Tag Archives: Racism

I used to be with it, then they changed what it was

Here is the now completely inexplicable Richard Cohen, “liberal” columnist for the Washington Post, on non racism:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

I don’t get it.  Cohen maintains that Republicans are not racist, they merely have to suppress the urge to vomit at the prospect of miscegenation, because, er that’s not what “their country looks like.”

Diverting from the topic matter

Iowa Representative Steven King reminds us of an important characteristic of ad hominem arguments–viz., calling someone names is not a sufficient condition for an ad hominem.  The matter begins with the following remark concerning granting amnesty to illegal immigrants:

“Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.

For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King tells Newsmax. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.” 

Naturally, people were quick to notice that this remark was “wrong” (to use the words of John Boehner, House Republican Majority Leader).  Yet, in an all too common response to criticism such as this, King attempted to turn the tables:

“You know when people attack you—in this business, when you’re in this business, you know that when people attack you, and they call you names, they’re diverting from the topic matter,” King told Breitbart. “You know they’ve lost the debate when they do that. We’ve talked about it for years. Tom Tancredo and I joked about it that that’s the pattern. When people start calling you names, that’s what confirms you’ve won the debate.”

No, that isn’t actually a rule.

This rule only works this way: Person A is wrong about policy X because Person A is an a-hole”.  But this isn’t how it went.  In the present case, we have Person A said something false so Person A is wrong.  It’s an inference to Person A’s character from Person A’s actions, deeds, or words.  This is very different.

Common sense

Fig 1: “a uniform we all recognize”

I remember a while back, maybe three years ago, Juan Williams, now of Fox News but then of NPR, remarked that people in Muslim-looking garb on planes made him nervous.  That was a silly bit of profiling, of course.  Now in the wake of the Trayvon Martin not guilty verdict, racial profiling is all the rage, at least at the Washington Post.  Both Richard Cohen, who is allegedly a liberal columnist, and Kathleen Parker (a conservative) have penned columns justifying some sort of profiling.  Here is Parker:

This is not to justify what subsequently transpired between Zimmerman and Martin but to cast a dispassionate eye on reality. And no, just because a few black youths caused trouble doesn’t mean all black youths should be viewed suspiciously. This is so obvious a truth that it shouldn’t need saying and yet, if we are honest, we know that human nature includes the accumulation of evolved biases based on experience and survival. In the courtroom, it’s called profiling. In the real world, it’s called common sense.

Oddly, this “dispassionate eye on reality” seems to suggest that racial profilers, such as Zimmerman appears to have been, lack common sense.  For, after all, being suspicious of biases such as these is common sense, common decency, and basic intellectual skill.  Now to be fair, the rest of her piece, by the way, isn’t that bad–or at least not as bad as Richard Cohen’s horrible meditation on hoodies:

Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? This does not mean that raw racism has disappeared, and some judgments are not the product of invidious stereotyping. It does mean, though, that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent78 percent of all shooting suspects — almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.

Sounds like your uncle at Thanksgiving–for excellent analysis of Cohen’s unpardonably bad piece, see Jamelle Bouie.

TL;DR: this horrible crime (I think) ought at least to provide us an opportunity to reflect on the malfunctioning operation of common sense, or racism, as some call it.

A Harvard Ph.D. should have been able to figure out what was going on

Classification

Jason Richwine, Heritage Foundation scholar and Harvard School of Public Policy PhD, was forced to resign last week after people actually read some of his work.  Here’s conservative commentator Byron York:

On Friday morning, the 31 year-old scholar resigned from the Heritage Foundation, where he had co-authored the new report, “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer.” The paper, released last Monday and written largely by Heritage scholar Robert Rector, argued that Hispanic immigrants to the United States, most of them low-skill, end up costing the government more in benefits than they pay in taxes. It was an explosive entry into the debate over the comprehensive immigration reform measure currently being considered in the Senate. By the time of its release, reform advocates on the left and right had already published a number of “prebuttals” arguing that Rector and Richwine had it all wrong, that in fact immigration would be a net benefit in years to come.

Heritage expected that debate. What it did not expect was the firestorm that broke out Wednesday morning when a liberal Washington Post blogger posted an article titled, “Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs.” The blogger, Dylan Matthews, wrote that Richwine, who earned a doctorate from Harvard University in 2009, had written a dissertation, “IQ and Immigration Policy,”which argued that on average immigrants to the U.S., particularly Hispanic immigrants, have lower IQ scores than “the white native population.” Admitting immigrants with higher IQs, Richwine argued, would be a better immigration policy than admitting low-IQ newcomers.

. . . .

It got worse. In the 24 hours that followed the Post’s initial report, other outlets noted that in 2010 Richwine published two articles on a website called AlternativeRight.com, which describes itself as “an online magazine dedicated to heretical perspectives on society and culture” but is better defined as a site with a strong white nationalist perspective. Then a web video surfaced of Richwine saying, during a 2008 panel discussion, “Decades of psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences, and they’re not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.

To repeat, this is the description of a conservative commentator.  Here’s how he then sets up Richwine’s reply:

By Friday, he was saying his goodbyes at Heritage and wondering what had happened. “It still amazes me that it would be me who is portrayed this way,” Richwine says. “I have a pretty good educational background, I have a good background in doing very good quantitative work. The idea that I am some sort of foaming-at-the-mouth extremist never even crossed my mind.”

They should have fired him for that view: you don’t have to be “foaming at the mouth” or “extremist” to hold wrong or ill-formed racist views.  As a matter of fact, not being an ignorant extremist just makes the charge more damning.  York makes effectively the same point:

That is true, but assessments of AlternativeRight at the time of its founding pegged it as a white nationalist site. The site’s editors “hide their sexist and racist ideologies behind the gloss of sweet-sounding, pseudo-intellectual terms,” wrote Tim Mak, then a reporter for David Frum’s old site FrumForum. “Instead of spouting racism, Alternative Right is engaging in the much more respectable-sounding analysis of ‘human biological diversity’ and ‘socio-biology.’” Mak’s article appeared the same week Richwine published his piece for AlternativeRight.

And even if the words in the site’s articles sounded respectable, a Harvard Ph.D. should have been able to figure out what was going on.

Ouch.

Your analogy is bad and you should feel bad

There is much to distinguish Rush Limbaugh and George Will.  But there is also much they have in common.  They both explain Obama's electoral success by the completely non-racist suggestion that Obama, completely undeserving of the job, has profitted from affirmative action.  What distinguishes Will from Limbaugh, however, is that Will is able to find an inappropriate analogy to make his point, Limbaugh, already famous for baselessly doubting the genuine accomplishments of African Americans everywhere, just says Obama has profited from Affirmative Action.  Another difference is that Will patronizingly suggests such feelings for Obama might speak well of Americans.

Anyway, after running through a summary of Obama's Presidency only Fox News could have written (see here for a rebuttal), Will concludes:

Obama’s administration is in shambles, yet he is prospering politically. This may not, however, entirely be evidence of the irrationality of the electorate. Something more benign may be at work.

A significant date in the nation’s civil rights progress involved an African American baseball player named Robinson, but not Jackie. The date was Oct. 3, 1974, when Frank Robinson, one the greatest players in history, was hired by the Cleveland Indians as the major leagues’ first black manager. But an even more important milestone of progress occurred June 19, 1977, when the Indians fired him. That was colorblind equality.

Managers get fired all the time. The fact that the Indians felt free to fire Robinson — who went on to have a distinguished career managing four other teams — showed that another racial barrier had fallen: Henceforth, African Americans, too, could enjoy the God-given right to be scapegoats for impatient team owners or incompetent team executives.

Perhaps a pleasant paradox defines this political season: That Obama is African American may be important, but in a way quite unlike that darkly suggested by, for example, MSNBC’s excitable boys and girls who, with their (at most) one-track minds and exquisitely sensitive olfactory receptors, sniff racism in any criticism of their pin-up. Instead, the nation, which is generally reluctant to declare a president a failure — thereby admitting that it made a mistake in choosing himseems especially reluctant to give up on the first African American president. If so, the 2012 election speaks well of the nation’s heart, if not its head.

I remember Sarah Palin as well, and George Bush, I also remember Mitt Romney's characterization of 47 percent of the electorate as lazy moochers.  Then there is the string of things Obama has done that people kind of like.  These might also be explanatory factors in the President's recent and past political success.  People also seem to be aware that he inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression (or so they think anyway).  Wonder why, however, those guys at MSNBC would ever dare to suggest that calling someone an Affirmative Action President was somehow racist.  Why would they do that?  After all, he's just like that other black guy.

When the Mob Attacks!

If you haven't had enough…

The kerfuffle surrounding the recent canning of CHE blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley has once again made obvious the inherent racism deeply entrenched in our public discourse. Just because you don't mean to be racist does not mean that you aren't. On the other hand, if someone points out that you are a racist, that does not then ipso facto make them an apparatchik for the PC police. These points should be obvious, but we find people repeatedly failing to understand them and continuing to advance poor arguments that rest on racist assumptions. Riley should be fired because what she wrote was racist. What she wrote was also stupid, and that is another legitimate reason to fire her. But to deny that what she wrote indicates her racially motivated biases is dumb.

Unfortunately many people (on the right, of course!) have argued that the reason for NSR's firing was due to the outcry from the liberal PC academic mob rather than her racist comments. Here are a few examples:

This is plainly a politically correct response to a thug's veto and should be owned up to as such. (Reason)

All those hoodie-wearing academics exercising their veto powers.

The reason they gave Naomi the boot wasn’t because of anything she wrote, but rather the effect her writing had on their readers, who generally reacted as though they were suffering from a case of the vapors. (Weekly Standard)

I wonder if they have fainting couches in those ivory towers?

Ms. Riley wasn’t fired because her argument lacked sufficient intellectual vigor. She was fired because a sufficient number of people had their feelings hurt and deemed her ouster — as opposed to a rebuttal of her arguments — the more reasonable course of action. (FrontPage)

Yes, exactly! Her argument had no intellectual rigor. Hence, no rebuttal. Except for all the rebuttals.

And finally, the money shot:

The great irony, of course, is that the whining and gnashing of teeth from the “Black Studies” crowd only reinforces Naomi’s point about the “discipline.” You’d never see chemists or physicists or mathematicians worked into a hysterical mob by a critical blog post. Because they study actual fields of knowledge—and don't simply tend the garden of their own feelings. (Weekly Standard)

You would never see these folks worked into a hysterical mob because there are no critical blog posts attacking the legitimacy of their very existence. The irony.

Now, this is a point that people fail to grasp whenever they accuse someone of demanding racial justice Politcal Correctness: Sometimes people have hurt feelings because an injustice was done. And sometimes the correct response to injustice is to work yourself up into a hysterical mob and…write a petition.

Odd inferences

I don't see the relation between "unarmed black teenager is shot under puzzling and racially charged circumstances" and "black people shoot each other all of the time," but apparently it's become quite a thing.  George Will has even jumped on the bandwagon (via Crooks and Liars):

WILL: Well, precisely. I mean, this is why we have what's called due process. We have institutions that are juries and grand juries and prosecutors who are supposed to look at the evidence and come up with the answer.

The root fact is, though, Mr. Jones, that about 150 black men are killed every week in this country. And 94 percent of them by other black men.

And this is — this episode has been forced into a particular narrative to make it a white-on-black when "The New York Times" rather infamously now decided that Mr. Zimmerman was a white Hispanic, a locution (ph) that was not — was rare until then, and I think they abandoned by Friday.

The funny thing is that Will's researchers must have looked up that little factoid.  It certainly does not clarify the puzzling circumstances around this case: namely, the fact that someone stalked a skittle-bearing teenager on his way home , described him as suspicious, shot him, and walked away claiming, among other things, that he stood his ever moving and stalking ground.  I don't know what happened, it seems odd.

But I suppose the implication is that one is inconsistent if one isn't shrieking with rage over the other murders.  Which people are, anyway. 

Here's a question.  If one hasn't remarked on the 150 or so black men who die every week violently, is one enjoined from being outraged by the Trayvon Martin slaying?

Today in nutpicking

It is good, every now and then, to take a look at the kind hateful bile that spews forth from internet commenters.  Charles Johnson, former right wing blogger, takes a look at Fox News commenters on Obama and the Trayvon Martin case.

Still nutpicking, sadly, but here was Newt Gingrich's reaction to Obama.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich harshly criticized President Obama for commenting on Trayvon Martin’s race as he extended condolences to the 17-year-old shooting victim’s parents on Friday. Obama said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon,” a remark that Gingrich said he found “disgraceful” and “appalling.”

“What the president said, in a sense, is disgraceful,” Gingrich said on Sean Hannity’s radio show. “It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background.

Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him? That’s just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban, or if he had been white, or if he had been Asian-American, or if he’d been a Native American. At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”

In a normal argument, Gingrich's hypothetical would not be followed by very conclusive assertions using the hypothetical as evidence.  Because, after all, this is cleary not what the President was suggesting.

Ein Volk

Seems obvious that racism is not just hatred of another race.  Someone tell Juan Williams and Pat Buchanan.  Note the following puzzling exchange on Fox News (via the Huffington Post):

Williams added, "In your case, the charge is one that is so powerful in the American mind…the charge is: Pat Buchanan is a racist. So let me ask you. Are you a racist, Pat?"

"Do I hate black folks?" Buchanan asked. "That's what racism mean— that I hate black folks, I want them discriminated against… No! It's not that. I do disagree profoundly with the affirmative action agenda, and a number of other issues but I've argued as I said with African American folks my whole life. Our schools that I went to, the Catholic schools, were the first ones desegregated in D.C."

Buchanan added, "Juan, you and I, if we sat there and watched cable 24 hours, we can hear people called [a racist] everyday. And it makes one of the points of [my book], that American society is disintegrating. It's breaking down and breaking apart because we've lost our common faith and common moral consensus…all of these things that once held us together."

At the end of the interview, Williams said, "I feel like we are brothers in understanding what these groups, on the left primarily, decided that you're not to be allowed to speak. They will banish you and make you an outcast and Pat, I'm sorry that's happened to you."

Racists don't usually just hate other races.  Their hatred, when it happens, is derived from the perceived inferiority of the people they hate–that they have benefits in society, for instance, they don't deserve; that they "get away with stuff"; that they are "lazy" and so forth.  But I'd hardly call the hatred a necessary condition for racism, sufficient yes.

Watch the video, at the link, for a hilarious exchange from two people who don't really get that the discussion has moved on (the video also fills in some of the gaps in the piece above).  There is probably no one better than Williams for this interview, for Williams still thinks he's justified for fearing Muslims in airports.

Here's a thought.  When you charge someone with racism, and that person responds, as Buchanan and Williams have done, by first alleging you're trying to silence them, then you're on the right track.  Buchanan and Williams spend the first part of this shocked at the McCarthyism of the racism charge.  Then, when they get to actually talking about the charge, Buchanan says that Mexicans are "hard working" (at menial labor) and "friendly," but "culturally and politically tied to Mexico."  Not racist at all.

Also, equal justice for white Christian people.

Sunlight

There is a debate about whether everything that can be debated ought to.  The thought goes something like this: just because something can be known or discovered, does not entail that it ought to be (or it does mean it ought to be, or some variation on this thought).  A corollary to this argument involves Poe's law considerations: just because there are people who will argue for abhorrent view x, does not entail that either (a) their view deserves consideration or (b) the matter is open for debate.  We have moved beyond the KKK, the Nazis, the young-earth creationists.  They still exist, of course.  Their views no longer merit debate, but rather explanation: why in the face of so much evidence, does this person continue to believe x?  That's the issue now. 

MSNBC fired Pat Buchanan for being what he has always been: an unrepetent racist.  Good, I say.  There are things we need to get done around here, and we no longer have the time, and never should have had the time, to sit around and wonder whether some of us were genetically or culturally up to the challenge. 

Buchanan's MSNBC friends, however, thought he still had a place in the debate.  They write:

"Everyone at Morning Joe considers Pat Buchanan to be a friend and a member of the family. Even though we strongly disagree with the contents of Pat's latest book, Mika and I believe those differences should have been debated in public. An open dialogue with Morning Joe regulars like Al Sharpton and Harold Ford, Jr. could have developed into an important debate on the future of race relations in America.

Because we believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant, Mika and I strongly disagree with this outcome. We understand that the parting was amicable. Still, we will miss Pat." 

Sunlight hasn't disinfected anything, obviously.  It was time for an amputation.