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Racism and the Myth of a "Victim Mentality"

Recently, I received an e-mail from a college professor who shows a video of one of my speeches in her classroom. She explained that she was in need of a citation for a claim I had made in the video, to the effect that although blacks and Latinos are far more likely than whites to be searched by police after a traffic stop, it is whites who are more likely--four times more likely in fact--to be found with drugs or other contraband on us, on the much less frequent occasions when we're the ones searched.

I happily obliged, sending her the web link for a 2005 Department of Justice report, in which the data can be found. Apparently, she was being challenged by one of her white male students, who was certain the claim must be wrong. Of course. Because everybody knows black and brown folks are the ones with all the drugs. Armed with his high school diploma, he felt confident challenging the person who is academically certified to teach him something, as if her years of experience and research counted for nothing, and as if mine (twenty-plus at this point) were irrelevant to the search for truth.

As a side note, and before continuing with the real focus of my remarks, it has always fascinated me how readily people without the slightest bit of knowledge on these subjects will challenge those of us who have spent our lives studying them. And this they do, in a way they would never think to challenge, say, the plumber who came to fix their toilet. In such a case as that, most anyone would recognize and defer to the plumber's specialized knowledge about their craft. But not with a subject that has ideological or political implications. The fact that everyone is entitled to their opinion leads millions to believe that their opinions are actually just as valuable as anyone else's, no matter the yawning chasm between their own expertise on a topic and that of someone else. Thus, we end up with Glenn Beck helping to shape public opinion: a guy who readily admits his lack of education, but whose views we are supposed to take seriously anyway. Or Sarah Palin, whose sub-mediocre academic record is viewed as a badge of honor by conservatives who consider those with substantial academic accomplishments to be elitist snobs.

But anyway, I digress.

What was actually more disturbing about the instructor's e-mail was the part after she asked for the data citation, where she noted that in addition to challenging the facts I'd presented in the video, the white guy had also insisted that even if the claim were true--in other words, even if police really are racially profiling people of color unfairly--we shouldn't talk about it, because to do so will discourage black people from trying hard to achieve. It will, presumably, turn them into permanent victims, whose expectations of mistreatment will make them essentially give up.

The Racist and Ignorant Underpinnings of the Victim Mentality Argument

It's a common argument, made by those who would rather ignore or finesse the problem of racism in America. If you can't argue the facts, never fear, just suggest that certain facts are too dangerous to be spoken. The possibility that persons of color might adopt a victim mentality once they learn the extent of racism, means we simply have to move on, and tell those who are, as a matter of fact, often the victims of injustice not to dwell on their experiences too much, lest their commitment to self-help be vitiated.

That such an argument as this is fundamentally racist should be obvious. First, it presumes that persons of color are too stupid to already know what it is they're experiencing. Those who bemoan the so-called victim mindset appear to believe that no one would think about racism were it not for the constant presence of liberals and leftists raising the issue. Secondly, the argument supposes that black and brown folks are so weak-willed that if they really understood the obstacles in their way, they would crumble like pie crust. As such, the fact that prominent black conservatives like Shelby Steele or Walter Williams are among the most outspoken proponents of this argument--that discussing racism risks the inculcation of a permanent victim mentality--suggests how little they think of their own racial group.

The truth is, folks of color (especially African Americans) are well aware of the negative stereotypes held about their racial group by an early age. Indeed, recent evidence indicates an awareness of these stereotypes by as soon as the third grade, and rarely later than the fifth: around the age of, say, eleven. This awareness--which is not due to liberals bringing it up, but rather, the result of black and brown folks living with the mistreatment that stems from the stereotypes and being exposed to them in media and elsewhere--has been found to dramatically impact academic performance. Even (and especially) among highly capable and motivated students of color, the fear of living down to a stereotype has been shown to generate such anxiety that it can suppress performance, relative to ability, thereby perpetuating the very performance gaps that feed the stereotypes about black intelligence in the first place. In other words, whether or not white racism is discussed, the knowledge of its existence is sufficient to negatively impact black and brown success. Talking about racism isn't the problem: racism itself is.

Are Some Victims are More Valid Than Others?

Naturally, none of the conservatives who worry about blacks adopting a debilitating mindset of victimhood ever fret about the same thing happening to others who have been victimized by injustice. They don't tell Jewish folks to get over the Holocaust, or not to talk about those unhappy matters so much, lest they cripple themselves under the weight of a victim syndrome. They don't warn crime victims against the adoption of a victim mindset. No indeed, the right even praises "victim's rights" groups, as if to suggest that, for these poor souls, victimhood is the highest station of human worth, and even provides special insights when it comes to proper crime control policy. And the right, even as they decry black and brown claims of victimization--all for the best interests of those folks of color, naturally--are quite skilled at proclaiming themselves the victims of all kinds of things: taxes, big government, immigrants, reverse discrimination, secular humanism, gay marriage, "radical Islam," you name it. The right loves victimhood, so long as they're the ones who get to choose which victims count, and so long as they don't have to actually deal with the history of injustice meted out to those who, by and large, are not them.

So why is it acceptable for these other groups' members to focus on their victimization, while it's somehow untoward or even self-destructive for blacks to do so? Keep in mind, there has been a steady push for curricula that addresses the destruction of European Jewry under Hitler, and no one has suggested that teaching the Diary of Anne Frank might be debilitating to Jewish children. Classes on, and special materials on the Jewish Holocaust are ubiquitous in American schools. Meanwhile, discussion of the Holocaust of America's indigenous populations remains largely off-limits, even to the point that the term Holocaust can't be used to describe it, lest we be seen as disrespecting the supposed uniqueness of Jewish suffering. As a Jew myself, I was raised on a steady diet of "never again" rhetoric, and not once was it suggested that such thinking was somehow going to diminish my willingness to work hard. Quite the contrary, it was intended to make damned sure I never allowed my people to be subordinated again. And that, it appears, is the real concern of conservatives. They aren't worried about blacks and other people of color adopting a crippling victim mentality. They are worried about such folks fighting back against the victimization that continues to happen on a daily basis.

Preparation is Not Capitulation to Victimhood

Logic suggests that there is a big difference between being prepared for potential injury of some sort (as those who challenge racism insist one must be) and wallowing in victimhood. When we buy insurance, for instance, we are preparing for the possibility of something bad happening to us--becoming sick, getting in a car accident, or having our house wiped out by a flood or tornado, or broken into by a burglar who then steals our valuables. Yet only the most cynical would say that by thinking about these possibilities (even to the point of paying money to insulate ourselves against them), we were somehow mired in a mentality of perpetual victimization. No indeed, such preparation, and the foresight that precedes it would be taken by most as signs of supreme rationality, level-headedness and maturity. And this is true despite the fact that, statistically speaking, the odds that a person of color will experience racism at some point are far greater than the odds of, say, a catastrophic weather related destruction of one's house, or the likelihood that one will be the victim of a home invasion. Research indicates that people of color will be discriminated against in about one out of every three job searches, as well as a third of the time when looking for housing. Though not clamoring for racism insurance, people of color logically think about the potential of racist injury, and given the possibility of such injury, doing so is no less rational than to contemplate other forms of ill-fortune. It is far more rational, for instance, than buying air traveler's insurance, in the event that one's plane were to crash, and yet many people purchase this kind of thing every year. Are they paranoid? Locked in a victim mentality? Neurotic? No, just cautious. Being prepared does not paralyze you, in these or any other cases.

To put this in terms that are especially easy to understand, let me offer a personal story, which illustrates the difference between being prepared for something and being paralyzed by fear of it. When I was quite a bit younger, I was an accomplished baseball player, especially when it came to hitting. As was my habit, during pre-game preparations, I would pay special attention to the opposing team's pitcher as he warmed up. I would watch to see how fast he threw, his motion, his delivery, and what kind of movement, if any, he was able to put on the ball. I did this even though I knew that sometimes these guys (who were almost always bigger than me and a bit older) were zipping balls into their catchers at over 85 miles an hour, which, to a 5'3" 14 year old, can be intimidating, to say the least. Several others on my team wouldn't watch the pitchers that intently. But I did, religiously. And not only did it not psyche me out or make me less confident of my ability to get on base. If anything, it prepared me for what I'd be facing, and made me more confident.

It's a logic that most any responsible parent would immediately understand. What kind of father would I be, for instance, if I never told my girls about the fact that there are some boys and men who think girls and women are less capable, and that there will be some among these who may treat them unfairly? The answer is, I'd be a damned pitiful one. To tell your kids that they can be anything they want to be if they try hard enough is nice, but unless you warn them about the obstacles in their path, which, unconquered, can derail them on the road to success, you are ill-suiting them for the real world. You are doing them no favors, but rather, are setting them up for a terrible fall, once they come upon the hurdles for which you had failed to prepare them, and as such, equip them to overcome. On the other hand, by discussing those obstacles honestly--and discussing individual and collective strategies of resistance to them--persons who are the targets of unjust treatment can steel themselves against the headwinds in their way, persevere, and accomplish in spite of those headwinds.

Victim Mentality Arguments Ignore History and Common Sense

Frankly, it's stunning that anyone would deny this basic truth, especially given the historic evidence at our disposal to prove its veracity. After all, if you ask most any black person over the age of forty what their parents told them about race when they were younger, you will hear one or another version of the following in reply: that they would have to work twice as hard as white folks. And this they were told, not as some free-floating, de-contextualized notion, but precisely because the system was so profoundly unjust and discrimination so deeply ingrained, that despite their best efforts and talent, they would too often be overlooked for the best jobs and opportunities solely because of the color of their skin.

But does anyone--including, especially the black conservatives who decry the so-called victim mentality--condemn the older African Americans (including, one can safely presume, their own parents) who previously prepared generations of blacks for hard work and success by telling them in no uncertain terms that things were unequal and unfair? Does any conservative suggest these blacks in prior eras were crippling their children with the message that they would need to work harder than whites because of racism? Better still, is there any evidence whatsoever that being told such a thing did in fact cripple black folks, or make them try less hard than they otherwise might have? Of course not. If anything, the exact opposite is true. Knowing the odds, black and brown folk tried even harder, because to do otherwise would all but guarantee defeat. In short, the claim that discussing racism and discrimination creates passive victims out of people of color flies in the face of every bit of empirical evidence on the subject, which suggests that the opposite is true: knowing the truth inspires perseverance and passionate resistance to victimization, not resignation to one's status as a target.

In fact, one could even argue that downplaying the reality of racism and discrimination so as to avoid the inculcation of a victim mindset, and so as to spur greater individual initiative, could backfire. After all, if a person is led to believe that there are no obstacles in their way, and that their hard work, intelligence and ability are all that will matter, they might slack up. They might coast on the assumption that surely all will recognize their potential, and that they won't have to go that extra mile to make a good impression. They may overestimate the extent to which whites will recognize their effort and hard work, or the extent to which that recognition will be sufficient to overcome the implicit (and even explicit) biases that years of research indicates are still very much ingrained in the minds of most white folks. So not only may a "see no evil, speak of no evil" mindset not help folks of color in a society where racism still functions, it could actually do substantial harm.

In the end, there is only one question we need ask: does the truth matter or not? If racism is a problem--and research makes clear that it is--then there is no responsible path forward but to discuss it, to call it out, and to address it directly. To ignore it, or minimize its importance will not make it go away, will not smooth the path for any person of color confronting it, and will only leave folks ill-prepared to deal with it, on those occasions when it rises up to smack them in the face. Surely, anyone who would leave millions of others so unprepared for the world as it is can't be taken seriously when they claim to be compassionate. The right doesn't care about people of color adopting a victim mentality. They simply wish to avoid a discussion of injustice, because such a discussion might lead us to do something about it. And they rather like things the way they are.

Tim Wise is the author of five books on race and racism, including his latest, Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity, to be released in the Spring of 2010 from City Lights Books.

Comments
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thanks

Hi Sunny - Thanks for the comments. While we are all a product of our experiences, it helps to share in other folks experiences, especially if they lead to different conclusions than our own. Best wishes to you and yours.

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The "White privilege rhetoric"

I have never been in the U.S. but I've heard that America is getting over this "White privilege rhetoric" , compare to many Scandinavian countries(Denmark, Norway, Sweden,Finland, Iceland & Faroe Islands), where they still have this problem because of their failure to integrate minorities in their societies.

I.e. if a Dane of Pakistani descent who has studied in Denmark and looks for a job in connection with his education, many companies won't hire him because of his ethnicity.

 

They will choose an ethnic Dane in his place, even if that ethnic Dane has less skilled than him. In America, it about you as an individual who has to work hard no matter what your race is. The same thing in Canada. Let's not forget that ultra right wing extremist political parties are getting stronger in Scandinavian countries, Austria and Italy. The "White privilege rhetoric" is still a big problem in many European countries, especially those, which I have mentioned.

 

In United States and Canada, companies are not  interested in your race. They are interested in the skills you have and if you can live up to their expectations. No matter what your race is. It's some European countries, which are facing this problem, due to their failure to integrate their minorities in their societies.

 

If you agree/disagree with me, please let me know  

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mostly agree

While i cannot comment on how Europe (or Canada) works, i agree that in the US most companies are pretty much color blind when it comes to hiring employees. The biggest exceptions are government contractors and the government itself, both of which preferentially hire non-whites in order to promote "diversity". This is especially true for the sciences and engineering fields where qualified minority applicants are rather scarce (in fact, warm non-white unqualified bodies will beat out qualified white applicants, in order to attempt to meet diversity goals, for better and worse).

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This Is a Joke, Right?

(This comment applies to both your post and the above post).

This is a joke.

The OFCCP has determined that 75% of companies it surveys routinely flout the basics of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but they don't have the agents to do random inspections of these companies more than once per decade.

Since the vast majority of jobs in this country aren't advertised but are filled by word of mouth and contact networks, the old boys' network is just as salient as ever.

Pager's study found that you were more likely to be called back for an interview if you were a white felon than black without a criminal record.

The brief period we had affirmative action saw some of these trends get reversed, with no evidence of inferior hires as a cost (not that that would be an sufficient argument against the program, mind you). How unsurprising that it got shot down.

In fact, just having a white sounding name is roughly equivalent to eight years of job experience for the black man. (See Tim's Affirmative Action in Black and White).

I can go on and on. You can BELIEVE that there's no employment discrimination, but if you want to make that claim, you better damn well have the evidence for it, because the sociological data on the other side is rich and compelling for decades.

Ken gets particularly repellent when he alleges that the big remaining employment discrimination is black-preferential. Yeah, so why are blacks routinely underrepresented? (You'll be interested to know that government contractors actually see pro-white de facto discrimination, according to virtually all the data, Ken). If they're still underrepresented even with such a leg up, it must be their incompetence, right? This is why people here have remained so hostile to your assertions: They lead logically to racist claims.

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Balthazar..

I respond extensively to Ken, but if you just type in "employment discrimination" into Google, you'll find dozens of studies on the topic. Suffice it to say that companies are DEEPLY interested in race, whether they know it or not, and this employment discrimination actually costs us billions a year, according to Brimmer.

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Thank you Frederic

Thank you so much, Frederic for your response. It's so shocking. I'm just shacking my head. The best thing might be that individuals start small businesses, then they can stop saying that society has failed them for who they are.  

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Insightful, And...

The black community in this country since DuBois, Washington and Garvey has tended to concur, talking about developing independent businesses, fraternities, etc. Indeed, these efforts are responsible for things like the Harlem Renaissance and the existence of any black middle class at all. Again, contrary to popular white belief in this country, black culture has always STRONGLY emphasized independent hard work and effort and taking deep personal responsibility.

That having been said, black businesses run into several structural factors that prevent this from being a fix-all solution.

1) Discrimination in lending.

2) Discrimination in government contracts.

3) Discrimination in housing and rental, making it hard to secure an initial home for the business.

4) White flight if they move out of the city to establish their business, inner-city poverty and the capital flight that the neo-liberal economy created if they stay within the city. I'd like Ken and Brian to note that these factors are mixed: Some are highly racial, like white flight, but still have a class/economic component since white flight is also a rational attempt to preserve property values and is therefore understandable, though not condonable, within a broader racial structure. Indeed, I've had Latino real estate agents tell me that once they got an African-American, Latina/o or Asian family into a suburb, those families asked to be the last ones, since they knew that too many of them would lower property values! Meanwhile, the neo-liberal capital flight is a wholly class/capitalist/economic phenomenon, but its racial impacts are deeply rooted.

5) Poverty among the black community makes it hard to compete for limited sales and demand.

6) A lack of amassed assets among the black community makes it hard to put things like homes up as collateral for business loans.

And one can go on and on. Notice, again, that some of these factors are the continuing effects of past racism; some are economic, color-blind factors; and some are ongoing discrimination. Even mortgage and lending discrimination is not all irrational and racist: Redlining was partially based on the idea that black neighborhoods were high risk because they were poor.

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Why Not Just Admit It?

"I apologize if i am doing a disservice here and will try to refrain from making inappropriate comments. It is clear to me that you already understand that everyone has a unique history that leads them to behave however they do, but from what i can tell most people (here and other places) would simply vilify the white racist while attempting to explain and understand the black racist. I would find it preferable if both were treated similarly; after all, a priori we do not know what caused either of the individuals in question to evolve into who they are now (and regardless of that, it seems at the least we should declare their inappropriate behaviour as such)."

Not at all. Like I noted, the responsibility is at the first level of approximation equal: Whites, after all, can hardly be said to have their racism occur out of meanness, due to the elements of privilege, isolation, limited information, media distortion, and the way that white privilege ironically acts as a shield for the very poorest against total and utter despair.

That having been said, the social IMPACT of the white racist is far greater than the black racist. So it is more important for us to understand the white racist's motives and prevent her from acting. Assault with a bat and a gun are both vile, but one is far more dangerous.

"I think my biggest obstacle to really getting on board with the group here is that i continue to see people as individuals as opposed to members of a unchangable super-group. The amount of diversity in, say, whites is huge as is the amount of diversity in blacks. Using that single metric (race) as the primary way to categorize  individuals does not seem a productive approach to me (as opposed to class, which is both more descriptive and malleable, imho). "

This argument can be applied verbatim to class.

The poor are not an unchanging super group. The poor are black, white, male, female, disabled, able-bodied, homeless, home owners, renters, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists. Their composition alters over time and space. Indeed, it seems to be a historical truism that, in general (and certainly over the last two hundred years), the poor fight the rich men's wars. This means that it is the poor killing each other on the behalf of the rich. What greater rift could there be?

The global rich are much more unified, of course, but even they have great variation in terms of personal background, religious belief, sexual orientation, etc.

And yet, you don't use these facts, the same way that Bill Gates might, to deny that the poor DO have something in common, threads of common experience and institutional treatment: Their class status. In the same way, blacks and whites, who are internally very diverse, also have threads of common experience: Their race status.

No one advocates using race as a single metric. Sociologists usually control for some combination of race, gender, class, various indicators of socio-economic status, socio-political capital, sexual orientation, geographic location, etc. when they're making their decisions. But just like class is a powerfully explanatory single metric that explains a wide variety of social phenomena, so too is race.

Race explains why some of the poor (whites) vote against their interests for Republicans while some of the poor (blacks) don't. (You may deny this, but it is politically unquestionable: The LARGEST gulf in voting is between whites and blacks). Black Evangelicals do not tend to vote Republican, even when they share some of the same reactionary religious politics. Blacks in red states vote Democratic, and whites in blue states rarely exceed plurality status in voting Dem. Black men do not tend to vote Republican, even if they may share some  of the same sexist masculine sentiments as their fellow white men.

It explains why some of the poor have access to much greater networks of social capital and amassed wealth while others don't.

It explains why some of the middle-class seem to get as sick as the poor, are as vulnerable to shifts in the market as the poor, and don't get treated with the respect normally afforded the middle-class.

It even helps explain the current economic meltdown. Black and brown loan applicants were illegally diverted to sub-prime loans even when they qualified for prime ones, despite the fact that white applicants were generally not.

What baffles me is how you can keep insisting that race doesn't matter when the vast majority of those who occupy positions of power, like CEOs, Presidents of companies, Senators and Presidents of nations, are white men. If class was the only thing that mattered, the elite would be a cross-section of the population: They'd be 12-13% black, some Asian, some Native American, 51% women, etc. They are not. They are not even close. So even CLASS, the basic foundations of what you think are important, is totally non-sensical unless you have white privilege, racism, and sexism as theories.

It helps if you think of it as vectors of power. To be white gives you a push up. To be rich gives you a push up. To be politically or socially connected gives you  a push up. To be educated is to give you a push up. To be  a man, or straight, gives you a push up. Other categories give you a push down.

When we argue for "white privilege", we're arguing that that vector of whiteness is an advantage, controlling for all other factors. You have never even attempted to deny that argument, nor has Michael Edno. I think you don't because it's absurd. So why not just admit it?

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I do admit that it's a

I do admit that it's a problem in many European countries. I don't so much about the U.S. It's also a big problem in my native country, France. But I agree with you now and thanks for opening my eyes. 

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The Pryor Fallacy

"Folks here wonder about what caused this lady to be ignorant and mean. But if the shoe were on the other foot - you were a black lady who had to work for a white prejudiced redneck, they would probably feel free to condemn the redneck. No talk of what caused him to become what he was, no talk of him using his own "language", just the unvarnished truth - that he was a mean prejudiced man and should not be allowed to behave so badly."

There is no double standard. The redneck has institutional power. The black woman doesn't. The black woman's discrimination reinforces existing institutional deprivation. Not so discrimination against a white woman, who (aside from gender and potential class discrimination) is not routinely discriminated against.

I invite you to look at an old Richard Pryor SNL skit. They have him using anti-white slurs, like honky and cracker, responding to black slurs. His responses are comical. The white guys' aren't. The skit only works because of white privilege. As Tim says, "When a group of people has little or no power over you institutionally, they don't get to define the terms of your existence, they can't limit your opportunities, and you needn't worry much about the use of a slur to describe you and yours, since, in all likelihood, the slur is as far as it's going to go."

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Of Course...

It's not like Indians have plenty of awareness about a history of colonialism, near-slavery, financial exploitation, crippling poverty thanks to theft, racist contempt (like all those douches whining about "Bob in Ohio", their friendly outsourced customer service agent), and slaughter.

Just sayin'.

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I'm grateful

I really am grateful to each one of you for these posts. Sunny, thank you for helping me begin to understand. Knowing in some innate way that the legacy of slavery/Jim Crow runs deep is not the same thing as the glimmer of understanding your words give me.

White people in general (I think) are prone to automatically discount or minimize that legacy.

I've been reading Edward P. Jones's masterful novel The Known World. Right away he plunges into the moral complexities--the just plain moral weirdness--of a culture based on slavery. (Black people owning slaves. Anti-slavery whites being given a slave child as a wedding present by a malicious cousin and deciding to keep her partly to maintain appearances, partly out of compassion...Etc. Etc.)

Though no one can see into another person's heart, I think that this tangled, confusing legacy enters your story in some way, too, Sharon. It must have been an awful thing to endure every day. Thanks for being willing to revisit that time here.

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Y'Know...

I actually think the practical effect of slavery has been exaggerated (and not by blacks, but by whites who are able to use how bad it to juxtapose against the modern day; then again, conservatives still try to downplay how bad it was because that blemish is just too much for them to countenance). Obviously, slavery was one of the most repellent institutions in existence.

But did things change materially for black folks afterwards? Nope. Like Leonard Cohen said, "Ol' Black Joe's still pickin cotton / for your ribbons and bows". Sharecropping was often worse than slavery, because it was just as awful but didn't have the security. Jim Crow, lynching and so forth kept black folks terrorized. The numbers on lynching might seem a little low, but remember, lynching parties had thousands attend, so it was a behavior shared by the whole white community. All of the civil rights retrospectives I've seen, like Anne Moody's, all take for granted as a backdrop that any misstep could be met with brutal, often lethal force. And the 1950s and 60s weren't even that bad regarding violence compared to the 1910s and 1920s, one of the reasons the civil rights movement could emerge at all. It was terrorism, tacitly supported by a majority, against a minority.

I think we tend to view the end of slavery as a bookend. Every time racism is brought up, people inevitably say, "MY family didn't own slaves! They weren't even in the country!" Okay, except the wealth the slaves made was what attracted your family here in the first place. But, more importantly, Jim Crow, the Black Panthers, the racial tensions of the 60s and 70s... people are still alive who remember that.

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Racism

It's hard to write about America without mentioning its racial divides.  The founding fathers managed to create America where 'All men are created equal' but . . . with slavery. This came to a head in the Civil War (six hundred twenty thousand Americans died, roughly one tenth the number in Vietnam or one one-hundredth in Iraq) and again with the Civil Rights movement. LB Johnson supposedly said, when he signed the Civil Rights bill,that because of it the Democrats would lose the south for fifty years; indeed the south is the current mainstay of the Republican party.  It's difficult to see how it can be debated that racism isn't part of the warp and woof of the American fabric.

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My definition of racism

Thanks Tim for the great blog (I need to buy your book!) and thanks to all involved for the ongoing discussion. The following is my definition of racism, which I shared in an interview with Connect Savannah and which is included in my Harlem Renaissance Dialogues series:

Racism is any action motivated by racial difference resulting in a detrimental impact on the life of another individual or group of individuals.

 

Also, I just posted a blog here on Red Room that takes a look at the impact of racism on the life of the 1960s diva and human rights activist Nina Simone: http://www.redroom.com/blog/aberjhani/the-furious-passage-nina-simone

I think it touches on and in some cases expands what has been presented here.

Blessings,

Aberjhani
author of The American Poet Who Went Home Again
and Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (Facts on File)

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Definitions

Re: "Racism is any action motivated by racial difference resulting in a detrimental impact on the life of another individual or group of individuals."

One can't redefine words at will, although legions of people have tried to redefine the word "racism" in the last 15 years so as to try to exclude non-whites from qualifying for it, something that is in itself racist.  It's like saying that only white people can be mean, or thieves, or intelligent, or anything else that applies to all of humanity but is redefined so as to make it appear to apply to only one group.  The word "racism," like any other - tree, peace, car, dog, tulip, etc., has clear and explicit definitions that one can't change.  And shouldn't change.

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Institutional Racism

"One can't redefine words at will, although legions of people have tried to redefine the word "racism" in the last 15 years so as to try to exclude non-whites from qualifying for it, something that is in itself racist."

I presume you mean, "non-blacks".

And no, no one has done that, ever. Every time I've seen someone define racism as institutional, they have also noted that individual, non-institutional prejudice can harm anyone. Cite me an example if you'd like, but no one here has done that, so it's a non-starter.

The issue, though, Brian, is that no one is redefining words. That is precisely how the black community thinks about it: See Blauner's fantastic piece, "Talking Past Each Other". Whites think about racism as individual discrimination and shabby treatment. Blacks include that, but also note that they are just as poor if they don't get the job thanks to where they live, poor educational background, or the white boss hiring his college roommate as if they don't get the job because the white boss won't hire any blacks at his company. So, in fact, your attempt here to imply that the definition has been set in stone is itself white privilege: There's a disagreement, but luckily, you're part of the group that matters.

The really great part is that the definition you cited actually supports your interpretation. But you're so paranoid about not being able to sit at the table of victimhood that you ignored my problem with the definition, which is that it's not institutionally sensitive.

(I apologize if your intention was to join my criticism of the definition, but given your bit about denying racism in traffic stops, I somehow doubt it).

"It's like saying that only white people can be mean, or thieves, or intelligent, or anything else that applies to all of humanity but is redefined so as to make it appear to apply to only one group.  The word "racism," like any other - tree, peace, car, dog, tulip, etc., has clear and explicit definitions that one can't change.  And shouldn't change."

Then let's make another new word, for you, so you can join the conversation at the most basic level. Never mind that people here were having a perfectly sensible and sensical conversation before you arrived, as white folks are wont to do when black folks talk differently.

Institutional racism will be defined as patterns of prejudice, discrimination, lack of access to networks of opportunity, the racist impacts of apparently color-blind laws, and so forth.

In that sense, yes, only non-whites qualify for that treatment. There is no widespread network of institutions that rob whites of substantial opportunities. There is such a network for blacks. I don't get why this became controversial, except that people are nowhere near as rational or as selfless as they think.

Comment Bubble Tip

Definitions

"I presume you mean, "non-blacks"."

You presume incorrectly.

"And no, no one has done that, ever. "

It's done frequently.  

"Every time I've seen someone define racism as institutional, they have also noted that individual, non-institutional prejudice can harm anyone. Cite me an example if you'd like, but no one here has done that, so it's a non-starter."

I didn't say "institutional" racism, just racism.  Be that as it may, the deliberate and false redefinition of the word racism to try to exclude blacks from qualifying for it is a routine occurance.  Here are a few online examples...

http://www.american-pictures.com/english/racism/frequent.htm

[Can blacks be racists, women be sexists etc? 
No, nowhere do they have the social power to be able to turn the power structure of the whites]

http://dsadevil.blogspot.com/2005/08/dissections-of-power-can-blacks-be....

[Racism is more than a matter of individual prejudice and scattered episodes of discrimination. There is no black (or other minority) racism because there is no centuries-old system of racial subordination and discrimination designed by African Americans to exclude white Americans from full participation in the rights, privileges, and benefits of this...

http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/open-forum/30858-blacks-can-never-cons...

[Blacks can never be considered Racist in America. The uttermost insult to Black intelligence is when a Black person calls another Black person a racist, and a sure sign of a white racist is when a white person calls a Black person a racist. Like an Oreo turned inside out, it does not make for good fixings.]

 

"The issue, though, Brian, is that no one is redefining words."

I'm wondering if you kept a straight face while writing that, coming on the heels of my response to someone doing exactly that on this very board, and in a nation wherein the word "racism" is redifined as a matter of course by some people who don't like the real definitions of it.

Comment Bubble Tip

No one is redefining things, except you.

Who says what the real definition is? Did you cite a definition that's universally agreed upon? Like Tim pointed out in a debate with David Horowitz, conservatives sure aren't consistent. Dinesh D'Souza defines it as belief in genetically rooted inferiority, but then David says that if Tim argues that barriers exist for blacks and happens to be wrong about those barriers, he is a racist. 

Nice job ignoring the argument, too. I pointed out the Blauner piece that argues that the definition of racism has NEVER been agreed upon but is actually contentious, given that black and white communities have different interpretations. You don't respond to that, you just cite some different definitions (proving that it's a contentious matter and that there's no "real definition") and pretend that what you think is accurate continues to be. Well, it isn't.

I further argued that no one is denying that prejudice and discrimination, what most people universally agree is racism, is still racism. So at worst, they're broadening its scope, not redefining the word entirely. You don't respond to that.

Also, you don't cite anyone HERE doing what you claim to do.

 "I'm wondering if you kept a straight face while writing that, coming on the heels of my response to someone doing exactly that on this very board,"

Except that definition is actually pretty mainstream. It makes no institutional vs. individual distinction and just talks about mistreatment. If you don't like THAT definition, well, I don't get what ones you'll like. You haven't cited your own, you just assert that somewhere, out there, there's a definition the mystical everyone agrees with. This is the lowest level of semantic puffery.

"I didn't say "institutional" racism, just racism.  Be that as it may, the deliberate and false redefinition of the word racism to try to exclude blacks from qualifying for it is a routine occurance.  Here are a few online examples..."

Note, though, that none of these authors deny that individual, piecemeal discrimination is a problem and that it should be called discrimination or what not. They want to reserve the word "racism" for a broader institutional setting, but they are NOT saying blacks can't be guilty of what YOU call racism. Meanwhile, you're not saying blacks CAN be guilty of what they call it.

But, again, read Blauner. The consensus you think is there just isn't. It never has been. And asserting it is actually white privilege and a RACIST move by their definition. See the point?

So here's some definitions from mainstream sources. Random House: 

".

a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. 2.a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. 3.hatred or intolerance of another race or other races" Gee, #1 is ours, #2 is ours, #3 is yours. No one is redefining things, except you.

 

 To be clear, then: What's your POINT, Brian?  What definition do you want to advance? And, more importantly, semantics aside (what a wonderful way for whites to derail the conversation and make it something they're comfortable with, given their control over the dominant language), do you think institutional racism is real and serious and should be given higher priority over piecemeal discrimination and prejudice that is indeed pan-racial (though not evenly common)?

Comment Bubble Tip

What on earth are you talking about?

Hi Tim,

I really don't understand your statements because racism is real in many societies, especially is closed homogeneous countries. You can't change what you don't acknowledge that's just how it is. Some people have a victim mentality, but you have to walk on their shoes in order for you to understand where they come from. For a long time and even today, they are still discriminated against when they looks for jobs, especially in Europe for the color of their skin. They are often marginalized by those who think that they are inferior. I really wanna know what is your goal when it comes to these statements. You know very well that in your country, there was racial segregation and there are still people today who favor that. Victim mentality? Weak-willed? I don't think so. Read history and learn from it.

Comment Bubble Tip

Huh?

"I really don't understand your statements because racism is real in many societies, especially is closed homogeneous countries. You can't change what you don't acknowledge that's just how it is. Some people have a victim mentality, but you have to walk on their shoes in order for you to understand where they come from. For a long time and even today, they are still discriminated against when they looks for jobs, especially in Europe for the color of their skin. They are often marginalized by those who think that they are inferior. I really wanna know what is your goal when it comes to these statements. You know very well that in your country, there was racial segregation and there are still people today who favor that. Victim mentality? Weak-willed? I don't think so. Read history and learn from it."

Ummmmmm, dude, did we read the same article? Or the same author?

Tim not only thinks racism is real in homogenuous societies, but that isolation and homogeneity tends to CREATE racism. What's surprising, actually, isn't that, but the REVERSE: That contact with others can also breed or at least not substantially mitigate against racism.

Tim dispenses with the victim mentality. He doesn't think it really exists. Actually, black Americans rarely have a victim mentality. They understand that they have to work twice as hard to get to the same place. That encourages hard work, not discourages it. They also take responsibility for their community in ways I almost never see white communities do. I remember being astounded listening to News and Notes, hearing the commentators consider honestly Bill Cosby's remarks which I thought were racist, offensive pablum.

In short, Tim agrees with you. The whole article is expressing and arguing for that agreement. It's like you just read the title...

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You should read Tim's

You should read Tim's article before commenting on it - in fact, read some of his others while you're at it. If you do, you'll realize that he would agree with your points... in fact, that's exactly the kind of thing he writes about.

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Your Essay on Racism

I thank the Divine for the existence of authors such as Tim Wise and Sunny Singh. Trying to go it alone -- live with some quality of life while facing racism in all its many forms -- is overwhelming. Including a spiritual life along with intellectual activities becomes essential to survival.

Stepping back, letting others pick up the mantle, and being secure in the knowledge that others have stepped forward and will continue to step forward -- this reality puts me deeply in gratitude each and every day.

Jeanne

Comment Bubble Tip

I wanna see it in a broader

I wanna see it in a broader way. It's not just about Blacks, brown folks against Whites. We forget that Armenians are also victims of a genocide committed by Turks. The Jews were also victims of a genocide because of who they are. Time heals and after the healing process, individuals need to make a decision to look forward and find a new path in life. Prejudices, racism and other forms of hatred are always going to be there, but the question is what you as an individual can do to make a change in your society and enjoy your life. But it's also depends on how you see yourself. If you see yourself in a positive way, you will get positive results. Everyone has to work hard and that's just a fact of life and when you are successful, let's be role models to those we can inspire so that they also can live a better life.

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Misleading Sentiment..

Balthazar: I can in turn say it's not just about race at all, but also about injustice in general, so that we also have to talk about the war in Iraq or Vietnam, global poverty, the oppression of the government... It's not that it's unreasonable to want to talk about race from a broader perspective, but one needs to pick a level of resolution.

The reason why Tim focuses on white privilege, and why I do, isn't that it's the only racism, prejudice or injustice in the world. Rather, it's that it's the one that is most powerful in America, in the country that I live in and the communities I hail from.

Further, your perspective is, unsurprisingly, one of the several perspectives of the oppressed (which is fine): The broader racism can't be dealt with, so survive and be as good a person as you can.

That's a wonderful sentiment, but it doesn't apply to American whites, who are not the victims of racism who need healing but the perpetrators or silent accomplices and abetters who need to confront their culpability.

In general, "the personal is political", Balthazar: The reason why we CAN'T just as individuals "make a decision to look forward" is because social oppression of all kinds, not just race, binds and constricts our choices communally. We can't act independently because others are acting in concert. So one of the things we have to do to heal, to see ourselves in a better life, and to make a change in society, is to act collectively against identifiable forces. Prejudice might always exist. White privilege doesn't have to.

Comment Bubble Tip

Victimization

Tim ALL Peace
White folk expect Black folks to be superhuman in our forgetting
in our forgiving of Murder,Abduction,Murder,Rape,Castration,
Scorging,Psycological Terrorism,Spiritual Terrorism,Inslavement,
373 years of physical sevitude(1492-1865),Psycological Indoctrination.Spiritual Indoctrination,(and Tim)Educational
Indoctrination,The Near Anihilation of the people who inhabited the land we are squating on.This is only the foundation of Racism
a cross that White folks won't bare so they throw it on the
shoulders of Black folk with the help of media making us feel
guilty in the process.
Tim do White really want to examine Racism? Fred how can you have this understanding when you argued me this months ago? I'm not a Christian but I study scripture quite often, I have a lot of
disagreements with Paul but even he knew that the Spectre of Racism would be our main enemy from 1900 so odd year ago Paul
said "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities,against powers that rule over The Darkness of this
world,against spiritual wickedness in high placees ".Ephesian 6;12.Racism,White Supremacy are principalities,and powers that maintain domanance through the white power structure over every area of people activity in this world especially that of Black folks.I think Paul was talking about a common enemy not to just Blacks or the Darkness of this world.It also infers that these
principalities and powers are spiritual in nature and inhabits the elite of our world.
I'm saying this to say that not only is Racism a problem that is rearing it ugly head in our society,but one that has it's grips
in the depth of our being.It permeates our very understanding
and White folks embrace the principalities and powers and their
phylosophies because it give them the identity of power,and they
are the structure of which they are made.The system has no power
unless the people give it power.Blacks and other embrace this system out of shear terror.We negate any knowledge of self for
the sake of the maintainance of a system that has not one concern
for our well being.
Most well meaning White folk feel it is an option for Black folks,(Tim Included) to embrace the system,work double hard,ignore
phylosophy that is at the core of that system(that the White race is inherantly superior to others)then somehow we will be redeemed.
Tell me Tim what part of our modern society is not corrupt and
unbalanced with regards to the Races,should we work hard to gain sucsess in a system that is for the most part about our own demise.
Its like drinking the poison that is poisoning you to aleviate the poison that is poisoning you.

Comment Bubble Tip

*sigh*

"Tim do White really want to examine Racism? Fred how can you have this understanding when you argued me this months ago?"

It is repellent and grotesque to think that everyone who expresses any disagreement with you on any point is racist or against examining racism and white privilege.

I contested your insane, illogical, racist distortions, not the position that racism is real, has been historically immensely powerful, continues to have quite decisive influence over the opportunity structure, and that racism and white privilege need to be confronted by whites who are systematically elevated by white privilege even when their class, gender or other privilege is quite low. LIke I said a few months ago: The nicest thing I said about Europeans is that they're not all murderers.

Further, many others gave you the feedback that your position was insane, not least the position that non-whites never committed atrocities (which you then retracted because it was repulsive).

"Most well meaning White folk feel it is an option for Black folks,(Tim Included) to embrace the system,work double hard,ignore
phylosophy that is at the core of that system(that the White race is inherantly superior to others)then somehow we will be redeemed."

This "phylosophy" is something that Tim has loudly argued against, noting that the myth of meritocracy is precisely a white trap because for them the privilege system works JUST enough that they can believe it while black folks overwhelmingly do not have that luxury. (Also note that some of the black rich, like Oprah, seem to espouse this very idea, far more than Tim).

In short, it's difficult to have a substantive discussion when you ascribe positions to us that we despise and espouse positions we agree with.

"Tell me Tim what part of our modern society is not corrupt and
unbalanced with regards to the Races,should we work hard to gain sucsess in a system that is for the most part about our own demise."

Slavery doesn't exist anymore.

Nor does Jim Crow and de jure segregation.

The Civil Rights Act.

Universal enfranchisement.

In short, implying that every single element of American society is uniformly and infinitely racist is actually insulting to the suffering of past African-Americans as well as trivializing their extraordinary achievements.

It is also absurd to say that the system is for "the most part" about oppressing and killing blacks. This insults and trivializes the suffering of the American and global poor of all races, the victims of American empire, and systemic discrimination against women and GLBTQ minorities. The system has a racial dimension, but it also has a class dimension, a state and empire dimension, and a gender dimension. I am unlike some Marxists and left advocates who think that class is the only one that matters and believe race needs to be elevated to the same level as the others.

Comment Bubble Tip

What Sub-system

What sub-system within the global power system is controlled by
non-whites.Law,labor,finance,war,religion,entertainment,politics?
Racism is control. You are just looking at it from within the construct of the controller and I the controlled we should have
very different perspective.You seem to have grown a great deal in
the last few months or so it seems.I guess I just rub you the wrong way.You want to save the rotten apple,I on the the otherhand
doubt it's stability in the first place.Fredric I can't awaken you
but some force surely is,and I bow to that Spirit.Just tell the
truth,and don't just talk that shit,Walk IT.And,know where that walk leads.You are a White man at a door where few people stand
in knowledge,many dare not explore.I just implore you to develope
your objective view.

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Getting A Tad Bit Further, I Guess

"What sub-system within the global power system is controlled by
non-whites.Law,labor,finance,war,religion,entertainment,politics?"

Black colleges, fraternities and businesses,  which were simply absurd institutions before 1860.

Black households. Ditto.

Multiple nations have non-white Presidents with non-white pluralities. "Control" of those nations is largely nominal, I'll agree, but even THAT is not simply true anymore. Chavez has avoided American coups: The US has been forced to tolerate him. In turn, he and his allies have forced open an increasingly independent Latin American region with Cuba's medical expertise and Venezuela's oil. Global power is shifting towards the Chinese.

But you phrased the question this way because you simply couldn't defend the way you had INITIALLY defined the issue. First: What part of the global power system is controlled by the poor? Almost none, FAR less than non-white control. Second: Is the world less, or more, under non-white control than 1860, or 1776, or the 1600s? The answer to that question is so obvious as to make your initial claims absurd.

"Racism is control. You are just looking at it from within the construct of the controller and I the controlled we should have
very different perspective"

No, it's not just that. Racist employers who don't hire experienced blacks cost the nation billions a year. Racism is control, but it's also irrational prejudice, discrimination, passive attitudes and institutions, historical legacies, etc.

How in God's name am I looking at racism from the construct of the controller? I affirm the reality and immorality of American empire, don't deny racism's ongoing salience, don't deny its ongoing institutional nature, and don't deny the reality of white privilege, and demand revolutionary change to alter all those facts. This is, again, simply insulting descriptions of my position that you can't defend or cite.

"You seem to have grown a great deal in
the last few months or so it seems.I guess I just rub you the wrong way.You want to save the rotten apple,I on the the otherhand
doubt it's stability in the first place"

My position has not changed one iota in the last few months. The only variable that might have changed is your ability to hear your allies loudly telling you that your description of the problem, your prescriptions for its solution, and your worldview are fundamentally, excuse my French, fucked up. Your language is fundamentally based in the notion that whites are now and forever all equally responsible for genocide, even when not all of them lived during times with mass genocide going on in their names at the same scale. This is racist: It is saying that whites on a basic cultural or genetic level are evil, not that institutional factors cause their elites to commit and their populations to be complicit with great evil.

Will you retract, here, your claim that non-whites have never committed substantial atrocities? If so, maybe we can move forward. THAT's why you rub me the wrong way (also, poor spelling and grammar make it really hard to understand who you're talking about).

As for "wanting to save the rotten apple": My position has been for a decade that a revolution must take place to fundamentally alter our economic, political, racial and gender relations and institutions if we as a species are to survive, let alone accomplish basic justice. There are many who argue that my position is rather too much towards YOUR side, and say that we need to make slower, progressive changes. So, again, unless you mean something different, like wanting to "save" white people (read: not sending them to the furnaces), again you are totally incapable of reading my words as written.

Comment Bubble Tip

Justice Dept. Report

Before I get to the report, I just have to say that there is absolutely nothing in the world wrong with a student questioning anything, ever, especially some rather specious information he's been presented with. Secondly, it is not age, experience or position, generally, that determines whether or not what someone says is to be believed, but rather the facts and reasoning behind it.

Back to the report Mr. Wise cited. There is nothing in it to indicate that racial profiling is taking place, let alone that white people are "driving by with a trunk full of weed" with impunity while black drivers "are having their trunks splayed open," etc., because police suspect black drivers of possessing drugs and pull them over for such suspicion.

As Mr. Wise himself should know from even a cursory glance at that report, (Contacts Between the Police and the Public," 2002), "9% of white drivers were stopped, 9% of black drivers were stopped, 9% of Hispanic drivers were stopped, and 84% of drivers considered stop legitimate." Is there any racial disparity in those figures? Not at all.

What Mr. Wise seems to be basing his opinion is this: that of those drivers and/or cars that were searched, that only 3.3% of black drivers or their cars were found to have evidence ("evidence," which can be anything from an open container of alcohol to stolen property, not drugs only, as Mr. Wise assumes), compared to 14.5% of white drivers and 13% of Hispanic drivers. That number is rather odd, but I'm sure if anyone bothered to look at it in detail that there'd be some non-racial explanation for it, most likely the behavior of the driver, but it's impossible to say with the information presented.

Are even these black drivers being pulled over because of either their race or suspicion of possession of drugs? No. 9% of black drivers were stopped, just as for white and Hispanic drivers. There was no difference. And what were these people stopped for? Suspicion of possession of narcotics, the basis for Mr. Wise's assertion?

No at all. Here's the breakdown of the stops...
9.3% burned headlight
11.5% REGISTRATION
1.3% ROADSIDE CHECK FOR DRUNK DRIVERS
7.1% STOP OR STOP SIGN VIOLATION
4.9% ILLEGAL TURN OR LANE CHANGE
4.4% Seatbelt violation
54.8% SPEEDING
4.2% SOME OTHER TRAFFIC OFFENSE
2.1% No reason given

At most, one can guess, infer or assume that some fraction of those 2.1% of stops with no reason given were due to suspicion of possession of narcotics, but that information is neither stated nor can it be reasonably assumed. We simply do not know that that 2.1% represents, but we do know that it's a small percentage of the total at worst, if at all.

Did the black respondents to this survey themselves think they had been wronged somehow? Not the vast majority. 73% felt that they had been stopped legitimately.

Is there, then, any cause for Mr. Wise to state that white drivers could drive past a roadblock with a trunk full of weed while black drivers were pulled over and having their trunks splayed open? Absolutely none. Is there a case, then, to be made from this information that racial profiling is taking place? Absolutely not.

Comment Bubble Tip

Nice Try

Brian:

Nice try. But the Supreme Court has specifically allowed police to pull over people for various traffic-related crimes as a pretext to then search for what they were really intending. Police then list the traffic offenses they really used as a pretext, but that does NOT mean the stops were not intended to detect narcotic or other contraband use.

"Before I get to the report, I just have to say that there is absolutely nothing in the world wrong with a student questioning anything, ever, especially some rather specious information he's been presented with. Secondly, it is not age, experience or position, generally, that determines whether or not what someone says is to be believed, but rather the facts and reasoning behind it."

You're right. And I bet you are equally strident in your interrogation of your plumber.

Tim's point is not at all refuted by yours (funny that you decided to mention "facts and reasoning"). There is such a thing as expertise, and deferring to it is not irrational. But white students are willing to challenge people with great expertise on the topic when it comes to white privilege. That's not rationality or avoiding appeals to authority, it's white privilege.

'" What Mr. Wise seems to be basing his opinion is this: that of those drivers and/or cars that were searched, that only 3.3% of black drivers or their cars were found to have evidence ("evidence," which can be anything from an open container of alcohol to stolen property, not drugs only, as Mr. Wise assumes), compared to 14.5% of white drivers and 13% of Hispanic drivers. That number is rather odd, but I'm sure if anyone bothered to look at it in detail that there'd be some non-racial explanation for it, most likely the behavior of the driver, but it's impossible to say with the information presented."

Since perceptions of the behavior of the driver aren't racialized at all.

It's funny that, when the report says what you like, you cite as if gospel, but when it doesn't, you presume there simply MUST be some explanation for a WIDE disparity in racial treatment. You don't have such an explanation, the report doesn't offer one, and Tim's hypothesis accords with decades of data affirming bias in traffic stops, but hey, why bother letting the facts get in the way of your whitewashing?

Take quotes like this: "On a per capita basis in 2002, the rate
of police-resident contact for whites was
about 15% higher than for blacks and
about 26% higher than for Hispanics.
The rate of contact for males was
about 20% higher than for females."

Or this:

"During the traffic stop, police were
more likely to carry out some type of
search on a male (7.1%) than a female
(1.8%), and more likely to carry out
some type of search on a black (10.2%)
or Hispanic (11.4%) than a white
(3.5%)."

So whites and blacks seem to get pulled over as often, but their treatment varies sharply thereafter. But hey, maybe if you had given the report more than a "cursory glance", you might have seen something that might not have reaffirmed your existing biases.

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No trying; just saying

1) In what decision did the Supreme Court ever say that a cop could pull somone over as a pretext for a search for something else?  Or that a search could be performed without cause?
 

2) A plumber comes with a certain expertise rather than a long established set of biases and prejudices.   If, however, that plumber said something about plumbing that was irrational or demonstrably false, it would negate or at least reduce his perceived expertise.

3) There is no such thing as "white privilege" categorically, let alone in a student questioning something, especially something that is questionable at best.   There are several things one could call that - applying reason, inquisitiveness, thoroughness, etc., but "privilege" is not one of them.  Anyone can question anything.

4) When one is presented with an unexplained disparity such as that only 3.3% of blacks searched have some kind of "evidence" on them or in their cars, compared to much higher rates for whites and Hispanics (who can be of either race), one can't simply assume it's because of some bias on the part of the police, to say the least.  My guess would be that it's because those searched behaved in a manner that gave the pollice cause to be suspicious, but that, too, it not accounted for in the statistics.   The reason, until proved, is unknown.

5) I take the report for what it says, not for what it doesn't.  My GUESS is that there's a rational and non-racist reason for the disparity in search results, but I don't presume to state that as fact.  Mr. Wise, however, does take his own unfounded take on it as fact.  If you want to chastise somoene for picking and choosing what he wants to believe out of it, or for drawing conclusions not supported by the evidence, I suggest you target the appropriate party.

>Take quotes like this: "On a per capita basis in 2002, the rate
of police-resident contact for whites was
about 15% higher than for blacks and
about 26% higher than for Hispanics.
The rate of contact for males was
about 20% higher than for females."<

What about it?  It's one other indication that blacks aren't disproportionately targeted for police attention.

Or this:

>"During the traffic stop, police were
more likely to carry out some type of
search on a male (7.1%) than a female
(1.8%), and more likely to carry out
some type of search on a black (10.2%)
or Hispanic (11.4%) than a white
(3.5%)."<

What of it?  Do you not realize that it is the circumstances of each individual stop that determines what actions a police officer takes?  If there happens to be a racial disparity, that does not necessarily imply prejudice or disparate treatment.

"So whites and blacks seem to get pulled over as often, but their treatment varies sharply thereafter."

Possibly because their behavior varies sharply thereafter.  But again, we don't know.  I choose not to presume. 

"But hey, maybe if you had given the report more than a "cursory glance", you might have seen something that might not have reaffirmed your existing biases."

Except that my biases, whatever they might be, were not indicated in what I wrote.  I simply stated the facts without drawing unsupportable conclusions or assuming prejudice where there is no evidence of any.

Comment Bubble Tip

Mr. Plumber Has No Clothes

1. Whren v. U.S. The fact that you don't know this basic decision (and I recommend you look up the briefs composed for the anti-pretextual stops side) on the issue indicates that you are determined to stumble blissfully into conversations you are not prepared to have. White privilege in action.

2. Tim hasn't. Certainly, if you knew nothing about the topic (and you clearly do, given that you apparently don't know Whren v. U.S.), you'd have no basis to say something was irrational. At the very least, you'd proceed carefully, not with brazen overconfidence, asking questions rather than challenging. The white student didn't do that, and even after he was caught, he continued to make boneheaded and offensive arguments. White privilege in action.

3. Certainly not in whites having higher average wages, income, net wealth, access to social capital, likelihood of securing loans, political clout, attention to their concerns and needs, etc., despite having done nothing to deserve any of those things.

Oh, wait.

4. You can't? It is a colossal disparity that is far beyond statistical norms for random chance. Certainly, alleging discrimination is a hypothesis that explains the evidence, and has the advantage of having decades of sociological data to back it up. What is completely clear is that Tim's statement, that whites have more contraband but blacks are pulled over for it more often, is completely affirmed by that statement. In one breath, you cite a few passages taken out of context from the report and argue that this supports your interpretation, as if the report is ironclad gospel; in another breath, you simply handwave away statistics that do not support your position, with no plausible alternative hypothesis.

5. It indicates that whites have higher contact rates, yet the report goes on to indicate that their contacts are much more likely to be interacting to file a report. That's important: Whites have a higher baseline rate of contact.

As for the second quote: You clearly don't care that these are statistics. If circumstances were determined by individual characteristics and behavior, then one would see nothing but noise level difference in terms of being searched, barring evidence that blacks and Latina/os actually commit behavior that would lead to being searched, which you haven't even tried to argue because it's repellent and because the fact that whites have more contraband on average would shoot it down. We don't see noise level variation, we see a substantial statistical signal.

I propose that police, subconsciously and consciously, target blacks and Latina/os for a variety of reasons, not least that they have come to think things like a black kid with a nice car must be a drug dealer while a white kid with a nice car must be a spoiled rich kid. (Those examples have been offered to Tim over and over in workshops across the country, another sign of that expertise that you don't have yet pretend to because you can afford to act like a jackass on an Internet forum). That explains the difference in search rates even when initial stop rates are the same and police contact in total for whites is HIGHER (which means that blacks being pulled over more often, or as often as whites, is already breaking the norm established elsewhere).

Your explanation? Somehow, that difference of about TWO AND A HALF TIMES in treatment is explained by... each stop being individually different. I guess magically all those black and brown drivers are all doing something that makes the cops search them, despite the vast majority of those searches not discovering anything and the searches of whites being more fruitful, but that isn't any reason to ask what the white officers keep seeing. Nope. No one is at fault. Look somewhere else.

Why bother even having the report, then? Clearly, no matter what transpires, all cops act rationally based on different treatment and have no biases. No matter the evidence.

You are begging the question: Your defense of police requires you to have established their trustworthiness, when it is EXACTLY that which is at question!

"Possibly because their behavior varies sharply thereafter.  But again, we don't know.  I choose not to presume."

Then come up with an alternate hypothesis. It's one thing to just assume that someone has a good reason for why they made a potentially racist statement at a party. It's another to assume that statistics must not mean what they seem to mean just because YOU "choose not to presume". You are being sociologically childish in the same breath that you declare expertise to be irrelevant. No wonder: You don't have any.

And what a wonderful choice you get to make. Black folks can't make that presumption, since they're the ones who are being potentially discriminated against.

Want more evidence? Here ya go:

http://www.bc.edu/schools/law/lawreviews/bclawreview/meta-elements/pdf/4...

http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/5143_Banks_II_Proof_Chapter_3.pdf

http://www.library.illinois.edu/afx/Criminal_Justice.htm . That's a list of cites.

http://www.alternet.org/story/10910/shot_by_cops_not_if_you%27re_white/

  . That story has a case where a white officer shot at fellow police yet wasn't gunned down.

The evidence of racism in the criminal justice system is endless. I can drop hundreds of cites on you, but I fail to see the point.

"Except that my biases, whatever they might be, were not indicated in what I wrote.  I simply stated the facts without drawing unsupportable conclusions or assuming prejudice where there is no evidence of any."

Ha!

Hahahaha!

Right.

You clearly don't believe white privilege exists. So you looked in the study for things that support your view. A line here, a line there.

Never mind that, according to the Whitney piece I cite above, this study actually led to severe political fallout because pretty much everyone else on the planet realized that a three-fold search rate indicates widespread discriminatory treatment, if not intent.

Try reading the most basic articles on discrimination in the criminal justice system, then come back and we can have a chat. Until then, you're someone arguing with multiple plumbers as to why your pipes burst.

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Plumbing

"1. Whren v. U.S. The fact that you don't know this basic decision (and I recommend you look up the briefs composed for the anti-pretextual stops side) on the issue indicates that you are determined to stumble blissfully into conversations you are not prepared to have. White privilege in action."

Is there anything that doesn't qualify as "white privilege" to you?  Eating?  Sleeping?  Walking?  Sitting?  Standing?  You are actually helping to make a case for its non-existance by labeling anything that comes to mind as "white privilege."  Be that as it may, thanks for providing the supreme court case.  Looked it up, read through the summary of facts and the decision.  Did it  have any bearing on the discussion here?  No.  It was a very obvious decision about police officers having the right to search a car when they say drugs out in plain sight.  A unanimous decision, as one would expect, basically reinforcing the police to act when there is probable cause.  It would have been shocking if they had ruled differently.  Did the decision in any way give the police a right to stop or search a car on the "pretext" of something else?  Absolutely not.  The decision is not what you pretend it to be.   

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Prove My Point Much?

"Is there anything that doesn't qualify as "white privilege" to you?  Eating?  Sleeping?  Walking?  Sitting?  Standing? "

Is there anything that does for you? Higher average wages? Higher average net worths? Less time spent in jail? Better health outcomes and treatment by health care institutions and professionals? It seems that you don't think whites have any systemic advantage, a fact so at odds with even the most cursory reading of the Census (let alone any real RESEARCH) that it indicates you care very little about these matters. Which you can afford to.

" You are actually helping to make a case for its non-existance by labeling anything that comes to mind as "white privilege." "

Logically, I would only be doing so if people accepted the fallacy of rebutting the example. I seem to recall you trying to make a case for non-fallacious arguments earlier. How odd.

No one says that there must be no risk of government tyranny or over-reach because Glenn Beck exaggerates it, or that Saddam Hussein wasn't a maniac because Bush and his cronies exaggerated the danger he posed. This doesn't occur anywhere in politics, seemingly, except for race.

" Be that as it may, thanks for providing the supreme court case.  Looked it up, read through the summary of facts and the decision.  Did it  have any bearing on the discussion here?  No.  It was a very obvious decision about police officers having the right to search a car when they say drugs out in plain sight. "

Read MUCH more carefully. (Again, this is basic "Take an undergraduate college class on this stuff"-level knowledge).

Scalia says that officers can pull people over under ANY pretext and then, once they have done so,  bust people for contraband. The fact that these pretexts are omnipresent was moot in his view. So too was the obvious racial targeting.

So, to return to the original point: Law officers can mark down that they pull people over for a tire, or a headlight, or speeding, or failing to signal, or whatever they damn well please, and then use that as a pretext for a racist contraband search. This flatly disproved your argument that the seemingly low amounts of specific searches for contraband reported by police meant anything. In actual fact, blacks are targeted for pretextual searches far more than whites. Police MARK a speeding infraction, etc., but their intent was to look for drugs or contraband. They find it less often than with whites, a fact that the report flatly states and that you flatly concede, yet keep searching blacks.

If this wasn't the case, then officers would have to mark down the real intent for their search far more often, and we'd get much better data.

In any case, you didn't rebut the reams of evidence I gave you about racism in the criminal justice system in general and racist police action/traffic stops in particular, extensive other arguments, etc. You just decided to mis-summarize Whren. How nice that you seem to be adamant on affirming my point as to how whites seem to insist on butting into conversations they have no data on or information about with no shame or self-awareness, like the student in the original post.

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ken sartor says: "Given the

ken sartor says:
"Given the nature of the bb, it is no surprise that most here see race and racism as a (or even the) major issue in the US and possibly elsewhere(?). However, i see the world in terms of class with race being a very small but not wholly insignificant player in the overall scheme of things. In my own life, i treat people according to how they behave; race simply is not relevant to me."

That sounds so painfully white. Sir- your words are steeped in privilege, because black folk have had to deal with whites who treat them in the most hateful of ways and accept it, for they had not the power to do otherwise. You have the luxury of judging your fellow man/woman on an equal basis because of your white skin. You erroneously ascribe your experience to blacks, and assume we are treated in the very same manner. When blacks experience maltreatment from whites we don’t always go to the media, or run to the courts. Conversely, we share these experiences privately amongst our own, knowing friends- family or loved ones who’ve experienced the same thing.

Whites aren’t aware of every occurrence of racism because we know our experiences will either be nullified or derailed by whites should we chose to share our stories. Some blacks still depend on whites for their livelihood-, they have to deal with racist whites who have authority over them in some capacity.(foremen, supervisors or police officers) Oftentimes blacks were/are forced to respond with a smile and simply suck it up for they have no other remedy. Most Whites are skeptical about claims of racism on the job so who's going to take them seriously? In short-, we don't have the luxury to treat white people according to how they behave, because most of us have been screwed over too many times. Moreover, when we blacks are blatantly denied opportunity by whites the last thing on our mind is, "oh that was a Class thing; certainly wasn't because of my color." Even blacks whom are well-off suffer racism; just a few have had the courage to tell whites about it.

The comments a young white teenager allegedly made at a Wal-Mart, "All black people leave the store now,” wasn't rooted in class, but rather it was all about race. Course most whites will fail to see these and simply dismiss the act as a prank. You know... Boys will be boys. Just saw a report on MSNBC; they are still searching for Natalee Holloway. I wonder how many nameless minority women and children have gone missing while white America obsesses over this one white woman? In the past month or so there have been reports of 3 missing white people. Think its all about class do you…

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Micheal, Yes.      My

Micheal, Yes.    

 My concern about the realities of racism is based on my own personal experience as a white person.  Here's what I mean:   I have heard enough racist attitudes expressed by educated, "enlightened" and "progressive" white people who would never be directly insulting to a black person to know that (at the very least) we whites can be quite comfortable in our racism; and that if forward thinking, moderate-type people are saying these things, there have to be a lot of other white people who are at the very least expressing much worse things. 

 I know it. I published an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer urging readers not to judge young black men by the actions of one admittedly vicious cop-killer.  Of the approximately 15 emails I received, about 60% were horribly racist, claiming things such as: the city's problems are made worse because we have a black mayor (not a "bad" mayor, just one with more pigment than us).  One person was I'd say willing to examine her own prejudice, a few were supportive, and the rest were racist but less horribly so.

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well if you say so. . .

"because black folk have had to deal with whites who treat them in the most hateful of ways and accept it"

 Sounds like a track from my life - although my take would replace the word "white" above with manager/supervisor/bully and the word "black" with employee/grunt/victim. 

 I also think my ability to judge people based on their character is not merely due to my race. I seem to recall a wonderful (black) man who advocated the same thing. .. but that was long ago and perhaps for many the dream has died? Sad.

 "Oftentimes blacks were/are forced to respond with a smile and simply suck it up for they have no other remedy" 

A familiar story to all of us who have lived in the lower classes.

Really the Walmart thing? One nutty guy? Sounds like judging black folks by a single individual who misbehaves.

 To be fair, i only think it is 90% about class. 

 

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Dr. King? Really?

" I also think my ability to judge people based on their character is not merely due to my race. I seem to recall a wonderful (black) man who advocated the same thing. .. but that was long ago and perhaps for many the dream has died? Sad."

Try again, Ken. Everyone likes the "I Have a Dream" speech because, taken out of context, it seems to be so nice and approachable and cuddly. But in fact, Dr. King was quite strident about criticizing white communities for their intransigence, laziness, prejudice and racism. Yes, he did so from a position of love, a truly remarkable thing, but he never let us off the hook. He would doubt, as do I, your ability to see people for who they really are without race clouding it, because to do so would be to basically totally ignore your cultural Zeitgeist, and virtually no one can. Tim certainly can't, as he's recounted dozens of times.

We all are predisposed to see race, Ken. As Stephen Colbert's joke on his show indicates, to do anything else would be comical and irrational. Race matters. And, if Implicit Attitude Tests are any indication, not to mention your intransigence to believe racism exists and your willingness to deny black voices, it is likely that you are part of the majority who subconsciously associates blacks negatively. Psychological evidence is rife that even nice, liberal, tolerant people have these demons in them: Indeed, the people who made the IAT were often shocked as to how deep the prejudice went in themselves!

I managed to get through the IAT with a slight preference for black faces, actually, and even I know that racist attitudes and beliefs are to be found in me.

"A familiar story to all of us who have lived in the lower classes."

Except, again, middle-class blacks also report having to suck it up. And no matter how precarious white folks are, their position is never quite as precarious as black folks. They can clean up and have the potential to look like they belong. They have the right name. They probably have friends or family who have some wealth. The face of white poverty is usually home owners who, while they might live in a run-down property on government assistance and food stamps, nonetheless have a bit of property to their own. I've known dozens of people like that: Unquestionably poor, yet still not as poor.

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@Sunny As a British-born

@Sunny As a British-born African who has lived in America as well as the UK - I have to  say that while London has a veneer of racial tolerance, I find it little more than a veneer. I consider England to be at least as racist as America. The difference here in England is that the racism is rarely (these days) overt and in-your-face. That said, the racism in Italy and various other parts of Europe (Germany springs to mind)is on a whole other level. www.preciouswilliams.com

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Italian fans

It's typically the way many Italian fans behave in stadiums towards people who are Black and Brown. They know that those racial slurs are offensive, but they don't seem to care you know why? because there are lots of right wing extremists football supporters in Italy.

I'm not saying that this does not happen in other European countries, but it's very common in Italy and they are the ones who are trying to destroy the image of the beautiful game. Responsibility is responsibility. In this life, we all make a choices and they come with consequences sooner or later. It's sad that Chelsea lost 1-0 to Inter Milan. I hoped that Milan would lose, but that's what happens in football(soccer).

I wander if those Italian fans forgot that Italy was a fascist country in WW II, side by side with Germany.

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I hope no one took this

I hope no one took this statement seriously. I've never heard or seen anyone make such a statement, and I seriously doubt that this kid did either...

"What was actually more disturbing about the instructor's e-mail was the part after she asked for the data citation, where she noted that in addition to challenging the facts I'd presented in the video, the white guy had also insisted that even if the claim were true--in other words, even if police really are racially profiling people of color unfairly--we shouldn't talk about it, because to do so will discourage black people from trying hard to achieve. It will, presumably, turn them into permanent victims, whose expectations of mistreatment will make them essentially give up."

 

And let's not forget that Mr. Wise's claim of racial profiling is actually contradicted by this report rather than supported by it.

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Look! Over There!

"I hope no one took this statement seriously. I've never heard or seen anyone make such a statement, and I seriously doubt that this kid did either..."

Why? You don't seem to like to "presume" that police can be racist, contrary to actual evidence that strongly suggests otherwise, but you presume that the Professor and/or Tim are liars? Nice, and very revealing, double standard.

"And let's not forget that Mr. Wise's claim of racial profiling is actually contradicted by this report rather than supported by it."

No, it isn't.

But even if you're right, the specific point Tim made IS supported by the report. You concede that. The report flatly says that they find more contraband when searching whites. You say that it simply can't be racism, based only on your assertion with no evidence or alternative hypothesis. So Tim cited a report to make his point, the report does, and you're here dishonestly trying to get the conversation off that point.

But, hey, no racism here.

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An interesting ongoing case

In Huntsville AL there is a current case in the news that has racial overtones. The case can be characterized as either an incident of police butality (of an elderly black man) or an instance of a man caught disobeying the law (possible DUI and traffic violations). Below is the URL to a local report on this case. Most interesting to me is the response from readers, who all seem to see this issue in, um, black and white certainty. . .

http://www.whnt.com/news/whnt-mayor-presser-police-brutality,0,5174392.s...

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So...

Why can't it be both? Why can't it be both, potentially, a man disobeying the law AND a man subject to racist treatment? The way we talk about these issues is insane. It's easy to claim that OJ was innocent and therefore everything against him was a smear campaign, or guilty and therefore nothing Fuhrman said or Time did mattered. But both are silly: OJ probably was guilty, but if he had been convicted, it would NOT have been due to a triumph of justice but would have been yet another sign that a black man in this country can't get a fair trial (since white men are let off if they have the money to defend themselves). Simply put: It is possible for someone to have done something wrong (a black woman having made bad decisions and therefore having bad credit, a black man slinging drugs to kids) and still be the subject of racist treatment (the black woman not being able to get a loan even when her white colleague who had made the same bad decisions can, the black drug dealer getting executed by the police instead of taken in).

I agree that these catalyzing moments often become badly misinterpreted, and we end up spending lots of time examining the minutiae of it and arguing over fine points rather than looking more sociologically at the subject. I don't want to spend too much time going over the issue with a finetooth comb. The phenomenon that's interesting, though, Ken, is the certainty.

Whites look at the issue and see a cop doing their job. Their racial perspective is such that the idea of police acting arbitrarily to someone just because they're black is outside of their concept. Even whites like you who have had reason to fear and mistrust the police still might think that if you're rich or really polite, you'll be let off the hook with a warning. So they see someone claiming racism and immediately thoughts of the race card appear.

Blacks, Latina/os, many sociologists, and plenty of people with the mentality of the colonized look at the issue and see police brutality. Their racial and cultural frame is filled with examples, either personally lived, a few degrees removed or simply part of their experential background, of being treated brutally, arbitrarily or humiliatingly by the police. They see this elderly black man, or Gates, and see the humiliations of their friends, their parents, their grandparents. Their racial frame is such that the incident smacks too much of the lies and defenses that they've seen deployed in situations they know of. Then they look and see whites parading around excuses that simply don't hold water.

It's true that, likely, the only people who can really know the truth of what transpired are the black man and the officers. It's also the case that hindsight is 20/20, and that a lot of the research on the brutality issue is that people in crisis situations make snap judgments that are informed by racist stereotypes, snap judgments they may not make if heads were cooler. (This is why black folks routinely know not to piss off cops or social workers or whomever else they're interacting with, because then the person can at least treat them from a conscious mindset).

But the individual incident takes place against a backdrop. And discussions about it won't proceed unless everyone involved knows the racial frame of the other. Non-whites usually have plenty of experience interacting with the racial frame of the other: They have to, since the other dominates the society they live in and the spaces they must access. But whites don't, as a broad cultural matter, have that skill. That's why we start talking about white privilege and black disadvantage: So everyone can see what the racial frames are, why they're like that, and what causes them. Then we can proceed with a lot more clarity.

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First, everyone has a right

First, everyone has a right and an obligation to question facts and statistics as they are reported. Its not only ok to do that, we have to do that. Thats how you learn what B.S. alot of what the "Heritage" FOundation puts out really is. Their Phd's cannot and should not be taken at face value due to their credentials or years of claimed experience. Indeed even the best scientists and scholars never should get a free pass. The same high standards are expected everytime.

The professor should have checked some of these stats before ever showing the video to her class.

And its good that we should check them, because there are at least some issues the students should have been made aware of in this case. In fact, lets look at the relevant data from the report.

These are the outcomes of veheicle and driver body searches. What % of them yielded "evidence found":

White: 14.5%
Black: 3.3%*
Hispanic: 13.0%*
Other Race: 26.5%*

The first thing to notice is 26.5% for "other race". Thats a VERY high figure. Its nearly double the white rate and is an astonishing 8 times higher than for black drivers.

But waitaminute! What are those asterisks (*) doing there? Heres the note that comes with the table:

*Estimate is based on 10 or fewer sample cases.

Ooooh. So maybe "other race" people are not really EIGHT TIMES more likely to be found with some kind of contraband than black drivers? Maybe not.

At very the least Tim, I think we can agree that the students should have been made aware of these rather important qualifiers. I hope when the professor does check the source that she should have ALREADY checked, that she will point out these issues to them.

Indeed YOU shouldnt be making this statement in ANY setting without mentioning that very small sample sizes for non-white drivers presents serious issues of comparability, not to mention differences between black and hispanic and black and "other" that will seem very hard to believe to many.

Either the truth matters, or it doesnt. No appeal to credentialism can substitute for that. Even the best scholars can make mistakes. For that reason alone, we have to fact check to the best of our ability. In this case to simply state that anything like "Whites are 4x as likely to be found with contraband as blacks" as if this were a clearly established fact is at the very least open to serious question.

It reads like a cherrypick in order to make the racial divide seem as wide as possible, rather than conveying the best information in the most truthful way possible.

Now even taking the data at face value, we have already in a previous thread mentioned and agreed that, more likely, there may not be much actual difference in their rate of doing it, but rather a difference in how white, black and other police officers are reacting to white, black, hispanic and "other" drivers.

Somewhere during the stop a decision is made as to whether a vehicle and/or driver search is warranted, and police officers, black and white are less likely to think a search is needed with white drivers. There is a very real issue here. But in a post that is trying to make a point about truth, facts and perception vs. reality its worthwhile to make note of some obvious problems.

In at least ONE sense (and perhaps only one) the student here was RIGHT. That 4x number DOES sound fishy, and upon further investigation it doesnt actually stand as plain fact.

No student ("armed" though they may be with a mere HS diploma) should sit and accept the assertions of any "expert". And with Very good reason: they can be wrong.

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Read Again

"First, everyone has a right and an obligation to question facts and statistics as they are reported. Its not only ok to do that, we have to do that. Thats how you learn what B.S. alot of what the "Heritage" FOundation puts out really is. Their Phd's cannot and should not be taken at face value due to their credentials or years of claimed experience. Indeed even the best scientists and scholars never should get a free pass. The same high standards are expected everytime."

*sigh* And, again, in our society, the readiness that people have to actually DO SO is entirely connected to social power, as I am 100% sure you are aware when it comes to class. So economists have been allowed to have their work go by virtually without challenge, but scholars of white privilege get challenged by snotnose brats. That has NOTHING to do with logic, or intelligence, or qualification, and EVERYTHING to do with white privilege.

"

The professor should have checked some of these stats before ever showing the video to her class.

And its good that we should check them, because there are at least some issues the students should have been made aware of in this case. In fact, lets look at the relevant data from the report.

These are the outcomes of veheicle and driver body searches. What % of them yielded "evidence found":

White: 14.5%
Black: 3.3%*
Hispanic: 13.0%*
Other Race: 26.5%*

The first thing to notice is 26.5% for "other race". Thats a VERY high figure. Its nearly double the white rate and is an astonishing 8 times higher than for black drivers.

But waitaminute! What are those asterisks (*) doing there? Heres the note that comes with the table:

*Estimate is based on 10 or fewer sample cases.

Ooooh. So maybe "other race" people are not really EIGHT TIMES more likely to be found with some kind of contraband than black drivers? Maybe not.

At very the least Tim, I think we can agree that the students should have been made aware of these rather important qualifiers. I hope when the professor does check the source that she should have ALREADY checked, that she will point out these issues to them."

First of all, what you still are refusing to deal with is the fact the report underlines that, in a total sample of MILLIONS of stops, blacks are searched more often. That part is statistically sound, but you deceptively ignore that because you want to cover up white privilege. The evidence of racism when you look at the report is astonishing despite its rosy opening, and yet this is unimportant to you, only lionizing a kid that I'm sure would also make silly dismissals of your class claims too. Like the fact that blacks/Latina/os are much more likely to be searched without consent (pg. 22)

Second of all, of COURSE there's limited sample sizes, but the report's findings aren't questioned when they come to anything but white privilege. How odd. Yet the sample sizes are of 837,800 vehicle searches, 609,300 physical searches, etc.

Further, you are being deceptive: ONLY the "other races" is asterixed. The white, black and Hispanic "no evidence found" are NOT, and they are based on 739,415 samples, FAR beyond statistical requirements. Again, your eagerness to deny white privilege is not only baffling, but leads you to idiotic misreadings and conclusions.

"Either the truth matters, or it doesnt. No appeal to credentialism can substitute for that. Even the best scholars can make mistakes. For that reason alone, we have to fact check to the best of our ability. In this case to simply state that anything like "Whites are 4x as likely to be found with contraband as blacks" as if this were a clearly established fact is at the very least open to serious question.

It reads like a cherrypick in order to make the racial divide seem as wide as possible, rather than conveying the best information in the most truthful way possible.

Now even taking the data at face value, we have already in a previous thread mentioned and agreed that, more likely, there may not be much actual difference in their rate of doing it, but rather a difference in how white, black and other police officers are reacting to white, black, hispanic and "other" drivers."

And I'm sure you are always perfectly scrupulous about conveying the true death totals in Iraq and noting the Iraq Body Count differs, or that some people think inequality produces growth, or... Of course advocates select data. They make arguments for that selection. You haven't undermined that argument. This report has established, and it's particularly compelling because the report is clearly very conservative, that whites yield FAR more contraband. That's it.

Now, yes, in another thread, Tim agreed that it's probably due to better skills at detecting and working with whites so that they don't give many false searches to blacks. But that's still racism. That's still white privilege. This got pointed out to you there, you never argued against it. How odd.

"Somewhere during the stop a decision is made as to whether a vehicle and/or driver search is warranted, and police officers, black and white are less likely to think a search is needed with white drivers. There is a very real issue here. But in a post that is trying to make a point about truth, facts and perception vs. reality its worthwhile to make note of some obvious problems."

Tim is trying to establish that white privilege is real and that blacks are discriminated against. Those two statistics, that blacks are searched more often when pulled over despite searches of whites being more fruitful, demonstrates this point. There is no facts v. perception issue. There's you deceptively trying to cover up issues you don't like because they're not convenient to your worldview.

 

 

"In at least ONE sense (and perhaps only one) the student here was RIGHT. That 4x number DOES sound fishy, and upon further investigation it doesnt actually stand as plain fact."

Yes, it does stand as plain fact. The report makes that conclusion strongly. You can disagree with the report, but that is what they decided based on the pretty obvious data. Yet more credentials and more evidence dismissed kneejerk by people who can't be bothered to read the data.

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Re: Michael Edno

Good catch!  I didn't catch it when I looked at the report.  Tim Wise either didn't catch it or completely ignored it, but it pretty much completely negates Mr. Wise's argument.  It's an outlier number based on a tiny sample size...

 ====================================================

But waitaminute! What are those asterisks (*) doing there? Heres the note that comes with the table:

*Estimate is based on 10 or fewer sample cases.

  ====================================================

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"And, again, in our society,

"And, again, in our society, the readiness that people have to actually DO SO is entirely connected to social power, as I am 100% sure you are aware when it comes to class. So economists have been allowed to have their work go by virtually without challenge, but scholars of white privilege get challenged by snotnose brats. That has NOTHING to do with logic, or intelligence, or qualification, and EVERYTHING to do with white privilege."

Ignorance, prior beliefs and ideology are whats going on here. Science teachers from one end of this country to another have had students tell them that you might as well forget the last 150 years of biology, because evolution didnt happen. We were poofed into existence, fully formed, by god. You know, like I dream of Jeanie. Thats not "privilege", thats ignorance.

You honestly think that "white privilege" scholars are the only ones that have their work challenged? Thats is absolutely false and you know it. Economists dont have their work challenged? Are you kidding?

"First of all, what you still are refusing to deal with is the fact the report underlines that, in a total sample of MILLIONS of stops, blacks are searched more often."

Refused to deal with it? I dealt with it. Here and elsewhere. Remember when TIm and I said there is probably no difference in their actual liklihood of doing it, but differentials in the choices of when to search? The sample is not of "millions" of stops. Millions of people were not interviewed for this Survey.

"Second of all, of COURSE there's limited sample sizes, but the report's findings aren't questioned when they come to anything but white privilege. How odd. Yet the sample sizes are of 837,800 vehicle searches, 609,300 physical searches, etc."

No they arent. This is Survey research Frederic. Those numbers are extrapolations based on the survey. In "Contacts between Police and the Public: Findings from the 2002 National survey", 76,910 people were surveyed. There is no way you could have read this study.

"Further, you are being deceptive: ONLY the "other races" is asterixed."

No in the report I just named, ALL three numbers had the asterisk. Black, Hispanic and Other Race for "Evidence Found". Anyone can simply hit the link that Tim provided and scroll down through the report and see for themselves.

"The white, black and Hispanic "no evidence found" are NOT, and they are based on 739,415 samples"

Those arent samples, thats an estimated number FROM the sample. Not having the asterisk means that it was based on more than 10 samples. But the "evidence found" was based on 10 or less for blacks, hispanics and Other race.

People in the survey were asked questions like:

"Did the police officer(s) find any of the following items during (this search/these sesarches)

1. Illegal weapons?
2. Illegal Drugs?
3. Open containers of alcohol, such as beer or liquor?
4. Other evidence of a crime? -Specify
5. None of the Above

You, Tim and I know that many Hispanic people are going to say, "theres no friggin way that we are nearly 4 times more likely to have been found with this stuff than blacks. The blacks in the survey are not telling the truth."

Maybe they are and maybe they are not. I dont know if honesty is the problem here. I am content to say the sample sizes are too small to make meaningful comparisons. You may feel that the 3.3% for black drivers is believable but many people will find that number to be VERY low in comparison to the others. TOO low. And not just whites.

"Of course advocates select data. They make arguments for that selection. You haven't undermined that argument. This report has established, and it's particularly compelling because the report is clearly very conservative, that whites yield FAR more contraband. That's it."

Thats not what the study showed. Anymore than that hispanics "really" are nearly 4x as likely to have been found with contraband.

Advocates can certianly select data, but they should be honest about the data. If you are going to tell me that at least some hispanic students, upon being told the numbers in a similar class would not say, "I dont believe that", than you are kidding yourself.

"Now, yes, in another thread, Tim agreed that it's probably due to better skills at detecting and working with whites so that they don't give many false searches to blacks. But that's still racism. That's still white privilege. This got pointed out to you there, you never argued against it. How odd."

On the contrary, I have said that I think there is a real issue here. It wasnt just "pointed out to me", I have argued that. But theres no basis for the non-existant phenomenon of "white privilege" though. Anti-black bias is anti-black bias. Not "white privilege".

"Tim is trying to establish that white privilege is real and that blacks are discriminated against."

White "privilege" is not real, and its not demonstrated here. Its by arguing that police might simply be better at predicting white criminality that it is not "privilege", but better police work, that accounts for the better hit rate and fewer searches.

"Yes, it does stand as plain fact. The report makes that conclusion strongly."

No it doesnt. Its just reporting survey data from the drivers. Its not "concluding" anything from that. And having 10 or fewer cases for black, hispanic and Other means that its difficult to make direct comparisons of those figures.

"You can disagree with the report, but that is what they decided based on the pretty obvious data."

10 or fewer cases? They put that asterisk there for a reason.

"Yet more credentials and more evidence dismissed kneejerk by people who can't be bothered to read the data."

I read it. Whereas you never read ANY data. You didnt even realize this was a Survey or have any remote idea of how they conducted it or how many were surveyed. "A total sample of MILLIONS of stops". Yeah right. Or 76,910. And thats not stops, since that would include all the people who said they were NOT stopped.

This is your M.O. Whether its residential preferences, the 7-10 trillion in preboomer to boomer inheritence, taxi driver discriminations, juror misremembering etc when have you ever read the actual reports and studies themselves? You consistently misstate and mischaracterize the evidence because of your ideological commitments.

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 "No it doesnt. Its just reporting survey data from the drivers. Its not "concluding" anything from that. And having 10 or fewer cases for black, hispanic and Other means that its difficult to make direct comparisons of those figures."

 

Read below. "Searches of black drivers and their vehicles were less likely..." This is NOT only survey data from drivers, but also of State police agencies, etc. It's not just drivers claiming that no contraband was found, and it is deceptive to deny this. And the study is not passively "reporting", it is making pretty strong conclusions.

"White "privilege" is not real, and its not demonstrated here. Its by arguing that police might simply be better at predicting white criminality that it is not "privilege", but better police work, that accounts for the better hit rate and fewer searches."

See, it's crap like that that we're talking about.

It doesn't matter WHY whites get systematically elevated and blacks systematically discriminated against. What matters is that it HAPPENS. Whites when they get pulled over can expect not to be searched or harassed, blacks can't. Whites can expect to get away with carting contraband around far more than blacks.

Indeed, as we've covered ad nauseum here, apparently to no avail for hardcore pseudo-leftist deniers of white privilege, many forms of white privilege are "color-blind". So when whites get jobs because they know the college roommate of the boss, that's not prejudice or discrimination, but it still has the effect of elevating whites over blacks systematically, given inequal access to the networks of opportunity that create those "weak ties" that are so determinative of success. So the fact that cops may be better at seeing criminality in whites than blacks, or whatever excuse you provide (ones that I don't buy, by the way, even though Tim does), is moot to the fact of white privilege. You've conceded that it exists by the definition provided here. Game over.

"I read it. Whereas you never read ANY data. You didnt even realize this was a Survey or have any remote idea of how they conducted it or how many were surveyed. "A total sample of MILLIONS of stops". Yeah right. Or 76,910. And thats not stops, since that would include all the people who said they were NOT stopped."

I read the report. And I specifically cited the numbers in Table 9 and 11 that they drew from to make those claims. The report concludes what Tim says: To quote, "Searches of  black drivers or their vehicles were less likely to find criminal evidence (3.3%) than searches of white drivers (14.5%), and somewhat less likely than searches of Hispanic drivers (13%)" (pg. 22). That's in black and white. That is the conclusion of the report. You can disagree, for reasons the report makes clear, but Tim's claim remains true: The report says X. You and Brian are determined to obfuscate this issue.

The "no evidence found" and "evidence found" in Table 11 on page 22 are drawn from an estimated number that exceeds 800,000. Nice try, pretending that the "no evidence found" number didn't exist and focusing only on the evidence found number. Both matter for determining the sample size, transparently.

It's also a joke to say that I've never read data. I've read dozens of reports in my life, studies and papers and so forth. It's eminently falsifiable. That's your M.O.: Drop to the absolute lowest level of propagandist distortion.

"This is your M.O. Whether its residential preferences, the 7-10 trillion in preboomer to boomer inheritence, taxi driver discriminations, juror misremembering etc when have you ever read the actual reports and studies themselves? You consistently misstate and mischaracterize the evidence because of your ideological commitments."

Yes, in all of them, I have. It's not 7-10 trillion, it's $1 trillion. I've shown you the links to the studies themselves many a time, as well as to Bryan above

Have YOU ever read the studies and reports that indicate the depth and salience of white privilege? It seems you haven't have, due to your "ideological commitments".

"On the contrary, I have said that I think there is a real issue here. It wasnt just "pointed out to me", I have argued that. But theres no basis for the non-existant phenomenon of "white privilege" though. Anti-black bias is anti-black bias. Not "white privilege"."

If you admit anti-black bias, you admit white privilege. It's game over at that point. Our very DEFINITION of the term is based in anti-black bias. Our contention is that not experiencing that bias is a privilege. You may disagree, but you've never offered any sensible alternative or counter-definition. In any respect, it's absurd to deny that if some are treated better than others, that's privilege or advantage.

"10 or fewer cases? They put that asterisk there for a reason."

No, they didn't. They put that asterix there on the OTHER RACES column. Not for the white, black and Hispanic sections. Look at the asterixes for the 50-59 row under age under many columns. It clearly applies ONLY to that row and column. You're either misreading the chart badly or being intentionally deceptive.

"Thats not what the study showed. Anymore than that hispanics "really" are nearly 4x as likely to have been found with contraband.

Advocates can certianly select data, but they should be honest about the data. If you are going to tell me that at least some hispanic students, upon being told the numbers in a similar class would not say, "I dont believe that", than you are kidding yourself".

Maybe they wouldn't. They would think, "That doesn't make sense, I don't think Hispanics are treated that much better than blacks". But that's NOT the same, since that reaction would have to do with their estimate based on their own personal experience, rather than denying the lived experience of a whole group based on almost nothing. In any respect, based on my very experiences with Latina/o students, I suspect that most once the citation was offered would back off, and would certainly not say that we should hide racism from black folks. Cherry-picking your points, indeed.

"Those arent samples, thats an estimated number FROM the sample. Not having the asterisk means that it was based on more than 10 samples. But the "evidence found" was based on 10 or less for blacks, hispanics and Other race."

No, it's not. See above.