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.


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.


Why we need Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

27 May 2009

Roberts1Roberts2

Updated Below…

In case you can’t see in the pix, the New Yorker conveniently points out that the current SCOTUS is on the “far right.”  Now, Sotomayor is not as left as I’d like her to be, but don’t buy all this crap the right is giving you on her “radical” views.  The current justices are way right of Nixon, and it’s about damn time we got a little rationality.  I don’t know when I’ve ever seen this much premeditated political BS over a nominee.

GBitch provides a good link to this article, and there’s a lot to see here.  My main beef is that these folks don’t seem to see the White Privilege from which they’ve received great benefit.  Roberts says that affirmative action mandates the “recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates.”  Wrong, fucker, wrong.  AA requires that we give people a look who aren’t on the inside track, who weren’t the privileged sons of rich folks who got them in the door of the CEO’s office.  Here’s what Roberts believes:

The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

Easy for him to say.  He doesn’t see that the simplicity of his argument belies the depths of the racism that much of the American public (including people who’ll probably comment in response to this post, because they’re the usually the only people who comment on my posts) feel.  Everyone would be fine with stopping discrimination, but the privileged classes have screwed things up so bad, we need to fix some things.  And affirmative action provides a positive approach to this goal.  It’s not a quota, and it doesn’t require employing unqualified people.  As soon as you suggest it does, you insult the phenomenal qualifications of Sotomayor.

Here’s another telling quote from the New Yorker article:

It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.

Yeah, sounds good, but guess what, your people have been doing it for many, many generations, so you don’t get to decide that the time for divvying is over now.  You’re out of touch, and I’d call your ignorance judicial activism.

Last point:  This claim of judicial activism is as spurious as the claim of “pork” in the legislature.  Pretty damned subjective.  Anybody who’s a judge and doesn’t fall in my line of thinking is an activist to me, and anyone who disagrees with Sotomayor’s views will see her as an activist.  Damn straight, a Latina from a poor family will see the world, and the law, differently from those of us who have not felt the sting of dismissal.  No shame in that.  The white men haven’t exactly had a monopoly on wisdom, God knows.

Sonia Sotomayor is quaified to be a Supreme Court Justice, no matter what her “story” is, and those who lob their condescending opposition her way are just the desperate, privileged few who fear a little social justice heading their way.  Maybe the chickens really are coming home to roost.

UPDATE:  Jim Morin says it better than I ever could:

cwjmo090527


…Unless she’s dead

24 March 2009

The Times-Picayune does not identify alleged victims of rape.

So says the sad article about Fredy Omar’s trial for rape.

Then, you go to another article in the same section, and apparently because the guy “is accused of raping and strangling his 16-year-old daughter in 2003 after taking her along with him on a drunken binge,” and she died, they can identify her, along with a picture in the print version.

The Omar article is sick on so many levels.  I love the guy as a musician and really hope he didn’t do it, but I don’t want to doubt a victim’s story.  Still, even though they saw fit to refer to Omar as “Latin bandleader” and “Honduran born musician,” I see nothing of the other alleged perpetrator’s “plumber of Irish descent” background or whatever.

And what decade is it when the defense’s case centers on whether the victim was wearing underwear or was drunk?  None of that matters if he did what she didn’t want him to.


Things I Didn’t Know til Yesterday

22 January 2009

I watched WAAAAAY too much inaugural coverage, but of course this was the first time I was truly excited about it.  Still, I should have turned off the tube a lot sooner, given the level of crap that was repeatedly thrown at us.  Here’re some tidbits that may surprise you:

  1. Rosa Parks was a hero for not getting up on a bus in Birmingham, so they had that famous Birmingham bus in the parade.  And here, I always thought it was the Montgomery bus boycott…
  2. Clarence Thomas was the first Black member of the Supreme Court.  Jeez, I seem to remember someone named Thurgood Marshall, but I must be imagining…
  3. Barack Obama, presumably because he’s Black, loves to dance and has rhythm.  Someone named Hilary Rosen said repeatedly, to the delight and concurrence of her colleagues, that she was glad to have a president with rhythm.  And here I thought that the fact that he can’t dance (and clearly doesn’t really like to) and doesn’t clap to the beat of the band meant that he didn’t have rhythm, but apparently I’m wrong.  I guess I’m not letting my preconceived notions of his race help me see him for who he is–just a guy to reinforce my stereotypes; after all, he IS good at basketball.

Welcome, President Obama

21 January 2009

I can’t add much to what everyone else is saying.  I’m elated, relieved, enthusiastic, and optimistic.   I know it’ll be a tough road, but he’s the one for the job, and I’m ready to be a part of the new US.

The racial implications of this event are obviously huge, and two things keep coming to me in this regard.

One is that it’s impressive how diverse the crowd in DC is.  I’ve wondered how many prior inaugurations would have to be put together before this number of African American participants accumulated.  This is important if you consider that research consistently shows that African Americans identify more strongly with their race than their nation, whereas the opposite is true for White people. This will change the way that everyday Black people see their country and their role in it.

The other is the impact of Sasha and Malia growing up in the White House.  Modeling is huge, and Black kids can hear every day that they have a chance to be president, and so on, but seeing these two girls actually living there and being a part of the events we’ll see on tv will have a monumental impact.

We can speak of breaking barriers, achieving the unimaginable, and so on, but to me, the real significance is in these two more mundane developments.


Lost in translation? Stereotypes in Olympic manual

2 June 2008

So far I’ve taken down 22 racist stickers around town.  Just a drop in the bucket, I’m sure, but at least it’s that.

Meanwhile, Chinese Olympic authorities are apologizing for stereotypic statements in a manual regarding Beijing’s Paralympic Games.  Here are a few choice excerpts:

…paralympic athletes and disabled spectators are a special group. They have unique personalities and ways of thinking.

To handle the “Optically Disabled,” the guide said: “Often the optically disabled are introverted. They have deep and implicit feelings and seldom show strong emotions. … Remember, when you communicate with optically disabled people, try not to use the world ‘blind’ when you meet for the first time.”

Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization and thinking mechanisms from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability. “For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called ‘crippled’ or ‘paralyzed.’

The guide said volunteers should “not fuss or show unusual curiosity, and never stare at their disfigurement.” It also advised volunteer to steer away from words like “cripple or lame, even if you are just joking.”