The death of George Floyd, at the hands (and knees) of Minneapolis police, was a spark that has lit protests around the world. These protests have varying themes, but most are either against excessive police brutality or “systemic racism.” On the latter - note the scare quotes - many white people believe that this is not the case, as they harbor no racial animus themselves, nor do they know anyone who does. How can people with dark skin look at a system and cry “racism” if we can't see it?
The Dispatch has been doing “Dispatch Live” events for its members, and the one this past Thursday is the genesis of this post. David, Steve Hayes, Jonah Goldberg, and Sarah Isgur were discussing the disconnect I described above, how people's observations and claimed experiences could be so different. They asked David about his experience, and if there was a way we could think about it. What follows is my paraphrase of his point (even though it's in a block quote to set it off from my own thoughts).
Grant the following two assumptions:
First, assume that 1 in 10 white people is racist.
Second, assume that these 1-in-10 people know that their views are unwelcome by the other 9, so they don't ever give any indication of their racist views.
This means that, as white people, we don't know any racists (technically, we don't know that we know any racists). But, as a black person, every tenth white person you meet treats you poorly.
I thought that this was profound, as a great way to understand someone else's lived experience. And, the principle holds even if you want to say that the ratio is more like 1:100 - especially when the consequences of that one interaction could leave you in George Floyd's current state.
(Follow David to keep up with his writing, and subscribe to The Dispatch; it's one of the best places on the Internet.)
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Daniel J. Summers
These thoughts all center around issues of our current discussions on race relations, Confederate memorials, etc.
People who are not neo-Nazis or white supremacists all believe that they hold to morally reprehensible views. White people who miss an incident and do not immediately decry it should not be assumed to be “with them.” Their numbers are quite small, and while they are being more vocal as of late, we should be thankful they are few.
Lots of folks are opposed to the concepts of “white power,” “white supremacy,” or “white pride.” Lots of folks also find it nearly as reprehensible when you change “white” to any other term. Diversity is great, but our current iteration seems to be focused on our differences more than our similarities; it should rather be focused on a richer unity.
You can be against white supremacists, and against Antifa. You can even believe that we'd all be better off if everyone just stayed home and did things in a way that wouldn't so easily escalate to violence. And, you can be assured that if you felt the president's initial remarks were a strong rebuke, you're not alone.
It would be a lot easier for some of us to be more vocal if we didn't have this false duality, where to be against one “side” aligns yourself with other. The left has proved themselves the biggest group of sore winners in the world, and any sort of firm, quick “win” in this area will just embolden them to mob-rule their way on top of whatever the next grievous ill they determine. (“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” - yes, that's why the founders gave us a republic, if we can keep it...)
I do not believe that race relations, nationwide, are nearly as bad as they're made out to be whenever these flash points arrive. Regular people should not buy into the divisiveness an excessive focus on these issues can bring; rather, we should each make positive steps to be friendly, understanding, and helpful. Seek out similarities, don't point out differences.
The same people who sneeringly chide that Antifa is the good guys, because “you're supposed to be anti-fascist,” don't see to see the irony of massing against an event called a “free speech rally.” Of course, the main issues are a) just because you're prone to violence doesn't mean you're legally allowed to stamp out fascists; and b) who decides who is a fascist? Ditto for the Southern Poverty Law Center and “hate groups;” their lists have long ago outstretched the credulity of any fair-minded individual.
I wonder if, now that our country has recently seen how distasteful racism is, if people understand why Tea Party members were so bothered by that same (proved unfounded) allegation? I wonder if anyone feels that they owe them an apology?
(Some of you may recognize this format as one used by the highly-esteemed and, sadly, now-retired Thomas Sowell. The above is an homage to him and his pithy insights he would share from time to time. Do a search for “thomas sowell random thoughts” if you want to be enlightened.)
Sounds harsh, but what else am I to make of this picture?
First off, the dumb part. Why would a computer hacker, hacking computers across a network, need to obscure his face? (In CNN's defense, they're not the only ones to use dumb pictures to caption hacking.) Companies like CNN have smart technology people writing for them, as well as freelancers and others. Why does this type of image persist? Look at Kevin Mitnick, Dan Kaminsky, Meredith L. Patterson, or Shawn Fanning (creator of Napster, but branded by non-tech people as a hacker, or worse). Do any of those look like “hackers” to you? This metaphor makes people more likely to not believe it when they actually see a hacker.
And second - a hoodie? Are you serious, CNN? Weren't you lecturing us a scant two weeks ago on how people in hoodies were perfectly fine? They were as pure as the wind-driven snow, representing everything that is right with the country, and people who thought otherwise were terrible racists? How do we know this guy isn't just updating Facebook on a public computer before he makes his way home from the convenience store? But, no - you definitely have him portrayed as the bad guy in this image. You are convicted by your own words; shame on you, CNN. I'll be waiting for your apology (but I won't be holding my breath).
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
Another American election year has come and gone. Four years ago, many thought our nation made a great stride in electing our first black president, and that we had eliminated racism. We didn't get very far into the following year before we realized that no, there was no substantive change; anyone who was opposed to the president's policies must be motivated by racism. Would 2012 bring any changes? I believe it did, and not the way we could have predicted at its start.
We are at a point in this country where the accusation of racism is a joke. (Read that closely - the accusation is the joke.) “I don't like my coffee black.” “RACIST!” (As it happens, I do, SO THERE!) There's even an entire meme based around it. More and more Americans are seeing these over-hyped charges of racism, looking at the actual thing accused, and realizing that the racism just isn't there. Noticing differences among ethnicities and cultures is not racist; in fact, if we don't notice these differences, how in the world are we going to incorporate them into the American melting pot/salad bowl?
Alfonzo Rachel, host of ZoNation, made an interesting point in his video released after the Republican National Convention in September. The whole thing's good, but the crazy part starts at 3:01.
If you can't watch the video, it's a clip of MSNBC's convention coverage, starting with a soliloquy from Touré.
But more to what I want to talk about - two main points. You know, he loves this line of “our rights come from God and nature” which is so offensive to so much of America, because for black people, Hispanic people, and women, our rights do not come from God or nature. They were not recognized by the natural order of America, they come from the government and from legislation that happened in relatively recent history in America. So that line just bothers me to my core.
You want to talk about offensive lines, sir? You just dropped one. That has got to be some of the most ridiculous talk I have ever heard. It's almost like you believe that the Constitution created God! God-given rights are rights whether a government recognizes them or not, and this is not limited to America; our founders merely recognized these rights that are inherent to all humans.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I've been to Georgia and Mississippi pretty recently, and I'm pretty sure I saw people of all races living, working, and playing together harmoniously. I don't see anything in that speech about government being the grantor of rights; in fact, it almost looks like he's referencing the white-guy-written Declaration of Independence as if it's a good thing. Huh. If Touré wants to stand on the shoulders of a legacy, it certainly isn't Dr. King's.
The race card has been overplayed, to the point where it has lost its value. That, I believe, is a good thing; the only people keeping racism alive in this country today are those who claim to see it lurking in the shadows of every conservative's innocent words. However, these continued accusations run the risk of causing a backlash, and becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. There's a guy I know who says “If I'm going to be accused of something, I want to be guilty;” if the innocent are going to be accused of racism, they may find little motivation to even try to be sensitive of those of other ethnicities or cultures. This could lead to the further coarsening of our societal debates, which would be a bad thing.
May modern-day racists continue to be exposed for the fools that they are, as the rest of us see Dr. King's dream lived out in our nation.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
...shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
America, you fell for it again. You got caught up in the 2008 hope-n-change express. You saw the blank slate candidate, and instead of saying “Hey, there's nothing there,” you sketched out exactly what you wanted him to be. You elected him. (Historically!) There was great rejoicing that we were finally no longer a racist country…
...until the first person opposed him. Then, there were still racists. The hope and change of bipartisanship and unity fell by the wayside before it even got started. “Let's all get along” gave way to “we won.” There more we learned about him, the more we realized that maybe we'd been duped. His accomplices in the Senate and House gave him a huge stimulus that made stuff better, or so we were told; we had to keep being told, because we just weren't seeing it. They gave him a monstrosity of a health care bill that amounted to a government takeover of 1/6th of the entire US economy, timed to take effect a year after either his reelection or his loss, thus isolating him from ballot-box accountability. The House was held to some accountability.
Then, there were the gaffes; he was a novice, and it was showing big time. He appointed a tax cheat for Secretary of the Treasury. His Attorney General declined to prosecute the New Black Panther party, accused of voter intimidation in 2008, then went on to suggest trying War on Terror suspects in New York, stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, and as term 1 drew to a close, oversaw Operation Fast and Furious, which resulted in at least one US death and many more Mexican police deaths. When he wasn't busy with all that, he sued one of the states over a law that his office had the responsibility to enforce, but did not. Occupy Wall Street, while a state matter as far as enforcement, got administration support. Joe “Gaffetastic” Biden was his running mate, for crying out loud! And, no, he hadn't learned.
Of course, if you get your news in a half-hour early evening telecast, you probably weren't aware of much of that.
He then turned to women, eager to exploit them while, at the same time, claiming that Republicans want to suppress them. Exploited or suppressed - maybe we haven't come a long way, baby. Of course, this wasn't how it was pitched; it was pitched as women's health. Providing abortion and contraception, at no cost, was the only way to prove you weren't against women. And, if you called out their spokespeople on their lack of discretion, you got branded a sexist. Conveniently, this is what makes the evening news.
As 2012 approached, the other side was in disarray, but so was the now not-so-blank slate. Despite massaging the number, unemployment was still above 8%. The cells at Guantanamo Bay were still in use, and Afghanistan went from looking stable to showing some cracks, as Afghani troops began firing on our troops over there to train them. How did they explain all this? “Well, it was worse than we thought. We've come a long way, but we're not there yet.”
So, the slate was filled in with ineffectiveness and broken promises. He went up for a vote, and America picked him again.
(This next part was kicking around in my head before the election, but having things to do, I didn't get it written down. It fits here, though.) I certainly hope and pray that this isn't a permanent change, but the American people have mistaken arrogance for confidence, and intransigence for steadfastness. They have stuck their heads in the sand while Obama promises to give them jobs while demonizing the very people who would give those jobs. Obama wanted fewer rich people, Romney wanted fewer poor people, and the country chose Obama.
Hang on, America. You're about to get exactly that for which you voted.
Did Bob Costas really refer to a black European Olympics medalist as an “African-American?” What kind of mindless politically correct stupidity is that?
And while we're on the subject, if an “African-American” who is actually from the United States wins a medal, how do the Olympics officials decide which African country gets to share the credit for that medal? Just wondering.
Still more ... if an African-American wins a gold medal, what national anthem do they play? Have they created some kind of medley?
One of the funniest things I remember was hearing someone referring to a person from Africa as an “African-American African.” It certainly does seem that, when exposed to global culture, the American PC-ese seems to range from misguided to offensive. The same people who cry the loudest over discrimination over ethnic origin are also the same people who make sure we can't look past ethnic origin, thereby making all people equal.
Somewhere, we seem to have swallowed whole the lie that what someone else says about us has to be true. If someone calls you ugly, are you ugly? If someone calls you mean, are you mean? If things worked like that, I'd just pay someone to call me a 6-foot, 3-inch Harrison Ford look-a-like!
Now, I'm not ignoring our country's trouble past when it comes to true equality, but I'm also not convinced that affirmative action and political correctness have gotten us any closer to that equality. To suggest that someone be color-blind is ridiculous; on the other hand, differences are not generally liabilities. This infatuation with words, though, is a trickier thing. Freedom of speech is important, as evidenced by its being enshrined as Article 1 in the Bill of Rights, yet political correctness is the complete opposite of this. If jerks are not allowed to say jerky things, how do you know who the jerks are? I'm certainly not advocating being personally offensive to another individual; there are standards of decorum, manners, and courtesy for that. (See “jerk” in the prior sentence.) Hate speech, political speech, religious speech - it's all speech, and it gives the hearer an idea of what is in the speakers' heart.
And then - if a violation of the PC speech codes occurs, we get the calls for an apology. This, too, violates the principles of free speech; how “free” is speech that is demanded? If the offended party were to simply register their offense, then if the offending party cared that they had been offensive, they could choose to offer an apology. When was the last time you heard a demanded apology that was worth the time it took to listen to it? “I'm sorry IF you got offended by what I said” - that's not an apology for saying the words, it's an apology for the offense! It's almost like we're still in grade school. “Now, say you're sorry, Timmy…”
I also worry about generations reared with this viewpoint; if we're not tough enough to withstand words that we don't like, how in the world are we going to face down real evil? I believe there is a better way to handle that. If the words bother you, determine why they bother you; are they offensive words, do they point out your shortcomings, etc. Once you determine the source of the offense, you will know if you are dealing with a “the truth hurts” scenario, a “this person is a jerk” scenario, or a “that was unfair / inaccurate” scenario. You can then ignore the speech, change your ways, or register your offense, and move on. It's a much more productive way to deal with words that tried to hurt you.
I'll wrap up with this; if you regularly hear “racist dog-whistles” coming from your opponents, your opponents likely aren't the problem.