Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Speaking (again) of our "hidden wound"

I almost wish I'd missed this:
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 represent 78 percent of all shooting suspects — almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.
Because shooting suspects are guilty, else they wouldn't be suspects.  And the fact that 78% of 25% of the population of a given area are suspects, doesn't call into question the system that makes them suspects, at all.  How could it?  Racism is a personal animus held by people who are NOK, and not possibly the kind of person Richard Cohen knows, or even lives among.  And in case you think he doesn't mean it:

Those statistics represent the justification for New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, which amounts to racial profiling writ large. After all, if young black males are your shooters, then it ought to be young black males whom the police stop and frisk. Still, common sense and common decency, not to mention the law, insist on other variables such as suspicious behavior. Even still, race is a factor, without a doubt. It would be senseless for the police to be stopping Danish tourists in Times Square just to make the statistics look good.
See, it's not a matter of deciding young black males are your suspects; it's a matter of excluding Danish tourists because they so clearly AREN'T suspects!  So it's okay to profile black men because they're suspects already because, well, they're black men, and statistics tell us black men are more likely to be suspects!  I mean, are you gonna say statistics lie?!  Why, it's mathy and truthy and all that!

Not that Mr. Cohen is a racist, but hey, cops gotta protect us from all those rampaging black males!
I wish I had a solution to this problem. If I were a young black male and were stopped just on account of my appearance, I would feel violated. If the police are abusing their authority and using race as the only reason, that has got to stop. But if they ignore race, then they are fools and ought to go into another line of work.
See?  As long as cops stop males because, you know, they're young, and male, and black, well, then it's okay to use race.  One outta three, ya know?  Besides, young black males can't blame the cops for being profiled!  They can only blame other young black males! Statistics don't lie, ya know!  Why, the logic is impeccable!

I actually came to this column because of the reaction to the hoodie remark Mr. Cohen made to Politico (and it's a doozie!),  but he does conclude his column with this insight:

There’s no doubt in my mind that Zimmerman profiled Martin and, braced by a gun, set off in quest of heroism. The result was a quintessentially American tragedy — the death of a young man understandably suspected because he was black and tragically dead for the same reason. 
So Zimmerman profiled Martin, but how could Zimmerman not profile a young black man?  They're all suspects!  And who you gonna blame for that?  Except all the young black men!  At least most of 'em, because they're suspects!  It's just an American tragedy, is all it is.

Actually, I'm thinking Richard Cohen might as well be a Grand Dragon in the KKK, because I couldn't slip a piece of paper between him and a white supremacist on this issue.  That said, I'm flabbergasted by the defense of this column made by the editor of the paper:

"If I had not published the column, just as many people would be asking why the Post can’t tolerate diverse points of view," Hiatt said.

"I think if people want a 'conversation about race,' as is frequently suggested, they should be open to a range of views and perspectives. We already have published multiple such views -- not only Richard Cohen’s, but Gene Robinson on the same page, Ruth Marcus and Jonathan Capehart and our own editorial the day before -- and we’ve got more coming," Hiatt continued. "If people don’t like a particular opinion, my feeling is they should respond to it, not seek to stifle it."

I suppose if we needed to have a discussion of anti-semitism the Washington Post would feel compelled to include the views of a neo-Nazi, or of the former President of Iran on the subject of the Holocaust.  Or is one of those things really not like the other?  And if so, how, exactly, at least in terms of what's permitted to be discussed in mainstream newspapers?

4 Comments:

Blogger JCF said...

Uff da.

"See, it's not a matter of deciding young black males are your suspects; it's a matter of excluding Danish tourists because they so clearly AREN'T suspects!"

I've heard the same rationale extended to airports: you can keep the "Danish tourists" as the Presumed Innocent class, but instead of "young black males", insert "Muslims, esp. MiddleEastern-type Muslims".

Implicit in this analysis (or explicit, in your sarcastic remark "They can only blame other young black males") is the idea that, if the suspect class just policed themselves better, then they wouldn't be profiled by the Presumed Innocent (w/ badge and/or gun) class. So even if Trayvon Martin was innocent (was he? he was "armed w/ a sidewalk"!), he's still GUILTY of not CONSTANTLY making an example of himself, in going after all those OTHER young black males, who ARE a predatory threat. [See, Trayvon, you really didn't have time for your not-useful-to-the-cause-of-policing-YBMs trip to the store that night. You shouldn't have been talking to Rachel Jeantel, you should have been on the phone to police dispatch, profiling . . . someone who looked like you!]

I swear, white people (I am one) have had a ready answer for ~500 years now: Something Fatally Bad happens to black people, but they *really* brought it on themselves. It's never OUR fault.

4:23 AM  
Blogger alberich said...

But Hiatt's first quoted paragraph is true: if they hadn't printed Cohen's piece people would be saying "WaPo is so politically correct they won't even print eventheliberal Richard Cohen's bracingly un-PC and reshresingly honest [*] point of view" as well as, natch, "of course, Cohen's biases are yet more evidence that liberals are the real racists" (**).

Of course, this commitment to airing "both sides of the debate" vanishes when it comes to economic matters that really are debatable: if Hiatt decided not to print a piece supporting socialism, Hiatt would just dismiss those asking why "the Post can't tolerate diverse points of view" as dirty hippies. You have to be on track for the so-called Nobel Prize in Economics to get printed in a major Op-Ed page criticizing our economic status quo, but you can be a sanctimonious prick or a racist and your editor will back you up. What does that say about our society and what we deem as the bounds of acceptable discourse?

* of course when someone is bracingly honest about racism and classism in this country, they are not deemed "refreshingly un PC" but rather "shrill" or even "anti-American". As my wife likes to point out, what would the reaction to Gov. Christie be if he were an African-American liberal?

** I've actually heard people use Richard Cohen's similarly insensitive views about Israel used as evidence that "liberals are the real anti-Semites".

5:51 AM  
Blogger Rmj said...

You have to be on track for the so-called Nobel Prize in Economics to get printed in a major Op-Ed page criticizing our economic status quo,

And Krugman isn't really even a radical economist. You don't win the Nobel for being so far out in left-field almost nobody can see you. Nor was Krugman ever known for ground-breaking theories on economics that truly challenge the status quo. I mean, he's a Keynesian.

Which, yes, is "radical" today, but only by contrast.

* of course when someone is bracingly honest about racism and classism in this country, they are not deemed "refreshingly un PC" but rather "shrill" or even "anti-American". As my wife likes to point out, what would the reaction to Gov. Christie be if he were an African-American liberal?

Per the HuffPo article, some have called Cohen a racist, but Charlie Pierce avers Cohen just "revealed more than he meant to." But Cohen's column ain't a dramatic monlogue by Browning; it's a racist rant. We don't like having our still-present racism pointed out, so we prefer to be able to blame it on people in Florida, or other places far from the centers of power.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Rmj said...

Implicit in this analysis (or explicit, in your sarcastic remark "They can only blame other young black males") is the idea that, if the suspect class just policed themselves better, then they wouldn't be profiled by the Presumed Innocent (w/ badge and/or gun) class.

In my yute it was known as being twice as good so you could be perceived as half as good.

Everything old is new again.

6:43 AM  

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