true). But it doesn’t match, at all, the way that “racism” functions in our discourse. To be guilty of “racism” is to be guilty of something coherent enough and uncommon enough that society can identify it and have “racist” and “not racist” be meaningful categories. “Having unconscious prejudicial bias against people with outgroup distinctions” satisfies neither of those criteria. “Acting on that bias” does.

(1) Then you might have spared us the time, and gone directly to the claim that there were no racists, where the meaning of racist is given by its function(s) in (your version of) the way people talk. This is fully compatible with there being racist people.

(2) You’re missing relevant distinctions. Even if it were true that everyone occasionally has racist feelings, cognitive states etc. it doesn’t yet follow that they’re character traits: all of us are occasionally clumsy, only some of us are so habitually clumsy that the clumsiness is a stable enough disposition to count as a character trait. Only when someone has a stable tendency to experience racist emotions, enjoy cognitive states with racist content or affect, and act on them etc. is that person properly called a racist. There are enough of those around to falsify the headline claim.

27

Belle Waring 05.03.12 at 10:22 am

I always saw it more as spooning Anthony Hopkins, fwiw
ew!

28

bob mcmanus 05.03.12 at 10:24 am

Belle Waring, March 23

The real problem with the situation is not that George Zimmerman, the man who shot an unarmed 17-year-old, is racist. He is racist as the day is long, as can be deduced from his thoughts on the nature of “being suspicious,” oh, and by his saying “fucking coons” while on the phone to the goddamn police dispatcher. Which he did, as plain as dishwater. There is no doubt there.

You and Coates can make a mistake, mishear. But the last sentences are in a different category of public discourse. Do you still stand by them?

29

Salient 05.03.12 at 10:29 am

I should really really stop looking at the evil, makes me have to lie down watching the blood beat in the capillaries of the back of my eye computer.

You really really should, that’s awful. Can’t remember if I’ve asked before, but have you tried melanin-coated computer-reading eyeglasses? My life partner now swears by them for computer use and bugs me to get a pair, but any tint in the lenses makes my pupils dilate too much, so no go for me. (Also, I have no idea if there’s sound scientific principle behind the melanin tint for glasses or not, and am an unreliable resource for that kind of thing; uh, I once believed the anti-static wrist straps that don’t run a wire to anything actually worked.)

I was defeated.

But in the best possible way.

30

bjk 05.03.12 at 10:35 am

Geez, aren’t we all racists? It’s not like racism is something over there and I’m over here, and I can say “thank god I’m pure and they’re evil!” Belle lives about a few thousand miles from the closest black person, who is probably in Africa, so this isn’t something she probably deals with on a daily basis. I sure don’t remember seeing any black people hanging out around the Fitzpatrick’s on Scotts road, but that was a long time ago. And apparently Fitzpatrick’s was replaced by Promenade, which is now the site of the Paragon, home of Gucci, Prada, Coach, Burberry . . . Back then it was a supermarket and sold PBR. The cute ladies at the register would coo at me and pat my blond hair, which was always fun but also a little annoying. And next door you could get cucumber sandwiches at the cafe . . . Anyway, back from my reverie. Right, we’re all racists. I think Belle is projecting much. The real question is, did Zimmerman murder Martin, and not, Is he a RACIST? So what if he is? I’m pretty sure murder is at least 20 times worse than racism, if not more.

31

bob mcmanus 05.03.12 at 10:43 am

30: and not, Is he a RACIST? So what if he is?

It is, and was, very important for legal reasons.

Jeralyn Merritt

But it seems the state has probably foreclosed a conviction on a federal hate crimes charge. With state investigators swearing under oath Zimmerman said “punks” instead of the alleged racial slur, even if others disagree, there’s no way it will pass the proof beyond a reasonable doubt requirement for a hate crime conviction.

32

bjk 05.03.12 at 10:49 am

Hate crime laws aren’t going to last long. SC just repealed a lynching law because it was primarily being used against black gangs. Hate crime laws are headed for the same fate.

33

bjk 05.03.12 at 10:52 am

To be accurate, some people have talked about repealing the SC lyching law. Not repealed yet.

34

emmanuelgoldstein 05.03.12 at 11:02 am

Geez, aren’t we all racists?

Nope. (And it is good of you to take time out to ask the redundant question at the start.)

35

Salient 05.03.12 at 11:03 am

It is, and was, very important for legal reasons.

Sorrrry, no! A non-racist can commit a hate crime. And as for that slam-dunk ‘goons’ cover story, Zimmerman began the commission of a hate crime the moment he decided to give chase to a black kid under the racist presumption that that kid was a criminal.

I understand you’re thrilled to have any excuse to celebrate a state-sanctioned murder of an undesirable — good to know who you’d really like to see be first against the wall, by the way — but that’s no excuse to come slobber on us. Newsmax totally needs your insight and acuity on this one; go have fun with your friends.

36

Belle Waring 05.03.12 at 11:08 am

Bob, I have heard a “cleaned-up” version of the tape in which is does sound as if he’s saying “fucking punks.” I was surprised. But I understood all the rest of what he and the dispatcher said just fine. Why’d I need the magic audio cleaning-up elves to come fix some stuff up for me just on that one section? I don’t know, and I was rocked a bit at the “clean” version, but stand by an ordinary listening of the actual tape, in which Zimmerman says “fucking coons” rather distinctly.

bjk: I don’t need any Black people around to be racist against them. But this is Singapore, where we have everything, so if I did want any, there are plenty of Nigerian guys behind Dickson Road in Little India near this big tree shrine selling…something illegal but I don’t know exactly what. I think it’s computer motherboards, but also credit card numbers? Even when my store was right around the corner, my Chinese business partner was unable to discern their line of work, as there were only Bangladeshis to ask. Odd. Not drugs. Additionally there are professors at NUS, and doctors at the National Hospital, etc. etc. The only time you see African-American people around, usually, is when the US Navy is in town.

The real question is indeed whether Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, but I think an interrogation of why he was following Martin in his truck and left it, armed, to pursue him further is one of the few ways we might possibly know. So if we were to have reasons to think that Zimmerman held an irrational animus against young black men, or was inclined, in general, to harbor racial prejudice, then we might believe his story less. If we think his concern about break-ins committed by Black men led him to want to just chase any old Black man through the street with a loaded gun, then yeah, it’s relevant to whether he committed murder.

Obviously I failed to make my general point, which is that we start with a: “it was racist that this guy shot and killed a Black kid when he wouldn’t have shot a white kid under the same circumstances.” Then people go to b: “you’re saying he’s a racist and since racists come from the Death Star and are clones of Hitler, but my boy George is just an honest humble former altar boy who isn’t a clone of Hitler at all, you must be wrong! Case dismissed” And then you want to say, c: “Regardless of whether he’s a racist in general, he did kill someone because of the color of his skin, and my people call that doing some racist shit.” Perhaps not entirely relevantly, d: “Also, he’s racist. Additionally, he’s dumb as a box of hammers, and you probably had to tie pork chops to his ears to get the dog to play with him when he was a boy.” But that’s another story.

37

Matt 05.03.12 at 11:09 am

Merp at 9-
Thanks for your long reply. I’m not 100% sure I understand your position completely. My position is that it’s perfectly coherent and right to talk about both acts and people as racist, and that the connection between the two isn’t (always) linear. That’s so with many things- being kind, careless, a jerk, clumsy, brave, etc. You can do a kind thing without being a kind person, for example, but doing kind things isn’t _merely_ evidence of being a kind person. Being a racist person is a bit more tricky, of course, because many of the racists “acts” are mental acts that may not have obviously external features. (If, for example, I think that blacks or most hispanics are genetically inferior to whites, even if this doesn’t show up in any straight-forward way in my behavior, I’d be a racist.) This is to say that being a racist is a character trait, and it comes in degrees, as do (probably) all character traits. Character is a tricky thing- much harder to make sense of than most people have thought (though less than some think now.) But, it doesn’t seem implausible (the opposite, really) that we can think of both individual acts that are racist and a person having a racist character, just as we can with other traits of the sort I’d mentioned.

I can’t tell for sure from your account whether you’re committed to the view or not, but I’d also reject the view that racism must be “in the heart”, as people who write on this stuff say. That is, it need not be a cognitive (not fully, anyway) or intentional trait. The philosopher Tommie Shelby has done excellent work on this, if you’re interested.

I think there is some senses in which we might truthfully say that some societies are more racist than others- for example, if one society has many more racists in it, and these racist elements are considered okay, that would be a more racist society than one lacking these traits, even if this society didn’t have formal discrimination. But a society that had formal discrimination would also be racist. This seems uncontroversial to me, though often enough unhelpful, since it won’t tell you a ton about individuals in the particular society.

38

Matt 05.03.12 at 11:16 am

emmanuelgoldstein said most of what I wanted to say to Merp much more efficiently. Thanks.

I always saw it more as spooning Anthony Hopkins, fwiw
Well, so long as we can just spoon, and don’t have to fork.

39

ajay 05.03.12 at 11:16 am

have you tried melanin-coated computer-reading eyeglasses?

I don’t even see melanin.

40

Ebenezer Scrooge 05.03.12 at 11:46 am

Yam crates are poor evidence of anything. A lot of black folks are rather fond of Negrobilia, without seeming to suffer from any self-loathing. Not many of the civil rights generation, to be sure, but many of their children.

41

bjk 05.03.12 at 11:58 am

“(And it is good of you to take time out to ask the redundant question at the start.)”

If the question is “redundant,” wouldn’t it have to be at least the second question? If it were to redund, there would need to be a first dunder, right? A quick search through thesaurus.com doesn’t really come up with a better word – not baseless, superfluous, inapposite, spurious, unwarranted, needless . . . can’t really come up with the word you’re looking for, but I get where you’re headed.

In short, pleonastic can be subsituted for redundant in most cases, except when somebody is being fired.

42

bjk 05.03.12 at 12:02 pm

Maybe moot or otiose. Suggestions welcome.

43

Merp 05.03.12 at 12:46 pm

emmanuelgoldstein,

Maybe it’s cuz I ain’t had caffeine yet but I don’t see any warrants to the claims and distinctions you’re making.

1) Needlessly-snide remarks aside, your first objection relies too much on the one-sentence summary of what I’m saying. “There are no racists, only racist acts” = “We can only call identify as racist things which actually happen; we can’t call having unconscious prejudicial bias against people with outgroup distinctions racism.” Using the definition I want to use, we can still call people who do racist things “racists”, just as we talk about “painters”, “boaters”, “gamers”, etc. There’s still a question of “where do you draw the line; what’s the statute of limitations on calling someone a racist”, but that question exists under the definition you want to use, too.

2) “Only when someone has a stable tendency to experience racist emotions, enjoy cognitive states with racist content or affect, and act on them etc. is that person properly called a racist.”

That applies to everyone ever. We all have a “stable tendency” to experience racist emotions, have racist cognitive states. It’s hard-wired into our brains. That’s my point. This distinction is not a distinction. If your point is that someone has to enjoy their racism for it to be racism, that eliminates the good portion (majority?) of racism which is unconscious/not self aware.

That gets at a point I was driving at but didn’t explicitly state: we can’t judge internal cognitive/emotional states, can we. We can’t possibly think that Jones over there is secretly thinking racist thoughts and getting off on them, look at the way he wears his tie and is drinking his coffee, I just know he uses the term “Macaca”. There’s like a triple-bind in your attempted definition here. If you say “racism is cognitive thought/emotion”, everyone everywhere is racist. If you say “racism is cognitive thought/emotion that acknowledges/takes pleasure in making bigoted outgroup distinctions”, a big chunk of racism is defined out of existence. If you say “racism can be unconscious cognitive thought/emotion that makes bigoted outgroup distinctions”, not only are we back to calling everyone racist but no-one can be accused of being racist under this definition. It’d be like a Monty Python sketch. “You’ve just had an unconscious cognitive thought/emotion that makes bigoted outgroup distinctions.” “No I haven’t.” “Ohp you did it again!” The only way out of this thicket is to focus on acts.

Matt,

I don’t think there’s anything more to add, let me know if you think there is. I’ll just say I completely agree that racism doesn’t have to be intentional, and that we’re in agreement on the society stuff (I threw that into my last comment more as a precaution than anything).

44

Moby Hick 05.03.12 at 12:59 pm

If we can’t be racists, maybe we shouldn’t be sophists either.

45

Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 1:05 pm

We all have a “stable tendency” to experience racist emotions, have racist cognitive states. It’s hard-wired into our brains.

What nonsense. Speak for yourself.

46

Merp 05.03.12 at 1:12 pm

Google “ingroup outgroup distinction”. Include “fmri” if you don’t want stuff dating back to the seventies.

47

ajay 05.03.12 at 1:18 pm

Well, certainly all foreigners have that hardwired tendency.

48

Anderson 05.03.12 at 1:20 pm

Sympathize on the yam-crate labels, Belle. My wife adores Shearwater pottery from Mississippi (Walter Anderson’s family, if anyone here knows who Walter Anderson is … no relation), and they used to make little figurines called “widgets.” Here is what widgets look like.

We finally decided they were too cringeworthy and put them in a box, just because we couldn’t really see having them sit out.

OTOH, you know what’s the other artwork I don’t have anywhere to hang? Manet’s Olympia.

49

The Raven 05.03.12 at 1:21 pm

Matthew 5:43-47.

There is something seriously wrong with someone’s thinking when they get pwnd by JC, 2000 years ago.

“Be ye perfect.”

50

Michael 05.03.12 at 1:32 pm

Back to the beginning, writing from yet another time zone:

First: this is a fabulous rant by BW.

My own two cents worth is that racism can be subtle. My family was so careful to keep me away from any place that was not WASP that I got through college unaware of their racism. Later, though, comments my Dad used to make when he came home from work at the airbase began to make sense. When a black guy did something dumb, my Dad complained about ‘those dumb GIs’ (majority black). When a white guy did something dumb, it was because he was personally dumb, his own achievement. As a kid I marveled at the total wave of stupidity swallowing the USAF. Only much later was I impressed by the difference between those two kinds of stupidity.

51

James 05.03.12 at 1:51 pm

Michael

GI traditionaly refers to US Army. If your dad was in the Airforce the GI refernce could be a reference to members of a different military branch vs a racial reference.

52

J. Otto Pohl 05.03.12 at 2:20 pm

I am going to have to agree that actions not mind frames are what count here. Racism or more accurately racial discrimination is the differential and unequal treatment of people based upon their membership in immutable groups based upon ancestry. This gets around the weird justification that such differential treatment is not racial discrimination if it is not motivated by a pathological hatred of people based upon a conception of genetic inferiority. A regime such as the Soviet Union under Stalin that rounds up everybody of Korean, German, and Chechen descent and places them under restrictive internal exile is racist by virtue of engaging in racial discrimination. If you treat entire groups of people defined by descent from specific cultural groups in ways that restrict their rights, privileges, power, and opportunities relative to other such groups then there is racism involved. In some cases like apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow US south the discrimination is obvious and nobody disputes it. In other cases such as the USSR and Israel the discrimination is also obvious and large numbers of western intellectuals do dispute it. Not because it does not fit the definition of racism, but because they have an ideological investment in defending those states from the charge of racism.

53

Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 2:29 pm

Merp 46, without googling, I’ll take your word for it, that humans are hard-wired to associate and form groups. But does it mean that everybody who is not in my organization’s staff directory, or all those with passports that don’t look like mine are a different race?

54

Radley Balko 05.03.12 at 2:31 pm

Belle,

First, thank you for the kind words. And I always appreciate your thoughtful comments on my site.

My point with the Reuters article was that this case was portrayed from the start as a hate crime. Jesse Jackson, for example, claimed Zimmerman murdered Martin in cold blood, and deemed it part of a new war on black people. (There is zero evidence there’s a surge in white people shooting or assaulting black people. Black on black violent crime is common. Black on white violent crime is less common. White on black violent crime is vanishingly rare.)

Jackson’s rhetoric mirrored how this case was portrayed for several weeks. That coverage was wrong and irresponsible. It inflamed racial tensions, and almost certainty resulted in Zimmerman’s indictment — an indictment that most criminal attorneys I’ve read and talked to have said is incredibly broad and unfair, possibly to the point of malpractice. I mentioned Zimmerman’s black neighbor because I found it striking that she wanted to defend Zimmerman, but refused to give her name. She feared repercussions, not from from bigots and Fox News, but from progressives and the civil rights community. She no doubt saw how another of Zimmerman’s black friends was cast off as an Uncle Tom when he tried to defend Zimmerman in public early on. The hysteria around this case has become so intense that a black woman is afraid to come forward and tell what she feels is the truth because she doesn’t want to be cast out of her own community. I find that unsettling, as both a journalist and as an advocate for fairness and justice in the criminal courts.

When I posted on Twitter that the initial police station video wasn’t the proof of Zimmerman’s lies it was initially touted to be — that it was too grainy to show his wounds, and that in any case, he had already received medical treatment by the time he appeared in the video — I was called a racist, a bigot, and threatened with physical violence. When a few people pointed out that much of my career has involved writing about people victimized by racism in the criminal justice system, that was dismissed as something akin to the “oh, so he has black friends,” defense. (I was also called a racist because I didn’t write about the case soon enough.)

I’m not pointing this out to suggest I’m a victim. There are certainly worse things to endure than the barbs of a small Twitter mob. But it is another example of how little interest there seems to be in finding out what actually happened in this story. It’s almost as if there are factions of people who really do want this incident to have been about race.

Zimmerman’s My Space page is troubling, and I obviously can’t look into the guy’s mind to know his true feelings about race. But a couple things. First, it seems to me that a Hispanic ranting about other Hispanics is less troubling than, say, John Derbyshire ranting about black people. Second, that this is being considered at all relevant to the Martin case shows the folly of the thinking behind hate crimes laws. We’re now looking back to the guy’s early 20s, at items he posted on a My Space page, and we’re to conclude that the fact that he, a Hispanic, posted nasty things about other Hispanics shows he was motivated by hate when he shot a black teenager several years later? It’s just absurd.

Finally, I agree that Zimmerman likely profiled Martin because of the recent string of black burglaries in the neighborhood. I’m not sure I agree that this is a terrible thing. This isn’t akin NYPD stopping and frisking random black people. This is a neighborhood watch leader calling the police because there was someone in the neighborhood who fit the description of the people who had recently committed a series of robberies. We all profile. We’re hard wired to do it. In specific instances, it makes sense. If someone just reported they were robbed at gunpoint by a Hispanic teen, it would make sense for police in the area to scan for Hispanic teens. It’s when it’s applied to broad populations and non-specific crimes that it becomes an injustice. So I don’t really have a problem with Zimmerman calling the police on Martin. I’m not even sure I’d have a problem if Zimmerman had asked Martin what he was doing, or why he was in the neighborhood, although given that Martin had every right to be where he was, I’d also understand if Martin took offense to that sort of questioning.

All of that said, if Zimmerman tried to physically detain Martin, if he assaulted him, if he tried to “hold” him until police arrived, then Zimmerman committed a crime, and he should be punished for it. If Martin responded with violence, Zimmerman’s decision to shoot him boils down to whether Zimmerman reasonably believed he was in danger of lethal or serious physical harm at the time he pulled the trigger. What Zimmerman wrote on his My Space in his early 20s about Mexican people should have nothing to do with any of that. Perhaps it’ll come out at trial, but right now, there’s just no evidence that Zimmerman assaulted Martin. Yes, that may well be because Martin is dead, and can’t testify to the assault. It also may be because it didn’t happen. It is at least possible that Martin lashed out, perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of anger at being followed and questioned for being in a place he had every right to be. As my friend Julian Sanchez wrote several weeks ago, it’s at least possible that this was a genuine tragedy, in the Shakespearean sense.

My comments about the Reuters piece were more a reaction to the early hysteria over this case, and how everyone immediately assumed this was a hate crime. There were many, many misreported items about this case early on, and nearly all of them were misreported in a manner unfavorable to Zimmerman. (I’m talking about items reported in large media outlets, not the nonsense spouted on conservative blogs.) The difference in size between Zimmerman and Martin was exaggerated (Zimmerman was widely reported to be “twice” Martin’s size. Martin was actually taller, and about 20 pounds lighter.) The initial photos of Martin that ran in the media was several years old. The initial photo of Zimmerman depicted him in a jail jumpsuit, on a charge that was later dismissed. The clip of the 911 calls in which Zimmerman allegedly made a racial slur was misreported, and the clip in which he volunteered Martin’s race was deceptively edited. There were also errors of omission, such as the fact that Zimmerman launched a one-man campaign calling for the arrest of the white son of a local police officer who had beaten a black homeless man. The right-wing Daily Caller reported that one. There are other examples, but this comment is already too long.

I guess it’s just disappointing to see how people who normally stand up for the rights of the accused, who understand the flaws in the criminal justice system, and are who normally skeptical of public hysteria over a high-profile crime story, lost sight of those principles here, as they have in other high-profile cases in which the races of the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator are flipped, like Duke Lacrosse or Tawana Brawley. The instinct to fight for equality sometimes seems to trump the instinct to fight for due process and fair justice — or even accuracy.

Of course, the political right seems to think that the only time there is injustice and racism in America is when white people are accused of crimes against black people. But I don’t expect intellectual consistency or nuance of thought from the Sean Hannitys of the world. I do expect more from my friends on the left who are otherwise thoughtful when it comes to writing and thinking about the criminal justice system.

55

Merp 05.03.12 at 3:13 pm

(sorry to people who view this as a derail)

Brief history:

1900s era social scientists theorized/observed preferences/bias for people associated for one’s own group, with group being loosely defined – nation, race, neighbors, class, wearing the same hat.

As psychology began to become more systematized and revolve around cognitive processes people began to more systematically investigate the mechanisms and extent of the preference/bias. It’s able to be manipulated (ie, the factor that triggers preference/bias is able to be changed, the magnitude is able to be changed, etc.) but important things to remember is that it’s widespread (everyone does it all the time) and inherent (people can’t help doing it).

Proceeding decades saw lots of exploration as to the racial component of ingroup outgroup distinction and preference/bias for one’s own group. Findings were that, like other distinctions and preferences/biases, those based on race could be manipulated . But, racial distinction and preference/bias was also widespread, inherent and often acted as a “baseline” distinction (ie, if other distinctions can be made people make them, but people nearly always make racial distinctions if possible).

The rise of computers and brain imaging lead to more fine-tuned investigation of racial ingroup outgroup detection and preference/bias. People classify racial categories quickly and unconsciously, make unconscious and automatic decisions based on racial stereotypes, have specific regions of the brain that are activated in racial distinction/preference/bias that are not activated in other ingroup outgroup distinction/preference/bias, etc.

These processes are variable but everyone has them, like visual acuity or sensitivity to smell. They also have correlations with other cognitive processes – levels of self-esteem and empathy, for example, are correlated with how prevalent these processes are – and the chemical pathways that seem to regulate these processes are involved with all kinds of things – for example, oxytocin seems to regulate both distinction and preference, and oxytocin levels are associated with a myriad of other effects. But, however these processes are actually run in any given person, she still has them.

So, overall, it’s accurate to say people are hard-wired to make ingroup outgroup distinctions and to assign preference/bias based on those distinctions, but racial distinction/preference/bias is a specific subset of that phenomenon which has its own characteristics.

56

Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 3:43 pm

But, racial distinction and preference/bias was also widespread, inherent and often acted as a “baseline” distinction

I’d like to see the definition of “racial distinction”, and some proof of “inherent”.

57

John Donnelly 05.03.12 at 4:05 pm

“I wish people would stop being so confused all the time.”

I love this sentence!

Thanks for making me smile!

Acticle is great too.

58

Merp 05.03.12 at 4:10 pm

These are questions that are answered by the cumulative results of a decades-long research program. I can give you specific answers, but they are just as subject to nitpicking as the ones I’ve already given, especially within the limitations of a blog comment (which I’ve already abused too much; I’m feeling guilty about threadjacking; Belle’s post was awesome and deserves better than people arguing over social science methodology). If you want to be knowledgable about this stuff, read up on it.

“Racial distinction” is “noticeable phenotypic differences”. These differences are manipulatable, but the strongest and most significant results are always for differences that fall along society’s racial categories (skin color, hair type, facial structure, etc.) and for phenotypes that most obviously are categorizable in those racial categories and stereotypes.

“Inherent” means “can’t be turned off”, “unconscious”. People who don’t think they are making racial distinctions are making racial distinctions. They react quicker to categorize pictures along racial lines, make categorizations which demonstrate bias, make those categorizations even as their attention is directed elsewhere, the parts of the brain which are activated in those distinctions operate without conscious knowledge of their operation, etc.

59

js. 05.03.12 at 4:11 pm

Are we going to end up back on the savannah here? But seriously, Merp is ably if unwittingly demonstrating the problems with thinking about racism as primarily a psychological or character trait.

And yes, of course there are racists. They are those people that (a) belong to the privileged “race”-group, and (b) more or less consistently act in ways that discriminate against or exhibit animus towards members of less privileged “race”-groups just as such. Problem with thinking about race as just a character trait is that it’s then all too easy to forget about (a). And then you start getting the “Blacks can be just as racists as whites” nonsense. And from there it’s a short step to Merp’s in-between-the-out-group-ism, or whatever he or she is on about.

60

Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 4:25 pm

Merp, ‘making distinctions’ between faces that look very different seems like a trivial phenomenon. Hardly a basis for the claim that everybody is hardwired to be a racist. Emphasis on ‘hardwired’.

61

Merp 05.03.12 at 4:28 pm

Please. The stuff I’m talking about has nothing to do with evo psych. There’s a line of evo psych reasoning that wants to try and explain the results I’m talking about, but the theorizing and documentation of these processes was developed completely separately from that stuff.

Plus, guess what: I agree with you! There are racists! And what we call racists and racism shouldn’t have a psychological basis! Because we all have that basis! That’s my point!

Ugh. I still haven’t had caffeine. Maybe that’s why I’m having problems getting my point across. See y’all later.

62

Manta1976 05.03.12 at 4:36 pm

Radley @54 “Perhaps it’ll come out at trial, but right now, there’s just no evidence that Zimmerman assaulted Martin.”

From the dictionary:
Assault (leg.) unlawful physical attack upon another; an attempt or offer to do violence to another, with or without battery, as by holding a stone or club in a threatening manner.

It seems to me that the fact that Zimmermann killed Martin is quite a strong evidence that he did an “unlawful physical attack upon” him.
Of course, the “unlawful” word is important, and given the Florida law, it might well be that shooting an unarmed guy for no reason is lawful; but given the evidence, I would say that the opposite hold: Perhaps it’ll come out at trial, but right now, there’s just no evidence that Zimmerman DID NOT assault Martin.

63

geo 05.03.12 at 4:45 pm

Otto @52: Racism or more accurately racial discrimination is the differential and unequal treatment of people based upon their membership in immutable groups based upon ancestry.

Seems exactly right, though perhaps one might want to specify that “unequal” means, or generally means, “inferior.” The important point Otto makes is that racism is a matter of “treat[ing] entire groups of people defined by descent from specific cultural groups in ways that restrict their rights, privileges, power, and opportunities relative to other such groups.” It’s a policy. Offensive or merely tasteless talk may imply a frame of mind that may imply readiness to endorse such a policy. But it diminishes the force of the word — as well as producing unnecessary defensiveness and resentment on the part of people who might otherwise be reasoned with — to apply it broadside to loose remarks or casual attitudes or even cultural stereotypes.

64

Manta1976 05.03.12 at 4:50 pm

Data#s definition does not work, geo, unless you posit that any immigration policy is inherently racist (since it heavily discriminates against people based upon their membership in immutable groups based upon ancestry).

65

Manta1976 05.03.12 at 4:51 pm

Misprint: Otto’s definition of racism, not Data

66

Manta1976 05.03.12 at 4:56 pm

Ah, also: according to the definition, any society with very low inter-generation movement among classes is racist.
So: Ancient regime? Racist.

67

christian_h 05.03.12 at 5:02 pm

Radley (54.): do you think that if there had been a rash of burglaries committed by white people, and Zimmerman saw a white teen, he’d have called the cops and followed him? Somehow this never seems to happen. Even though a lot of crimes (and not just of the white-collar variety) are committed by white people, I never read in the paper “Police ordered [random white dude in the neighbourhood who may just have committed the crime of hanging out in his own backyard] to stop and when he failed to do so, shot him dead”. Or “shop keeper shot white teen in the back of her head in dispute over bottle of soda”. While the corresponding thing happens to black kids in Southern California, for example, with depressing regularity.

So in practice, this profiling you approve of in certain circumstances is never innocent. It is always informed by the racist structures – legal, ideological, economic – that shape society. It therefore amounts to racism, no matter what the person doing the profiling thinks they’re doing.

68

JJ 05.03.12 at 5:10 pm

And then there’s the implicit racism defined by the economic freedom of the affluent to live in more secure neighborhoods, an economic exodus which condemns the remainder to membership in progressively more concentrated camps of the indigent competing against each other for progressively fewer resources.

69

mds 05.03.12 at 5:28 pm

Others say they simply don’t like the odds of having to take them to more dangerous areas of the city, where it’s also difficult to find a passenger going back to Manhattan.

Oh, well then, nothing at all racist in the assumption that any black people hailing a cab in Manhattan probably live in a scary low-income ghetto in the Outer Boroughs. I’d say the cabbies are off the hook.

70

geo 05.03.12 at 5:39 pm

Manta: Re immigration: non-racist immigration policies discriminate by country of origin, not by racial classification. Re the ancien regime: I would have said discrimination is according to status, not descent. True, status is usually conferred by descent, but not always: newly-created nobles enjoy the same privileges as those of ancient lineage.

71

Manta1976 05.03.12 at 5:50 pm

geo, I will repeat your quote again:
“Racism or more accurately racial discrimination is the differential and unequal treatment of people based upon their membership in immutable groups based upon ancestry”: the word “race” does not appear.
Which country you are born is “membership in immutable group”, and, for *most* people, it is “based upon ancestry”; and this for countries with “ius soli” laws: the “ius sanguini” is even more clear-cut, in that I can drop the qualifier “most”.

Anyhow, those were 2 examples off the top of my head: I am sure you can think of many more reasons why Otto’s is, essentially, playing Humpty-Dumpty to fit his agenda.
And the word “usually” in the ancient regime example is a bit weak: what about “almost exclusively”? And the word “parvenu”, which quite contradicts “newly-created nobles enjoy the same privileges as those of ancient lineage” (but I would ask to the historians among the commenters).

72

Patrick 05.03.12 at 6:16 pm

Zimmerman shot Martin because he believed Martin to be a certain kind of person, a person he needed to be afraid of. His belief was racist. He held this belief partly because he was socialized by a culture that encourages such racist beliefs, and partly because he didn’t question them hard enough to moderate them. This individual belief was part of a pattern of beliefs (black people are burglars and thugs, Mexicans are criminals) that are fairly called racist. You can call Zimmerman a racist based on his holding those beliefs, consciously or unconsciously. Personally, I prefer to reserve the usage for people who explicitly entangle these beliefs in their political philosophies. (William F. Buckley’s argument for lynching, for example. Stormfront. Members of my extended family.)

To me the really disturbing racism is the racism in the policing: a white guy killed a black guy, and walked away that night, with no meaningful investigation. Zimmerman, Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann can be racist as they please, and it bothers me, but not nearly as much as the larger picture: The fact that the criminal justice system in the US (as well as many, probably most, other social structures) is thoroughly racist, top to bottom, with only the barest resistance of the electorate, the media, the legislature, the executive and the courts, that’s the real problem. (Yeah, it’s true in other places. I live here.)

Rhetorically speaking, it’s far more effective to be careful about using the term about people, so you can get at the problems with institutions. More compassionate, too.

73

J. Otto Pohl 05.03.12 at 6:28 pm

The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) defines racial discrimination in the following words:

_In this convention, the term ‘racial discrimination’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life._

74

Manta1976 05.03.12 at 6:34 pm

Otto, do you maintain that (almost?) every existing immigration policy is racist (being based on national origin)? Do you think that the distinction between noble and peasants in middle age Europe was racist (being based on descent)?

75

geo 05.03.12 at 6:37 pm

Manta, you truncated the quote: it’s “membership in immutable groups based upon ancestry.” What country you are applying for a visa from is not logically –since you seem to be playing some odd logical game — dependent on your ancestry. Discrimination based on country of origin is just that — discrimination. Possibly invidious, possibly not, depending on the rationale.

What is Otto’s “agenda”?

76

geo 05.03.12 at 6:41 pm

Manta: the distinction between nobles and peasants was based on legal status, normally but not always transmitted by descent.

What is your agenda?

77

Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 6:53 pm

Oh, well then, nothing at all racist in the assumption that any black people hailing a cab in Manhattan probably live in a scary low-income ghetto in the Outer Boroughs.

Look, it’s not the assumption, it’s the odds, like I said. If you are dealt a king and a 7 in blackjack, there is no assumption that the next card is higher than 4, but still you stop. What’s an alternative explanation?

78

Manta1976 05.03.12 at 6:53 pm

geo, I think that defintions of words should try to reflect as faithfully as possible common usage: in general, this would be a very minor point, but when one makes up a definition of an emotionally charged word (such as racism) in order to include some phenomenon he does not like, this is less minor.

And, again, what do you mean by “normally”? 90% of cases? Because if so, the distinction, while logically valid, in practice is nil.

79

Manta1976 05.03.12 at 7:01 pm

And geo, do you think that literacy tests for voting laws in US were not racist, because based on literacy (normally, but not always connected to race), instead of race?

80

J. Otto Pohl 05.03.12 at 7:11 pm

Many immigration policies are racist in their discrimination on the basis of national origin. Certainly things like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were racist. I do not know all of the details of all immigration policies. But, I would argue that a lot of countries including the US have immigration regimes that defacto engage in racial discrimination regardless of intent. For instance the Lautenburg Amendment gave immigration preference to Jews from the USSR and post-Soviet states, but not to other persecuted nationalities such as ethnic Germans. I am sure I could come up with other examples throughout the world where the existing immigration laws did discriminate against particular nationalities in violation of the ICERD.

There is an historical school of thought that maintains that racism in Europe grew out of class differences. Certainly if race is a constructed category it could theoretically be constructed along lines of hereditary class rather than along lines of phenotype. I am not an expert on Medieval Europe so I am not sure how mutable or immutable these categories were. If it was absolutely impossible for people to move up and down in social status even across multiple generations than an argument could be made. But, most scholarship seems to point at racism as a more modern development that really only starts to develop in the 16th century after the reconquest of Spain.

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Asteele 05.03.12 at 7:16 pm

76 His agenda is to stop people from talking about actual existing racism, and instead to try and formulate some general theory of: “what counts as racism”, something of interest only to him.

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geo 05.03.12 at 7:18 pm

Manta: appealing to common usage is an odd strategy in this case, since it’s hard to think of a more uncommon usage than calling the aristocrat/commoner distinction an example of “racism.” Nearly everyone in the world would say that the aristocrats and commoners were of the same race but different legal status.

I still can’t figure out why you think Otto’s definition was arbitrary and tendentious. Could you say a little more clearly?

As for literacy tests: as with immigration restrictions, it depends on whether there’s a plausible independent justification. If there is a good reason for requiring literacy for voting (I don’t see one, but suppose there is), then the right thing to do is impose a literacy requirement and at the same time commit all necessary resources to insuring universal literacy. I don’t see that it matters whether nonwhites are disproportionately affected by the literacy requirement, if it is a reasonable requirement. And in that case, of course, nonwhites would disproportionately benefit from the literacy campaign.

What if there’s a literacy requirement, disproportionately affecting nonwhites, but no literacy campaign? Then you have pretty good grounds for a suspicion of racism. Of course, if the correlation between illiteracy and poverty is as strong as or stronger than the correlation between literacy and race, then you have equally strong or stronger grounds for a suspicion of color-blind plutocracy.

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Manta1976 05.03.12 at 7:21 pm

Otto, I completely agree with your points @79: but they seem to flatly contradict the one at 73, which posits that discrimintation based upon (among other things) descent and national origin are racism: if, say, Germany gives German nationality to children of German parents, it is discriminating based on national origin.

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geo 05.03.12 at 7:24 pm

Asteele: so you think we should just go ahead and talk about actually existing racism without regard to whether we agree on what counts on racism? But if everybody already knows what counts as racism, what do you make of the title of this thread?

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J. Otto Pohl 05.03.12 at 7:31 pm

Germany was long accused of racial discrimination for giving citizenship preference to ethnic Germans from the USSR over ethnic Turks born in Germany. But, if you read the whole ICERD it specifically deals with the issue of immigration and naturalization.

_Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as affecting in any way the legal provisions of States parties concerning nationality, citizenship or naturalization, provided such provisions do not discriminate against any particular nationality._

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V 05.03.12 at 7:34 pm

Radley Balko said much of this earlier but from the comments as well as Belle’s original post (and reply to me), it seeems clear that there are lots of people on this thread who are operating on incorrect premises.

I will admit that I think the press is attempting to railroad Zimmermann into prison because it fits into their narrative rather than any actual proof and the reasons are below:

Let’s review the “facts” that have already turned out to not be true or questionable:

1) Zimmermann hates black people: Not true as it turns out he mentors two disadvantaged black kids in his spare time and is registered Democrat. Hardly the ideal profile for generic anti-black racism and given that none of us were there that night, profiles do matter.

2) Zimmermann uttered racial slurs: Not true as NBC edited the video intentionally to falsely claim this and had to fire the producer who created the story.

3) Zimmermann assaulted Trayvon: Not true according to multiple witnesses (as per Reuters, it was Zimmermann having his head slammed into the pavement) and Zimmermann yelling for help. The assumption that Zimmermann started the fight lacks any proof as the chief investigator and prosecutors had to admit.

4) Zimmermann illegally chased Trayvon down: Not true as it is legal (and normal) in America to ask strangers in your neighborhood (if its a small gated community) what they are doing there without being attacked. Second, the EMS dispatcher told Zimmermann to stop following the suspicious character and his response was “Ok”–not the response of someone in hot pursuit.

5) Zimmermann did not suffer serious injuries so his claim of self-defense is dubious: Not true and a classic blame the victim phraseology. In addition, ABC news had to retract its video claiming that he was uninjured. I notice Belle has not posted a retraction of her post claiming that Zimmermann was lying here.

6) Trayvon is an innocent kid whom no one should suspect: Not true as he has a history of disciplinary problems, has been found with suspected stolen goods (jewelry) and a burglar’s tool, and was a stranger walking around a neighborhood that had suffered from a lot of recent crime from suspects who looked superficially like Trayvon (young black males). The issue of racial profiling is irrelevant here as even a white Trayvon with those set of characteristics should be suspected.

7) Zimmermann is a thug: Not true as he is married, trying to get a degree in school, homeowner, responsible neighbor, never convicted–not exactly the profile again.

Against all of these distortions, we are now reasonably expected to believe that Zimmermann (a Hispanic himself) hates Mexicans? That this hatred of Mexicans translates to a hatred of blacks and thus, Trayvon was killed? Now the answer to both of these questions may be yes but this is definitely not a given.

The narrative that the media constructed (and that Belle and other commenters apparently strongly believe) would justify a lot of this anti-Zimmermann bashing but let’s wait for some actual proof instead of starting a Duke-Lacrosse-like lynch mob

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Data Tutashkhia 05.03.12 at 7:35 pm

The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) defines racial discrimination in the following words:

But racial discrimination is not necessarily the same as racism (at least as I understand the word): that Lautenburg Amendment, for example, as well as Soviet practices implemented in response to it, can be reasonably viewed as merely a tactic in the cold war context, that has absolutely nothing to do with racism (again, at least as I understand the word).

To me, racism is an irrational attitude. Is that not what it is?

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Moby Hick 05.03.12 at 7:46 pm

I will admit that I think the press is attempting to railroad Zimmermann into prison because it fits into their narrative rather than any actual proof and the reasons are below:

Given that the attention of the press has been necessary to get any investigation at all into the killing of an unarmed minor, “railroading” is an incorrect way of speaking about the attention paid to Zimmermann. The officials in charge of investigating crime destroyed any chance of a normal investigation by virtue of being really lazy, really bad at their jobs, really racist, or some combination thereof.

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Alex K. 05.03.12 at 7:53 pm

And yes, of course there are racists. They are those people that (a) belong to the privileged “race”-group

Come again?

Do Indian or Asian immigrants get a free pass at being racist because they don’t belong to the privileged race? Is Zimmerman by definition not a racist because he is part Mexican? You explicitly give a free pass to blacks being racist, but I don’t see how that’s not simply the bigotry of low expectations.

You want to exonerate the resentment of the oppressed race but you end up exonerating the racism of the oppressed race. Those two are not the same thing — and your definition ends up being rather stupid.

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JJ 05.03.12 at 9:21 pm

As I understand it, racism in Central and South America is economically-derived: affluent people are regarded as “white” while indigent people are regarded as “colored”, regardless of the actual race or skin color of the person so described. In contrast to the English colonies in North America, where the natives were expelled and replaced by migrant English settlers and forcibly imported African slaves, the natives in the Spanish colonies of Central and South America were initially enslaved but also integrated into the social structure of the Spanish colonies. Rates of miscegenation and manumission were not only much higher than those of the English colonies but also were more widely accepted as necessary and natural, in a colonial system where the colonizing power suffered from a population deficit. England, on the other hand, suffered from a population surplus of people rendered socially useless by accelerating rates of industrialization, and were thereby expelled to the English colonies. Miscegenation and manumission were restricted to the Southern English colonies. Differential rates of industrialization nevertheless propelled the expulsion of both northern and southern indigent colonists who in turn expelled the natives and colonized their indigenous territories. The American empire began at the precise moment of its independence from the British empire.

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Amanda 05.03.12 at 9:23 pm

we are now reasonably expected to believe that Zimmermann (a Hispanic himself) hates Mexicans?

I don’t have any intelligent point to make about Zimmerman himself, but the above comment is astonishingly ignorant on a great many levels:

1. Zimmerman’s mother was (is?) Peruvian. While the weirdness of the US ethnic categories may categorize both Mexicans and Peruvians as “Hispanics,” it is not at all unusual for people from different countries to hold deeply rooted prejudices about each other, as this thread amply demonstrates.

2. Every country with which I am familiar has deep social-class and ethnic distinctions *within* the country. This is certainly true across Latin America (though I know little about Peru in particular). For example, many Latin Americans of indigenous heritage immigrate to the US after being forced off their agricultural land and then finding the urban centers in their home countries decidedly unwelcoming.

Therefore, it is not only possible to find people from any given country who hold deep, abiding, and ugly prejudices about others from their country, but in some situations in the US it can be frighteningly common. (One of the most frequent examples is the difference between international students and working-class immigrants from the same country — it is not uncommon to find that members of the first, very privileged, group may hold others in contempt.)

And that doesn’t even get into religious bigotry.

3. Finally, of course, there is the concept of internalized racism — sometimes referred to colloquially as “self-hating…”

In short: Yes, it’s totally possible for someone who is (arbitrarily assigned by outsiders to) Group X to hate (other members of) Group X.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.03.12 at 9:30 pm

Zimmermann is a thug: Not true as he is married

???

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js. 05.03.12 at 9:33 pm

Do Indian or Asian immigrants get a free pass at being racist because they don’t belong to the privileged race?

No, because they can behave in a racist manner towards members of “race”-groups relatively less privileged than they are (as a “race”-group in a given context). Happens all the time of course. What’s nonsense is so-called “reverse racism”.

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Fanon 05.03.12 at 10:22 pm

Nice post Belle. I agree about Radley – he provides a crucial service, but his frothing anti-government screeds typically make me avoid his site for awhile. On this matter, I think he simply understates the ZOMG THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME OR MY SON factor, that many, Black folks in particular, felt. Radley worries Zimmerman will be assumed guilty until proven innocent, railroaded by a mob, but it seems to me that this happened to Martin first with far more deadly consequences. Many of us on the left, and in the Black community, weren’t going to let that ride this time. From my perspective, there was a brief moment where it did seem like a mob was brewing, which is problematic since mobs are inimical to justice, but then again so is armed “profiling” by the community watch.

Also MERP @1 messed up the name of the Romney guaranteed income bill, its the NECESSARY Guaranteed Income for All, also called NeceRomnecon. It has the power to bring our dead economy back to life.

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Bruce 05.03.12 at 11:01 pm

Late to the thread, but those who have trust issues with Balko’s libertarianism should try Jeralyn Merritt’s TalkLeft blog. I don’t think you will find much difference in their perspectives on this case.

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Watson Ladd 05.03.12 at 11:04 pm

js, is there just something I don’t get about a bunch of black people standing around a banner saying “Hitler did not do the job” and then going out and shooting a yeshiva student? (Al Sharpton believes not, considering he was there when it happened and complained about “diamond dealers”) What about the Ward 8 councilman complaining about Asian shopkeepers, whom has doubled down on his racist comments? Are they racist, or do we need an affirmative action program where whites need to meet higher standards to not be racist?

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Bloix 05.03.12 at 11:18 pm

Belle, about those yam crates, you could donate them to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia:
http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/

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Alex K. 05.04.12 at 12:52 am

No, because they can behave in a racist manner towards members of “race”-groups relatively less privileged than they are (as a “race”-group in a given context)

So now your definition needs an implicit hierarchy between race-groups. Are Asians higher than Indians on that hierarchy or is the reverse the case? How about Asians and Jews? Should all Asians anxiously await the latest BEA income tables to find out if being anti-Semitic is OK?

If all you want is to defend affirmative action then you can perhaps refuse to define racism except in a concrete historical context. But you can’t pretend that you have a universal definition of racism when what you presented is silly except for the specific case of white black relations in the US.

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JW Mason 05.04.12 at 1:02 am

Belle, thank you for this post. This is exactly right, and needed to be said.

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Merp 05.04.12 at 1:58 am

Fanon,

Nicely done.

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js. 05.04.12 at 4:35 am

Sure, Watson, what you’re describing sounds like a case of “race”-based animus (though, to be honest, I’ve no idea what the fuck you’re talking about). In a racist society (i.e. a society where the classifications of race categories, and which such category one falls into, have significant material consequences for individuals that fall into one or another of those categories), you’re going to get cases of such animus. E.g., and more frequently, you get tensions or antagonisms between Black and Latino communities even though neither is obviously more privileged than the other.

The point is that if you want to talk about racism as a social or political problem (and there’s no point to talking about racism otherwise), then what matters are the prevalent, historically informed structures of privilege that govern or are operative in that society (not all such structures of course, just the ones relevant to the construction of race categories). As soon as you lose track of these particular structures of privilege, you’ve lost track of racism. I mean, this is so fucking obvious, part of me can’t believe I have to type it out. But then, yes, welcome to the Internets!

(This answers Alex K. too. Not sure why he thinks I was defending affirmative action. Not that I wouldn’t–I happily would! But that wasn’t my point above.)

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Consumatopia 05.04.12 at 5:09 am

This isn’t akin NYPD stopping and frisking random black people. This is a neighborhood watch leader calling the police because there was someone in the neighborhood who fit the description of the people who had recently committed a series of robberies.

That series of robberies had been going on for months. That seems like a long time for every one matching the description (young, black, male?) to be under a cloud of suspicion. Not unlike your NYPD example.

I’m not even sure I’d have a problem if Zimmerman had asked Martin what he was doing, or why he was in the neighborhood, although given that Martin had every right to be where he was, I’d also understand if Martin took offense to that sort of questioning.

I have a huge problem with a civilian carrying a gun chasing down strangers in car and on foot and demanding to know their business. People who act the way Zimmerman himself claims he acted are dangerous. They shouldn’t be armed.

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derrida derider 05.04.12 at 5:52 am

js is equivocating. Presented with examples where groups he favours have displayed what looks like racist behaviour, he asserts that the only useful definition of racism is as an attribute of the privileged and, as these groups were non-privileged, they cannot usefully be called racist.

I think that lets the majority of the world’s racists off the hook far too easily. Class and gender both really matter; there are plenty of white folks who could never credibly be called privileged. So is js prepared to be consistent and claim that it is of no use to describe, say, white trash as racist? So maybe we should claim Southern lynchings were not racist – it wasn’t the C0lonel in the Plantation house that led those.

Of course it is notorious that racism is much more common among the poor than the rich, because they’re the ones whose position is most threatened by other poor people. If you travel the world you’ll find plenty of poor racists of all races.

I’ve really got no dog in this fight – I live on the other side of the world – but from this distance Radley’s post @54 absolutely nails it. True, I’ve seen enough of coppers – both in my own and other countries – to find it easy to believe in their incompetence. But Belle has really let herself down by joining the lynch mob without waiting to find out what actually happened.

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Salient 05.04.12 at 7:07 am

I have a huge problem with a civilian carrying a gun chasing down strangers in car and on foot and demanding to know their business. People who act the way Zimmerman himself claims he acted are dangerous racists. They shouldn’t be armed.

It honestly does not matter, at all, whether Zimmerman ever had a thought in his head about the fact that Martin was black. I say he’s racist because he chased down, confronted, attacked, and shot dead a kid, and he probably wouldn’t have given a second’s thought to doing any that if the kid had been white — at the least, his threshold of what behavior he considered suspicious would have been far higher.

The proper response to YOU DON’T KNOW THAT! YOU HAVE NO PROOF! HOW DARE YOU ASSUUUUUUUUME! is pulling a face. And the face says: seriously? Seriously. I dare assume because he killed an unarmed kid. I dare assume because even by his own account he had to kill the kid only because he followed and harassed the kid and introduced the context in which the kid felt any need to attack him. I dare assume because even accepting completely his (implausible) own account of his own behavior and Martin’s behavior, for the sake of civil charity he is most certainly not due, Zimmerman is still crazy enough to be a threat to society. Also, I dare assume because creating a situation in which Zimmerman is unfairly painted as raaaaaacist is really nothing compared to Zimmerman creating a situation in which Martin was unfairly shot dead. Shoot someone: risk people saying it says something bad about who you are. You shot someone. Deal with it.

The idea that we’ll be getting all these additional facts in due time and should wait for them is treating every person like a juror, and that’s ridiculous. Shoot someone: risk social opprobrium, even if you act in self-defense. You get innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, and loathed or disdained until proven worthy of sympathy in the eyes of plenty of others. You shot someone. Deal with it.

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Salient 05.04.12 at 7:09 am

(Shoot. There was supposed to be a blockquote and italics around the word I added, since I wanted to go a step further than Consumatopia. Sorry for confusions.)

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Data Tutashkhia 05.04.12 at 8:12 am

You get innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, and loathed or disdained until proven worthy of sympathy in the eyes of plenty of others.

As the Chappaquiddick incident demonstrates, in highly politicized cases the latter kind of rehabilitation is not very likely.

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Michael 05.04.12 at 8:45 am

Desperately belated reply to James @51 [why are there so many comments? Doesn't anybody do any work?]:

My Dad always called the airmen GIs. He was in the Army Air Corps before there was a USAF.

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tax 05.04.12 at 11:21 am

js: “The point is that if you want to talk about racism as a social or political problem (and there’s no point to talking about racism otherwise), then what matters are the prevalent, historically informed structures of privilege that govern or are operative in that society (not all such structures of course, just the ones relevant to the construction of race categories). “

Semantically, I think you do have a point. “Racism,” in casual speech, is sometimes used only when it involves a member of a privileged group looking down on someone in a less privileged group.

But, if that’s how one looks at it, then racism seems is a sub-problem; the overarching problem is that there are prevalent, historically informed structures of privilege etc. which are abused.

So I’m not sure that “racism”, in this restricted sense (where less privileged members can’t be racists vis-à-vis more powerful members), is very useful.

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JW Mason 05.04.12 at 1:22 pm

Here’s the thing: In the United States today, black people are imprisoned at five times the rate of whites. Median black household income is about 60 percent of white household income, a gap that has not changed in 30 years; only 60 percent of black kids finish high school, compared with 90 percent of white kids; and so on. And in most parts of the country, there continues to be very sharp pattern of residential segregation. Not to mention the rather vast literature showing that between otherwise identical job candidates, a black one is much less likely to be interviewed or offered a job, than a white one.

Faced with these facts, you have to choice to conclude that either there is something very wrong with the way our society treats black people, or there is something very wrong with black people themselves. As a matter of logic, it must be the case that either anti-black racism is widespread, or anti-black racism is correct. (Or both.)

There are a few Derbyshires who are willing to go ahead and choose door two. But the more common thing is to avoid the issue, either by shifting the discussion to such a level of abstraction that social reality disappears; or by admitting the existence of racism in principle but invariably denying its existence in any particular case. A variation on this is to deny that anything except pure, motiveless animus counts as racism; if someone can offer any rational basis whatsoever for differential treatment of black people, then it’s not racism.

The blunt fact is that America is a country where the life chances of a black person are much worse along many dimensions than a white person. These disparities have not gone away since the end of formal segregation; in some areas, like the criminal justice system, they’ve gotten worse. All the huffing and puffing about in-groups and-out-groups and the awful thing someone told you some black guy once said, won’t make those facts go away.

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politicalfootball 05.04.12 at 1:38 pm

There are a few Derbyshires who are willing to go ahead and choose door two.

Quite many, really. Certainly Data T and others make that argument here. And, of course, Charles Murray has made a good living making this case at book-length.

Murray and Data T. would like to argue that if blacks really are inferior, then it’s not racism to call them inferior, but of course, you’ve got it right: They are actually arguing that racism is the correct and appropriate response to the facts.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.04.12 at 1:39 pm

But Belle has really let herself down by joining the lynch mob without waiting to find out what actually happened.

Zimmerman is not being “lynched.” He is standing trial for shooting an unarmed teenager dead. Had the “lynch mob” not screamed bloody murder over this case, there would be no trial at all.

The lynching analogy would be idiotic in any context — in this particular context it’s nothing short of grotesque.

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CRW 05.04.12 at 2:23 pm

It’s interesting to me how much energy (on this thread and elsewhere) goes toward saying “but but but that’s not racist!” A huge part of white privilege (or male, or whatever) is the ability to not be aware of itself. When we can redefine racism to the point that it does not apply in the Martin/Zimmerman case, we very comfortably maintain our own privilege, since we would never ever, ourselves, chase down and shoot a random black teenager.

Reminds me (irresistibly) of the energy provoked by threads re: sexism/feminism.

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politicalfootball 05.04.12 at 2:28 pm

Certainly one can believe that the press has behaved horribly; that Zimmerman is entitled to a fair trial; that false accusations have been made regarding Zimmerman; and that the balance of evidence suggests Zimmerman killed a harmless kid in part because he was black. There’s nothing contradictory in any of that.

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J. Otto Pohl 05.04.12 at 2:49 pm

JW:

There is no doubt that there continues to be a great deal of social and economic inequality in the US that falls along racial lines with whites being better off than blacks. Where you see overt racism like Derbyshire it is often an attempt to intellectually justify this continuing inequality which persists despite a long tradition of liberal enlightenment thought espousing the ideal of equality. But, the reasons for continued racial inequality in the US as well as other places is not because people openly espousing Nazi like theories of white supremacy control the levers of power. It is this combination of continued racial inequality, official endorsement of equality, and lack of cartoon style Klansmen racists that causes severe cognitive dissonance in many liberals. It ceases to be such a conundrum if you stop thinking of racism as a psychological disorder characterized by irrational hatred of people believed to be biologically inferior. Rather one should ask the following question. Do different ‘racial’ groups receive differential and unequal treatment from the state and other institutions of power? If they do then there is racial discrimination involved. All this trying to get into peoples heads is an impossible waste of time.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.04.12 at 3:28 pm

As a matter of logic, it must be the case that either anti-black racism is widespread, or anti-black racism is correct. (Or both.)

No, these are not the only two possibilities. Every capitalist society has the underclass, can’t function without it. And once you are there, it’s very difficult, almost impossible to climb up and out. Members of the underclass commit more crimes, go jail more often, and, by definition, their income is low.

For historical reasons backs are represented disproportionally among the underclass in the US, but that, in a sense, is just a coincidence. If you take all the blacks out of the ghetto and move them out to suburbs, some other people will populate the ghetto. They will have the same income, same crime rate, same incarceration rate, same SAT scores. They will become easily identifiable by some characteristics (accent, mannerisms, hairstyle, tattoos), and eventually they will become a ‘race’. Middle class people will fear and loathe them. At that point, what have you achieved, really?

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js. 05.04.12 at 4:46 pm

What JW Mason said.

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Bruce Baugh 05.04.12 at 4:51 pm

JW Mason really nailed it. Thank you, JW.

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Asteele 05.04.12 at 5:17 pm

115 That’s JW’s door number 1, your just saying the structure of society demands racism so we don’t have to do anything about it. That’s wrong, but pretty handy for racists.

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geo 05.04.12 at 5:31 pm

JW Mason: As a matter of logic, it must be the case that either anti-black racism is widespread, or anti-black racism is correct. (Or both.)

If, as Otto has been patiently pointing out, racism means that “different ‘racial’ groups receive differential and unequal treatment from the state and other institutions of power,” then something else may be the case (and is, in my view). The legacy of past racism — slavery and discrimination (both legal and informal) — is enormous. It entails widespread poverty, educational deprivation, and other cultural and psychological disadvantages among blacks. These disadvantages persist even in the current (indeed longtime) absence of slavery and legal discrimination — just as the disadvantages of extreme poverty or social dislocation persist among whites whose ancestors were not enslaved or legally discriminated against.

The solution? Attack informal discrimination, to the extent feasible (legal discrimination too, to the extent — though negligible, I suspect — it exists in the US), and — far more effective and important — directly address the disadvantages entailed by poverty and educational deprivation. Obviously it is not just — or even feasible — to do the latter only for blacks. So do it for everyone: ie, social democracy.

Social democracy: better* for blacks**.

*”Better” than what? Affirmative action, educational multiculturalism, diversity programs.
** Which blacks? Disadvantaged blacks. Affluent, educated blacks only need anti-discrimination laws, along with continuing efforts, public and private, to raise consciousness about informal discrimination, to the extent that can’t be addressed by anti-discrimination laws.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.04.12 at 5:57 pm

your just saying the structure of society demands racism so we don’t have to do anything about it

Yeah, sort of. I’m saying that racism is a symptom. Like bad smell from gangrene.

You all are saying: oh, the smell, this smell is so awful, we must fight it; bring more cologne. I say: forget the smell, treat the gangrene. You say: ah, you must be enjoying the smell.

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felwith 05.04.12 at 6:27 pm

How is this: “Affirmative action, educational multiculturalism, diversity programs.”

Not the same as this? “continuing efforts, public and private, to raise consciousness about informal discrimination, to the extent that can’t be addressed by anti-discrimination laws.”

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The Raven 05.04.12 at 6:31 pm

“White on black violent crime is vanishingly rare”

Consider what would happen in, say, Sanford (or most Southern jurisidictions), if Trayvon Martin had survived and reported an assault. Remember, these are the police who did not do anything remotely like an adequate crime scene investigation.

Let’s try, “reported white on black violent crime is vanishingly rare, in part because of well-documented institutional racism.”

Croak!

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Watson Ladd 05.04.12 at 6:37 pm

@felwith: So there is a distinction to be made here. Affirmative action could mean targeted recruiting, but in practice it usually means giving blacks a boost in admissions and hiring procedures, often very substantial. (The Michigan Law School case involved a 20 point bost, where 100 points guarantied admission.) Pretty clearly, that’s treating people differently based on race, which I used to think we all agreed was bad.

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Watson Ladd 05.04.12 at 6:49 pm

@The Raven: There are 2 ways to record crimes. One is by police record. But the other is to survey people to ask if they have been victims. And the Justice Department does both. Looking at the data we see that both whites and blacks are victimized by perpetrators primarily of their own race, and at about similar rates. If white on black vanished, then the UCR data would show a different pattern.

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geo 05.04.12 at 7:28 pm

Felwith @121: Are you suggesting that affirmative action, educational multiculturalism, and diversity programs are preventive rather than remedial measures; ie, that they’re meant not to redress either the broad effects of historical abuse (which is what social democratic policies are for) or the specific effects of individual victimization (which is what anti-discrimination policies are for), but rather simply to promote racial comity (which is what I meant by raising consciousness)? If so, I think you’re mistaken. Those policies are pretty clearly meant to be remedial. But if you’re looking to remedy the problems of economically and educationally disadvantaged blacks, I don’t think affirmative action et al are very effective, compared with broadly egalitarian tax, full-employment, educational, and health-care policies.

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Salient 05.04.12 at 7:38 pm

Are you suggesting that affirmative action, educational multiculturalism, and diversity programs are preventive rather than remedial measures; ie, that they’re meant not to redress either the broad effects of historical abuse (which is what social democratic policies are for) or the specific effects of individual victimization (which is what anti-discrimination policies are for), but rather simply to promote comity democracy?

Well, I was, and we had that whole long conversation about it earlier, so it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that others would voice similar proposals. Also, FWIW, I’m not sure ‘preventative’ is the right word (it rings the wrong way — preventing what?), but it’s certainly much much more accurate than ‘remedial.’ You might be thinking of reparations, which get lumped in with AA sometimes.

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felwith 05.04.12 at 8:03 pm

@Watson: Well, if you ever figure out a way to balance an unbalanced scale while making identical changes to the weight of both sides, feel free to share.

@geo: Affirmative action is a necessary supplement to anti-discrimination policies. I suppose you could just institute the policies without checking to see whether or not they’re effective, but that seems silly. And yes, I do think educational multiculturalism and diversity programs are preventive, in that it is more difficult to develop or maintain prejudices in diverse environments. I think it’s wrong to treat racial prejudice as something that was created solely in the past and now needs only to be cleaned up. New sources are always possible, and vigilance against them is necessary.

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geo 05.04.12 at 8:07 pm

Whichever is the right word, the argument — made at length in two comments above and at great length in the previous thread you mention — is that for economically and educationally disadvantaged blacks, the most helpful policies are broadly egalitarian, social-democratic ones, aimed equally at economically and educationally disadvantaged whites, while for affluent and/or educated blacks, anti-discrimination policy is all that justice requires. I know you tried, at even greater length, to explain in that previous thread, why you disagreed but, with all possible respect, I couldn’t make it out.

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geo 05.04.12 at 8:18 pm

NB – 128 was addressed to Salient.

felwith: Not sure what you mean by “I suppose you could just institute the policies without checking to see whether or not they’re effective, but that seems silly” or why you think affirmative action is a necessary supplement to anti-discrimination policies. If we can prove discrimination, then we should remedy it, and anti-discrimination laws and policies provide the tools (or should). In the absence of discrimination, the way to help blacks who need help is to help them directly, by addressing their economic and educational disadvantages, along with everyone else’s.

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felwith 05.04.12 at 8:58 pm

geo: Because it is easily possible to have discriminatory outcomes without provable discrete discriminatory actions, or if there are such actions, then ones with no appropriate remedy. Especially in hiring situations, the necessary impact of subjective criteria can make teasing out the exact cause of a discriminatory outcome as difficult as determining why someone got cancer.

As for the comment about checking for effectiveness, what I was getting at was that if your only criterion for determining if your organization is discriminating is “Has anyone provably violated our anti-discrimination policies?” then you don’t know if your policies are actually any good at preventing discrimination. The only way you can find out is by checking your outcomes, which is the central point of the affirmative action doctrine.

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geo 05.04.12 at 9:42 pm

felwith: it is easily possible to have discriminatory outcomes without provable discrete discriminatory actions, or if there are such actions, then ones with no appropriate remedy … The only way you can find out is by checking your outcomes, which is the central point of the affirmative action doctrine

Are you saying that unless the racial/ethnic proportions among doctors, lawyers, poets, butchers, and all other occupations — as well as all tax brackets, advanced degrees, and any other significant social category — exactly, or even broadly, mirror the racial/ethnic composition of the population, then we can presume racial/ethnic discrimination, without having to identify it in specific cases? And that, assuming this lack of proportional representation is how we want to define discrimination, the best way to address it is not to eliminate large discrepancies in the resources that poor/ignorant and affluent/educated people can bring to competing for whatever social prizes they desire (which is one part of the social-democratic solution), as well as making sure that the satisfaction of basic human needs (education, health care, shelter, retirement security) don’t depend on success in that competition (the other part of the social-democratic solution), but simply to distribute the prizes in more racially equal proportions, leaving fundamental distributional inequalities intact and indefinitely bracketing questions of merit and desert?

If so, why?

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Lemmy Caution 05.04.12 at 11:38 pm

I agree with Radley Balko on this one. Zimmerman’s trial seems pretty politicized.

To take a non-libertarian stance, there are way to many guns in the hands of idiots in the US. Nosy neighborhood watch guys walking around with guns doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.

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rf 05.04.12 at 11:46 pm

“I agree with Radley Balko on this one. Zimmerman’s trial seems pretty politicized.”

I agree, Balko made a decent case above that no-one, from what I can see, apart from Amanda at 91 and Fanon at 94 has made a serious attempt to challenge

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Salient 05.05.12 at 2:19 am

Are you saying that unless the racial/ethnic proportions among doctors, lawyers, poets, butchers, and all other occupations—as well as all tax brackets, advanced degrees, and any other significant social category—exactly, or even broadly, mirror the racial/ethnic composition of the population, then we can presume racial/ethnic discrimination, without having to identify it in specific cases?

Slightly modified so that I can say:

Yes. Emphatically yes. And extend that to all substantial identity-groups (again, broadly speaking, with some room for natural fluctuation).

Or rather, if the answer is ‘no,’ then that indicates that discrimination is not the thing we should be investigating, because in the part between the words “until” and “then,” you’ve described exactly what we want to achieve. (Better than I could have myself, as earlier exchanges show.) We don’t want to achieve that because we think it’s the best way to accomplish some other goal as a consequent result. You have described something that we fundamentally want, in and of itself!

What you have described is really the central feature of democracy, as an ideal. You’ve basically nailed it. Democracy–the resources of power and privilege apportioned with broadly fair and broadly proportional inclusion of all widely recognized identity groups, especially of those identity groups whose relations are broadly contentious–is itself the exact goal that initiatives like AA are meant to help accomplish.

It happens to pair quite well with equality of opportunity, but the two are distinct. The point of AA is not “coerce improvement toward democracy as that will help us accomplish some other goal, like equality.” The point of AA is to coerce improvement toward democracy, period. The fact that AA might provide some significant equalization of resources is really just a incidental second-order benefit. To focus too much on that is to ignore its first-order benefit.

I think the notion of democracy gets lost in many discussions because people confuse ‘democratic republic’ and ‘democracy’ in all but the most technical conversations. Liberal/neoliberal democratic republics are not, empirically speaking, particularly reliable producers of democracy. They hit a bump along the way and stall out long before democracy is achieved. It’s like some folks say “ok you all get one vote kthxbai” and then check democracy off their checklist, which is a kind of cruel joke.

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Watson Ladd 05.05.12 at 2:50 am

Felwith, addressing educational inequality doesn’t mean giving the poorest performing segments automatic A’s. It means making them earn A’s. Otherwise the grades mean as much as economic stats of Soviet Russia.

Salient, Jews become doctors at high rates. This is because it is a very prestigious occupation for a Jewish person among other Jews. Does this mean that other groups are being discriminated against, simply because Jews just want to be doctors more than members of other groups do? Why are there no Muslim pig farmers?

You also don’t get democracy, or liberalism. Democracy does not mean a balkanization (or Lebanonization) of civil society on ethnoracial lines. It means that individuals will have a sphere of freedom as individuals, and they can be particular in a different sphere of freedom. “Be a man in the street, and a Jew [or Christian!] in the home”. And that demands treating people as individuals, not members of ethnic castes. The instant someone is told “No, we have too many like you in this school” it’s a clear sign that their freedom and individuality is not being respected.

Finally, people demand rights not on the basis of their numbers. If there was only one man with green skin in the world, he would deserve just as much consideration from society to be treated independently from his skin color as if there were millions like him.

And postscriptively, one man one vote does allocate power in numerical proportion to the number of men you have. Furthermore, the policies you describe were present in the 1920′s, in the form of the quota. You support anti-Semitic policies: from ignorance I hope, and not from knowledge of the history of what you propose.

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Sebastian H 05.05.12 at 3:02 am

Salient, can we tease this out a little bit?

Asian Americans are about 10% of the US population. But they are about 16% of the doctors. There are about 660,000 doctors in the US. That means that by your rubric, there are about 39,600 excess Asian doctors in the US which presumably have been the beneficiaries of racism. I say presumably *not because I believe it to be true*, but because you are saying that “unless the racial/ethnic proportions among doctors, lawyers, poets, butchers, and all other occupations—as well as all tax brackets, advanced degrees, and any other significant social category—exactly, or even broadly, mirror the racial/ethnic composition of the population, then we can presume racial/ethnic discrimination, without having to identify it in specific cases?”

So presuming the pro-Asian doctor race discrimination, what should have happened at some point in the recent training/medical school selection phase of US doctor-making is that about 39,600 of them should have been boxed out to make room for 39,600 people of underrepresented racial/ethnic classifications? Right?

But in the context of the US, the seems self-evidently wrong. Asian Americans didn’t own slaves. Asian Americans didn’t/don’t control the political structure. Asian Americans aren’t doing anything except having a culture that really really prizes education.

Similarly Jewish Doctors. Jews make about 2% of the US population (at a maximum). They make about 14% of doctors. That is about 79,200 excess Jewish doctors who are presumabley the beneficiaries of racism. We probably need to reinstitute (which is to acknowledge the previous existance of such quotas btw) strict anti-Jewish quotas until we bring their numbers back down right?

I would say that unless we are WAY more careful about AA than we actually are in this country, your presumptions could tend to cause serious injustices for Jews and Asian Americans in the physician category (unless you really believe them to be an oppressor class in a racist institutional structure).

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geo 05.05.12 at 3:12 am

broadly fair and broadly proportional

If this means that the distribution of social power (ie, money) and political power (ie, votes and voice) can only be broadly fair if it’s broadly proportional among identity groups, then I agree. If it means that the distribution of, say, physics professorships, medical degrees, poetry prizes, and other things that are, or ought to be, accorded not (like power) in virtue of citizenship alone but rather in virtue of merit, can only be broadly fair if it’s broadly proportional among identity groups, then I don’t agree.

Democracy is equality in respect of social and political power. It has nothing to do with merit — we don’t have to earn basic economic security or political participation. Doctors, professors, and poets have no right to greater economic security or political influence than anyone else. What they should have (for our sake as well as theirs) is greater scope to exercise superior abilities. That’s the proper reward of merit.

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JW Mason 05.05.12 at 3:20 am

Croak!

Oh for the love of god cut it out.

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JW Mason 05.05.12 at 3:28 am

the reasons for continued racial inequality in the US as well as other places is not because people openly espousing Nazi like theories of white supremacy control the levers of power. It is this combination of continued racial inequality, official endorsement of equality, and lack of cartoon style Klansmen racists that causes severe cognitive dissonance in many liberals.

No, I don’t think this is true. I think most liberals — certainly almost all organized liberal political groupings — understand that it is perfectly possible for racism to perpetuate itself without Nazis and Klansmen, and that we have to look for ways it might be operating that aren’t immediately obvious. The equation of racism with “cartoon style Klansmen” seems to me to be almost entirely a phenomenon of the Right (including of course libertarians.)

All this trying to get into peoples heads is an impossible waste of time.

Wasn’t that the point of the original post? Racist just describes a pattern of behavior. Like, for instance, Zimmerman’s.

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felwith 05.05.12 at 5:05 am

If there is a significant divergence between the racial composition of inputs to a process and the outputs, then yes, that is evidence of racial prejudice somewhere within that process. However, simply forcing the outputs of the process to match the inputs is asinine, as several of you have ably pointed out. Furthermore, since we are actually interested in finding where the prejudice is being introduced, it behooves us to focus on discrete processes as much as possible, rather than simply looking at the range from birth to peak of career as one indivisible blob.

To clarify, in the case of doctors, as was mentioned. 14% of doctors are Jewish. How many med school graduates are Jewish? If the answer there is 2%, then something odd is probably happening in the hiring process. If the answer is, say, 13%, then there probably isn’t. From med school graduates, look to med school students. From med school students to med school applicants, and so forth. If at some point a statistically significant(1) discrepancy arises in an area where an institution is responsible for managing the transition (if proportionally more Jewish undergrads are deciding to apply to medical school, there’s no place for affirmative action here), then that institution needs to see if it is in some manner putting roadblocks in the way of the less successful navigators of that institution, and doing what it can to remove them.

As for whether non-WASPs can benefit from anti-black prejudice, any reduction in the ability of one subgroup to compete benefits all other subgroups by default.

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Salient 05.05.12 at 5:25 am

…I typed up a godawful long response but am feeling a bit apprehensive about my crapping on a whole bunch of CT threads with something I brought up sort of wildly out of the blue (especially Belle’s thread, it feels like her threads are derailed more frequently than others, and it was a damn fine OP, and the topic feels way more tangential outside the specific context of constructing Utopian visions).

I guess the tl;dr’d version is:

(Sebastian) Democracy does not require attending to over-representation, it requires attending to under-representation, and mostly to chronic systemic under-representation. The former can exist in the absence of the latter, basically due to error tolerance allowances.

(geo) I don’t know quite what you have in mind with “greater scope to exercise superior abilities” but it sounds like we agree in spirit (except I’m pretty leery of rewarding merit with anything other than admiration)

(Watson) Don’t expect me to respond to any further provocation.

[For those who have no idea WTF that's about, Watson makes sure to use the "Salient, [obvious statement I wouldn't dispute made to look as if I disputed it]” sentence structure in every goddamn reply to me since we had a conversation about how demeaning I felt it was. It’s been about eighteen months of this shit now. He knows I find it degrading and disrespectful and harmful to discourse, and acts accordingly.]

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Sebastian H 05.05.12 at 5:53 am

“Democracy does not require attending to over-representation, it requires attending to under-representation, and mostly to chronic systemic under-representation. The former can exist in the absence of the latter, basically due to error tolerance allowances.”

I don’t understand this.

Under-representation of a group *cannot exist* without over-representation of some other group. You are mathematically not correct when you say the former can exist in the absence of the latter, so I don’t understand the distinction you are trying to point to.

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js. 05.05.12 at 6:10 am

geo:

I love social democracy as much as I imagine you do, but it seems to me like you’re pushing a “It’s not about race, it’s about poverty” line, which can’t possibly be right. Just symptomatically, everything suggests that poor blacks get treated very significantly differently than poor whites by the cops and the criminal justice system. As JW Mason suggests above, upwardly mobile poor whites get treated differently by real estate agents, new neighbors, etc., than upwardly mobile poor blacks. Everything, and I mean absolutely everything, suggests that white vs. black race consciousness is extraordinarily deeply embedded in American society. I simply don’t see how abstract from this when thinking about how to move to a more just society.

(Given the right definition of “class” and a suitably sophisticated argument, I would agree that it is almost entirely about class under the right definition, but frankly I’d think my life’s work mostly done if I could come up with this argument.)

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Sebastian H 05.05.12 at 6:14 am

I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I want to be clear about what I’m saying.

Under-representation in a field (say medicine) means, by definition, that a lower percentage of a certain group is found in that field than is found in the general population.

Over-representation in that same field means, by definition, that a higher percentage of a certain group is found in that field than is found in the general population.

Mathematically the percentages have to add to 100%, so any discussion of under-representation of one group ALWAYS implies over-representation of another group.

If you are talking about affirmative action as practiced in any field of limited entry (medical school admission, college admission, applying for a particular job) for the purpose of increasing under-represented groups you are necessarily talking about reducing the admission or hiring of members of over-represented groups.

You can’t attend to under-representation without attending to over-representation. You can’t have all racial and ethnic groups be approximately the same as their representation in the population AND have 16% Asian American doctors and 14% Jewish doctors. It isn’t possible.

If, as you say, “then we can presume racial/ethnic discrimination, without having to identify it in specific cases”, then we can presume pro Asian-American and Pro-Jewish discrimination in the process to become doctors. Affirmative action is a blunt instrument. *If* we use affirmative action to ‘correct’ this under-representation, that necessarily indicates that we must deny about 1/2 of Asian-Americans who traditionally have wanted to become doctors the right to do so, and we must similarly deny access to medical schools for about 6/7ths of the Jews who become doctors.

Now, in theory, you could potentially address the issue by opening up a host of new medical schools and dramatically increasing the number of doctors in the hope that it might all wash out. That might even be great policy. But that isn’t affirmative action policy as practiced in hiring or admissions. Those policies necessarily deny access to individuals whose only problem is that they are from the wrong race or ethnicity at the time of application.

To be VERY clear, I’m not arguing against the existence of racism or some rubbish like that. For example, I strongly suspect that Zimmerman’s homicide (to use the most neutral term) of Martin was not properly investigated at the time due to racist assumptions by the police officers. I also strongly suspect that there exist institutional structures in that police department which aided those racist assumptions.

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geo 05.05.12 at 6:31 am

js: poor blacks get treated very significantly differently than poor whites by the cops and the criminal justice system … upwardly mobile poor whites get treated differently by real estate agents, new neighbors, etc., than upwardly mobile poor blacks

Yes, absolutely. But isn’t this just what anti-discrimination policies are for?

I’d think my life’s work mostly done if I could come up with this argument

Don’t give up!

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js. 05.05.12 at 6:59 am

geo, depends on what you mean by “anti-discrimination policies” of course, but given what I take you to be saying in 119, I don’t think that’s enough. The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, etc., isn’t simply the existence of widespread black poverty. The poverty is in ways symptomatic. Or: if you acknowledge that the existence of widespread black poverty has something to do with the economic and social history of black communities, I don’t see why it would seem obvious that the very same measures that may reasonably reduce white poverty would have the same effects for black communities.

You’re suggesting a kind of two-prong strategy, social democracy plus anti-discrimination policies. (I like both prongs!) But implicitly, it seems to me, you’re denying how the existence of race categories and race consciousness affects almost every detail of the lives of and opportunities afforded to those who happen to end up on the wrong end of these categories. I’m not sure I have a good answer here, but I do think that we need to deal with race as a deeper structural problem in American society than what you’re suggesting.

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Salient 05.05.12 at 7:10 am

Under-representation of a group cannot exist without over-representation of some other group. You are mathematically not correct when you say the former can exist in the absence of the latter, so I don’t understand the distinction you are trying to point to.

Error tolerance, maybe chosen to be proportional to the size of the subpopulation.

I think that’s defensible. The marginal utility of introducing another person of a given subpopulation diminishes. So, maybe a subpopulation of 80% could hold only 60% of the Dr positions and that’s basically ok, not worth worrying much about, but a subpopulation of 25% holding 5% of the positions is much more worrisome. (Broadly speaking.) Generally I’d say we want to see some combination of chronic and systemic under-representation before resorting to state coercion. This necessitates some qualitative assessment and judgment, as how much variation from perfect proportionality we’re willing to shrug off will depend on context.

In less stark circumstances, we can resort to ordinary social coercion, encouraging the people around us to look for ways of inviting greater participation from under-represented identity-groups, maybe even exerting some peer pressure at opportune times. Happened on CT, IIRC — I remember a persuasive and really rather inspiring couple of posts by Ingrid, on refusing to attend professional conferences that don’t have a reasonable amount of female scholar participation. Notice there is no government coercion or even involvement in that proposal, but it’s very democratic in letter and in spirit. I’m not sure if Ingrid’s posts on autism would also be technically pro-democratic according to my definition, but they certainly strike me as implicitly democratic in spirit. My own personal instincts say, let’s reserve appeals for state coercion for the truly worst and most systemic cases of under-representation. Ordinary social pressure and professional commitments are quite powerful tools; we needn’t try to fix everything, or even most things, through state coercion.

…I should probably leave it there, though. (My apologies for bombing your thread, Belle.)

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 7:56 am

Racist just describes a pattern of behavior. Like, for instance, Zimmerman’s.

Zimmerman’s pattern of behavior is the one of an overzealous lower middle-class person, worried about protecting his petit bourgeois way of life from the hordes of lawless lumpen living in close proximity. He’s a “death wish” guy. And all the rest of lower middle-class people, lower middle-class people of all races, feel the same way, except that few of them are zealous enough to start patrolling the neighborhood.

Racist pattern of behavior would involve him assaulting a black postman, or black bus driver, or a black school teacher. Simply for being black. I bet Zimmerman couldn’t care less about the skin color of his postman. How is this not obvious?

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JW Mason 05.05.12 at 1:26 pm

Data@115 and Geo@119, I disagree. To me, your position comes down to saying that we should fight against injustice in general without fighting against any injustice in particular.

I don’t believe that because capitalism also creates hierarchy and inequality, the extreme degrees of differences in life chances between races, and the way race structures so much of social life in this country, is inevitable. There is evidence all around us that the harm and injustice due to American racism goes well beyond that “required” in any sense by capitalism. Certainly no other capitalist society seems to need anything like the misery factories that we call our prison system.

Data Tutashkhia would, I suspect, look at the end of apartheid in South Africa and say, Eh, there’s still a top and a bottom, now there’s a few more rich blacks, who cares. Geo I’m pretty sure would not. So the question I pose to him is, if you agree that the struggles against some specifically racial hierarchies were among the great moral and political victories of the 20th century, even if they did not lead to socialism or even social democracy, why are you so confident that there is no more progress to be made on that dimension? Some people, you know, were saying things a lot like your 119 in response to the fight for black freedom in the 1950s and 1960s. You wouldn’t have. Would you?

It seems to me that capitalism, like other systems founded on hierarchy and coercion, always has a top and a bottom; but it is nonetheless true that the fight against oppression in general always has to take the form of a fight for and with the people who are on the bottom right now. That’s how progress happens, not from some philosopher-king aloof from any particular interest.

Finally, it’s worth noting that pretty much every organized political group on the left — every group that is actually working to move us toward social democracy, as opposed to piously wishing for it — from the anarchists to the Democratic Party, considers race to be central to progressive politics, and make at least some effort to be racially inclusive independent of class. Now, you might say they are all brainwashed by political correctness … but, no.

(Incidentally: abb1 = Henri Vieuxtemps = Data Tutashkhia. Right?)

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JW Mason 05.05.12 at 1:28 pm

Racist pattern of behavior would involve him assaulting a black postman, or black bus driver, or a black school teacher. Simply for being black.

This is the idiosyncratic right-wing definition of racism, adopted specifically for the purpose of defining it into nonexistence. It is not what honest people mean by the term.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 1:29 pm

Democracy—the resources of power and privilege apportioned with broadly fair and broadly proportional inclusion of all widely recognized identity groups, especially of those identity groups whose relations are broadly contentious

Oh, crikey, wtf? ‘Democracy’, of course, means nothing but “rule by majority”.

Ironically, in a society as preoccupied by meaningless racial and ethnic identities as American liberals are (and I can think of at least one), racial/ethnic minorities would be crushed mercilessly. Pretty soon they would be forced to pledge allegiance to the main ethnic group, and their high birth rates would be commonly described as ‘alarming’, and a ‘grave threat’.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 1:38 pm

It is not what honest people mean by the term.

It is what I mean by the term, and I’m being honest about it. So, you’re wrong.

Data Tutashkhia would, I suspect, look at the end of apartheid in South Africa and say, Eh, there’s still a top and a bottom, now there’s a few more rich blacks, who cares.

No, apartheid, obviously, was much worse than a typical capitalist hierarchy.

You, OTOH, must a be a big fan of Papa Doc in Haiti, right?

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felwith 05.05.12 at 1:40 pm

Well, if the existing percentages of Jewish and Asian-American doctors are sacrosanct, then we need to give up on attempts to correct for socio-economic as well as racial discrimination. After all, how unjust would it be for someone to be denied a chance to go to college because their parents were *too* successful?

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Watson Ladd 05.05.12 at 1:48 pm

@Data: And that isn’t already happening in Europe?

JW Mason, if you want to define racism that way fine. But then anything you say about racism being bad is something you have to argue for again. Also, equating geo @ 119 to advocates of separate but equal is disingenuous: there is a huge difference between the situation of blacks in 1950 and today in that today’s blacks have civil rights.

Salient, how exactly do I get you to respond to substantive disagreements? Apparently setting out the disagreement is always something I mess up on, even when others manage to say the same thing. Of course, Sebastian has already laid out the issues with your idea, at length, and somehow you think that laying out the facts is a provocation, rather then the leadup to the disagreement.

So let’s put it to a question: Do individuals deserve to be treated as individuals, and not as members of a race or religion? If so, then how can we justify policies aimed at ensuring racial balance by directly intervening in otherwise race-neutral policies? If not, then what is equality before the law and freedom in civil society?

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J. Otto Pohl 05.05.12 at 1:54 pm

Social Democratic and Socialist states are not magically free of racial discrimination. In fact in many cases they are every bit as bad as the worst capitalist states. Both Western Europe and the former Soviet Bloc had plenty of instances of official and unofficial cases of racial discrimination. The differential treatment of groups is not necessarily connected with capitalism. Placing almost the entire Korean population of the USSR under ‘administrative exile’ in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in 1937 certainly in my mind (I know nobody else here thinks the USSR was capable of racism) certainly meets the definition of racial discrimination.

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Watson Ladd 05.05.12 at 2:03 pm

felwith, social economic discrimination isn’t what socioeconomic factors are. It’s poor children going to bad schools, and the solution is to improve the schools. The point is that then the children of the poor would have the same ability to earn admission to competitive colleges if we fixed the education system they had. Juggling the admissions requirements risks admitting students who have no hope of graduating with a degree, as has happened at Duke University in the hard sciences.

By contrast students who attend the elite feeders are always capable of graduating with the degree and grades they need to go to medical school. No discrimination exists at this level: rather, the poverty of the inner-city schools makes it impossible for the children of the poor to do certain things that they must do to become doctors. (Of course, if you don’t believe in the existence of treatment effects in education, this won’t convince you.)

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bianca steele 05.05.12 at 2:03 pm

I’m under the impression that there are liberal arguments against racism, and also socialist arguments against racism which are different and reject the liberal arguments, and in addition there are left-wing anti-liberal (or socialist) arguments against racisim (that is, unlike socialist anti-racism, they oppose liberal anti-racism on specifically anti-liberal grounds and without substituting a better anti-racism). Most (not all) of the arguments against liberal anti-racism I’m seeing here are of the latter variety.

Of course, there are also liberal (or neoliberal) arguments against anti-racism, of the kind you might expect to see in the Weekly Standard.

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JW Mason 05.05.12 at 2:24 pm

Social Democratic and Socialist states are not magically free of racial discrimination.

This is true. Another reason Geo’s position doesn’t work.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 2:58 pm

When you treat racism (irrational), racial discrimination by an authoritarian state (political), and profiling by private individuals that takes race into consideration (perfectly rational) as one and the same, the discussion becomes utterly meaningless.

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bianca steele 05.05.12 at 3:06 pm

Data:

Re: profiling by private individuals . . .

What someone said about this being a right-wing excuse. How are you distinguishing behavior that takes race into consideration from reliance on stereotypes, w/r/t declaring decisions “rational”?

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Sebastian H 05.05.12 at 3:13 pm

“Error tolerance, maybe chosen to be proportional to the size of the subpopulation.

I think that’s defensible. The marginal utility of introducing another person of a given subpopulation diminishes. So, maybe a subpopulation of 80% could hold only 60% of the Dr positions and that’s basically ok, not worth worrying much about, but a subpopulation of 25% holding 5% of the positions is much more worrisome.”

Again, I’m not sure how that works out with respect to real world affirmative action. If you have a college admission and you are going to use affirmative action to ‘increase an under-represented subpopulation’ that means that you MUST discriminate against a member of an over-represented subpopulation purely on the basis of her race/ethnicity. That is how affirmative action works. In discussions of it, we always pretend that such discrimination is small or slight, but in the actual context of college admissions it ends up needing to be huge and enormous (the difference between straight A’s and straight B’s, or larger than the difference between earning the highest possible SAT score and the lowest possible SAT score, to use two hyper-clear examples from the Michigan admissions case).

So in concrete terms, we have to find ways to screen out Asians and Jews in medical school. Considering the large percentage of Asian-Americans intimately involved in the US slave trade, that hardly seems a method designed to promote social justice.

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Consumatopia 05.05.12 at 3:24 pm

@133, in part I agree–it is a bit disappointing that we’re paying more attention to the same old racist trolls than to Balko’s more substantive and sincere response. (OTOH, your own post labeling a couple of objections “serious attempts” would be better if you had said why you think those attempts failed, or others were unserious.) I’m probably the wrong person to go on at length about this, as I have no legal expertise, but I am a bit off-put by how generalized the discussion thread here has become. (Does it really make sense to discuss affirmative action in a Trayvon Martin related thread?)

To be clear, despite my criticism, I agree with a lot of what Balko said. Obviously, some of the information the media reported early on turned out to be incorrect. (In some cases this was due to serious misconduct on the part of the media, e.g. NBC, in others it was because our information was necessarily incomplete). He’s right that witnesses shouldn’t feel pressured not to give unpopular testimony. And I’m not sure that the prosecutor’s case for murder actually makes sense.

However, he’s claiming a lot more than that. (And just like police incompetence earlier in the case doesn’t automatically mean Zimmerman is guilty, media errors don’t automatically mean Balko other claims are correct.) He’s claiming that the media was wrong to bring up race at all in the context of Martin/Zimmerman, and that minorities are deluded for worrying about how they’ll be protected under liberalized self-defense regimes (“White on black violent crime is vanishingly rare.”) He views Zimmerman as the accused and defends him because he stands for the rights of the accused.

But Zimmerman only stands accused of anything because he previously acted as accuser, judge, jury, and executioner himself. When the government grants concealed carry permits to some people and establishes procedures for them to immunized from prosecutions in some circumstances that those people are, in effect, agents of the state, and the people they kill (rightly or wrongly) are killed as a consequence of state policy.

Balko laments the focus on race as a consequence of hate crime laws. But it’s unlikely that hate crime law will be a factor in this. Any society that permits killings in self-defense, especially outside one’s own home, will inevitably focus on the mental state of the killer. People who have lost their loved ones have the right to ask why. Putting possible prejudice automatically out of bounds means, in effect, that he who shoots first gets the last word. Given that it’s easier to know that someone has been killed than it is to know *why* someone has been killed, in self-defense cases it’s more likely that the “verdict” of public opinion is the only justice the victim will ever find. Even if public opinion is frequently wrong, even if it is something which Zimmerman himself may not even know for certain, it’s not unreasonable for a community to reach its own imperfect opinion on a person who took the life of another.

People can only be imprisoned when their crime is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, self-defense–in which the defendant admits that they killed someone but claims they have a justification–is more complicated. In some jurisdictions (not Florida, and I don’t think most other states, but I’m no expert), the killer has the burden of providing a preponderance of evidence that they actually were justified in using deadly force. Rather than violating due process, I think cases like this demonstrate why this is *necessary* for due process–once it is established that A has killed B, A should have to prove that B needed to be killed just as the state has to prove that A has to be jailed. Martin’s due process should matter just as much as Zimmerman’s. And neighborhood watch profiling, in the context of concealed carry laws and SYG, is as much a civil rights issue as NYPD profiling.

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JW Mason 05.05.12 at 3:27 pm

If you have a college admission and you are going to use affirmative action to ‘increase an under-represented subpopulation’ that means that you MUST discriminate against a member of an over-represented subpopulation purely on the basis of her race/ethnicity.

No. When the subject of “affirmative action” (a thing that basically doesn’t exist) comes up, people suddenly adopt a completely abstract and unreal view of the labor market that they would never hold in any other context.

The implicit assumption here is that all possible candidates are considered, ranked by a clear, objective set of criteria, and then the top ranked N are hired. Thus, the only way to change the composition of the hires, is to discriminate, i.e. to prefer a less qualified candidate to a better qualified one.

Hiring in the real world is not like this.

Everyone knows that there are many, many filters on the way to getting hired — especially in a credentialed profession — most of which have nothing to do with qualifications. At every stage of the process family resources, personal connections, social capital, and sheer luck come into play. Everyone who has ever applied for a job (or better yet, hired for one) knows this. yet somehow they manage to forget it when the subject of “affirmative action” comes up.

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Merp 05.05.12 at 3:29 pm

Watson,

You get the conclusion to that Duke University study completely wrong.

A couple of Duke economists and a sociologist studied the grades and major choices of a few classes of Duke students. They found that freshman black and legacy students had lower grades than other students, but that senior black and legacy students had grades similar to other students. They attributed this to black and legacy students starting out as hard science (or economics) majors, getting bad grades, then switching to other majors that have more lenient grade distributions. Their conclusions are that those students that couldn’t hack the more stringent hard science/econ majors because they were less academically prepared and/or stupider, and that different admissions criteria for black and legacy students as opposed to other students was the original cause of the phenomenon.

Their conclusion was most emphatically not that affirmative action policies admit students “who have no hope of graduating with a degree”.

Of course, the conclusion they do reach is bullshit. They don’t consider factors about the hard science/econ classes themselves which could contribute to poorer grades (not being invited to study groups, pairing up with the worst students in labs, etc). They don’t consider the fact that the hard sciences/econ classes are universally described as being the most reliable route to a high income, which would attract a disproportionate amount of minority and legacy students who are more concerned about securing their economic future, which would result in more of those students who aren’t temperamentally fit for a hard science/econ degree trying to take those classes. Etc.

I agree with you that ultimately the solution is to make elementary and secondary education kickass for everybody. But in the meantime inaccurately quoting flawed studies to bash more immediate solutions for these problems is counterproductive.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 3:34 pm

160, I already answered that, see 148. To despise people for being black, that’ racism. To suspect that a black teenager in a hoodie who you’d never seen before in your neighborhood might be a hoodlum, that’s profiling.

And when you proclaim that profiling is racism, people get the impression that you are a hypocrite, and tune in to Rush Limbaugh.

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JW Mason 05.05.12 at 3:34 pm

167

JW Mason 05.05.12 at 3:35 pm

(oops link fail.)

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Merp 05.05.12 at 3:55 pm

To continue Consumatopia’s line of criticism of Balko’s points,

Balko also claims that people who are getting outraged about racism in general and Zimmerman’s racism in particular are focusing too much on concerns about equality, and not enough on or at the expense 0f concerns about due process and fair justice.

This misses the somewhat academic and esoteric point that outrage about racism was the only way due process and fair justice would have been possibly applied to this case. Whatever happened between Martin and Zimmerman, the only way an institutional response that could be called fair, just and fulfilling due process was going to happen was if there was widespread outrage about the racial components of the case.

Of course, outrage about racism is outrage about due process and fair justice in this case. And not only outrage about the racist conduct of the police and state’s attorneys offices, but outrage about Zimmerman himself. Because Zimmerman had been known by police to have had questionable conduct with black teens before. The responses to frivolous 911 calls, and the neighbor complaints about Zimmerman’s harassment of black teens and prepubescents, were on file at the police station. When this man, in this community, racially profiles and shoots a black teen, he is not even charged? He’s not even detained beyond the five hours it takes to get his story and file an incident report? I’ve spent longer than five hours at the DMV correcting an accounting error.

No, in this case, outrage and commentary on Zimmerman’s racism is also about inadequate institutional response is also about due process and fair justice.

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Sebastian H 05.05.12 at 4:02 pm

Back to the Zimmerman case, Balko deserves a bit more slack than he is being given here. He has literally spent a large portion of his career exposing railroading and helping (often black) defendants avoid railroading. This case (at this point in it) could fairly characterized as involving a racist police department failing to adequately investigate a homicide, and then when exposed for being a racist police department, trying to make up for it by immediately railroading the suspect.

I personally think, from the information I have seen, that Zimmerman was racist as hell, and is morally guilty of some form of murder. But that is no excuse for using railroading techniques just because your racist police department has to overreact to being exposed.

Balko is protesting the railroading techniques being employed against Zimmerman. From Rush Limbaugh that would be objectionable, because he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about railroading techniques, he just wants to pour gasoline on the racial fire. But from Balko, who has a LONG record of pushing back against crappy police and prosecutor tactics, it isn’t.

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bianca steele 05.05.12 at 4:06 pm

@165
So, what? I can singlehandedly prevent people from becoming Dittoheads if I tell them it’s rational to have racist stereotypes, and if I tell everybody else it’s necessary for them to say it’s rational to have racist stereotypes, lest “other people” turn to Rush Limbaugh (who will tell them it’s rational to have racist stereotypes)? Because what? Because we need to engage them in “debate”? Because why? Because it’s really, really important to hash out the trivial same non-issues in a sophomoric manner, over and over again, ultimately in order to confirm them more strongly in the belief that not having racist stereotypes is impermissible? Is that what you’re saying?

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Sebastian H 05.05.12 at 4:06 pm

“Everyone knows that there are many, many filters on the way to getting hired—especially in a credentialed profession—most of which have nothing to do with qualifications. At every stage of the process family resources, personal connections, social capital, and sheer luck come into play. Everyone who has ever applied for a job (or better yet, hired for one) knows this. yet somehow they manage to forget it when the subject of “affirmative action” comes up.”

I’m not denying any of this, but I’m affirming the nasty and unjust nature of using race as one of the filters. You shouldn’t be screening out Jewish and Asian doctors just because there are ‘too many’ of them. If you screen out blacks just because you don’t like them you are racist as fuck. If you screen out Jews and Asians just because there are ‘too many’ you are also acting racist as fuck, you are just hiding it behind greater good social justice game playing.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.05.12 at 4:17 pm

Hiring in the real world is not like this.

Neither is college admissions.

When I was an undergraduate I had a work-study job in the admissions office. Among many, many other factors, applicants’ regions of residence were taken into account — if they came from an underrepresented part of the US, they got a bump up. Because a diversity of backgrounds among the student body was an explicit objective of the process.

And that’s just one example. But the only thing you ever hear about in these discussions is race. Why do you suppose that is?

(Does it really make sense to discuss affirmative action in a Trayvon Martin related thread?)

There’s never a bad time to talk about how tough white people have it in this country.

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Consumatopia 05.05.12 at 4:19 pm

As long as we’re discussion representation, I would distinguish between two kinds of under-representation. One is when % represented is smaller than % of population. The other would be when a racial group has a smaller proportional allocation than most other racial groups.

Consider a situation in which 30% of the representatives are Jews, but the remaining representation is split up among the remaining races proportionally. Here, the other races face the first kind of under-representation, but not the second. In the second kind, over-represention of one race doesn’t imply under-representation of another race (“non-Jews” is not a race.)

I’m not going into details, because I’m not sure there’s anyone honest on the other side of this argument. But exactly which kind of under-represenation we’re talking about strongly affects my suspicions as to whether an imbalance is due to institutional bias or the cultural preference of the applicants.

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bianca steele 05.05.12 at 4:23 pm

Anyway, I am not proclaiming that profiling is racism. I am stating that there is scholarly (I’d have to check the references to see where this theory is drawn from, and I’d need to get the book from ILL, so unfortunately I can’t substantiate this here) explicitly defending racist stereotypes as rational. From an evo-psych perspective, for one, certainly, it seems like it would work. You want to make a distinction that doesn’t exist. Why? To not hurt people’s feelings? You want people arguing against racism to make this a welcoming place for racists?

Again, why? Because you are convinced that in all real societies (based on what?) the racists are in charge because they’re the wealthy ones, etc., etc.?

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Salient 05.05.12 at 4:38 pm

I need to learn how to better stop the brooms I set in motion, or not start them, or something.

Do individuals deserve to be treated as individuals, and not as members of a race or religion?

If someone belongs to a socially recognized identity group, that’s part of who they are as individuals. We don’t get to choose all aspects of our identity, because identity is a social phenomenon. (The personally defined internal sense of self is called self-conception.) Treating individuals as individuals includes acknowledging their membership in socially recognized identity groups.

So, you’re essentially asking some kind of “P and something-that-implies-not-P” question here.

how can we justify policies aimed at ensuring racial balance by directly intervening in otherwise race-neutral policies?

This question doesn’t require the “if so.”

Institutional differential treatment can compensate for exactly those kinds of systemic interpersonal mistreatment that anti-discriminatory law can’t and won’t prevent.

And often enough, policies are not race-neutral in effect, even if the written policy makes no mention of race. Which do you care about, human beings and their experiences, or letters on a page?

what is equality before the law and freedom in civil society?

This question doesn’t require the “if not.” And I shouldn’t have to answer such a remedial question, but for the sake of comity or whatever, I guess I will.

Equality means: All individuals have ample opportunity to lead a flourishing life, free of suffering imposed by institutional maltreatment. All individuals have ample opportunity to engage with and participate in the construction, maintenance, and enforcement of the social contracts of their communities’ institutions, including ascension to those roles that are assigned power, privilege, and prestige in those institutions. All individuals have their irrevocable fundamental worth as a human being acknowledged and respected by the institutions of their communities, and are granted the dignity they are due as human beings, receive ample institution-sanctioned protection from cruel treatment inflicted by other individuals, and are not subjected to institutionally-sanctioned cruel treatment.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 4:42 pm

@170, I’m saying what I said; what are you asking? Too much noise, I’m not getting the signal.

Do you agree or disagree that, in general, profiling strangers by their various characteristics is a rational activity? Like, to make this real simple (and I’m sure I’m going to be condemned for it somehow): if you see a couple of guys with shotguns wearing ski masks (whatever the skin color), you better turn around and run. Does this make sense?

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Consumatopia 05.05.12 at 4:45 pm

He has literally spent a large portion of his career exposing railroading and helping (often black) defendants avoid railroading. This case (at this point in it) could fairly characterized as involving a racist police department failing to adequately investigate a homicide, and then when exposed for being a racist police department, trying to make up for it by immediately railroading the suspect.

I don’t entirely disagree with that, and maybe my post came off too strong. But most of Balko’s post wasn’t directed at the Florida police, who, if any railroading is taking place, are the ones responsible for it. It was directed at the media, and even other civil rights advocates. And not just that they made mistakes, but that it was wrong to even consider race in connection to either this crime or to early police inadequacy.

Balko is no racist, and maybe I should have been clear that I don’t think he is. But he is mistaken in an important way, and I can’t let the fact that he’s done huge good elsewhere stop me from pointing out his mistake here.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 4:50 pm

Sorry, that was before I saw 174. So, profiling is rational, only profiling by the skin color is irrational. Age, gender is fine, but not race. But why?

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geo 05.05.12 at 4:53 pm

js @146: depends on what you mean by “anti-discrimination policies”

Yes, you’re right. I should have been clearer that at least in response to one of your examples (police mistreatment), I’d favor race-based affirmative action. (Also, possibly, in hiring school administrators.) These cases are different from physicists doctors, and poets in that the aptitudes required are far less specialized and the degree of interaction with minority communities at large is relatively higher, so the importance of simply having someone in the position whom most of the people he/she is going to be dealing with can trust and identify with is correspondingly high.

I don’t see why it would seem obvious that the very same measures that may reasonably reduce white poverty would have the same effects for black communities

You may be right, but there’s a simple way to find out.

JW @149: your position comes down to saying that we should fight against injustice in general without fighting against any injustice in particular

Sorry if I gave that impression. To say it another time another way: what economically and educationally disadvantaged blacks need most — not the only thing, but what they need (and want most, if, say, Jonathan Kozol was accurately reporting the opinions of the poor black parents he spoke to) are measures that spend large amounts of money correcting those disadvantages, and there is no moral justification for not at the same time addressing the economic and educational disadvantages of nonblacks at the same time. Affirmative action and diversity hiring programs (except of the kind I mentioned in replying to js above) don’t help them as much, quite apart from raising problems of fairness (problems which would only be salient if the damned programs actually helped the people who most need help). Of course they, as well as their less disadvantaged black brothers and sisters, also need to be protected against discrimination, and would even if we attain social-democratic nirvana. There’s a large body of law and policy devoted to doing this, no doubt quite imperfectly, whose existence I strongly support and whose continual improvement I would welcome. I don’t think that’s quite the same thing as advocating that we should “not fight against any injustice in particular.”

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Merp 05.05.12 at 5:06 pm

Data,

It’s not rational to maximize the success rate of detecting threats. It’s rational to maximize the reduction of harm. Profiling tries to accomplish the former but prevents the latter.

I’m not going to elaborate on the idea further, both because I can’t adequately defend it in a blog comment and our previous interaction on this thread suggests it wouldn’t be productive. But the idea is fleshed out in “Rethinking Racial Profiling: A Critique of the Economics, Civil Liberties, and Constitutional Literature, and of Criminal Profiling More Generally” by Bernard Harcourt, widely available on the net as a pdf.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 5:22 pm

Merp, the title sounds like it’s probably about racial profiling by authorities that is harmful to the society. Which may very well be the case, wouldn’t surprise me.

I’m talking about individuals. I don’t find it credible that those Manhattan cabbies would harm themselves by their profiling; if that was the case, surely by now someone would’ve discovered it and the pattern changed.

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bianca steele 05.05.12 at 5:39 pm

Data:
Okay, so you think this is wrong: “Black people don’t have the morals that would prevent them from engaging in criminal activity.” I agree that this is wrong. But then you imply that young black men in hoodies don’t have the morals that would prevent them from engaging in criminal activity. Okay, you say that’s not what you mean. You’re just talking about statistics. You do believe, it seems, that “black people walking around my neighborhood would be okay, but I don’t like young black men in hoodies walking around my neighborhood,” but that is just rational behavior, somehow.

And, so, you aren’t saying, “Everybody has come to believe through long experience that young black men in hoodies . . .; my parents believed it and I believe it and it will always be true”. That would be irrational, I guess? You’re saying this is something everybody works out by himself based on evidence and reason.

Do you also think it’s rational for white people in low-income, high-crime, predominantly white neighborhoods, to overwhelmingly fear crime from young black men? (I haven’t seen a single comment from you that acknowledges the existence of poor white people, I think.)

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Merp 05.05.12 at 6:02 pm

Data,

It’s also about individuals. This is twice now you’ve nitpicked academic research without reading it. Check out the Chronicle thread for reasons not to do that.

With regards to the taxi thing, you’re right, people never engage in behavior that doesn’t make sense, is based on erroneous assumptions or conclusions, or that harms their economic prospects. This type of argument which tries to say a given state of affairs is impossible because analyzing a situation solely through the lens of economic rationality makes it impossible reminds me of the old joke: a guy and an economist are walking around, guy says, “Look, a twenty dollar bill” and goes to pick it up. Economist says “Don’t bother. If that were really a twenty dollar bill, someone would have picked it up by now.”

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 6:14 pm

I assume it’s based mostly on their personal experience, but also on anecdotal evidence, mass media, and other sources; some of them may be completely bogus, who knows. So, I’m not saying that their odds calculations are accurate, sometimes they are probably off by a mile. Nevertheless, in the US society, due to the disproportional distribution of races among the social strata, this characteristic clearly is not irrelevant; there is no denying it. And if there is no point denying it, there is no point blaming anyone for considering it. That’s all I’m saying.

Merp, indeed, people often engage in behavior that doesn’t make sense. But I find it unlikely that, in the case NYC cab drivers, thousands of them would be making this mistake every day for decades. You can have your academic research, and I’ll have my empirical fact.

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heteroskedastic 05.05.12 at 6:24 pm

So Balko is basically talking out of his ass here.

In the year I checked (2008) the NCVS has b-w interracial violent crime as 76% of interracial violent crime and w-b as 12%.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 6:35 pm

Merp, your study is 100 pages long, and it’s all about police searches.

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Merp 05.05.12 at 7:49 pm

“Academic research does not incorporate empirical facts”

“This study is too long to read, and it doesn’t say what you want it to say”

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Data Tutashkhia 05.05.12 at 8:07 pm

Well, you didn’t read it either, because it’s all about police searches and government policies, and you say it isn’t. So, you google some irrelevant paper and claim, without reading it, that it says what you want it to say. Nice. So, granted, perhaps I can be a bit arrogant sometimes, but you’re plain dishonest.

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emmanuelgoldstein 05.05.12 at 8:46 pm

Merp,

1) Needlessly-snide remarks aside, your first objection relies too much on the one-sentence summary of what I’m saying. “There are no racists, only racist acts” = “We can only call identify as racist things which actually happen; we can’t call having unconscious prejudicial bias against people with outgroup distinctions racism.” Using the definition I want to use, we can still call people who do racist things “racists”, just as we talk about “painters”, “boaters”, “gamers”, etc. There’s still a question of “where do you draw the line; what’s the statute of limitations on calling someone a racist”, but that question exists under the definition you want to use, too.

Well, that is your suggested definition, so I’m not seeing why you shouldn’t be held to it. It has a clearly absurd consequence—that there are, really and truly speaking, no racist people. That’s the exciting falsehood, shortly to be qualified down to something less exciting, and closer to truth. Snidery is perfectly in order.

2) “Only when someone has a stable tendency to experience racist emotions, enjoy cognitive states with racist content or affect, and act on them etc. is that person properly called a racist.”

[That applies to everyone ever. We all have a “stable tendency” to experience racist emotions, have racist cognitive states. It’s hard-wired into our brains. That’s my point. This distinction is not a distinction. If your point is that someone has to enjoy their racism for it to be racism, that eliminates the good portion (majority?) of racism which is unconscious/not self aware.]

It is false that everyone has a stable tendency to experience racist emotions, enjoy cognitive states with racist content, and act on them. I, for one, don’t; nor do many of the people I know and like. The closest relevant claim I can think of that has some chance of truth is that everyone implicitly and automatically employs racial categorisation. That is some distance from experiencing racist emotions or cognitive states, let alone adopting a positive and welcoming attitude to them. If you mean something slightly stronger—categorisation + implicit bias—then that isn’t ‘hard-wired’ since implicit biases are malleable. And categorisation and implicit bias can obtain in the absence of explicit bias: implicit bias tests presuppose an ability to categorise; those without explicit bias who take them and discover that they’re implicitly biased are the obvious example.

You’re not in a position to complain about the adequacy of the definition of racism on the ground that it eliminates a good part of racism.

(1) the definition picks out racist people, not racist acts.

(2) You’ve given up on internal psychological states as a way of separating racist from non-racist acts (and people). This follows from your denial below that internal cognitive and emotional states can be targets of judgement, on the ground that we lack epistemic access to them. If you can’t make those distinctions—if you can’t judge racist acts because you can’t identify internal mental states, then you can’t tell how many racist acts there are, since identifying racist acts requires identifying internal mental states (saliently, intention). In particular, you can’t distinguish racist from non-racist acts with the same effects (I notice, for instance, that in your opening comment, you rely on knowledge of intention to distinguish a racist from a non-racist act with the same effects).

That gets at a point I was driving at but didn’t explicitly state: we can’t judge internal cognitive/emotional states, can we. We can’t possibly think that Jones over there is secretly thinking racist thoughts and getting off on them, look at the way he wears his tie and is drinking his coffee, I just know he uses the term “Macaca”. There’s like a triple-bind in your attempted definition here. If you say “racism is cognitive thought/emotion”, everyone everywhere is racist. If you say “racism is cognitive thought/emotion that acknowledges/takes pleasure in making bigoted outgroup distinctions”, a big chunk of racism is defined out of existence. If you say “racism can be unconscious cognitive thought/emotion that makes bigoted outgroup distinctions”, not only are we back to calling everyone racist but no-one can be accused of being racist under this definition. It’d be like a Monty Python sketch. “You’ve just had an unconscious cognitive thought/emotion that makes bigoted outgroup distinctions.” “No I haven’t.” “Ohp you did it again!” The only way out of this thicket is to focus on acts.

Presumably, the obstacle to judgement is epistemic: we can’t know them, so we can’t judge them. Hence your Jones example: the evidence (the tie and coffee) doesn’t tell one way or the other. And then we’re invited to accept that this is always the case. But (i) gross physical facts are perfectly good evidence for internal mental states: anyone looking at you with open eyes in clear light can probably see you; if there are no apples in the jar, your putting your hand in the jar is pretty good evidence that you have a false belief; anyone who says that he saw a dodo in India is lying and (ii) gross physical facts don’t exhaust the evidence: social cues, rules, norms, expectations, other background knowledge etc. will often supply relevant additional evidence. If you have a general skeptical argument for the conclusion that none of the available information suffices for knowledge of other people’s internal mental states, let’s hear it. (It’s also interesting to compare your acceptance of psychological evidence that racial categorisation is ubiquitous, with your rejection of the evidence for the ubiquity of mindreading.)

Let’s disarm the two (not three) horns. (i) If I say that racism is cognitive, then it doesn’t actually follow that everyone is racist. Racist people are those for whom racism is a character trait. This goes under the explicit cognitive end of the definition. Not everyone is explicitly biased, and not everyone who is explicitly biased has racism as a character trait; those who do, most clearly those who enjoy the cognitive states, identify with them and are the clearest target of the description racist person. (ii) If I say that racism is unconscious cognitive thought and emotion that makes bigoted outgroup distinctions, it doesn’t follow that everyone is a racist, mostly because even unconscious thought and emotion motivated by bigotry is amenable to change.

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emmanuelgoldstein 05.05.12 at 8:48 pm

It’s not rational to maximize the success rate of detecting threats. It’s rational to maximize the reduction of harm. Profiling tries to accomplish the former but prevents the latter.

Presumably, this depends on the nature of the threat.

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JW Mason 05.05.12 at 11:28 pm

What economically and educationally disadvantaged blacks need most—not the only thing, but what they need (and want most, if, say, Jonathan Kozol was accurately reporting the opinions of the poor black parents he spoke to) are measures that spend large amounts of money correcting those disadvantages

I dunno. Seems to me that would have helped Trayvon Martin the most would have been not being shot by a racist vigilante asshole. Yes, let’s have universal pre-K, single-payer healthcare and a 35 hour workweek, but you know, supporting those things does not absolve us of responsibility for doing something about the racist vigilante assholes too.

Affirmative action and diversity hiring programs (except of the kind I mentioned in replying to js above) don’t help them as much

I’m really baffled how you got the idea that this is what anti-racist politics is about. How about an end to mass incarceration of black men (which is really, really, really not the result of underclass criminality) and to residential segregation?

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geo 05.06.12 at 4:47 am

JW: Yes, let’s have universal pre-K, single-payer healthcare and a 35 hour workweek, but you know, supporting those things does not absolve us of responsibility for doing something about the racist vigilante assholes too.

Agreed.

How about an end to mass incarceration of black men (which is really, really, really not the result of underclass criminality) and to residential segregation?

I’m with you 100%.

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Data Tutashkhia 05.06.12 at 6:07 am

JW Mason, 191: mass incarceration of black men (which is really, really, really not the result of underclass criminality

Could you elaborate on this please.

You quoted homicides stats in 166. According to them, roughly half of the homicides (where both victim and attacker were known) were committed by blacks. Granted, this is only for homicides, but it doesn’t seem too arbitrary to extrapolate from there, to the rough proportion of, at least, violent crimes committed by blacks. Right?

According to wikipedia, in 2009 there were about 1,130,000 white and hispanic (that’s all ‘white’ in your stats) men incarcerated, and 840,000 black men incarcerated. Another source, ABC news, puts it even lower: “Black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population.”
http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=5009270&page=1#.T6YOAMU_U1k

So, the proportion of blacks incarcerated is below (if you believe the ABC News, far below) the proportion of, at least, murders committed by blacks. Correct? Am I missing something? What am I missing? Is it that blacks commit a lot of murders, but few other crimes?

What are you saying, exactly? I’d really, really, really like to know, please don’t ignore this one. Thanks.

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js. 05.06.12 at 7:52 am

Haven’t had a chance to read everything, but just wanted to say:

What JW Mason said, again! This time at 149.

(Though, wait, Data is Henri?)

195

Watson Ladd 05.06.12 at 1:37 pm

JW Mason, we already do something about the racist vigilantes, namely convict them if they have committed a crime. Anti-racism wants to be more then liberalism in that it wants to go beyond everyone having equal rights as individuals who are not judged on the basis of race, creed, or color. Residential segregation is already illegal. Is there anything to say about race that liberte, egalite, fraternite, doesn’t already say?

196

Emily 05.06.12 at 2:05 pm

Watson, ” liberte, egalite, fraternite,” whilst happily high falutin, largely excludes women, – and justice, and mercy – and that takes you to Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman?”
Plus Algerians and Haitians (wherefrom “zombie” lore springs – see the Harper’s article) amongst others might have something to say in the matter as well.

197

Watson Ladd 05.06.12 at 2:43 pm

Emily, Fanon didn’t think so when writing “Black Skins, White Masks”. As for the exclusion of women, de Beauvoir credits the Enlightenment moment with the first attempts to remove the discrimination women faced, specifically Diderot and J.S. Mill. Justice was of course part of the meaning of liberty: no punishment except by law, which clearly stated what was illegal and what was not.

198

Witt 05.06.12 at 4:13 pm

What are you saying, exactly? I’d really, really, really like to know, please don’t ignore this one. Thanks.

In case there are any lurkers reading who really DO want to know, I’d recommend starting with the research by The Sentencing Project and others, showing that at every stage of the criminal justice process, black Americans are disproportionately affected. I.e., even when drug USE rates are the same, the arrest/charging/conviction/sentencing rates are not.

199

Data Tutashkhia 05.06.12 at 5:09 pm

Witt, your website has this:
“Our analysis below documents these striking trends:
• The number of African Americans in state prisons for a drug offense declined by 21.6% from 1999-2005, a reduction of more than 31,000 persons.
• The number of whites incarcerated for a drug offense rose significantly during this period, an increase of 42.6%, representing an additional 21,000 persons in prison.”
http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/dp_raceanddrugs.pdf

Racism!

Anyway, people are incarcerated not for use, but for possession and distribution. And more importantly: go normalize by relevant parameters, like socioeconomic status. Otherwise, this is just the usual tendentious bs.

35-40% of the population in poverty are blacks, and 35-40% of the prison population are blacks. Why do you need special projects to understand it?

200

JW Mason 05.06.12 at 5:12 pm

Data is Henri?

Well, I don’t have definitive proof. It’s a hypothesis. I’m pretty sure about abb1 and Henri — abb1 made his last comment on CT on March 29, 2009, and Henri made his first appearance March 30. Henri meanwhile has not commented here since March 22, and Data shows up at the beginning of April. Anyway, their writing styles and personas are all really strikingly similar. Compare Henri Vieuxtemps on the various Cornell West threads and Data here, if you’re interested (and have way too much time on your hands.)

201

J. Otto Pohl 05.06.12 at 5:22 pm

JW Mason at 200:

Very interesting theory on abb1=Henri Vieuxtemps=Data Tutashkhia. I thought with the new comments policy that Henri Vieuxtemps and Data Tutashkhia were the legal names of actually existing people. Although I do not think I have ever seen the name Data before except on Star Trek.

202

Emily 05.06.12 at 8:07 pm

Watson @197
I read Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter at 13or 14 for a high school presentation – to which I wore a dress up beret. The only other de Beauvoir I’ve read is part of The Blood of Others for a French Avante Garde history subject.

In my personal experience a large proportion of women globally do not share de Beauvoir’s philosophy (insofar as I understand it) or life style (for want of a better word).

I think it’s feasible to posit much Enlightenment thought as actively attempting to diminish those of traditional beliefs and ways of living (does enclosure count as part of the Enlightenment?) both in the European homelands and in colonial outposts, thereby justifying in the name of ‘progress’ a number of highly unfair acts. In my view this continues today in terms of the global land grab, and the transfer of material resources from ‘poor’ to ‘wealthy’ countries as part of the ‘development’ process.

What do you think?

203

Kevin Donoghue 05.06.12 at 8:59 pm

I remember abb1. Don’t think Data is abb1.

204

Watson Ladd 05.06.12 at 10:46 pm

Emily: guilty as charged. After all, the thousand year old scourge of slavery and serfdom was ended, the Jews emancipated, religious freedom attained, the novel invented, democracy reintroduced, and a cosmopolitain existence recreated for the first time in one thousand, six hundred years, by the Enlightenment, but not quickly or directly. Every one of these things required trampling traditions and superstitions, and replacing them with man’s reason. Absent Enlightenment humanity would have no past and no future.

205

Emily 05.06.12 at 11:27 pm

Watson,
“Man’s reason”?
We’re back to Mary Wolstonecroft! And @196
According to John Quiggan’s logic the future is somewhat imperriled by enlightenment thought and technology anyway.
The past, since time immemorial, pretty much did happen regardless of what the future holds I believe — do you have a different interpretation?

206

Emily 05.06.12 at 11:29 pm

If I remember Wat Tyler and the peasants’ revolt was conservative and wanted to go back to the good old days of King Alfred’s court at Winchester.

207

js. 05.06.12 at 11:53 pm

outrage about racism was the only way due process and fair justice would have been possibly applied to this case.

This really can’t be said enough. And it’s pretty key to why Balko is way off. I mean, it’s not as if you can section of questions of equality from those of fair treatment, even fair judicial treatment. Anyway, there’s simply no evidence to suggest that you can.

(Also, Merp, sorry if I misunderstood what you were saying way up above. Though, to be honest, it still seems pretty odd to me.)

208

Watson Ladd 05.07.12 at 12:31 am

Emily, everyone has the capacity to reason, to move from their self-imposed childhood. Also, traditional society has no past: it aims to be eternal. Of course there is anachronistic conservatism: one need only turn on the television and see the Pope or Taliban or Shas member to see that. But what of it? Do you think that because the ancient regime could muster up the Vendee it was better then the Republic? Is the Taliban, with their roots in Pashtun tradition, superior to the foreign liberal order in Kabul?

A Vindication of the Rights of Women is squarely within the tradition you seek to use it against. What does a rejection of the Enlightenment mean for Huguenots and Jews in France or for the Dutch State founded in an act of rebellion against the Inquisition? It means death. The fundamental fact of traditional society, especially in Europe, is that it is not peaceful or tolerant.

209

djw 05.07.12 at 1:39 am

While I obviously can’t say anything with certainty, I thought it was fairly obvious that abb1, Henri, and Data are one in the same. His bone-headed version of dime store Marxism and his racial no-nothing routine are quite distinctive (and, to my ear, indistinguishable from each other). The only thing I find puzzling is why so many otherwise sensible people keep shoveling him full of troll-food.

210

Salient 05.07.12 at 1:55 am

While I obviously can’t say anything with certainty, I thought it was fairly obvious that abb1, Henri, and Data are one in the same.

Dammit people, stop endangering my pet project with your astute observations. It’s not the same person changing names, it’s Pokemon evolution. Don’t ruin this for me early; another couple months and I’ll have Miles-Ladd up to the final tier.

(Gotta kvetch ‘em all.)

211

Emily 05.07.12 at 2:40 am

Watson@208
“The fundamental fact of traditional society, especially in Europe, is that it is not peaceful or tolerant.”

One could surely say the same about the imperial enlightenment or current global order, could one not?

212

geo 05.07.12 at 2:53 am

Emily @205: The past, since time immemorial, pretty much did happen

Are you sure the past really happened? Sounds like positivism to me.

213

Watson Ladd 05.07.12 at 3:00 am

Emily, you are missing something here. The norms that exist are superior norms to the ones that have existed, and society today has a capacity for rational transformation and self-reflection that didn’t exist before. By having this kind of debate you demonstrate that we live in a society that aspires to make itself known rationally, even if this aspiration is blocked in certain ways. That cannot be said about previous forms of society, all with universal thought taboos and a uniformity within each kind of person, even as it admitted different kinds. To live in a tribal society is to live as an object, subject to relations that are not of your choosing, and that dominate all aspects of your existence. A medieval Christian would not know the meaning of the term “human right” or “equality before the law”. God had ordained that there were classes, some with privileges over the others. That’s progress, worth a thousand Vendees.

Of course we are drifting far from the subject of disagrement, but the attack of liberalism on racism is that it recreates this caste system, an abhorrent and disgusting way to treat humans. The anti-racism of Salient on the other hand demands that blacks always be black, as separate from white as Jim Crow made them. Not to pick on Salient, but he’s just come right out and said it on this thread. It’s only because liberals have forgotten liberalism that this turn is possible.

214

LFC 05.07.12 at 3:26 am

Watson,
I think after multiple comments of yours I’ve got it: you like the Enlightenment, you don’t like “tribal” or “traditional” society, you don’t like affirmative action b/c you think it’s illiberal (or something). Actually the amount of, say, religious toleration in late-medieval and early-modern Europe I think varied by time and place (and Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which is perhaps getting too close to the eighteenth century for your argument’s comfort), but why complicate a nice story?

Would I rather live in ‘the West’ (or almost anywhere else, for that matter) in 2012 than in 1400? Definitely. What this has to do with the matter at hand, however, is not crystal clear.

215

JW Mason 05.07.12 at 3:36 am

I thought it was fairly obvious that abb1, Henri, and Data are one in the same. His bone-headed version of dime store Marxism and his racial no-nothing routine are quite distinctive (and, to my ear, indistinguishable from each other).

djw to the rescue. Yes, that’s the abb1-Henri-Data persona captured perfectly.

216

Colin Danby 05.07.12 at 3:49 am

“By having this kind of debate you demonstrate that we live in a society that aspires to make itself known rationally”

Is this watered-down Hegel we’re getting? In any case, talk about irrational! Since when did societies “aspire”? What does that even mean? How does an interaction between two people demonstrate this larger thing? You go on about your superiority over the “tribal” and then engage in the crudest fetishism.

217

AlanDownunder 05.07.12 at 3:50 am

I don’t much care whether Zimmerman was X% racist or Y% racist and whether it is indicative of a character that is A% racist or B% racist. And spare me the “he did it too, miss”; a decent primary school education sorted that one out yonks ago.

218

Emily 05.07.12 at 6:02 am

Watson @213
” A medieval Christian would not know the meaning of the term “human right” or “equality before the law””
Have you actually read much Middle English? Eg. John of Trevissa’s
dialogue between Clerk and Lord on translation; accompanying his translation of Higden’s Polychronicon into English from Latin?
Or Mandeville’s Travels? King Orfeo?

In Australia, pre-European settlement, meetings between different groups were held in liminal territories and are known as corroborries. One Melbourne Shire, Cardinia, is partially on this ground and takes it’s name from the Wadawurrung kar din yar – looking to the morning sun – orienting the different peoples to the future.

In my personal experience (observer, I’m not Aboriginal insofar as I know) of our reconciliation acts the welcome to country ceremony has proved most successful (in my area at least)).

219

Data Tutashkhia 05.07.12 at 6:19 am

What the heck was that all about?

220

Data Tutashkhia 05.07.12 at 9:33 am

So, should I assume that you decided against carrying on with your Nation of Islam rhetoric, JW Mason? Damn, it’s disappointing. I was hoping for some juicy ‘the white man is the devil’ and ‘the only thing the honky respects is a gun’ bits.

221

Barry Freed 05.07.12 at 3:30 pm

Was Henri Vieuxtemps banned from commenting here not too long ago?

222

Data Tutashkhia 05.07.12 at 5:51 pm

As Special Agent Dale Cooper said: Four of us have seen him in different forms. This path is a psychic link that will lead us straight to him.

223

ragweed 05.07.12 at 6:08 pm

“Affirmative action, educational multiculturalism, diversity programs.”

Would all be positive things to have in their own right even in a society that focussed on class justice and eliminating class equality. Educational multiculturalism seems particularly to be a no-brainer – why would you ever design an educational system that wasn’t international and multicultural in scope. We live in a world after all.

224

ragweed 05.07.12 at 6:08 pm

should be – “eliminating class inequality” (doh!)

225

Salient 05.08.12 at 12:01 am

The anti-racism of Salient … demands that blacks always be black, as separate from white as Jim Crow made them.

That… might be the stupidest and most offensive thing you’ve ever said, Watson. I’d probably just shrug it off if you hadn’t made a concerted explicit effort to tie me to it, but no, this was a targeted troll.

Obvious thing first. Americans didn’t suddenly start distinguishing whites from blacks in the years after the Emancipation Proclamation. FFS, even the letter of the law quite obviously distinguished whites from blacks prior to the Civil War. There’s no reading of the comparison “as separate as Jim Crow made them” that makes it any less idiotic or asinine. You’re just spewing words you think will incite someone. It’s a drain on other people’s energy.

You know what, screw it. I’m not going to sit here and prattle at you about the effective caste system that emerged from emancipation, if that’s what you want to call differentiated treatment that really just partially carried over the functional restraints and segregation of slavery. It’s a caste system that never quite left, and what we have nowadays are not much more than a handful of mostly theoretical protections and a number of people who have managed to transition between castes. There’s nothing to recreate. It’s still here.

Now please, regardless of whether or not you’re intentionally playing dense or honestly just this buffoonish, FFS at least try to do so without mentioning my name from now on, so I can skim on past and ignore it. I can and will extend the same courtesy to you. And really, I only ask that you not mention me because you seem categorically incapable of characterizing what I said accurately, and it’s just so fucking tiring to have to come along sweeping up after the messes of errors you create. Too much energy. Too many hours. I would like those hours back, impossibly. Please don’t take more.

226

emmanuelgoldstein 05.08.12 at 12:50 am

To live in a tribal society is to live as an object, subject to relations that are not of your choosing, and that dominate all aspects of your existence. A medieval Christian would not know the meaning of the term “human right” or “equality before the law”. God had ordained that there were classes, some with privileges over the others. That’s progress, worth a thousand Vendees.

I’m not a medieval historian, but that strikes me as nonsense. Aquinas was a medieval Christian if anyone was; he’s pretty clear both that proper kingship comes from some sort of covenant with the ruled, and that a King (or a usurper) who breaks that covenant can justly be deposed:

If to provide itself with a king belongs to the right of a given multitude, it is not unjust that the king be deposed or have his power restricted by that same multitude if, becoming a tyrant, he abuses the royal power. It must not be thought that such a multitude is acting unfaithfully in deposing the tyrant, even though it had previously subjected itself to him in perpetuity, because he himself has deserved that the covenant with his subjects should not be kept, since, in ruling the multitude, he did not act faithfully as the office of a king demands

(De Regno, I: 49)

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