A simple (but small) solution to the Gates-Crowley incidents

31 July 2009

There are a lot of signs around town that say “Think you might be wrong,” and it occurs to me that the people who post them may have the secret to more than they realize.

In my Psyc classes, we talk a lot about prejudice from a scientific perspective, and real-life incidents provide a nice tie-in. One thing the research tells us is that stereotyping is easy, but overriding it requires both ability (to focus and put forth the effort) and motivation (to think that there’s something to put the effort toward).

The only way that people can overcome a prejudiced response is to recognize that they may be capable of one, and that’s where the St. Crowleys of the world–whom I don’t believe is explicitly racist, but who is susceptible to bias–can benefit. So can actual racists like the cop in Boston who talked about banana-eating jungle monkeys, but they’re less likely to see the problem. I see evidence of the motivation in Crowley, but if others want to convince us that they’re not racist, then they have to see that they–and all of us, including this blogger–are subject to biases of which we may not be aware.

If more of us said, “I might be wrong,” but didn’t want to be, we’d treat each other a lot more fairly.


The racists vs. Obama

29 July 2009

I’m no Freudian, but I think Joan Walsh is probably right that there’s a good deal of projection going on as the racist right wing pundits try to label Obama a racist.  I’d chalked it up to white privilege and crying foul that their monopoly on power is gone, but I was being a little too simplistic.

Watch for yourself, but don’t sue me if you destroy your computer afterward:

Who’s fanning the flames, guys?  Oh, that’s right, the guy who doesn’t know his place…

Pricks.


A Few Food Notes

25 July 2009

In a town that brought you “Let ’em have it” and the uber-cheesy A-1 Appliance, and Ronnie Lamarque singing Volare, the Rouse’s chef ads are remarkably effective and dignified. I mean, they get John Besh, Leah Chase, and a bunch of other greats, not some schmuck from the Kenner Applebee’s, telling you that they get their stuff at Rouse’s. I don’t know if that’s true, but it works for me.

Thanks, La Divina, for nothing. Opening 2 blocks from my house could be the end of what health or money I have left. But til then, I’m all about the blueberry-basil sorbet and the hazelnut gelato. Dayam.

July is supposed to be dead time here, but last week we tried to take my brother and sis-in-law to Jacques-Imos–the place locals either love or love to hate. At 9pm, there was a 2-hour wait. Jeez, Jack, you got something going there. Hope I get to try it again soon.

If you haven’t tried Abita satsuma yet because you think it’ll be fruity, you’re missing out. It’s no sweeter than any unfiltered with an orange in it, and it’s a very solid entry.  I’m one of the few who has not taste for their Amber, but who finds some of their recent brews–Jockamo, Preservation–to be excellent beers.  Satsuma continues that proud trend.

I don’t care if you eat meat or not, you gotta try Whole Foods’ mock chicken salad.  Damn, it’s good.  I’ve tried to replicate it at home (because $10/lb ain’t exactly priced for daily gorging), to poor effect.  I’ll keep working on it; doesn’t seem that difficult.

The guys who sell watermelon from the backs of trucks are some of the friendliest, nicest people around.  I haven’t talked to the guy who dangles shrimps at you on Claiborne & MLK, but he sure seems happy too.  More of us need to get back closer to the raw.


What do Sonia Sotomayor & Henry Louis Gates Have in Common?

21 July 2009

They both give us object lessons in white privilege.

Sotomayor is portrayed by some on the right as being a racist.  Setting aside that most social scientists argue that it’s impossible for members of minority groups to be racist, what their criticisms demonstrate is the privileged perch of the white male.

You see, because the white male perspective in our society is the “default” perspective, these leges assume that there is no bias in their perspective.  Because most of their constituents and colleagues share that perspective, it again seems to be the norm.  So along comes someone with a different experience and a different perspective, and they take it as a threat and a sign that such a person must be wrong.

The truth is that their experience as white men has shaped every one of their judgments.  Not that they’ve always been wrong, but they cannot take the high and mighty position that they are objective and neutral.  It’s just that because they make up the “norm” everything not in their grasp is “deviant.”

Now with Gates, he’s seen apparently breaking into his own home, and he’s arrested for essentially being beligerent as a result of being confronted in his own home.  Although we can’t know whether Gates’ story that he showed his ID but wasn’t believed, or the cops’ that he refused to show his ID is true, to me the bigger issue is, what if he’d been white?

Here again, the answer lies in white privilege, more than racial profiling.  Here’s why:

Frankly, anyone trying to shoulder a door in on a house could look suspicious.  But if Gates and the cab driver had been white, the witness who called the cops more likely would have assumed they lived there and ignored it.  In many cases, the responsible thing to do is to report suspicious behavior; problem is, this behavior looked more suspicious because the men involved were black.

So I don’t blame someone for calling the cops–IF they would have called on two white guys doing the same thing.  We can’t know for sure, but that’s the psychic litmus test we should perform in order to know whether our actions are discriminatory.

It goes further.  We have MANY examples of research showing that the same behavior is interpreted differently by people of different races, and Gates’ “disorderly” conduct at his home may well not have been taken as such if he were white.  But we also have cases from the news–Rodney King presumed to be high on PCP, Amadou Diallo presumed to be wielding a gun and not a wallet, Abner Louima presumed to be a real threat to officers’ safety–that show us that behavior is interpreted differently depending upon our stereotypes of the actor.

It’s time that we acknowledged that different people have different sets of rules.  E and I were in the airport recently when a white British guy slept through his plane’s boarding and became irate.  After getting no satisfaction with his demands that he be let on the plane (the door had closed), he repeatedly yelled that there would be “trouble” if he wasn’t let on or his bags let off.  We discussed how different his treatment would have been if he’d been black or, worse in this context, Middle Eastern.  To threaten “trouble” in an airport, one would think, would get you arrested immediately, but he was politely escorted out.

And most of the time, if cops saw me trying to climb in the window of my house or to slim-jim open my car door, they’d assume I belonged and leave me alone.  Even if they did ask for my ID, it’d be the first time for me, so I wouldn’t mind passing it over, unlike my black friends and students who are routinely IDd, followed, and suspected, to the point that they’re sick of playing that game.

And that’s why white privilege plays a more powerful role in our daily lives than most people are willing to acknowledge.


The Facebook

14 July 2009

UPDATED, Dammit!

As a newbie to it, and older than the typical user, I’m sure, I’m applying the obligatory “The” to show my cluelessness.  Still, I have a few observations that I’d like to make:

  • It’s pretty fun, and, as Adrastos noted, a big time-vacuum (I told him I thought I was “networking”).  But I’ve managed to find my first boss from the Silver Plow in Tulsa.  I was 15 and he was 25 and got me beer and took me to midnight movies and generally made me feel cool.  Treated me with respect, but put me in my place a time or two too.  And that was 25 years ago, so it obviously made an impression.
  • I’ve also learned that many of my high school friends are a lot different from me.  That’s to be expected, and it’s a good thing, but it was still a little jarring to see a buddy from the old days with his whole family wearing “Consistent Conservative” t-shirts.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • But it’s also brought back some memories that I’d rather had stayed dormant.  One of the joys of going off to college, and then again to grad school, and then again to a job, is that you can leave the screwups behind and start over, trying to avoid them the second time around.  Now this thing comes along to shove that crap right in my face.  Therefore, I present the following haiku:

Long repressed misdeeds

Old shame and guilt, returning

All thanks to FaceBook

Ah, well, to everyone in my past, I’ll overlook any of your youthful indiscretions and cruelties if you’ll forgive mine.  I’m different now, I promise.

UPDATE:  I almost forgot, my most compelling innovation:  Instead of calling it “friending” people, I think we should call it EFPIEMing people.  This, of course, stands not for our friends, but “Every Fucking Person I’ve Ever Met.”


Bad taste?

10 July 2009

Why is Obama meeting with this Michael Jackson impersonator at the G8?  And isn’t it a little soon for them to come out again? It was a long time after Elvis’ death before the Rolling Elvii appeared on the scene, so at least they have some class.

Obama G8 Italy

l to r: Dmitry Medvedev, Barack Obama, Ban Ki-moon, and Michael Jackson impersonator Moammar Gadhafi


No Mayor Landrieu

8 July 2009

Damn.