Saturday, December 15, 2007

Racist or Bumbler?

You may have heard about Department of Justice voting rights honcho John Tanner's ill-advised remarks back on October 4 and 5, during meetings with the NAACP and the National Latino Congreso:
At the time, there was a bit of outrage about what Tanner said. From Barack Obama:
Such comments are patently erroneous, offensive, and dangerous, and they are especially troubling coming from the federal official charged with protecting voting rights in this country.
Mr. Tanner has already demonstrated questionable judgment in overruling the decision of Justice Department lawyers that the Georgia photo ID requirement would disproportionately discriminate against African Americans. For Mr. Tanner to now suggest, in an effort to defend his erroneous decision, that photo identification are not necessary for minority voters because "they die first" shows just how far the Justice Department has fallen. This is a disgrace and yet another reason why the next Attorney General must demonstrate a strong commitment to civil rights.
Tanner did apologize later:
"My explanation of the data came across in a hurtful way, which I deeply regret."
And then requested a move. Now he has been assigned to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, where he will probably find some way to chew his toenails. Stay tuned.

It seems to me Tanner just as guilty of Not Making Sense as of racism, in that he seems to first argue that requiring IDs for voting cannot disenfranchise minorities because minorities are more likely to be harassed by the police and asked for IDs and therefore are more likely to have IDs already, but then he says that it really doesn't matter if elderly minority folk have IDs because they're too dead to vote, anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2007

To Sir, with Love

. . . in the immortal words of Lulu.

This tempest in a teapot from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, via Negrophile:

[School board member] Elliott has drawn heat for an opinion piece that ran Dec. 4 on the Speaking Out page of the Democrat and Chronicle, which in part said:

The reason it is important to have more teachers of color to teach students of color has more to do with 'universality of experience' which, in the case of African Americans, is based on race.

African Americans continue to fight to overcome the ill effects of slavery and segregation, Elliott wrote, and as a result, non-black teachers could be less likely to understand, communicate with or be sensitive to how students of color engage in learning as a result of that experience.

How could anyone disagree? I'm down with Ms. Elliott (I would add that Black children need to see Black leadership everywhere, not just at school--yes, there need to be Black teachers and Black principals at school, but Black children also need to see Black doctors at the hospital; Black lawyers and judges in the court room; and Black city council members and mayors and governors and legislators in city, state, and federal government). Racism is so pervasive, so insidious, so institutionalized, so much a part of white American life that it is so very difficult for many white people to even begin to have any kind of understanding of the Black American experience.

Did anyone protest when a white woman said something similar about six months ago?
Over 40 percent of public school children are members of “minority groups;” only about 17 percent of their teachers are black, Hispanic, or Asian. This imbalance in ethnicity and gender compromises the role model that teachers can offer to poor children of color, particularly black and Hispanic males.
Remember this:
Black students are suspended far more frequently than white students ("No other ethnic group is disciplined at such a high rate, the federal data show. . . Yet black students are no more likely to misbehave than other students from the same social and economic environments, research studies have found") even though they do not misbehave more frequently.
Who is suspending the Black children? Teachers who do not understand them, teachers who bring their own mistaken (racist) perceptions into the classroom, teachers who in all likelihood would bristle in outrage if accused of racism, and yet, and yet. . . .it takes so much to scrub that culturally inherited filth from one's soul. How many have the courage to face themselves and their privilege and acknowledge that the privilege and wealth of the some were bought with the suffering of others.

P.S. The whiteys across the Big Pond are facing the same challenge:

In London, [MP Diane Abbott] added, just 12 per cent of teachers were black while in some areas half the children were. On Saturday a black teachers' network will be launched to provide support to teachers but also encourage them to explain cultural differences to their non-black colleagues.

According to Abbott, some white teachers misunderstand the way that black boys behave, seeing them as aggressive because of a 'culture gap', while others stereotype pupils.

One other great thing Tavis Smiley said (he also said he stole it from Cornel West): In order to lead, you have to love.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Don't Get Clarence Thomas

What world does he live in? But I digress.

In 1996 California voters rose up in protest against the Color Threat and passed Proposition We Hate Black People, Brown People, and People of the Feminine Persuasion 209, a nasty bit of legislation intended to dismantle affirmative action.

In order to fully understand why affirmative action is necessary, one must review the facts:
Slavery was ended only 154 years ago. (Emmett Till was murdered only 52 years ago.) The Civil Rights Act was passed only 40 years ago. (The Tuskegee Experiment ended only 35 years ago.) After only 10 years, not even enough time to begin addressing institutionalized discrimination practices, the Supreme Court already began to restrict affirmative action only 30 years ago.

But if you don't want to look at history, you can just look at the present circumstances. It seems so obvious that the demographics of the leadership of this country does not reflect the demographics of the country, as the vast majority of legislators and CEOs are white men, which means there is a problem that must be addressed. It seems highly unlikely to me that all who happen to be Brown people, Black people, or people of the feminine persuasion are not as smart nor as capable as the white men who run the show. If the lack is not in capacity, we must look to a lack in opportunity.

Recently, the state of California audited the 23 California State Universities and found that, indeed, there are not so many Brown people, Black people, or people of the feminine persuasion being hired, and the recommendation was made that the CSU "develop an affirmative action plan."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yes, Sir

The Michael Vick spectacle is over now, maybe, with the sentencing, at which time the judge could not resist the opportunity to hog center stage with pompous self-righteousness:
“I think you need to apologize once again to the millions of people who look up to you,” United States District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson said.
Really, how many times do this think this blowhard is going to be in the national spotlight? The temptation to shine was great indeed. Vick's sentence is 23 months, a sentence that is
. . . more than Vick’s co-defendants in the case — and also more than the 12 to 18 months prosecutors originally suggested, as part of Vick’s plea agreement.
This seems unnecessary to say, but I will say anyway that I think we can all agree that dogfighting is very bad no good. However, my opinion is that Vick has paid enough for what he did. He has been doing nothing but pay since this whole mess was uncovered:
Monday’s proceedings provided the next chapter in the dramatic and dizzying fall of Vick, who was once the highest-paid and one of the highest-profile players in the N.F.L. As the Falcons’ franchise quarterback, he had a 10-year, $130 million contract and lucrative endorsement deals. But now the N.F.L. has suspended him indefinitely. His major endorsements have vanished. Financial institutions have also started legal proceedings against him for defaulted loans. The Falcons are seeking to recover $20 million in bonuses from him. Prosecutors forced Vick to pay more than $928,000 for the evaluation and care of the 47 dogs that were taken from his property. Six other dogs that were seized have died or were euthanized.
Not to mention the relentless notoriety, the excessive media coverage, the nonstop vilification.

The crime Vick is really paying for is that of being a successful, wealthy Black man in America.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

If You're Going to San Francisco

Just say no. In the immortal words of Nancy Reagan (who has always looked to me like someone whose chihuahua-like high-strungness was fueled by diet pills).

This, seen at Negrophile, is news that should be on the front page every day until the injustices are addressed. This is the news about America's War on Black People:

San Francisco imprisons African Americans for drug offenses at a much higher rate than whites, according to a report to be released today by a nonprofit research institute.

In a study of nearly 200 counties nationwide, the Justice Policy Institute found that 97 percent of large-population counties have racial disparities between the number of black people and white people sent to prison on drug convictions.

And here is where all those morons say, "Those Black people. If only they'd get off the crackwagon." Well, no, not really:
The institute, which is based in Washington, D.C., and researches public policy and promotes alternatives to incarceration, says whites and African Americans use illicit drugs at similar rates. But black people account for more than 50 percent of sentenced drug offenders, though they make up only 13 percent of the nation's population.
(I've seen conflicting reports on this. Some sources report that whites are three to five times more likely to use drugs than Blacks.)

So Blacks and whites account for about equal numbers of drug users. But Blacks get sentenced disproportionately. Well, that's not really news. Disproportionate sentencing, blah blah blah. Ah, but how disproportionate, you ask?
San Francisco locks up a higher percentage of members of the African American community in drug cases than any other county in the study. In the county, 123 people out of every 100,000 are sent to state prison each year for drug offenses. Of those, whites are incarcerated at a rate of 35 per 100,000 white people, while blacks are incarcerated at a rate of 1,013 per 100,000 black people.
What is the lesson here? There are many, the most obvious being that it's OK to use drugs in SF if you are white, but stay straight if you are Black:
"It is not that San Francisco is sending a lot of people to prison for drug offenses, it is that the people they are sending are black," said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the institute. "An average citizen who uses drugs in San Francisco has a pretty low chance of going to prison, but if you are African American, the chances are fairly high."
(By the way, this also an issue across the Big Water:

Figures showed that of those arrested [for possession of cannabis], 40% were African and Caribbean, 28% were white Europeans and 13% Indian and Pakistani. Of those who were later charged, 18.5% were African or Caribbean and 14% were White Europeans. Nineteen per cent of white Europeans were given a caution, rather than being taken to court, compared with 14% of people from African or Caribbean communities.)
P.S. Whites are more than twice as likely to receive treatment for drug use than Blacks (59.3% versus 22.1%).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

You Call That News?

There have been so many issues I wanted to write about that I got overwhelmed. And ended up writing nothing. There is probably a clever blogging term for this circumstance.

Anyway, I will get started with this piece from Colorlines:

This summer ColorLines and The Chicago Reporter conducted a joint national investigation of fatal police shootings in America’s 10 largest cities, each of which had more than 1 million people in 2000. Several striking findings emerged.
To begin, African Americans were overrepresented among police shooting victims in every city the publications investigated.

The contrast was particularly noticeable in New York, San Diego and Las Vegas. In each of these cities, the percentage of black people killed by police was at least double that of their share of the city’s total population.

"There is a crisis of perception where African American males and females take their lives in their hands just walking out the door," said Delores Jones-Brown, interim director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice at John Jay College in New York.
Although it is dangerous to be Black in America, it is now less dangerous to be Black in D.C. than it used to be:
Washington, D.C., which had the nation’s highest rate of police shootings during the 1990s, has cut the rate of shootings dramatically through a combination of training and accountability.
Not surprisingly, holding the police accountable makes a big difference.