A provocative article at the conservative blog Hot Air comments on a pattern in American coverage of violent interracial crimes. When the perps are white and the victims are black, we can expect the press coverage to be explicit about it, with predictable assumption of racist motivations. On the other hand, when the perps are black and the victims are white, the races of all parties are normally suppressed and no one dares speak the r-word.
If I were a conservative, or a racist, I’d go off on some aggrieved semi-conspiratorial rant here. Instead I’ll observe what Hot Air did not: that the race of violent black criminals is routinely suppressed in news coverage even in the much more common case that their victims are also black. Hot Air is over-focusing here.
That said, Hot Air seems to have a a separate and valid point when it notes that white victims are most likely to have their race suppressed from the reporting when the criminals are black – especially if there was any hint of racist motivation. There is an effective taboo against truthfully reporting incidents in which black criminals yell racial epithets and threats at white victims during the commission of street crimes. If not for webbed security-camera footage we’d have no idea how depressingly common this seems to be – the press certainly won’t cop to it in their print stories.
No conspiracy theory is required to explain the silence here. Reporters and editors are nervous about being thought racist, or (worse) having “anti-racist” pressure groups demonstrating on their doorsteps. The easy route to avoiding this is a bit of suppressio veri – not lying, exactly, but not uttering facts that might be thought racially inflammatory.
The pattern of suppression is neatly explained by the following premises: Any association of black people with criminality is inflammatory. Any suggestion that black criminals are motivated by racism to prey on white victims is super-inflammatory. And above all, we must not inflame. Better to be silent.
I believe this silence is a dangerous mistake with long-term consequences that are bad for everyone, and perhaps worst of all for black people.
I join my voice to those of Rand Paul and other prominent libertarians who are reacting to the violence in Ferguson, Mo. by calling for the demilitarization of the U.S.’s police. Beyond question, the local civil police in the U.S. are too heavily armed and in many places have developed an adversarial attitude towards the civilians they serve, one that makes police overreactions and civil violence almost inevitable.
But I publish this blog in part because I think it is my duty to speak taboo and unspeakable truths. And there’s another injustice being done here: the specific assumption, common among civil libertarians, that police overreactions are being driven by institutional racism. I believe this is dangerously untrue and actually impedes effective thinking about how to prevent future outrages.
In the Kivila language of the Trobriand Islands there is a lovely word, “mokita”, which means “truth we all know but agree not to talk about”. I am about to speak some mokitas.
Because I objected to the scalping of Brendan Eich for having donated to Proposition 8, a friend has (perhaps jocularly) challenged me to defend NBA team owner Donald Sterling against an effort to push him out of his franchise for racist remarks and behavior.
I’ve been writing about race and politics a lot recently. Now I’m going to reveal the reason: in the relatively recent past I had a very disturbing, novel, and unwelcome educational experience. For the first time in the fifty-five years of my life I found out what it was like to feel racist, from the inside.
I think I now understand the pathology behind racism better than I did before, and have some ideas about what is required to prevent and cure it. And no, my prescription won’t be any of the idiotic nostrums normally peddled by self-described “anti-racists”; in fact what I have to say is likely to offend most of them – which I don’t mind a bit.
A theme I have touched on several times in my blogging is that the best way to defeat racism and other forms of invidious discrimination is to develop and apply objective psychometric tests.
Usually I make this argument with respect to IQ. But: one of my commenters, an obnoxious racist who I refrain from banning only on free-speech principle, recently argued that drug use should be (as, in fact, it now often illegally is) treated differently by police depending on the subject’s race.
His argument (if you want to call it that) is that blacks, due to a low baseline level of self-regulation, are significantly more prone to criminality and violence than whites when intoxication further impairs that ability. Thus, the law should treat these cases differently as a matter of public safety.
As presented, this prescription is racist, repugnant, and wrong. Because even if you believe that blacks as a group have less ability on average to self-regulate, this belief tells you nothing about any individual black person. Acting on it would infringe the foundational right of individuals to be treated equally by the law.
But now let’s perform a thought experiment. Actually, a couple of related ones.
I have read very little in the last few decades that is as shocking to me as this: Essay by a teacher in a black high school.
My first reaction was that I wanted to believe it was a bigot’s fabrication. I’d still like to believe that, but it was reposted by a black man who claims it is representative of “dirty laundry”: bad stuff [known among blacks] about black folk never to be said around whites.
My second reaction, afterwards, was: for those of us who insist that people ought to be judged by the content of their characters rather than the color of their skins, what emotionally compelling argument do we have against anti-black racism that reading this doesn’t blow to smithereens?
This is a question with more point now than it would have had thirty or fifty years ago, because of one thing this account makes harrowingly clear. White people didn’t impose the depraved, thuggish underculture it describes on black people; they did it to themselves, using a debased form of the rhetoric of white “anti-racists” and multiculturalists as rationalization.
Of course, all the rational arguments against racism are still sound; I’ve written about them pretty extensively on this blog. The mass is not the individual, etcetera, etcetera. Nothing about the ugly, barbaric rampaging of these high-schoolers predicts the behavior of the blacks of the same age or older I know from martial-arts schools, SF conventions, and other places where the lives of black individuals intersect with mine.
But if this is really where they came from – if this is what they’re right-end-of-the-bell-curve exceptions to, and that reality becomes widely known or believed – rational argument won’t be enough. How can we keep the bigots from winning?
UPDATE: I’ve replaced the link I got from the blog “Maggie’s Farm” with a link to what seems to be the original. The Maggie’s-Farm link is now behind the word “reposted”.
One of the most important reasons not to tell ourselves pretty lies about unpleasant realities is so that we do not hand evil people the power of being the only ones who are willing to speak the truth.
Heads up, gentle reader. I’m about to give you an intelligence test. To begin the test, read “The Talk: Nonblack version“.
Even to a person as cynical and jaded as I have become about American politics, the brouhaha around the Trayvon Martin shooting is rather shocking. Usually, in past instances of even the most determined attempts to inflame racial hatred, there’s been at least a fig leaf of plausible deniability over the manipulation. Not this time. Not with MSNBC getting caught editing its presentation of the 911 tape to make it sound like the shooter uttered a racial slur. Not with Trayvon Martin’s photo obviously photoshopped to make him look younger, less threatening, and (ironically) more white.
I’m not going to utter or argue for a conclusion about whether or not Zimmerman shot in self-defense. We don’t know that. Perhaps he was, in fact, motivated by race hatred. The facts of the shooting will have to come clearer before that can be judged. We have more than enough facts, though, to observe and indict the operation of the racial-grievance factory, and to point a finger squarely at those who are dishonestly battening on Trayvon Martin’s death.