Race & Ethnicity

Where Hating Liberals Leads

Case...um...closed?
The Trayvon Martin case is both an individual tragedy and a symbol of a larger problem, the way some people are treated as "suspicious," as George Zimmerman described Martin, and the myriad consequences that suspicion brings. Lots of conservatives don't really think that larger problem is much of a big deal, and apparently, the way they've decided to make that case is by focusing on this individual incident, namely by trying to convince everyone that Trayvon Martin was a no-good punk who had it coming. Dave Weigel informs us that the right-wing blogosphere is alight with pieces attacking the teenager, and "The Drudge Report has become a one-stop shop for Trayvon contrarianism," pushing one article after another about the alleged defects in Martin's character. The conservative web site The Daily Caller obtained and published Trayvon Martin's tweets, for the purpose of ... what, exactly? Showing that he was a teenager and capable of tweeting stupid stuff and therefore demonstrating that...

History Lessons

(Wikipedia)
It’s amazing to me that I would even have to point this out—it should be common knowledge—but one big reason for why the killing of Trayvon Martin has generated so much outrage among African Americans is that it evokes a long history of violence toward black males suspected of criminality. Isabelle Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns —a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the black migration to the North— details a little bit of this history in a column for CNN: No matter the state, the circumstances are eerily familiar: a slaying. Minimal police investigation. A suspect known to authorities. No arrest. Protests and outrage in a racially charged atmosphere. […] In 1920, a white mob burned down the black section of Ocoee, Florida, 30 miles west of Sanford, when two “colored” men tried to vote. The two black men were killed for having gone to the polls. The black people who survived the massacre fled. The town remained all-white for generations. Three years later, a white mob...

Today in Facts About Black People

(Amazon)
The National Review ’s Jonah Goldberg argues that there is a “black upper class bubble” that explains the focus on white racism as a source of ills in the black community: It seems plausible that at least some of these people are as removed from lower class black America as many white commentators are from lower class white America. In that context, I could see how the Trayvon Martin story would hit closer to home than the vastly more numerous tragedies involving black-on-black homicide. […] I also think it’s a lot easier for rich black liberals to have an “honest conversation” about white racism than it is for them to engage in an honest conversation about the other problems facing black America that have little to nothing to do with white racism. The funny thing about this argument is that it reveals the extent to which Goldberg himself isn’t very familiar with the lives of African Americans. Here’s the deal: one result of Jim Crow and its economic disenfranchisement is that the...

The Hoodie

(Flickr/Manic Street Preacher)
You may have already been outraged to hear that Geraldo is blaming the hoodie for Trayvon Martin’s death. Of course he’s wrong. Short skirts don’t rape women; men rape women. Hoodies don’t shoot Skittles-toting teenagers; overzealous neighborhood watch guys shoot teenagers. The blame lies squarely with the rapist or killer, not the victim. And it lies with the racism that keeps getting passed on through our culture, just below the radar. I am regularly appalled when, on family movie night, we watch some children’s movie that friends recommended—and realize that the only African Americans are the bad guys. It makes me sick to my stomach. That instills fear in too many brains and shame in my son’s heart , all about his skin. But watch Geraldo all the way through. He didn’t say that it’s right. He didn’t blame Trayvon Martin for his own death. He gives an impassioned diatribe about what he told his own son, whom he describes as darker-skinned: Do not go outside wearing hoodies. When you...

Geraldo: If You're Black and Wear a Hoodie, Expect to Get Shot

(Wikipedia)
One of the key aspects of rape culture is to place the blame for sexual assault on the women who are attacked, and not the actual rapists. Statements like “You shouldn’t have been wearing that,” and questions like “why were you walking alone,” are all variations on “you were asking for it.” If Geraldo Rivera is any indication , it seems that this logic also applies to violence against black boys: I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was. [Emphasis mine] On Twitter, he elaborated further, “Trayvon killed by a jerk w[ith] a gun but black & Latino parents have to drill into kids heads: a hoodie is like a sign: shoot or stop...

Walking While Black

AP File Photo
I’m sick to my stomach about the Trayvon Martin shooting that Jamelle Bouie mentioned here yesterday. Over the weekend, Charles Blow at The New York Times (once again, my favorite columnist) wrote : Trayvon had left the house he and his father were visiting to walk to the local 7-Eleven. On his way back, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, who was in a sport-utility vehicle. Zimmerman called the police because the boy looked “real suspicious,” according to a 911 call released late Friday. The operator told Zimmerman that officers were being dispatched and not to pursue the boy. Zimmerman apparently pursued him anyway, at some point getting out of his car and confronting the boy. Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman had a 9 millimeter handgun…. One other point: Trayvon is black. Zimmerman is not. Trayvon was buried on March 3. Zimmerman is still free and has not been arrested or charged with a crime…. As the...

George Zimmerman's Collaborators

Wikipedia
Particularly after Charles Blow devoted his column last week to the subject, the so-far unprosecuted shooting of Trayvon Martin has deservedly gotten a lot of attention. For good reason, much of this attention has focused on Florida's odious 2005 revisions to its law of self-defense. It was entirely predictable that changes to the law eliminating the duty to retreat and permitting the use of deadly force if an individual "reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony" would lead to situations such as the Martin shooting. That is, it was predictable that it would lead to a case in which someone would be getting off scot-free for shooting an unarmed teenager whose only crime appears to be "walking while being African-American in a white suburban neighborhood." Still, it is important to note that this is not quite a case where a bad statute has compelled a tragically...

"Stand Your Ground"

(Eric the Red/Creative Commons)
Like many people, I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin case with sadness and horror. If you’re not aware of the facts of the case, I recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blogging on the subject, as well as work from The Huffington Post and The New York Times . While the racial dimensions of the case—a young white man follows a “suspicious-looking” black teenager, confronts him, and kills him in “self-defense”—have garnered national attention, it's worth pointing out the extent to which Florida law has made this kind of vigilante action disturbingly common. Over the last five years, according to the Tampa Bay Times , the number of “justifiable homicides” in Florida has doubled from 40 to 50 at the beginning of the last decade, to upward of a hundred since 2007. The key fact in all of this—and the reason Martin’s shooter isn’t sitting in a jail cell—is Florida’s “stand your ground” legislation, which was signed by Governor Jeb Bush in 2005. The law gives citizens the right to use deadly force...

"Dumb and Obnoxious"

(keithpr/Flickr)
One thing that has gone unremarked upon in the continuing story of Latino disdain for the Republican Party—and its desperate attempt at damage control—is the degree to which Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court was a pivotal event for the GOP’s relationship to the Latino community. More than almost anything else, her nomination was defined by the viciousness of her opponents. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, for example, declared that she was unfit for the Court because of her service in an “extremist” organization, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a well-regarded nonprofit group. Former Bush advisor Karl Rove attacked her record and qualifications, while conservative writers like The National Review 's Mark Hemingway [see correction below] disparaged her as “dumb and obnoxious.” If you’ve forgotten—it’s been three years, after all—you can watch this clip from Media Matters for a taste of the abuse Sotomayor received from the Right: According to Glenn Beck...

When Race-Baiting Is Unintentional

(Pinti 1/Flickr)
Reporting from a campaign event in Rosemont, Illinois, Felicia Sonmez (of the Washington Post ) tweeted this odd attack from Mitt Romney on Obama’s private sector experience: “It’s hard to create a job if you never had one,” Romney says of Obama. There are a few things going on here, all of them wrong. First is the assumption, common in Romney’s rhetoric, that private sector experience is a necessary part of understanding job growth. But that’s not true at all. The tools and skills that make a successful businessperson are only somewhat related to the tools and skills that make a successful lawmaker or chief executive. Just because you’ve run a successful firm doesn’t mean that you’ll have a sound understanding of macroeconomic forces. To wit, the policy preferences of businesspeople during the recession—cut spending and lower the deficit—are the exact opposite of what the economy needs right now. Beyond the conceptual error, it’s also true that Romney is running with the lie that...

What About Black Republicans?

(North Charleston/Flickr)
Even though the vast majority of African American voters and lawmakers are Democrats, it may be black Republicans who have the best chance to reach the U.S. Senate or win governorships, at least in the near future. Unlike their counterparts on the other side of the aisle, black Republicans in Congress—few as they are—usually represent white districts for the simple reason that most African Americans vote Democratic. This has huge implications for the ability of black Republicans to advance up the political ladder. South Carolina’s Tim Scott, one of two African American Republicans in the House, is a prime example. A first-term congressman, Scott represents a mostly white district that stretches from Charleston to Myrtle Beach. As a Republican aligned with the Tea Party, he is in tune with his district and with the majority of South Carolinians, who elected a Tea Party governor in 2010 and revere Senator Jim DeMint. Scott’s district isn’t particularly affluent, but as an up-and-comer...

Interracial Marriage Is Still Controversial with Deep South Republicans

(Freedom To Marry/Flickr)
The thing to remember about the Republicans in Deep South states like Alabama and Mississippi is that they are mostly older, lily white, and very conservative. When you combine that with racial stratification and lingering resentment, it’s easy to see how 21 percent of Alabama Republicans and 29 percent of Mississippi Republicans would say that interracial marriage should be illegal, according to the latest poll from Public Policy Polling. Likewise, given the extent to which anti-Islam prejudice has made “Muslim” a stand-in for certain racial slurs, it’s not hard to see why 52 percent of Mississippi Republicans and 45 percent of Alabama Republicans would say that the president is a Muslim. In fairness to Republicans in both states, the GOP as a whole has a problem with correctly identifying Barack Obama’s place of birth. According to a January poll from YouGov, 37 percent of Republicans deny that Obama was born in the United States, while 35 percent aren’t sure: This comes after the...

The Race-Baiting Continues

(Still from video obtained by Buzzfeed.com)
I've been holding off on writing something about the bizarre spectacle of the Derrick Bell "exposé" that has consumed the nuttier corners of the right in the last couple of days, simply because it's so weird and pathetic that I wasn't sure exactly how to talk about it beyond simple ridicule. In case you missed it, here's the story, briefly: Just before he died, conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart said his web enterprises would soon release an explosive video that would transform the 2012 election by revealing Barack Obama's radical ties. The video turned out to be of something that was not only utterly unremarkable, but had been reported before. In 1991, when Obama was a student at Harvard Law School, the school was embroiled in a controversy over the under-representation of minorities on the faculty. Derrick Bell, the first black tenured professor at the school and a widely admired figure in legal circles, announced that he would take a leave until the school made efforts to...

Will Florida Bar Jewish Divorce?

(Flickr/walknboston)
Starting Wednesday, the Florida Senate can vote on a measure to ban Sharia law in the state. But in an unintended consequence, the measure would also ban traditional Orthodox Jewish divorces from being recognized. The bill, which has already been passed in the state House, bans "foreign law" in Florida family courts. According to The Florida Independent, the state representative pushing the measure has argued it's necessary to "stop the spread of Sharia law." There's no evidence of a spread. But among those who shmear, the bill also has some serious implications. Orthodox Jews rely on rabbinic "Beit Dins" to grant divorces, and under this measure, such divorce decrees would not be recognized. Ironically, while insulting Muslim Floridians, the bill would have a policy impact on the state's Jewish community. Both the regional Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have condemned the measure. The Senate panel considering the bill dealt the concerns of both...

Crazy Idea: Laws To Encourage Voting

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)
Voter ID laws have been all the rage around the country, with conservative lawmakers pushing to make it harder to vote, often by requiring some form of government-issued photo identification. The goal, at least according to rhetoric, is to keep the process safe from fraud—despite there being no real evidence of in-person voter fraud , the only kind such laws would actually prevent. In the meantime, states struggle with low-turnout rates and sometimes low registration rates. In Texas, which recently passed one of the more stringent ID requirements, residents vote at among the lowest rates in the country. All of which makes Connecticut's current voting debate somewhat shocking by comparison. The secretary of state has taken the lead in proposing measures to increase voter turnout by—get this— making it easier to vote. Two proposals make it easier to register by offering same-day registration for those who show up on Election Day and creating an online voter registration system so people...

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