Category Archives: Racism

The Cudgel of ‘White Privilege’

This was good, thoughtful. Yes, understanding racial issues takes a LOT of effort. For all races.
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BY Zachary Wood, WSJ 20180409

“White people need to be checked, Zach. End of discussion.”

I was talking with an Ivy League historian, a fellow African- American, about “white privilege.” I asked if his goal was to antagonize or to promote dialogue.

“Do you know who I am?” he demanded. “I’ve been helping black people longer than you’ve been alive. I’m telling you what I know: Lecturing these white kids is only the beginning.”

Is it really necessary to be so aggressive?

“Listen, I don’t give a damn. I’m not interested in negotiating with racists.”

I tried to close the conversation cordially, saying I’d have to reflect on the issue. But when I extended my hand, he looked at it, looked up at me, and then walked away.

Does white privilege exist? Sure. If you’re white and you excel at academic or other cognitively demanding endeavors, for example, the light of your success is never dimmed by speculation about whether you benefited from affirmative action.

White privilege has become the target of many initiatives in higher education. The goal, advocates say, is to fight racism and promote justice. Yet the practice often doesn’t seem constructive. In my college career, I’ve spoken to many peers and professors who insist adamantly that any conversation about race in America should begin and end with the accusation of white privilege. The aim seems to be to establish guilt, not build understanding.

As I see it, the main goal of discussing white privilege should be to promote a more complex and nuanced view of the world so that, for example, it would be difficult for one of my white peers to drive through the Washington neighborhood where I grew up and say: “What’s wrong with those people?” People of all races should aim to understand the range of attitudes and perspectives on race that make the issue a difficult one.

Often that’s not how activists approach it. “I’m not interested in talking to white people who aren’t woke,” one student told me. When I asked him to clarify, he said: “Ain’t no white person earning my trust unless they admit to being racist and apologize on behalf of their ancestors.”

Although I strongly disagree with this view, I have some sympathy for it. For many African-Americans, focusing on white privilege allows them to assuage a damaged self-image that is the legacy of centuries of racial subjugation. That feeling should be taken seriously, not dismissed.

But the way to bring people of different races and viewpoints to the table is not by belaboring the unconscionable demand that white people confess their guilt for social problems that no individual could have created. To build understanding around issues of race, we instead should try to engage others in good faith, especially when doing so can be difficult.

Mr. Wood, a senior at Williams College, is a former Robert L. Bartley Fellow at the Journal.

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Not a Victim Anymore?

“…Racism is as endemic to the human condition, just like stupidity is.”
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Shelby Steele, 1/12/2018 WSJ

The recent protests by black players in the National Football League were rather sad for their fruitlessness. They may point to the end of an era for black America, and for the country generally—an era in which protest has been the primary means of black advancement in American life.

There was a forced and unconvincing solemnity on the faces of these players as they refused to stand for the national anthem. They seemed more dutiful than passionate, as if they were mimicking the courage of earlier black athletes who had protested: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, fists in the air at the 1968 Olympics; Muhammad Ali, fearlessly raging against the Vietnam War; Jackie Robinson, defiantly running the bases in the face of racist taunts. The NFL protesters seemed to hope for a little ennoblement by association. And protest has long been an ennobling tradition in black American life. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the march on Selma, from lunch-counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides to the 1963 March on Washington, only protest could open the way to freedom and the acknowledgment of full humanity. So it was a high calling in black life. It required great sacrifice and entailed great risk. Martin Luther King Jr., the archetypal black protester, made his sacrifices, ennobled all of America, and was then shot dead.

For the NFL players there was no real sacrifice, no risk and no achievement. Still, in black America there remains a great reverence for protest. Through protest— especially in the 1950s and ’60s—we, as a people, touched greatness. Protest, not immigration, was our way into the American Dream. Freedom in this country had always been relative to race, and it was black protest that made freedom an absolute.

It is not surprising, then, that these black football players would don the mantle of protest. The surprise was that it didn’t work. They had misread the historic moment. They were not speaking truth to power. Rather, they were figures of pathos, mindlessly loyal to a black identity that had run its course.

What they missed is a simple truth that is both obvious and unutterable: The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people. It is as if freedom sneaked up and caught us by surprise.

Of course this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Racism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is. We will always have to be on guard against it. But now it is recognized as a scourge, as the crowning immorality of our age and our history.

Protest always tries to make a point. But what happens when that point already has been made—when, in this case, racism has become anathema and freedom has expanded?

What happened was that black America was confronted with a new problem: the shock of freedom. This is what replaced racism as our primary difficulty. Blacks had survived every form of human debasement with ingenuity, self-reliance, a deep and ironic humor, a capacity for self-reinvention and a heroic fortitude. But we had no experience of wide open freedom.

Watch out that you get what you ask for, the saying goes. Freedom came to blacks with an overlay of cruelty because it meant we had to look at ourselves without the excuse of oppression. Four centuries of dehumanization had left us underdeveloped in many ways, and within the world’s most highly developed society. When freedom expanded, we became more accountable for that underdevelopment. So freedom put blacks at risk of being judged inferior, the very libel that had always been used against us.

To hear, for example, that more than 4,000 people were shot in Chicago in 2016 embarrasses us because this level of largely black-on-black crime cannot be blamed simply on white racism.

We can say that past oppression left us unprepared for freedom. This is certainly true. But it is no consolation. Freedom is just freedom. It is a condition, not an agent of change. It does not develop or uplift those who win it. Freedom holds us accountable no matter the disadvantages we inherit from the past. The tragedy in Chicago— rightly or wrongly—reflects on black America.

That’s why, in the face of freedom’s unsparing judgmentalism, we reflexively claim that freedom is a lie. We conjure elaborate narratives that give white racism new life in the present: “systemic” and “structural” racism, racist “microaggressions,” “white privilege,” and so on. All these narratives insist that blacks are still victims of racism, and that freedom’s accountability is an injustice.

We end up giving victimization the charisma of black authenticity. Suffering, poverty and underdevelopment are the things that make you “truly black.” Success and achievement throw your authenticity into question.

The NFL protests were not really about injustice. Instead such protests are usually genuflections to today’s victim-focused black identity. Protest is the action arm of this identity. It is not seeking a new and better world; it merely wants documentation that the old racist world still exists. It wants an excuse.

For any formerly oppressed group, there will be an expectation that the past will somehow be an excuse for difficulties in the present. This is the expectation behind the NFL protests and the many protests of groups like Black Lives Matter. The near-hysteria around the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others is also a hunger for the excuse of racial victimization, a determination to keep it alive. To a degree, black America’s self-esteem is invested in the illusion that we live under a cloud of continuing injustice.

When you don’t know how to go forward, you never just sit there; you go backward into what you know, into what is familiar and comfortable and, most of all, exonerating. You rebuild in your own mind the oppression that is fading from the world. And you feel this abstract, fabricated oppression as if it were your personal truth, the truth around which your character is formed. Watching the antics of Black Lives Matter is like watching people literally aspiring to black victimization, longing for it as for a consummation.

But the NFL protests may be a harbinger of change. They elicited considerable resentment. There have been counterprotests. TV viewership has gone down. Ticket sales have dropped. What is remarkable about this response is that it may foretell a new fearlessness in white America—a new willingness in whites (and blacks outside the victim-focused identity) to say to blacks what they really think and feel, to judge blacks fairly by standards that are universal.

We blacks have lived in a bubble since the 1960s because whites have been deferential for fear of being seen as racist. The NFL protests reveal the fundamental obsolescence— for both blacks and whites—of a victim-focused approach to racial inequality. It causes whites to retreat into deference and blacks to become nothing more than victims. It makes engaging as human beings and as citizens impermissible, a betrayal of the sacred group identity. Black victimization is not much with us any more as a reality, but it remains all too powerful as a hegemony.

Mr. Steele, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Insti-tution, is author of “Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country” (Basic Books, 2015).

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Please, Don’t Confuse Me With Facts

I’m sure Bernie and Hillary will help get the facts out in the open soon.
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WSJ 2/12/2016
By Heather Mac Donald

A television ad for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign now airing in South Carolina shows the candidate declaring that “too many encounters with law enforcement end tragically.” She later adds: “We have to face up to the hard truth of injustice and systemic racism.”

Her Democratic presidential rival, Bernie Sanders, met with the Rev. Al Sharpton on Wednesday. Mr. Sanders then tweeted that “As President, let me be very clear that no one will fight harder to end racism and reform our broken criminal justice system than I will.” And he appeared on the TV talk show “The View” saying, “It is not acceptable to see unarmed people being shot by police officers.” Apparently the Black Lives Matter movement has convinced Democrats and progressives that there is an epidemic of racist white police officers killing young black men. Such rhetoric is going to heat up as Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders court minority voters before the Feb. 27 South Carolina primary.

But what if the Black Lives Matter movement is based on fiction? Not just the fictional account of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., but the utter misrepresentation of police shootings generally.

To judge from Black Lives Matter protesters and their media and political allies, you would think that killer cops pose the biggest threat to young black men today. But this perception, like almost everything else that many people think they know about fatal police shootings, is wrong.

The Washington Post has been gathering data on fatal police shootings over the past year and a half to correct acknowledged deficiencies in federal tallies. The emerging data should open many eyes.

For starters, fatal police shootings make up a much larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths than black homicide deaths. According to the Post database, in 2015 officers killed 662 whites and Hispanics, and 258 blacks. (The overwhelming majority of all those police-shooting victims were attacking the officer, often with a gun.) Using the 2014 homicide numbers as an approximation of 2015’s, those 662 white and Hispanic victims of police shootings would make up 12% of all white and Hispanic homicide deaths. That is three times the proportion of black deaths that result from police shootings.

The lower proportion of black deaths due to police shootings can be attributed to the lamentable black-on-black homicide rate. There were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014—the most recent year for which such data are available—compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.

Police officers—of all races—are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.

Some may find evidence of police bias in the fact that blacks make up 26% of the police-shooting victims, compared with their 13% representation in the national population. But as residents of poor black neighborhoods know too well, violent crimes are disproportionately committed by blacks. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks were charged with 62% of all robberies, 57% of murders and 45% of assaults in the 75 largest U.S. counties in 2009, though they made up roughly 15% of the population there.

Such a concentration of criminal violence in minority communities means that officers will be disproportionately confronting armed and often resisting suspects in those communities, raising officers’ own risk of using lethal force.

The Black Lives Matter movement claims that white officers are especially prone to shooting innocent blacks due to racial bias, but this too is a myth. A March 2015 Justice Department report on the Philadelphia Police Department found that black and Hispanic officers were much more likely than white officers to shoot blacks based on “threat misperception”—that is, the mistaken belief that a civilian is armed.

A 2015 study by University of Pennsylvania criminologist Greg Ridgeway, formerly acting director of the National Institute of Justice, found that, at a crime scene where gunfire is involved, black officers in the New York City Police Department were 3.3 times more likely to discharge their weapons than other officers at the scene.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been stunningly successful in changing the subject from the realities of violent crime. The world knows the name of Michael Brown but not Tyshawn Lee, a 9-year-old black child lured into an alley and killed by gang members in Chicago last fall. Tyshawn was one of dozens of black children gunned down in America last year. The Baltimore Sun reported on Jan. 1: “Blood was shed in Baltimore at an unprecedented pace in 2015, with mostly young, black men shot to death in a near-daily crush of violence.”

Those were black lives that mattered, and it is a scandal that outrage is heaped less on the dysfunctional culture that produces so many victims than on the police officers who try to protect them.

Ms. Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops,” forthcoming in July from Encounter Books.

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Closure in Ferguson

Well, well, well.
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March 5, 2015 6:47 p.m. ET

So maybe Ferguson was the wrong vignette after all, at least if the political goal was to indict modern America as irredeemably bigoted. After the protests about race and policing, and public disorder including riots in the St. Louis suburb, the Justice Department has now discredited the proximate cause.

On Wednesday Justice’s civil-rights shop published the findings of its investigation into the August shooting of black teenager Michael Brown. The 86-page report draws on the testimony of some 40 witnesses and essentially confirms Darren Wilson ’s account of the altercation, in which Brown attacked the officer after robbing a convenience store.

“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the report concludes. Perhaps someone will apologize for vilifying the Missouri grand jury and local prosecutor who declined to charge Mr. Wilson with the cold-blooded murder that liberals invoked even after the facts emerged.

Few organizations had more incentive to malign Mr. Wilson than Justice, which has helped galvanize the demonstrators and inflame racial tensions. Attorney General Eric Holder nonetheless said that “it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg”—given that the report also reveals some unacceptable behavior by the police, especially the pattern of harassment of minority residents.

Law enforcement is never above corruption, though cops also have to protect public safety in high-crime environments. The Ferguson department in particular seems to operate as an entrepreneurial venture, assigning officers “productivity” quotas and using tickets and other petty legal offenses to prop up the municipal budget.

Liberals might find more allies on the center-right if they challenged these and other systematic abuses of government power, rather than inflating a single tragic incident into a national allegory of racism.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/closure-in-ferguson-1425599225

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