A Bad Definition of Racism

Source: How you define racism may stop you from seeing it where it exists | Metro News

In my opinion the ideas in this article are a huge part of the problem in the current conversation about race and racism. “How you define racism may keep you from seeing it” or it may make you see it everywhere. Even when it doesn’t exist. This article reflects a hugely political and ideological perspective. And I don’t concede these concepts or definitions. I think true Justice means we have one standard that applies to everyone, not different standards based on alleged “power dynamics.”

BTW, it’s a cute fallacy to suggest that disagreeing with these concepts is proof of racism.

The approach outlined in this article that defines racism via power dynamics leads to the idea that only whites can be racist, and that the things they do are racist by definition, almost like original sin. As a Christian I disagree with this definition because I think the Bible’s is better and closer to the one they are trying to bury.

Further, this definition inevitably leads to assuming the worst of other people, especially their motives. And it results in something being called racist when a white person does it but not when a minority does it.  That is a double standard by definition.  For instance I have heard that when a white person asks a black person if they work at a store, it is a form of microaggression because it assumes they are servants. That assumption is ridiculous. That MIGHT be true. But it also might be true that someone needs help. Just last month I was at home depot and a black man asked me if I worked there and if I could help him find something. Inside I thought about this concept of power dynamics and laughed at the idea that his question was some kind of insult to me.  I did not consider it a compliment or an insult. It was just a case of someone trying to find something they need. I politely said I didn’t work here but thought the items he was looking for were on such and such an aisle because I had passed by them. We both smiled. He thanked me and we carried on. I guess I was dressed like one of their employees. This kind of thing has happened to me many times in a variety of stores and there is no benefit to trying to impute some sinister motive.

Love means you don’t assume the worst possible motive for a person’s actions, especially when they aren’t overtly evil. And that is what this approach does. It assumes that all white people are unconsciously trying to exert their power over minorities.  I believe that this assumption itself is actually an unloving and inaccurate stereotype that is guilty of doing the exact thing it is claims to remedy. By the way, some white people are trying to intimidate or impose their will on minorities. And some minorities are trying to do the same thing to white folks. And prideful acts, malice, or oppression are wrong no matter who is doing it.

I do agree that some of the things mentioned in this article can be hurtful or abusive and are worth discussing. But there is one standard for people from minority and majority cultures.  And that standard is love and humility.

 

 

 

The Racial Reality of Policing- Beware of Simple Solutions

It is dangerously attractive look for simple solutions to complex problems. And it is tempting to cling to them even against the evidence when they are offered.  Our country seems to be divided on the issue of homocide in the black community. And this division falls in line with a love of simple ideological answers.

Liberals are quick to blame the police and describe the situation as “open season” on black men.  To be sure, they have a growing body of evidence, much of it now on Youtube, that many police departments have been abusing their authority under the purview of the indifferent eyes of the white community. The facts tell a tale that blacks are disproportionately sent to prison for even minor crimes. And sadly, the list goes on from there. And this generates a distrust that undermines even sincere attempts for justice in black neighborhoods. Read the article for some troubling accounts from detective Conlon about times when his attempts to gain convictions for crimes committed by blacks against other blacks were unsuccessful.

Conservatives are quick to blame the black community and point out the disparity of numbers. If black lives matter, why are protestors focusing on the 129 black men killed by legal intervention (the number is likely much higher), and not focusing on the 6,739 black men murdered by mostly other young black men? They ask, why is there so little discussion absence of black fathers and the erosion of families?  Many conservatives are quick to discuss personal responsibility,  and act as if the only place to find racism is in the media.

This article by retired NYPD detective Edward Conlon is interesting to me because he acknowledges problems on many sides of this issue. Further, he suggests that those problems play against each other in some tragic ways.  They not only contribute to the problem, but work to hinder any practical solutions.  I have often felt like I was in the middle on this issue.  I have found myself occasionally listening to both sides on these issues and alternately agreeing or shaking my head in frustration.  It is frustrating when when we only see what we want to see, or repeat what our chosen news outlets tell us.

Last year Ta-Nehesi Coates wrote a lengthy and moving piece in the Atlantic on “A Case For Reparations.”  His essay was powerful and worth reading, but in the end I suspect he falls into the trap of oversimplification.  In a follow up article he wrote, “There is massive, overwhelming evidence for the proposition that white supremacy is the only thing wrong with black people.” That is to say, the black community is not responsible for any of its problems.  Coates is not alone in that kind of simplistic approach. There are plenty of white conservatives that would suggest the opposite, that whites aren’t responsible for anything wrong in the black community either. The cops are the problem. Blacks are the problem. A or B. Choose.  What is worse,  both groups are at risk of viewing even factual statements made by the other side with suspicion.  If you accuse the police of racism you must hate law and justice. If you suggest that the black community has an internal epidemic of violence, you must not care about police brutality. Either you are a black racist or a white racist.

I believe that the reality is far more complex, and it will only be when both sides acknowledge their contribution to the current mess that we have any hope of finding a solution. When someone points the finger instead of accepting responsibility, they loose credibility in the discussion and undermine any motivation to deal with their own problems.

Edward Conlon makes a good point, there were 2 reports released after Ferguson, and we need to read them both to get a clear picture.

“In March, Attorney General Eric Holder released two reports on Ferguson. One covered in great detail the shooting death of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson; the other described the broader patterns of policing in the city. Partisans have tended to choose one report or the other to support their reading of events.

“No, Brown wasn’t shot in the back while attempting to surrender to a white cop, nor was he shot for jaywalking. He had just robbed a store, and he had punched Officer Wilson in the face and tried to steal his gun. In the wake of Brown’s death, Ferguson burned because people believed a lie; because many still believe it, cops have been shot there, and the threat of riot remains.

“The other report showed that Ferguson was a speed trap for people going nowhere, six square miles of mostly black people, mostly poor, with 50 cops, almost all white, who were ordered to milk them for every possible nickel by white city managers. Black people were further bled dry in a punitive cycle of fines and fees; missed court dates led to arrest warrants, which left them increasingly incapable of having a chance at a productive life.” (emphasis mine)

Ben Carson recently wrote an editorial on the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  He points to the complexity of these issues. He refuses to see this as a problem with a single cause. He points the finger at our schools, Hollywood, Washington, crack dealers, Democrats, and Republicans. I think he is on to something.

Source: The Racial Reality of Policing – WSJ

An Overlooked Area Of Criminal Justice Reform.

Colin Miller has an interesting and brief article about wrongful convictions. He writes:

“Two key statistics: 95% of disposed American criminal cases are resolved by guilty pleas, often as a result of plea bargains. And 80% of people arrested in this country are represented by public defenders. These statistics are not unrelated. Public defenders are underfunded and overworked, and often refuse to take new cases.”

This brings up an important issue in reforming our very broken justice system. Why do we allow the lawyers that defend most of the accused in America to be low paid and inexperienced public defenders? Why isn’t there a national credential required for public defenders? I am told anyone that passes the Bar exam can become a defense attorney and defend the accused unless it is a capital case. I wonder if we would accept that for our surgeons? Why don’t we spend more money so that there are an adequate number of attorneys so that the accused can be adequately represented? Wouldn’t it be both more just and cheaper to do this than to incarcerate so many innocent people?

‘Serial’: How common are wrongful convictions in the U.S.?.

The Mixed Story of Racism: A Black Judge’s Sentencing Speech to 3 White Murderers

U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves, for the Southern District of Mississippi. Courtesy of cleoinc.org

 

A Black Mississippi Judge’s Breathtaking Speech To 3 White Murderers : Code Switch : NPR.

Wow.

This is worth your time to read. 3 white men in Mississippi were sentenced for the brutal and racially motivated killing of 48 year old James Anderson.  These men were involved in an escalating pattern of violence that echoes the “ni&&er hunts” that have punctuated this state’s past.  Beware the article does use the “N” word a number of times in reflecting on the evils of racism and the troubled history of that state.

“In Without Sanctuary, historian Leon Litwack writes that between 1882 and 1968 an estimated 4,742 blacks met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs”

According to the judge, these acts were committed by young men who were described by others, ‘as “a fine young man,” “a caring person,” “a well mannered man” who is truly remorseful and wants to move on with his life … a very respectful … a good man … a good person … a lovable, kindhearted teddy bear who stands in front of bullies…’  The men were incriminated by video evidence and their own guilty pleas.

The events themselves reveal that there is more need for progress.  The end of the speech shows that change has been on the march and this is encouraging.  There is a satisfying irony in this, that only enhances the justice of the proceedings.

“Today, though, the criminal justice system (state and federal) has proceeded methodically, patiently and deliberately seeking justice. Today we learned the identities of the persons unknown … they stand here publicly today. The sadness of this day also has an element of irony to it: Each defendant was escorted into court by agents of an African-American United States Marshal, having been prosecuted by a team of lawyers which includes an African-American AUSA from an office headed by an African-American U.S. attorney — all under the direction of an African-American attorney general, for sentencing before a judge who is African-American, whose final act will be to turn over the care and custody of these individuals to the BOP [Federal Bureau of Prisons] — an agency headed by an African-American.

“Today we take another step away from Mississippi’s tortured past … we move farther away from the abyss.”