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September 9, 2005

“There would be no Superdomes in their city”
Posted by Patrick at 01:54 PM * 294 comments

Via Atrios: Rogers Cadenhead sums up the tale of how police from New Orleans suburb Gretna, Lousiana used armed force to keep law-abiding Americans from walking out of New Orleans.

Here’s UPI:

“We shut down the bridge,” Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International, adding that his jurisdiction had been “a closed and secure location” since before the storm hit.

“All our people had evacuated and we locked the city down,” he said.

The bridge in question—the Crescent City Connection—is the major artery heading west out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River. […]

“If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged.”

Just to refresh your memory, here’s the pertinent bit from Larry Bradshaw and Lorry Beth Slonsky’s report (previously quoted in this Making Light post):

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Readers may judge for themselves where Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, ultimately belongs. What’s certain is that he was acting entirely as many of his constituents wanted him to act: keep the black people out, even if you have to shoot them.

Of course, perish forbid we should talk about race.

Comments on "There would be no Superdomes in their city":
#1 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:14 PM:

Readers may judge for themselves where Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, ultimately belongs.

I think the Ninth Circle was the place for traitors? Betrayal of an entire city should ensure a comfortable seat.

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:20 PM:

Call me kooky, but:

"Announcing the reshuffle, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff said Mr Brown would remain head of Fema"

--does not actually inspire confidence that intelligence and competence are bustin' out all over.

#4 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Patrick:

Call me kooky, but:

"Announcing the reshuffle, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff said Mr Brown would remain head of Fema"

--does not actually inspire confidence that intelligence and competence are bustin' out all over.

Agreed. And I'm peeved, because I'd gotten myself all excited--the headline I'd seen at comcast.net, while I was in the middle of something else I couldn't interrupt to actually read the article, read "FEMA chief removed." So, call me crazy, I thought he'd been, you know, removed.

I should have known better.

#5 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:44 PM:

They’re trying to make uprooting Brown so difficult and tiresome that we’ll be too bloody wiped to go digging after the rest.

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:47 PM:

The Gretna police had no legal right to do that. Is anyone looking into the possibility of prosecuting them?

#7 ::: Patrick Weekes ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:52 PM:

Followed your link to the "This isn't about racism post" and read the comments. Gd t s tht y'r nt jst rd nd brsv n yr wn blg. t's mr hnst tht wy.

I understand that you're angry and grieving, but you've been angry and grieving since November of last year, and if your first response to something you don't agree with is "I can't believe you actually think that. Will you listen to yourself?", you're making it harder to hold an intelligent discussion.

I like this blog, because I agree with most of your politics, but it's disappointing to see you act the way you do. Y'r prtt mch bll wh's clvr ngh t dsgs th prsnl ttcks y mk n ppl wh dsgr wth y, t lst t th pnt tht y cn dny hvng md thm, nd rgrdlss f yr pltcs, s sn s rd smthng wrttn wth tht tn, 'm lkng fr rsns t dsgr wth y.

Prhps shld jst d ths nw nd sv tm.

#8 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:52 PM:

Well, no, it's not an orgy of good management, but it's something. It's an official acknowledgement of incompetence (whether they'll acknowledge that it's an acknowledgement of incompetence is doubtful, but still).

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:55 PM:

Also, they should be universally mocked for being such complete dorkwads, cowards, and idiots. What kind of wankerly fantasies have they been cherishing all their post-pubescent lives, that they thought a bunch of needy and enfeebled refugees were going to take over their city? Did they imagine that they'd be completely unable to maintain order?

Publish every one of their names. Let this cowardice be the thing for which they'll forever be remembered.

#10 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:59 PM:

Not cowardice: evil.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:07 PM:

Robert West, it might or might not bother them to be identified as evil. Being evil has some macho ooomph to it. I expect it'll bother them to be remembered as miserable cowards who oppressed the poor, sick, needy, and helpless.

Patrick Weekes, if you already know that what you're planning to say is that offensive, consider not saying it.

#12 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:07 PM:

Also, they should be universally mocked....

Mocked? People who do this sort of thing should be hung.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:13 PM:

Mockery is within our power at this moment.

#14 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:14 PM:

OK, with a public confession settling any questions of urban legends and possibly overactive blogging, I am left with one question:

Where can I purchase a flogging?

Oh, actually, two questions.

What if my billing address isn't the same as my shipping address?

Maybe I'll just dig around until I find the home number of the Gretna police chief and mayor and publish them on a public website with a copy of said confession and a URL to the article containing the confession, as well as an excerpt of victims getting shots fired over their head, and a URL to that story as well.

#15 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:27 PM:

TNH: Also, they should be universally mocked....

Avery: Mocked? People who do this sort of thing should be hung.

THN: Mockery is within our power at this moment.

And - mockery can go on for a really, really long time...

Crazy(for those of the persuation that "hangin's too good fer 'em")Soph

#16 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:28 PM:

Oh, I'd also have to say I agree with Powell on this one, it isn't about race. If you're black, rich, republican, think abortion is murder, think the Bible should be taught in chemistry class, and think welfare is for commies, then not only would Bush send the marines to save you from the flood, but he might also nominate you to the supreme court.

I think Bush honestly believes he got to where he is because he worked hard and deserved it, not because his father was rich and former president. And by extension of that worldview, anyone should be able to be president, become millionaires, or at the very least save themselves from a hurricane.

Bush thinks these people deserved what they got, because Bush thinks he got what he deserved.

#17 ::: Jenny K ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:29 PM:

I'm sure you all will anyway, but everyone should make sure you read the article Patrick links to.

The police cheif knows what he did was beyond shitty because he tried to cover his ass by saying that they cared for the people who made it into Gretna before the bridge was closed down.

Only problem is they "took care" of them and got them out and to "higher and safer ground" by dumping them off at the juncture of the I-10 and Causeway Blvd. (also noted in the article) This was one of the many places where people were waiting for days for decent water, food, and transportation. The place where thousands at one point were gathered. The place that was so chaotic that rescue workers found six year old Deamonte Love caring for six other toddlers by himself.

How many of the 4,000 people the City of Gretna police "helped' were children?

People who were at this location talked about buses dropping people off, but no one picking people up to take them to water, food, and shelter. How many of these buses were from Gretna?

#18 ::: Jenny K ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:36 PM:

Greg: but, if you were "black rich, etc." would the police of the City of Gretna sent you packing or not?

This isn't just about Bush. This is about America as well.

#19 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:36 PM:

Not for the first time, Patrick Weekes lectures me: "[I]f your first response to something you don't agree with is 'I can't believe you actually think that. Will you listen to yourself?', you're making it harder to hold an intelligent discussion."

In fact, that wasn't my first response in the conversation in question, as you can easily see. Perhaps while you're lecturing me about being "rude," we could also talk about people who are casually untruthful.

You do seem to be persistently eager to take issue with my manner. Tell me, in your life experience, how has this sort of approach worked out for you?

#20 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:47 PM:

(By the way, my disagreement with Will Shetterly isn't over whether racism is somehow the core of all that ails us. I agree with a lot of what Will is trying to get at. I also think that trying to shoo away the matter of "race" with appeals to "larger" issues of class is, shall we say, less than productive, specifically given the particulars of American history over the past four hundred years. We have brains; we can discuss both, and we can even discuss how race and class become entangled with one another. I'm not appalled at Will for questioning liberal orthodoxy; I'm appalled at him for his anti-Enlightenment position that we somehow make the problem worse when we try to analyze and understand this particular aspect of it. I believe that knowing things is better than not knowing things.)

#21 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:51 PM:

New Orleans demographics 484,674 people, 67% black, 28% white.

Gretna deomgraphics 17,423 people, 35% black, 56% white,

I will apply Hanlon's razor here and guess that this could just as easily be explained by the fact that New Orleans has half a million people in its city limits, whereas Gretna has less than twenty-thousand. And these people simply freaked by the thought of an invasion. They probably had the entire police force up on the bridge.

I think its criminal what they did, but I think it could just as easily be explained by the fact that you're talking about small town knuckleheads running the police department, having no clue what to do about letting possibly tens of thousands of poeple walk through their one-stop-light town.

a town of 17,000 and you're talking about the great possibility that some "Barney Fife" type is running the police department. An idiot with a gun, but not neccesarily a racist idiot.

#22 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:53 PM:

I just left a comment on Will's blog, the core of which is that yes, racism is a tool of the ruling class, but if we stopped talking about race, that wouldn't make racism disappear: it would create a vacuum in which only racists talked about race. This would not be an improvement.

#23 ::: Ali ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:53 PM:

Have you guys seen the comments Colin Powell made about race and Katrina this morning?

from CNN.com:

[...] He said he did not think that race was a factor in the slow response, but that many of those unable to leave New Orleans in time were trapped by poverty which disproportionately affects blacks. [...]

"I don't think it's racism, I think it's economic," Powell said. "But poverty disproportionately affects African-Americans in this country. And it happened because they were poor."

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/09/katrina.powell.reut/index.html

Patrick, I don't think either you or Will are wrong. Racism is an issue in this country and poverty is an issue in this country. The way they link up is that in the Katrina fiasco, much of the population of New Orleans is poor and much of the poor in New Orleans is black. Those are facts.

What we need to address is not why did Bush ignore the blacks, but why did Bush ignore the poor (Will). Oh, and by the way, why is it that so many blacks are poor (Patrick)? And, finally, why did Bush ignore anyone, poor, black, Democratically-inclined or anything else being put forward as a reason for the lack of response. They're all Americans, he is charged with protecting Americans and he failed. We need to be talking about all of it.

Things like racism and poverty are thrown into sharp relief in disaster because we have now seen what the consequences of ignoring poverty in this country are. And thanks to Katrina visuals we've been given of poor blacks slogging through polluted floodwater, it's hard to ignore the fact that race is a major factor in poverty--in New Orleans as well as in the rest of the country. Both of those hard questions need to be asked and it will suck if they get ignored in the face of the current problem.

And the current problem is failure. Bush or FEMA or Homeland Security or Congress failed in providing a way, regardless of race, wealth or political party, to get people to safety in the event of a real emergency. They failed, having acknowledged a problem in the levee system, to fix that system before the disaster occurred.

We do need to be talking about race and we do need to be talking about poverty and it is our duty as liberals to make people understand that poor isn't about collecting welfare, it's about not having a car to evacuate when you're told to and not wanting to evacuate because what if you could have saved your meager possessions and weren't there to do it. And race isn't about stealing jobs from white people via affirmative action, it's being predisposed to a life of poverty because you have fewer educational opportunities, no one in your family has ever made it out of the New Orleans slums and people being afraid to let you into their city because people of your skin color are being demonized as criminals.

This disaster has exposed the seedy underbelly of American society, but it has nothing to do with shooting at relief workers or looting. The toll of ignoring poverty and ignoring the role race plays in poverty in this country is American life, or more importantly, human life. Poverty kills, and not always in the ways people might expect. And it isn't fair or reasonable that anyone in a civilized society should be so poor that it kills them. I am not big enough to make sure that no one in this country is that poor, but the government is and should be and that, as far as I am concerned, is its primary function.

The rich and even the middle of us can and do take care of themselves. I learned this afternoon that a dear (yes, white) friend of mine lost her house on the Mississippi coast and I don't mean to diminish her loss in any way, but she is holed up in a hotel in Jackson and she has lawyer friends who will help her get her insurance settlement and yeah, this is awful, but she has options and help. I don't think too many black welfare moms have insurance settlements coming. Knowing her, my friend would say the same.

The most important lesson for me in this disaster has been that no matter how you look at it, the policies of this Administration through Iraq, through neglecting the infrastructure and through looting the social safety net and emergency programs in favor of their rich buddies, brought this result of Katrina on New Orleans. And that is frankly criminal.

I'm sorry this ended up being so long.

#24 ::: Patrick Weekes ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:07 PM:

Someone, I think it was Jed Hartman, said in a comment in an earlier thread that (pardon me if I'm misinterpreting you, Jed) it's possible that, while we may at some point know exactly what happened and what was said on that bridge, it's unlikely that we'll ever know exactly why events unfolded as they did, because people experience things in different ways. I agree with him more and more as I read more.

Larry Bradshaw and Lorry Beth Slonsky pretty clearly believed that the reason they weren't going to get across that bridge is that the police didn't want any poor black people coming into their neighborhood. If the police had flat-out said that, we'd have a slightly different situation. But what the police said was, according to Bradshaw and Slonsky, that there were no superdomes and that this place wasn't going to become another New Orleans.

I have no idea what the phrasing of the police officers was. I also have no familiarity with New Orleans beyond Julie Smith mysteries, so I can't say, based on reading that, whether "no superdomes, not another New Orleans" is code for "black people are stinking looters, and we're not letting them into our suburb". Commenting on the lack of superdomes sounds, at least on the surface, like somebody saying that they don't have any way to help the people who want to cross the bridge -- that there are no resources there for them. And commenting that this wasn't going to become another New Orleans sounds like what the police chief is quoted as saying -- that he was afraid that opening that bridge would lead to looting and pillaging.

Those of us following the links here feel fairly secure right now in our belief that those fears are, if not totally groundless, at the very least wildly inflated. Beyond the whole "white people find necessities, black people loot" issue, it's looking like there was a lot of misinformation crossing the airwaves for awhile.

Pretend that you're the chief of police in a suburb for New Orleans. You have, at least in what you have told the press, evacuated your suburb and locked it down. Now the big storm hit, and everything is going crazy. You're ordering your people around to try to keep order. You're probably not spending a lot of time Googling the news -- most likely, you're using a radio or, if they have power, a television to hear what the news reports are saying about the area. And those reports are saying that all the people who couldn't get out (well, at this point they're probably saying "chose not to leave", because that lie hadn't been sufficiently kicked down yet) are roving the city, looting and pillaging and committing violent acts.

We know now, as I said above, that those reports are, if not completely false, at least wildly inflated. We know now that most people didn't "choose not to leave the area" -- they couldn't leave the area, because the idiots in charge shut down the buses. We know now that the police guarding that bridge weren't stopping a gang of crazed looters from attacking anybody left in the suburb of Gretna, spreading their violence and chaos -- they were turning away a peaceful bunch of folks who were trying common-sense solutions and being slammed by bureaucracy at every turn.

I don't blame the guys on the bridge, at least not yet, not until we know more. I don't blame them any more than I blame the police officer who, upon direct orders from his captain, shoots a fleeing suspect that turns out to be the wrong person but the right color. I'm not sure whether I blame the police chief -- if he was playing golf and surfing the web, that's a different story from the harried, overworked, no-sleep-for-the-past-five-days image I'm imagining. I don't know what information this guy had. I don't know what reports he'd been hearing from sources we now know to be completely full of it. I don't know if the people trying to get across that bridge were singing "We Shall Overcome" and holding hands or moving forward with an angry look that suggested that they were more than ready to turn from a crowd into a mob.

Whatever decisions were made, however sick and wrong they were, we shouldn't hit them with hindsight. The guys on the bridge and the chief of police are already going to be infamous -- at least, if there's any justice, they will. They're going to spend the rest of their lives trying to explain what they did to anyone who will listen, always hoping that the worm never turns and they never have to ask for help from someone who recognizes their faces. If there's a formal inquiry, conducted by a nonpartisan commission, into what information the police chief was acting on and how much of that decision was based on genuine fear due to incorrect information, as opposed to plain old racism and fear of letting the wrong kind of people into their neighborhood, I'll be satisfied. I'd like to believe that he was just acting on incorrect information, though I'd be surprised if it wasn't an ugly, murky combination of that information and built-in racism. If and when we learn that this police chief knew more than what Fox News was telling him and still kept these horrific orders in place, I will be first in line with the rope.

But for now, I believe that the people who need to be strung up are the ones who yelled "Fire!" in a crowded theater. The ones who shouted that the city had to be contained because the nonexistent crimes were happening. The ones who declared that anyone who didn't leave New Orleans was either too stupid to know what was good for them or too eager to get to looting and pillaging. The ones who tried to use spin to turn a bunch of sick, starving, dehydrated people into an enemy insurgency, because they quickly realized that they'd screwed the job up badly enough that the only possible way to recover was to make the victims look like people who deserved it.

I don't want this to be read as an attack on Bradshaw and Slonsky. Reading their story left me physically sick at the thought of what had happened and depressed at the thought that I'd remember what they wrote if anything ever happened in my neck of the woods -- that as inspiring as the story was from a perspective of what ordinary people can do when they band together, it hit every fear about the cold and uncaring government I'd ever had and told me that fear was reasonable, appropriate, and quite possibly not sufficient.

But I don't want to see the tools get blamed for what the hand. We may not know exactly what was going through the minds of those officers on that bridge, and we might never know. But we can probably find out why they were there in the first place, and who told who to give the order, and whose spin they chose to believe to justify themselves.

#25 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:08 PM:

For example:

from Bradshaw/Slonsky "Our Experience" Mon, Sep. 5th, 2005, 05:39 pm

(attempting to leave New Orleans on foot in the wake of hurricane Katrina.)

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass.

From Washington Times/UPI
"We shut down the bridge," Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International

The Gretna Police website is available here.

#26 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:11 PM:

Followed your link to the "This isn't about racism post" and read the comments.

Patrick Weekes: If we are not outraged now, when should we be? If we are not grieving now, then when? I too followed that link and read all the comments, and I saw a discussion -- filled with passion, yes, and bitterness, but that too is appropriate. People are dying. We should be angry.

#27 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:27 PM:

"If we are not outraged now, when should we be?"

Oooh! Oooh! I know!

After Bush's investigation delivers its findings. November, 2006 maybe.

At least, after FOX broadcasts its new reality show, "Escape from the Big Easy!", and COPS! very special "Black Tide: Defending Greta" episode.

#28 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:28 PM:

OK, I want to say something about race and class in the US that is maybe so obvious that people never say it, or something, which is that those poor black people in New Orleans are overwhelmingly the descendants of people kidnapped and enslaved and shafted ever since.

That race and class are tied the way they are in the US is one of the failures of Reconstruction.

The civil rights movement did a lot, but ever since there's been a whole lot of spin and telling people what to dream and damn few paths out of poverty that lead anywhere.

#29 ::: robert west ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:29 PM:

Teresa - you may be right that calling the people involved 'evil' might not faze them, and that calling them cowards is more likely to hurt them; calling them cowards may be more effective as a political tactic.

But that doesn't make turning refugees back at gunpoint any less evil.

#30 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:32 PM:

call them evil.
call them cowards.
call them anything you like.
Just call them.

operators standing by.

#31 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:46 PM:

I think the entire city of Greta, LA should be forfeit. Either grant the entire city to those who were trapped by the horrific actions of the duly sworn officers of the city, or simply burn it to the ground. Actually, justice demands a levee be breached, and thaty Greta, LA, be allowed to soak in it's foulness as long as the people of New Orleans were forced to, but then we'd have to build levees around Greta, LA first.

Instead, I'm pretty sure there will be promotions involved.

Most importantly, though: Does the city of Greta, LA, own a helicopter? If not, who flew that mission of destroying the refugee's homebuilt shelters on the Crescent City Connector? That person, and the person who ordered him, deserve the same fate.


#32 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 05:12 PM:

Unless you've got evidence that the Gretna sherriff let in poor white folks or even let in rich white folks but not rich black folks, there is no basis for a claim that this is about race.

#33 ::: shinypenny ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 05:14 PM:

But I don't want to see the tools get blamed for what the hand. We may not know exactly what was going through the minds of those officers on that bridge, and we might never know. But we can probably find out why they were there in the first place, and who told who to give the order, and whose spin they chose to believe to justify themselves.

Oh please, they're not "tools" they're human beings, just like those they've sworn to serve and protect as police officers. Treating them as though they're are incapable of moral reasoning (which branding them as mere "tools" does quite effectively) is the Eichmann defense. "Just following orders" is not an excuse for inhumanity on this level.

#34 ::: Patrick Weekes ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 05:48 PM:

Oh please, they're not "tools" they're human beings, just like those they've sworn to serve and protect as police officers. Treating them as though they're are incapable of moral reasoning (which branding them as mere "tools" does quite effectively) is the Eichmann defense. "Just following orders" is not an excuse for inhumanity on this level.

The problem I have with that argument is that we're assuming that they knew everything we know now.

I'm a cop, and I've been on duty in a massively stressful situation, and my commander says to me, "We've got a lot of looters out there, and there are some pretty horrific crimes being committed. There are relief efforts going on for the folks in the city -- the only people who you see running around in large groups are mobs looking at this as a chance to cause trouble." He then tells me that the news reports say that there are rapes and murders happening all over the place, and that people are trying to steal food from supply trucks to take it for themselves rather than letting it be split amongst the people at shelters. Hell, even at the shelters, people are coming in and abusing the people's trust with horrific crimes.

My commander puts me on that bridge and tells me that anybody I see is a looter, a violent criminal off his leash, and that it is absolutely vital to the safety of the people of Gretna that I hold that bridge. I'm told that all the relief effort those people need is getting into the city, and people are being evacuated just fine, and so nobody but nobody could have a good reason for going over this bridge on foot. The commander might well make a reference to my wife and kids, just to hammer home the fact that I've got to keep my town safe.

If I've been up without sleep and without the chance to watch anything but the news reports scrolling across the screen when I stop by the station to grab a bite of food between patrols, this might sound totally plausible to me.

The Nazi guards knew that people were being gassed, and they knew who the people who were being gassed were. They did it for a long period of time, and they got to see everything. These aren't Nazi guards. These are police officers acting on little sleep and even less information, doing what they were ordered to do.

At least, that's all we know right now. If we find out that they received overtly racist orders, and if we find out that they knew more about what was going on in New Orleans and just thought, "Hell, not our problem," that's a different story. I don't know that we've learned enough yet to know which scenario we're dealing with. If they looked the other way and let racism or classism keep those poor folks on the other side of that bridge, well, they ought to be branded. Not killed, not imprisoned, just branded with a very public sign that anyone will recognize, so that for the rest of their miserable lives, everyone they meet knows what kind of person they are.

(And maybe imprisoned, too. If they did do this, chances are that they're not people who are going to really be affected by shame.)

And to be clear, I'm just talking about the bridge. Stopping what you've been told is a violent mob trying to get across a bridge is a ton more defensible (if that is indeed what you were told) than sending a helicopter to destroy a community-made shelter and then confiscating their food supplies.

#35 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 06:05 PM:

Where can I purchase a flogging?

Mumbles: flogger, actually it's flogger.

And flogging's too good for them. Latrine-cleaning service at a shelter, that would be a lot better.

#36 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 06:10 PM:

"If I've been up without sleep and without the chance to watch anything but the news reports scrolling across the screen when I stop by the station to grab a bite of food between patrols, this might sound totally plausible to me."
especially when I see the kids and old people coming up that bridge. nothing says crazy rioters who will rape-kill my family with their looting powers to the blackth degree more than kids and old people.

#37 ::: Nancy Wallace ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 06:45 PM:

I'm torn between a sad amusement and head-banging frustration at the inability of even liberals to admit that race was a factor in this disaster. Look, guys: we're talking about Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama--the Deep South. The place you went when you were sold "down the river", and where people still don't want to talk about Emmett Till's murder. 40 years of the civil rights movement is not going to erase that legacy.

Yes, we don't know for sure if "the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city" or the comments from the residents of Baton Rouge that "we don't want our city to become another New Orleans" is code for "we don't want those rampaging niggers here". Hey--poll taxes weren't officially intended to keep blacks from voting, right? It just worked out that way.

I've noticed that the most of the other black folks I know simply shrugged at Kanye West's statements, and that we're not surprised in the least that the first images were of blacks "looting". It's not comfortable to think that racism still exists, but some of us don't have the luxury of pretending that it doesn't.

#38 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 07:55 PM:

especially when I see the kids and old people coming up that bridge

I think the fear of being overwhelmed by poor needy people goes pretty deep.

Then again, since so many conservatives feel so afraid of the poor, maybe they shouldn't try so hard to keep them that way.

#39 ::: will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 08:06 PM:

Hmm. Not sure where to continue this discussion. Ah, well. Since it's here, and so am I:

What Menolly asked.

Also, can anyone point to one example of white privilege in this? Because if it's racism, someone has to be treated better than someone else based on skin color. 85% of New Orleans' poor are black (if I remember correctly). Were the other 15% treated better? Were the Australian tourists?

I can point to white privilege in the 1960s. I've been looking for it now, but all I see is Bush's consistant pattern of incompetence and ignoring the poor.

Jo, Reconstruction's part of it. But this opens up a whole 'nother discussion of how you should handle a conquered people.

#40 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 08:26 PM:

On This American Life, on the radio at this moment in Chicago, Ira Glass is doing an hour of interviews with Katrina survivors. It will probably be available on streaming audio later on.

Glass's crew is talking to, among others, Lorry Beth Sklonsky and other ex-guests of the Hotel Monteleone.

#41 ::: Nancy Wallace ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 09:03 PM:

Will--there's this account from someone who was there. There was the fact that the first people to be evacuated from the Superdome were tourists who'd been staying at the Hyatt. One of the British tourists told the BBC that "There was a lot of heat from the people in there, people shouting racial abuse about us being white...The army warned us to keep our bags close to us and to grip them tight." I guess the army didn't care whether or not anyone else got their few things stolen.

Then there was the ad on the moveon.org boards, where people were offering housing to displaced people from NO: My husband and I are willing to house 1-3 caucasian people in our home in Prairieville, LA.

#42 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 09:21 PM:

The Gretna police had no legal right to do that. Is anyone looking into the possibility of prosecuting them?

I doubt it but maybe. They are certainly on the edge of criminal liability. Civil liability looks easier at first glance depending on the current law and whatever facts end up on the record.

Notice the deprivation of civil rights under color of law and the shots fired apparently by uniformed officers.

Assuming arguendo such an action lies the common significance of such civil rights actions is that attorney's fees and some expenses may be granted.

A first cut might be the old reliable:
United States Code
TITLE 42 - THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE
CHAPTER 21 - CIVIL RIGHTS Section 1985. Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights
(3) Depriving persons of rights or privileges
If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire or go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another, for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws; or for the purpose of preventing or hindering the constituted authorities of any State or Territory from giving or securing to all persons within such State or Territory the equal protection of the laws; or if two or more persons conspire to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, .... in any case of conspiracy set forth in this section, if one or more persons engaged therein do, or cause to be done, any act in furtherance of the object of such conspiracy, whereby another is injured in his person or property, or deprived of having and exercising any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States, the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of damages occasioned by such injury or deprivation, against any one or more of the conspirators.

Section 1986. Action for neglect to prevent

Every person who, having knowledge that any of the wrongs conspired to be done, and mentioned in section 1985 of this title, are about to be committed, and having power to prevent or aid in preventing the commission of the same, neglects or refuses so to do, if such wrongful act be committed, shall be liable to the party injured, or his legal representatives, for all damages caused by such wrongful act, which such person by reasonable diligence could have prevented; and such damages may be recovered in an action on the case; and any number of persons guilty of such wrongful neglect or refusal may be joined as defendants in the action; and if the death of any party be caused by any such wrongful act and neglect, the legal representatives of the deceased shall have such action therefor, and may recover not exceeding $5,000 damages therein, for the benefit of the widow of the deceased, if there be one, and if there be no widow, then for the benefit of the next of kin of the deceased. But no action under the provisions of this section shall be sustained which is not commenced within one year after the cause of action has accrued.

Section 1988. Proceedings in vindication of civil rights

......
(b) Attorney's fees
In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of sections 1981, 1981a, 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1986 of this title, title IX of Public Law 92-318 (20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.), the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.), the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq.), title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq.), or section 13981 of this title, the court,in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity such officer shall not be held liable for any costs, including attorney's fees, unless such action was clearly in excess of such officer's jurisdiction.
(c) Expert fees
In awarding an attorney's fee under subsection (b) of this section in any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of section 1981 or 1981a of this title, the court, in its discretion, may include expert fees as part of the attorney's fee.


#43 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 09:44 PM:

Teresa writes:

Mockery is within our power at this moment.

Artists might be able to do something with this. Or this.
Or this. Or the stirring statement here.

#44 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 10:19 PM:

Menolly: I don't care why they did it (I have my suspicions, but those are immaterial). I care what they did.

What they did was flat out immoral, and contrary to the mission statement of the Dept., as made by it's chief.

The City of Gretna Police Department's mission is to prevent crime and maintain order while affording dignity and respect to all individuals; to protect lives and property while safe guarding constitutional guarantees, committed to the delivery of police services in the most efficient, fairest, responsive and ethical manner possible to impartially enforce all laws and ordinances, while enhancing the quality of life for all citizens through new and innovative approaches to problem solving and crime prevention; with a sensitivity to the priorities and needs of the people; and to promote professionalism and pride among employees of the City of Gretna Police Department.

Chief Arthur S. Lawson, Jr.

Given: There was a declared state of emergency. The Governor had ordered the complete evacuation of the city. That road was one of the few available to such an evacuation.

It makes it (as far as I can see) not only immoral, but probably criminal to hinder such an evacuation.

What I want to do to him is worse than flogging.


#45 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 12:23 AM:

i took my 3 children back to see my father in Lexington KY in the summer of 2002, when he was dying of cancer. My parents live in a lovely subdivision of Lexington. We come from Seattle. At the end of the visit, the night before we were to leave, as we were driving away from my parent's house where we had been for most of the past 3 days, one of my kids asked me, "Mom, do any black people live in Lexington?"

My kids, living in Seattle, which has far fewer blacks percentage wise than Lexington, had seen not one black person the entire time we were there. I drove them to a couple of different areas after that, so they could see exactly how black people lived in Lexington Ky. The houses, and apartment buildings look a lot different from where my folks lived.

It's why I left KY in 1980 and never went back. Racism is everywhere in our country, but it is very, very much present in the South. Still.

#46 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 12:50 AM:

bryan: "especially when I see the kids and old people coming up that bridge. nothing says crazy rioters who will rape-kill my family with their looting powers to the blackth degree more than kids and old people."

bryan is my hero.

I'm going to assume my friend Will Shetterly is under the influence of some kind of bad prescription drug. Maybe like the time they gave me steroids to promote healing, and I threw a stapler at our then-art director. (Worse, our Sicilian then-art-director.) Otherwise I'll have to start entertaining unhappy thoughts about what it means when someone argues that the "Confederate" states had the "right" to secede, and then gets all enthusiastic about arguing that we ought not talk about "race." Those kind of unhappy thoughts, about someone I've regarded as a friend for nearly two decades, would really, really suck. As commenter Nancy Wallace observed in the comment section of Will's own weblog: "I didn't get run out of a shop in San Francisco because I looked like I was poor."

Maybe if Will can get it into his fucking plywood head that "talking about racism" doesn't mean some kind of moronic "everything is Whitey's fault" calculus, we can have a reasonable conversation. But I'm getting the sense that the moment for understanding has passed.

#47 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 12:56 AM:

Nancy, we're trying to draw conclusions from limited examples. What I need to conclude racism is an example of poor whites getting better treatment than poor blacks, or of rich whites getting better treatment than rich blacks. Otherwise, I can only conclude it's the old game of rich and poor.

The discussion seems to have moved back to my blog, so away I go now.

#48 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:06 AM:

Will, I've heard exactly those points explicated often enough by blacks I know. They have to live with it. Nobody has to prove anything to you. If you've missed that many basic facts about life in America ... well, that's interesting. But it's not everyone else's fault, nor their responsibility..

And I've gotta ask: how did you manage to miss that? You used to live in Minneapolis, for pete's sake.

#49 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:12 AM:

Patrick, were there white people on that bridge? What racial designation would you give to Larry Bradshaw and Lorry Beth Slonsky? Where did poor whites get better treatment than poor blacks, or where did rich blacks get worse treatment than rich whites? I keep asking for examples of racism, and I keep hearing you telling me it's clear that racism is at work in the Bush/Neocon/Republican agenda.

If you can't give me any examples, I'm content to agree to disagree on this one now.

And I was spat on, beaten, and called a nigger-lover by racists when I was a little kid. If it'll make you feel better, call me any kind of Dixie racist redneck you want.

#50 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:27 AM:

Taken to email. This is ugly.

#51 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:29 AM:

I've never denied that racism still exists in this country -- ALL of this country, not just the South. I'm not convinced it's any more prevalent in the South now than it is anywhere else, but that's a conversation for another time.

I'm not denying that the actions of the Gretna police were unconscionable.

What I have not yet seen, anywhere, from anyone, is a clear example of racism in the Katrina relief efforts. One example of poor whites getting better treatment than poor blacks, or rich whites getting better treatment than rich blacks.

From what I've read, the tourists from the Hyatt were evacuated first because the Hyatt sent those buses. They took care of their customers, then went back for more.

What I'm sick of is the pervasive "It the South, therefore it's all about race" attitude I keep encountering. It's just not so.

#52 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:38 AM:

The post-Katrina disaster seems to be making it pretty damn clear that race and class in America are like dogs in heat - you can separate 'em, but not for long.

#53 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:44 AM:

"What I'm sick of is the pervasive 'It's the South, therefore it's all about race' attitude I keep encountering. It's just not so."

No. It's the United States of America, therefore it's (to a certain extent, and ineluctably) "all about race."

It's all about class, too; and economic opportunism. But you know something? Racial fear, racial anxiety, racial angst, all there. Single Drop of Blood. Driving While Black. All the things that amount to "race".

The "South" gets some unjust snobbery from (e.g.) New Englanders whose ancestors benefitted as much from the triangle trade as any cotton broker. And yet, you know something? Not so many public markets in the flesh of human beings in Providence, Rhode Island. Tough about that. Deal.

(Signed, Great-to-the-somethingth grandfather fought for the Confederacy. I've dealt with this fact; you can too.)

#54 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 02:00 AM:

Teresa,

There's a curious sort of anti-racism that says if a person of the appropriate skin color says something, it must be true, unless that person votes for the wrong party. At least, I'm guilty of it. Give me Malcolm X over Condi Rice anyday. But give me the Malcolm X who was also El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, the Malcolm who said, "It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of Black against white, or as a purely American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter". Give me Bobby Seale, who said, "We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitative capitalism with black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism. We fight imperialism with proletarian internationalism." Give me the Martin Luther King who said, "...our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation. This means we must develop a world perspective."

Please note that I have never said racism does not exist. I have only said that in the handling of Katrina, Bush's administration's offenses are against all poor people. I don't like leaving anyone out.

The rich use racism to divide the races. When whites conclude that the problem with their society is blacks instead of rich people, the rich have succeeded. The same is true when blacks conclude the problem is whites, or Asians, or Jews. It doesn't matter what color you are. If you buy into racism, if you privilege racial division in anyway, you're looking in the wrong direction, while the folks who're looking at the green keep getting ahead.

Okay, now I'm going away.

#55 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 02:01 AM:

Cross-posted. It's Making Light. Of course I cross-posted. Going to read my email now.

#56 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 02:02 AM:

Actually, my great-great-grandfather fought for the Union -- in the 1st Alabama Cavalry. Helped with the Underground Railroad, too. Well, one of the great-greats, did, at any rate; I don't actually know anything about the other 7.

It's always been complex.

#57 ::: Nancy Wallace ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 02:07 AM:

Menolly said: What I'm sick of is the pervasive "It the South, therefore it's all about race" attitude I keep encountering. It's just not so.

As someone who was born and raised in Chicago and lived in the Boston area for 13 years, trust me: I don't think racism is endemic to the South. The main difference, again, is demographic: in the South, rural and urban, there are a lot of black people. In the North and West, most of the black people are in the cities. Race isn't a constant issue in places where 99% of the population looks the same.

In this case, too, we're talking about New Orleans--which not only gave us Mardi Gras, but also the quadroon balls. Race and racial issues thread through the fabric of the city itself. That's why the refusal to concede that race had any role in how this tragedy developed is so utterly mind-boggling to me. It's akin to a natural disaster happening in Belfast and people insisting that the fact that most people who were affected happened to be Catholic has nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

#58 ::: Nancy Wallace ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 02:18 AM:

When whites conclude that the problem with their society is blacks instead of rich people, the rich have succeeded.

*bangs head against wall*

Will, you keep talking like this hasn't happened already. For years, the Democratic party was the party of racists. The reason that's flip-flopped completely is because the Republican strategists were successful in convincing poor and middle-class whites that even though the GOP has traditionally been the big money party, they could look to the GOP to take their side against the Democrats who were forcing the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act down their throats.

What you seem to be suggesting is to pretend like that hasn't happened, and it'll go away and the people who voted for Bush the First because they figured he could protect them from Willie Horton will suddenly see the light and realize they've been conned. I find that unlikely in the extreme.

Racism is the elephant in the American living room. Ignoring it hasn't made it go away so far--why do you think it'll work now?

#59 ::: Martin ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 02:32 AM:

Sorry if this post is too long, but in all of this, I chose for some reason to state my reactions here:

As to "failure": here in Pensacola, FL, the National Guard, Red Cross and other relief organizations were here IMMEDIATELY after Hurricane Ivan, despite plenty of accessibility problems - the Guard patrolled the town, prevented looting, and so on - the areas near the barrier islands were like armed camps of all sorts of emergency workers and vehicles, within one day -

As to speculation re: power struggles between federal and state government contributing to the delays - really, Ya THINK?? gee, do they really play POLITICS with this sort of event???? Or is it our imagination that federal response to four hurricanes won Florida and thus re-elected the President? It seems that the President and his BROTHER didn't have these problems...

As to "rebuilding": now everyone who thought New Orleans was so "cute" as a tourist destination, who knew NOTHING of its central significance in American cultural history, who knew NOTHING of the unique world of the Gulf Coast, with New Orleans at its heart, will weigh in on the "folly" of the city ever having been built and expanded there, as if the forces of 300 years of history were somehow subject to their appraisal - shut UP! For those who have the heart and mind to understand any of this, and support the beauty that was and will be the city of New Orleans, all gratitude is due. Please don't forget the rest of the Gulf Coast - news reports stating "the town of Gulfport was basically demolished" are still a little hard for me to absorb.

As to "race": come ON, everybody knows, it's a fact of life in this country; let's move on...

We who care (as is so evident in the heartfelt discussions here) are faced with an historically unique task, truly a brave new world, and THAT is what we should be discussing, with one exception: we DO need to take care of that motherfucker in Gretna! :)

#60 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 03:41 AM:

Nancy, Patrick, Teresa, I've got to bow out of this now. We have areas of agreement: Bush blew it badly, poor people got screwed, racism is wrong. That's enough for me to respect you, and I hope it's enough for you to respect me.

#61 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 08:46 AM:

"Please note that I have never said racism does not exist. I have only said that in the handling of Katrina, Bush's administration's offenses are against all poor people."

I note that if this were all Will had said on the subject, nobody would be arguing with him. (Or, at worst, we would be having a different and much milder argument.)

#62 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 08:54 AM:

"Actually, my great-great-grandfather fought for the Union--in the 1st Alabama Cavalry."

Indeed, there were Union army units from every Confederate state except South Carolina. There was a whole cluster of upland counties in Mississippi where pro-Federal sentiment was so strong that the area was known as the "Little Union." A large chunk of Tennessee would probably have broken off and stayed with the Union the way West Virginia did if it hadn't been geographically surrounded by pro-Confederate areas. And so forth.

Millions of southern white Americans had no particular stake in the plantation system. And many of them took a dim view of waking up one morning and discovering that they'd been hijacked out of the Union. The Civil War wasn't just "north versus south". This is well established.

#63 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 09:29 AM:

There was a wonderful photograph in the Montreal Gazette last Thursday, 1st September. I can't find it online. It showed two guys paddling a raft down a flooded street, together. One is white, bearded, shaggy, the other is black, wiry, older. They're clearly both people who Mrs Bush could describe as "underprivileged". They are both looking forward, towards the camera, the future. They don't exactly look hopeful, but they're clearly intending to keep going, past the drowning stoplight. My instant thought on seeing it was "Hucklebury Finn, 2005".

#64 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 09:32 AM:

Patrick: Agreed. Suggesting people not talk about race is different than saying that the Bush administrations' offenses were only against the poor and not against blacks.

I'd only mildly disagree with the later, as oppsed to my utter disgust at the former. Suggesting that race not be talked about is a vile suggestion.

#65 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 11:08 AM:

Quoth Nancy Wallace: Race isn't a constant issue in places where 99% of the population looks the same.

That's true, and issues of race take on a different tone in places like that.

Where I grew up, in quasi-urban Appalachia, I went to school with kids who would very seriously talk about how the distinction they drew between "black people" and "n____ers." These were not moonshine-swilling, cousin-fucking hillbillies; these were kids in the gifted program from nice comfortable middle-class families. (Whether or not they dropped into sotto voce to say "n____r" often depended on who they were talking to.) I'm sure they felt they were being very progressive in finding reasons to not be prejudiced against dark-skinned people who met certain criteria. And, yeah, this was a place where you could go a week and count the people of color you saw on the thumbs of one hand.

Those kids are in their thirties now. I wonder how many of them took the opportunity to examine their views, even after a whole bunch of middle-class black families moved in from DC to work at the Office of the Public Debt. I wonder how many of those kids are now managers or government workers, in charge of making decisions that affect the lives of many people.

I met my wife in the same town. At the time, I was living at home, making minimum wage at part-time jobs - not exactly a beacon of upward mobility. Her (comfortably middle-class, suburban) parents were never anything but kind and generous and welcoming to me. But I have to live with the horrible feeling of being glad I'm white, because if I wasn't, she'd be disinherited now.

I don't know if Dubya is personally a racist. I would not be surprised at all to learn that he - and many of the people running the show at the moment - felt that there were black people and then there were n____rs, and saw no contradiction in appointing the former to high offices while being perfectly happy kicking the latter to the national curb. And I find it very difficult to believe that it wouldn't make any difference whether a wealthy young man Jenna brought home was white or not.

#66 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:20 PM:

So many semi-coherent thoughts.

The rich folks I've seen being allowed to have their hired thugs run around with guns (while the law abiding citizens have been forced to turn their in... that bothers me) are all white.

The poor folks I see are almost all black.

The front pages of USA Today had a picture of a guy being asked (but not told) to leave his house. Other papers had pictures of blacks being forced to leave.

Is some of this class? Yes. I am sure there are (or were) well to do blacks in New Orleans. I don't, for some reason, see them in town right now, but I do see rich white folks being allowed to fly their helicopters in. Is is planned? No.

But as Steve Gilliard pointed out, one need not intend a racist policy to be so, for it to be so, if the effect is disproportionately on one race over another.

TK

#67 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:27 PM:

I woke up with a realization that may be helpful in understanding our different perspectives on this issue. I agree that there have been individual examples of racism in the Bush-Katrina aftermath, and I'm sorry that I haven't had the words to express that. What I've been trying to say is that I have not seen examples of institutionalized racism: Hyatt sent buses for all of its staff and clients, regardless of color. The sheriff turned back all of the folks on the bridge, regardless of color. The victims weren't just the 85% of the New Orleans poor population that is black. The administration also shafted the 15% of the New Orleans poor population that is not, and a lot of other folks besides.

I'm posting this message at “There would be no Superdomes in their city” and Please stop talking about race and Katrina. Out of consideration to Patrick and Teresa, I won't be discussing this further on Making Light. (Also, I'm terrible at multitasking, so it'll be a whole lot easier for me to discuss this in one place.)

Of possible relevance in this discussion: race and class in the USA and Humans are humans, or the three stages of activism in art and life.

#68 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 03:48 PM:

There is an undeniable undercurrent of racism in much rich-smash-poor class warfare, but that didn't help my only missing friend--poor and white, with bad feet to boot--from New Orleans.

That's not a conclusion, not even a data point, just an observation.

As always, Randy Newman has words of wisdom for us:

Back On My Feet Again

Doctor, let me tell you something about myself
I'm a college man and I'm very wealthy
I've got no time to trifle with trash like you
Cause I must be 'bout my business

My brother's a machinist in a textile mill
And he makes more money than you ever will
He just got married to a Polish girl
With a space between her teeth

My sister's a dancer up in Baltimore
At a small cafe on Main
But she ran off with a Negro from the Eastern Shore
Doctor, she didn't even know his name...

#69 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 03:55 PM:

As far as I am concerned, what the Gretna sheriffs saw coming toward them was a horde of black people. Remember, these folks had been living in unimaginable conditions for several days. The fact there were a couple of whites in the crowd, meant they were just like the blacks and deserved to be treated the same.

The following is an account (which I posted elsewhere on Making light but it fits in here as well) by an atty from the NE who was trying to take his son to Tulane for his freshman year. He was evicted from his hotel on Tuesday after a couple days of being unable to get out before or after Katrina hit. He took up w/ a group of people in the entrance to the mall next to the convention center. It's a long account, so I'm posting the address and then snipping a few paragraphs for the purposes of this thread:
attorney's account

"This is pretty much what happened to us as far as I can remember it. Some of it is probably off because we lost track of time and days and nights blended. I'm still feeling very angry and sad. Watching the news outrages me. I see "Dr. Phil' opining on why people didn't evacuate New Orleans. He says they didn't believe there would be a hurricane or they didn't want to leave, etc. Well, there was no way to leave. We had no way out. People with families and no resources had no way out. There were no buses coming for people or shelters to take people to. Just announcements to leave. So, naturally, the poorest, sickest, etc. were left behind. No one as far as I could see wanted to be there or elected to be there. No one really allowed them to get out!

Snip portion

So we all went up and put down our bags. Ernesto and I walked to the mall entrance but the doors were locked. We thought maybe moving into the mall might be better and safer. At the very corner of the front windows to the entrance to the mall, we found a window shattered on the bottom by the storm. I broke the rest of the window out so we could walk in. The mall was full of shops and food and drink kiosks. We showed it to the other people with us. Since it was hot inside the mall and the people were still afraid of getting in trouble for "trespassing," they elected to camp outside. We decided to stay all together as a group. Since we had no food or water and no way to get any, we went into the mall and began "looting," gathering food and water for our survival. At this point there was no communication with anyone. No one knew what was happening. There were no police. There was nothing other than news of terrible floods. Everyone was on their own. So now with some food and water we sat down to wait. The entrance to the Riverwalk had part of the roof still intact, so we were able to wait in the shade

SNIP

Some other tourists appeared and joined us. We took chairs and tables out of the mall. The police had "opened up" Footlocker and other stores, so there were shoes and clothes available for the taking. I wondered through looking for bedding and ways to set up camp. I took the covers off some kiosks to use as a bed. Bruni found some semi-cushioned furniture, and we took cushions. One day we found pillows in a store. Our group grew as new people came looking for ways to get out of the expected flooding. At some point, I started to walk back to our hotel to find out if we could stay there. On the way, I ran into an employee of the hotel and her family who had also been kicked out of the hotel. They came up and joined us as well.
snip

The first night we were about thirty up on the bridge. The next day some others arrived. I think the second day, Wednesday, might be when the Convention Center opened because one family decided to move down there. I think it was one of the families of the hotel employees. They had been enjoying the provisions of the mall with us. Once they moved down to the Convention Center, word spread and there was a steady stream of people coming up and sacking the mall. People came out with everything, as did we. More stores were broken into and people came out with bags and bags of goods. And it spread and spread. We went in systematically all day long taking out food and provisions.

During all of this, there are no police around. There are no authorities around. There is no food. There is no water. There is no information other than the hysteria and rumors from the radio. No one knows how long we'll be there. No one knows when the floods will reach us. The news indicates that the airport is under ten feet of water. That the main shelter, the Superdome, has lost part of its roof and is flooding. That there is killing and looting and who knows what else. Everything is rumor. No one knows anything. If you see cops, they are on their own. They are also homeless and if they talk to you it is to say you are on your own.
snip

By Wednesday, the streets are filled with people who are at the Convention Center. There are thousands of people in the streets. No one has food or water. It is hot and miserable. It was maybe Wednesday or Thursday that some people on the street are yelling about dead bodies and toss a body wrapped in a sheet on the side of the Convention Center just below us.

Snip
There is desperation all around. And anger. And violence.

Our group is about fifty. We are mostly tourists from the US, Australia, England, etc. There are also several families from New Orleans who were flooded out who have joined us. Two of the people are nurses. The bathrooms in the mall have overflowed. There has been no water since Tuesday night. Food is rotting. Everything smells, as do we. But we are organized. We have set up buckets behind broken pieces of zinc roofing as bathrooms. We have sodas and water stacked up in our kitchen. While there is still ice in the mall, we have some hams buried there. We have umbrellas and trash cans and trash bags. Even disposable gloves to help avoid disease. We also have dead bodies, dead rats, and shit and stink all around. And we have no idea how long we are here for.

Our group is mostly white and from Middle America. They decide that the Blacks (the Convention Center is 99% Black obviously) are planning to murder us to get attention and help. There is mass hysteria in the group and racism is rampant. People don't know where to flee. Rumors are everywhere about murder, rape, etc. There are shots during the night (Thursday? Friday?) At 2 am, there is a huge explosion across the river and a huge fire. Smoke pours in from fires in every direction. There is some nasty racism in our group. One day, when the hysteria is greatest, a Black man stands up and says -- why do you think these people want to kill you? They are surviving just the same as you. Struggling just the same. Just as desperate as you. They don't care anything about you. They are concentrating on surviving, etc. That calmed people a bit and made them feel particularly foolish. At the same time, more and more families from the Convention Center were moving up to the walkway with us. Our group grew to about 80. Each morning people began to bag the garbage. Others swept the walkway. Some set out breakfast for everybody. Two women who were home care workers for the elderly emptied and cleaned the shit buckets. A group would go into the mall and forage for provisions. Then we would sit all day and wait.

snip
Everybody was waiting for the promised buses to evacuate us. Every day there were rumors of buses. Every day we waited and watched. Nothing ever came. Every day there was more filth. More people fainting from dehydration. Children were getting sick. Disease was becoming a bigger worry.
snip

Our community on the walkway was interesting. One day a reporter came by and asked me if we had a "mayor." We didn't. Everyone worked. Everyone joined in. Everyone did the job that made them most comfortable. And everything functioned. And as people joined us, they automatically joined in the work. There were differences but everyone worked. When there was talk about leaving or looking for ways out, it was discussed collectively. There was always a sense of staying together and getting out as a group. There was also nastiness and racism and comments about "the people down there" in the Convention Center. We intervened with a lot with people in our group who were blaming all the "people down there" for the violence. We intervened when reporters started to come and were told that "the people down there" were looting and killing. We told them that they were doing just what we were doing -- doing what was necessary to survive in desperate circumstances.
snip

I don't know what else to say. We were anxious all the time. The nights were the worst. Partly because nights are generally more frightening. Also because there were often shots or explosions. There was always a surprise. And it was always bad news. It seemed like it would never get better. We just waited and scavenged. We worried that things would get more violent as they got more desperate. We also made incredible friends and saw amazing acts of kindness.

snip

It was Friday or Saturday that we heard the news that Bush was coming to view the disaster. That was when I first thought we would be getting out. I knew that New Orleans was another excellent political stage, a chance to improve his ratings, for Bush and that the president wasn't going to show up unless the troops were coming and the mess was going to be cleaned up. Here was a place where an appearance without an immediate success would be a political disaster. We looked down the next day at noon, and of course there were the troops. And a perimeter was set up. And piles of water and food were set up in the parking area. And that was the beginning of the evacuation. By the next day the buses arrived. I think we finally left round 4 pm on Saturday.

Once the troops arrived, the general anxiety level in our community went down. Now it was just a question of getting out. Fires were burning. When the wind shifted, it was hard to breathe, but we knew if no other disaster hit, we would get out soon. As always they told us the buses were coming. We didn't believe it for a minute. The National Guard told us we had to vacate the walkway and go down onto the street to await the buses. Of course we refused. We told them we had a community here that was self-sufficient. There was no need for us to be on the street and in the sun for nothing. That here we were supplying food, medical services, etc. to ourselves and to anyone who had a need. By this time we had about five or six elderly incapacitated people in our group. They had been left behind by a hospital when they evacuated. They were with a nurse who had been abandoned with them. We pointed out that our sick could not go down. We had another nurse in our group who was very well spoken and helped convince the National Guard that we had to stay for reasons of the health of the children and the elderly. So we stuck together and stayed on the walkway. No body left until we finally saw the buses and were assured that everyone would get out. And then we marched out together as a group with much of the group still intact.

In convincing the National Guard to let us stay, one of the more hateful and delusional of our group argued to the Guard that we should be left on the walkway because of "racial tensions." This was the same woman who had been telling everyone who would listen that the Blacks would slaughter us to gain media attention so they would be evacuated. Anyway between all the arguments we were allowed to stay. And it also resulted in one of the most shameful moments of our stay. When the meals were distributed in the parking lot, several distribution lines were formed. We were given a separate line. Our line was escorted to and from the food by Guardsmen. No one from our group was ever able to walk alone. As always, it is the racist hysterical argument that prevails. It was better not to get food than to pass through that disgrace.

snip

And it is no wonder when all the papers write and all the news reports is looting and violence -- as if there was no need or reason to "loot." Sure, there were some violent people there. There are everywhere. But this handful gets turned into "those people." And everyone gets branded. So no compassion is needed for the poor. After all, they brought it on themselves. They wouldn't let the government help even though the government tried so hard. And that becomes what this country believes. And then of course the government can "morally" do nothing for the poor -- which is what it intended in the first place
_______________

Read the whole thing. Read it twice. Then email it to your friends.



#70 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 04:03 PM:

Didn't that negro later on wash his face and hands and reveal that in fact he was a millionaire?

The irony has layers.

#71 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 04:21 PM:

bryan,

Yes, but I'm not sure the makeup is metaphorical.

#72 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 05:00 PM:

no, I don't think that it was metaphorical. I think the irony was in the statement "Girl, I ain't a negro, I'm a millionaire.."
As in that the second was the opposite of the first.

#73 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 05:01 PM:

of course one should note the song was sung in the persona of an inmate of an insane asylum of some sort.

#74 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 06:37 PM:

Dan, you left out one of the mantras of that mindset: "Not all n----rs are black."

#75 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 09:20 PM:

I think a problem with talking about racism in the US is that people tend to want to think of it as something particular and peculiar (echoes, of course of the "peculiar institution" which slavery was frequently called for some reason by its supporters). We want to identify some people as racists and blame them for racism, and exonerate the rest of us. Or -- we want to broaden the term to include all kinds of prejudice and bigotry, which trivializes and blunts the word all out of meaning.

But racism isn't a characteristic of some mean people, nor is it synoymous with all bigotry. It's the pervasive condition of a racist society -- which is to say a society which has at its core a definition of race -- a concept which has no meaning outside of this social history -- and a set of historical relationships based on this definition, and a set of historical events which are caused by and also cause that definition and those relationships.

It does not exonerate anybody to understand the pervasiveness of racism, the intricate and inextricable part it plays in every basic thing about the US.

What I wish was more widely understood is that racism isn't about skin color. Skin color is the tag that is used most often in the US to identify who belongs to the caste. But it isn't always. You get people quibbling about race membership -- because the stakes are high and the terms of membership mean nothing but what we say they do.

So, I mean, arguing that Gretna and other incidents aren't about racism is wishful thinking (though I have no idea what would be gained if we could manage to talk our way around to calling it something else).

I do disagree with WIll, but I am still grateful for Dogland.

#76 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 10:09 PM:

He said, "Girl, I am a zombie, not a metaphor,
As you can plainly see
So many readers were after my meaning
But I'm proud to say you were only after me."

#77 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 12:43 AM:

Lucy: the "peculiar institution" which slavery was frequently called for some reason by its supporters

A change in meaning; cf "awful" and "pompous", which a Poul Anderson story attributes to Charles II's praise of St. Paul's. At the time, it meant "specific to us" rather than "strange".

#78 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 01:11 AM:

CHip: "peculiar" was already shifting, because there are contemporary writers who would say "the peculiar institution is peculiar indeed." (inexact quote and I can't cite now, but I do think I just ran into it in Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit last month)

#79 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 01:48 AM:

The EMT's story has made it to the NYTimes:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/national/nationalspecial/10emt.html

#80 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 02:20 AM:

Quoth OG: Dan, you left out one of the mantras of that mindset: "Not all n----rs are black."

Ah, yes. Thank you. That was almost always a corollary of that theorem.

I'm left with the feeling that, as dreadful as hatred always is, the mental gymnastics it inspires are truly breathtaking.

#81 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 04:01 AM:

I think I see Lucy's point, but I don't see how talking about racism in the way I see it done does anything besides perpetuate it. If we want the artificial construct that is race to go away, why do we keep dwelling on it, and dwelling on other people dwelling on it?

#82 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 08:16 AM:

Avram,

Thank you for making me laugh! Laughs have been few and far between lately.

#83 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 11:57 AM:

"As always, it is the racist hysterical argument that prevails."

I'd just like to tweak that a bit to this:

"As always, it is the hysterical argument that prevails."

Arguments that successfully engage a person's fear and hysteria will replace arguments that require reason and compassion.

So, given that fear has replaced compassion for some, will telling the people who are afraid that they're racists actually do any fucking good?

History says "no".

The corollary to the above would seem to be

"Arguments that successfully engage a person's reason and compassion can replace arguments based on fear and hysteria."

The key point is the word "engage". Calling someone a racist mother fucker may be 100 percent factually correct but won't help a damn bit. The black man who stood up and said "why are you so afraid? We're trying to survive the same as you" actually engages a person's compassion and reason. If the same black man had stood up and called the woman a "racist bitch", it would only reinforce her fear and do nothing to solve anything.

That some individuals in this event were/are racists I do not doubt. That it was mainly a question of racism I do doubt. That saying it was racism will actually change a single fucking thing I highly doubt.

My opinion on the matter is far more pragmatic. If you want Bush to be held responsible for his incompetency for this catastrophe, egage voter's reason and compassion.

If it had been a terrorist bomb sitting on the levee, there would have been no warning and the military response would have been 4-5 days in coming, it would be unacceptable. Bush is the commander in chief and is ultimately responsible for the military. Whether people could evacuate beforehand, whether they SHOULD have evacuated beforhand, is irrelevant to whether or not the military response was grossly inadequate for a national catastrophe, is irrelevant to whether or not FEMA's response was grossly inadequate, is irrelevant to whether or not Gretna should have blocked the bridge.

You can cry "racism" and you may very well be right. But being right doesn't mean you will win the battle. That only happens in movies. In the real world, winning this battle means convincing the country to hold Bush et al accountable, which means engaging their reason and compassion.

Charges of "racism" won't do it. So whether or not this was racist is irrelevant to wehther or not calling it racism will actually see Bush et al directly blamed for this.

(A) Bush's military response was slow because the victims were black.

(B) Bush's military response was slow. If the same catastrophe happened to YOU, his response could be just as slow.

If you make the charge (A), then it polarizes and bifurcates the issue to listeners to the point where people who aren't black and aren't particularly righteous about racism won't give a damn.

If you make the charge (B), then Bush's incompetency suddenly becomes EVERYONE's problem, because if it had been a tsunami that hit Virginia or a massive earthquake that hit california or a volcano that exploded in oregon, the response from Bush is "too little too late".

#84 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 12:05 PM:

How about "Bush's response was slow because he's incompetent and has surrounded himself with other incompetents?"

#85 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 12:10 PM:

How about "Bush's response was slow because he's incompetent and has surrounded himself with other incompetents?"

Works for me.

#86 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 12:11 PM:

Menolly, if I have cancer, and I don't go to the doctor and have it looked at and analyzed and talked about, and have treatments prescribed, what happens to me?

If my society has racism, and it's harming people every day -- causing injustice, injury, poverty, death, and general nastiness -- and we don't talk about it, look at it, analyze it, and discus how to make it go away, what happens to my people?

#87 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 12:57 PM:

"incompetent" is good for me.

#88 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 02:13 PM:

Menolly, how exactly does talking about racism perpetuate it? Seriously, how does any of the conversation going on in this thread perpetuate racism?

That incident on the bridge, the one described up top, that happened before this thread started. It didn't need us to talk about it to happen.

#89 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 02:19 PM:

Dang good "This American Life" this week. It included a long interview with Bradshaw and Slansky.

There's a Micheal Moore film there, one that would embarass and infuriate the bigots and buck passers. He just needs to get a sympathetic-seeming operative to interview the Greta cops before they change their story.

#90 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 04:42 PM:

Without a concept of race, there is no racism.
The concept of race -- unlike cancer -- is an artificial construct.
Talking about that concept perpetuates it.

#91 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 05:06 PM:

You have the causation inside out, Menolly. Unspoken privileged bigotry supports unequal institutions -- if we don't talk about it, we don't develop ways to resist it, to disarm it, to educate people out of it. Racist institutions depend on ignorance and obliviousness.

If we followed your advice, there would still be only white children in advertisements: there would still be Jim Crow laws (and not just in the South): there would be a fraction of the black and Hispanic students in the universities that there are now. We'd never have talked about the problems, and we'd never have come up with plans to combat them, and nothing would have changed.

(not that we have won this war: we have a long hard struggle ahead, and lots of talking to do)

#92 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 08:12 PM:

quoting from above

One day, when the hysteria is greatest, a Black man stands up and says -- why do you think these people want to kill you? They are surviving just the same as you. Struggling just the same. Just as desperate as you. They don't care anything about you. They are concentrating on surviving, etc. That calmed people a bit and made them feel particularly foolish.

this guy who spoke up somehow managed to difuse some racially chaged people without ever calling them racists, without ever saying their behaviour was racism. He never even uses the WORD "race", let alone "black" or "white" or anything else.

This goes back to the "Don't think of an elephant" thing about framing. People wrongly think that the "facts" will set others free, that if they just get the "truth" out, then that will fix the situation. That is so fucking wrong, that it ain't funny. The truth is this guy was talking to a racist white bitch who would have brought tea to a lynching in another setting. That's the truth. And telling her that wouldn't have done a goddamn thing. It probaly would have made it WORSE.

So, there's "talking about it" like "the truth" and it won't solve anything and it will likely make things worse. Seriously, if that black guy had gotten up and gotten in this woman's face and told her the truth, who seriously thinks that would have solved anything?

There is no point in "talking about it" in the sense of finding racism and labeling it and thinking some sort of fantasy thinking that that will simply make it go away.

The point is that the real world always wins out over language. The physical world is always more important than the words used. And if not calling a racist a racist means that real-world response to the next catastrophe will be BETTER, then shut up.

#93 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 10:58 PM:

Digby writes about post-Katrina conservative gasbags are using coded talking points:

On This Weak, George Will basically said that the problem in New Orleans is that blacks fuck too much. Or rather, the problem of the "underclass" can be traced to so many "out of wedlock births." I think it's pretty clear he wasn't suggesting that abortions be made available to poor women. (If Bill Clinton thought he neutralized that line with welfare reform, he was sadly mistaken.) As far as the right is concerned, it's all about that old racist boogeyman "dependency." Last night on the McLaughlin Group, Pat Buchanan was foaming at the mouth about "the welfare state." He was in his element, getting his "we're gonna take our cities block by block" Pitchfork Pat mojo back. These are code words. They aren't about class --- although they will certainly claim that's what they're talking about. These are code words for blacks.

#94 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 11:01 PM:

[Dern, messed up the i> tags; can you wipe out my last post and replace it with this?]

Digby writes about post-Katrina conservative gasbags using coded talking points:

On This Weak, George Will basically said that the problem in New Orleans is that blacks fuck too much. Or rather, the problem of the "underclass" can be traced to so many "out of wedlock births." I think it's pretty clear he wasn't suggesting that abortions be made available to poor women. (If Bill Clinton thought he neutralized that line with welfare reform, he was sadly mistaken.) As far as the right is concerned, it's all about that old racist boogeyman "dependency." Last night on the McLaughlin Group, Pat Buchanan was foaming at the mouth about "the welfare state." He was in his element, getting his "we're gonna take our cities block by block" Pitchfork Pat mojo back. These are code words. They aren't about class --- although they will certainly claim that's what they're talking about. These are code words for blacks.

#95 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 11:40 PM:

You know what word I want to crowd out of use? Underclass. Whenever someone speaks to you about underclass, respond with truer words: "the poorest of the working class," "the very poor," "children," mothers," "old folks."

Greg -- as usual, you aren't talking about what I'm talking about, though you seem to think you are.

(personally, I'm starting to feel about the word "framing" the way I feel about chakras, memes, auras, and that scientology thing -- clearing?)

#96 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 01:11 AM:

Greg, thanks for jogging my memory. The charge of racism is a conclusion that can be drawn once all the facts are put in front of the fact finder, for purposes of a trial. A good plaintiff's attorney will carefully build a case, event by event, brick by brick w/o offering any conclusions as to what was the cause of the behavior. He/she leaves it up to the finder of fact, whether judge or jury, to make the conclusion.

In the abbreviated way in which we communicate on the internet, it is easy to jump to conclusions before analyzing all the facts. However, I would submit that there have been enough facts provided to us via the media, if not simply here, to make a conclusion as to what motivated the behavior that herded the residents of New Orleans to the Superdome and Convention Center, failed to bring them water and food, locked them in at night w/ no power, and then barred them from walking out of the city under their own power when the promised transportation failed to show. I would submit that the hysterical reports of looting, raping, gunplay, that were not substantiated were also generated by motivations and fears that we can identify.

Mob behavior has been studied, but I wonder if the reaction to perceived mob behavior has been studied at all.

#97 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 01:46 AM:

So, after much thinking, I'm back. (I don't expect everyone to think I've been doing any thinking at all, of course, but I'm doing my best, honest.)

Part of the thinking resulted in this: Race is a meme. How do you end a meme?

Lucy, if you don't accept race, you can't have Jim Crow. The first step in Jim Crow is "Races are different." Why answer, "Yes, races are different, but everyone should be treated equally?" Why not say, "Race doesn't exist, so everyone should be treated equally"? Is your purpose to help all poor people that you think are black? Can you do that by also helping all poor people that you think are white, yellow, red, or brown? Then why not help all of them and ignore a discredited theory of human division?

And I have to confess, I've always liked "underclass," partly because it embraces everyone who's not in the overclass, and partly because it makes me think of Cordwainer Smith.

#98 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 02:29 AM:

I'm not saying we never should have talked about race. I'm not even saying we should never talk about racism in the 21st century. I'm saying most to the talk I hear does nothing more than perpetuate a useless paradigm.

I don't think I'm expressing myself clearly, and it's frustrating me. Will's meme post is in the same direction, though.

But if we had never had the concept of race, we would never have had the problems you claim we would still have if we didn't talk about race.

#99 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 02:31 AM:

No, Will, Jim Crow isn't based on the idea that "races are different:" it's based on the fact that the ruling class can define strata and use the divisions to create and enforce relationships to their own advantage. At the core, they don't care one way or another about the color of skin, the language or the religion or whatever tool they use to divide people and to define them all out of rights. The ideology of race is secondary to racism itself. -- I mean, racism isn't a reaction to a theory of race, a theory of race is constructed to support racism.

I don't say "races are different, but people should be treated equally." I do say race doesn't exist except as a social construct. But I do say that it must be talked about. It is foolishness to expect that pretending that the phenomenon doesn't exist will make it not exist. Let's be clear: the phenomenon I am talking about is not race, it's racism.

Overclass is a silly word too. Cordwainer Smith, to commit a heresy, is overrated.

His prose is overblown, and his stories say the opposite, often, of what they purport to say, and there's way too much ick in them. For my taste.

Not to deny there's wonderfulness in Cordwainer Smith. Just -- not as much as all that.

And one of the ick things about Cordwainer smith is the suggestion that the working class is, after all, a lowly bunch of critters raised up but incompletely by their masters who owe them more respect but only out of a sense of noblesse oblige. I'd like to take this moment to point out that the ick of Cordwainer Smith's stories is not in Chimera.

#100 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 03:16 AM:

Lucy, oh, man, I don't dare reread Cordwainer Smith. I loved him when I was at the golden age of science fiction.

I completely agree that "the ruling class can define strata and use the divisions to create and enforce relationships to their own advantage." But the only reason they can do that is because we let them. I don't want to say, "We're uniting while respecting the arbitrary divisions that have been forced on us." I want to say, "They tricked us for a few centuries, but we're one again."

I'm probably overstating this now, so I'll go get some sleep.

#101 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 03:17 AM:

Excellent critique of Cordwainer Smith, Lucy. I still love his writing, and that overblown prose is a feature as far as I'm concerned, but I have to agree with you on the social structure.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the powers-that-be seem much more into turning persons into under-persons than the other way round.

#102 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 03:57 AM:

Digby's take on the question of race

Just to add to the discussion.

#103 ::: marrije ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 05:44 AM:

I'm getting a little bit lost on what has and hasn't been posted here, so apologies if this isn't new: Rebecca Solnit has a lovely article on bad weather and good government in Harper's Magazine. It was written before Katrina, but the web edition has a long added paragraph on those events and Slonsky & Bradshaw.

#104 ::: Gladly ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:30 AM:

I was lucky enough to hear Lorry Beth Slonsky's account in her own voice this Sunday on This American Life (I'd link, but the real audio won't be available until next week). Lorry Beth mentioned specifically that her husband managed to get a colleague to call the sheriff and vouch for their status. Even then, the Gretna sheriff said only Larry Slonsky's immediate family would be permitted to cross with him--which should have meant just Lorry Beth. Instead, Larry claimed that the African-American men and women with him were his sister-in-law and her children.The young Puerto Rican man also traveling with him was his foster son. Lorry Beth's account is corroborated by an attorney who was traveling with the same group.

#105 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:20 AM:

"the talk I hear does nothing more than perpetuate a useless paradigm"

I'd agree with that, and go so far as to say that most of the talk is little more than useless finger-pointing which only makes matters worse.

#106 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:38 AM:

"Greg -- as usual, you aren't talking about what I'm talking about, though you seem to think you are."

I was responding to several people, including this piece from you "if we don't talk about it, we don't develop ways to resist it, to disarm it, to educate people out of it."

Calling the Katrina response racist is nothing but an exercise in language. It will accomplish nothing. It won't feed anyone. It won't evacuate anyone. It won't make any real world difference.

I quoted the black man who addressed the racist white bitch because HE DIDN"T TALK ABOUT RACISM. He didn't once talk about it, mention it, educate anyone about it. And yet HE WAS EFFECTIVE at making the situation BETTER.

If he had identified her behaviour as racism, resisted it, talked about it, what do you think would have happened? The racist white bitch would have stormed off in a huff and it would have only REINFORCED HER RACIST BELIEF.

There is an attitude that somehow someone's version of truth must be advertised, that things must be identified and labeled, that this version of truth must be made known, and that somehow everyone will then see how wrong they are. And it is nothing more than an exercise in language.

The black man talking to the racist white bitch didn't do any of that. He engaged people's humanity and compassion, he didn't go about educating everyone on racism and telling them how wrong that is. HE DEMONSTRATED HIS HUMANITY.

There is an attitude that somehow words are more important than physical reality. That someone's version of truth will change the world.

You will not change racism by identifying and labeling it, and talking about it. You will change it by demonstrating equality and humanity.

That man talking to the racist bitch did more to change racism by engaging his listener's compassion than an army of racist-hunters will ever do sticking their labels of "racism" on someone's behaviour.

And you can dismiss this with your label of "framing" and call it the same as whatever nonsense you wish to lump this in with, but this is nothing less than Ghandhi's advice:

"we must become the change we want to see"

Labeling racism isn't being the change. The black man engaging his listener's compassion and humanity is.


#107 ::: Gary A. Giddings ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 03:25 AM:

http://www.GretnaSucks.com

Chief Arthur S. Lawson, Jr.
alawson@gretnapolice.com
Gretna Police Department
City of Gretna, Louisiana
200 Fifth St.
Gretna, LA 70053
(504) 366-4374

Arthur S Lawson
20 Derbes Dr
Gretna, LA 70053-4942
504-368-3009

http://www.ArthurLawson.com

#108 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 10:58 AM:

Gretna Sucks

Well, the site overuses the word "racist" a bit, but maybe it will do some good anyway. If the police chief loses his job, then maybe the next time a disaster hits, small-town cops will think a little more before they enforce their own version of martial law.

Polls say that only 1 in 8 whites believe racism was the cause of the governments slow response. 6 out of 10 blacks believed racism was the cause for the slow response.

#109 ::: Carson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 03:49 PM:

I agree with Greg on the following points with some additions,

"You will not change racism by identifying and labeling it, and talking about it. You will change it by demonstrating equality and humanity."

I think this is true for dealing with people, institutions and law are completely different. I think this is why people have missed the lessons of dealing with racism effectively, they see laws, companies, institutions changed by bringing racism "to the light" and think that applies to people as well. But people don't change by being labeled, institutions do, people only change by having demonstrated to them the humanity of everyone involved and understanding to their own shame the error of their beliefs.

People avoid recognizing the error of their beliefs by adopting, good and bad versions of each race, but still don't accept that there is still a separation by race in that thought process. I was raised to be color-blind, but have over the years been forced to recognize color by those who live with it, being hispanic, african-american, middle-eastern, they weren't raised color-blind because it wasn't a luxury they could afford. How we can change the world is one mind, one life at a time, calling people racists doesn't change anything, it just makes everyone angry and ratchets up everyone's emotions creating more division. Recognizing humanity and inhumanity deals with the issue directly.

I have friends from Africa that just don't understand the race issue here. To them its about what tribe you're from, not your color, who your family is, not your color, its different but still just as divisive, it shows that people can dehumanize each other no matter where or how they want to draw the line.

"That man talking to the racist bitch did more to change racism by engaging his listener's compassion than an army of racist-hunters will ever do sticking their labels of "racism" on someone's behaviour."

And this kind of act will solve most racial issues in america, anti-semitism, black-white, mexican-american. If we can get the minority and the majority both to erase the line, we are all one group. If the majority tries to erase it and the minority draws the line deeper in the sand, the line will always stand. If the minority tries to erase it and the majority tries to keep the line but hide it in their institutions, that needs to be brought to light and changed.

my two cents,

The Chief of police from Gretna... well his act of inhumanity will live on, hopefully paying him in kind (jail and/or public dismemberment being preferable), and the fact that the Governor left him with that much control of the situation and all exit paths from New Orleans weren't controlled by National Guard is criminal. The fact that people are blaming Bush I find interesting, but not surprising, the fact that the Governor in many circles is getting a free pass, I'm finding shocking.

#110 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:45 PM:

Greg London:

I'm puzzled at how you can imagine that the man who directly addressed a woman's racist comments had not identified her behaviour as racism and was not challenging it, just because he didn't shout at her or use the word out loud?

Seems to me his entire response was a challenge to her racism. Challenge doesn't necessarily mean confrontation or aggression. "Why are you afraid of those people?" is as much of a challenge to racism as "You racist bitch". You seem to be saying that because he chose a productive weay to challenge it, he wasn't talking about it. Nonsense.

He wouldn't have said anything at all if he hadn't identified her reaction as racist. He wouldn't have spoken up if he didn't want to address the issue of racism.

#111 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:03 PM:

Greg London: And you can dismiss this with your label of "framing" and call it the same as whatever nonsense you wish to lump this in with, but this is nothing less than Ghandhi's advice:

"we must become the change we want to see"

Surely you have not forgotten that Gandhi also spoke at length about those changes? Nowhere did he suggest that we should not identify a situation that needs to change. I imagine he would not have suggested doing so by calling someone demonstrating the problem "bitch," though.

#112 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 06:08 PM:

The Gretna thing has finally turned up on CNN.

#113 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 03:29 AM:

"You seem to be saying that because he chose a productive weay to challenge it, he wasn't talking about it. Nonsense."

No, he wasn't "talking about racism". he never mentions the word. He never labels the woman at all.

"You have the causation inside out, Menolly. Unspoken privileged bigotry supports unequal institutions -- if we don't talk about it, we don't develop ways to resist it, to disarm it, to educate people out of it. Racist institutions depend on ignorance and obliviousness."

And you seem to think that racism must be "spoken about" to be cured. this simply is not true. "priveledged bigotry" is talking about racism by labeling racists and it will accomplish little or nothing in teh way of curing racism. "Racist institutions" is talking about racism and labeling organizations, and will also do little to change anything.

The woman in the story is literally talking racism, she's talking about "blacks" and "whites" and "us" versus "them". The black man didn't talk about racism. He didn't label her as 'priveledged bigotry'. he didn't identify her as a "racist institution". he actually demonstrated the thing he wanted: equality. Calling her a racist would only further the us-versus-them mentality, put the woman further on teh defensive, and made the situation worse.

You said "It is foolishness to expect that pretending that the phenomenon doesn't exist will make it not exist."

And that completely misses the point. This isn't saying "if we don't talk about it, then it will go away or won't exist". This is saying the problem of racism exists but that your labels such as "privileged bigotry" and "racist instituion" will do nothing ot fix the problem and can make matters worse.

If you want to fix the problem, be and speak the solution you want. If you want equality, then labeling someone a priveledged bigot isn't creating equality. Relate to the person as your equal, as human.

Saying the Katrina response was because the victims were black will do little to help the situation, will likely turn conservative and moderate whites against your cause and make matters worse.

appealing to the victims as equals, that this could have happened to anyone of us, anywhere, that Bush and company could have bungled this response anywhere will engage the idea of equality and humanity in the people you are trying to engage.

I'm not contesting that the problem or racism doesn't exist. I'm contesting that the way you're talking about it by labeling the problem rather than talking the solution can actually make matters worse.

If you disagree, then we'll just have to agree to disagree on this.

#114 ::: shinypenny ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 08:00 AM:

From the convention center:

A Jefferson Parish police deputy had appealed to SWAT team Capt. Jeff Winn for help in bringing out his wife and a female relative from the center. "He knew they were there and was hearing nightmarish stories," said Ganthier, who declined to identify the officer for security reasons.

Winn approved the mission.

When the SWAT team entered at 11 a.m., the Jefferson Parish officer called out his wife's name. She heard him, and along with the relative rushed to his side. The SWAT team put the women in the middle of the team, then backed out the door.

Once it became clear that the SWAT team had come with the single goal of rescuing two white women, anger exploded.

"Racists!" one man cried out.

"Some people were upset we weren't rescuing them," said Ganthier. "It's hard to leave people behind like that, but we were aiding an officer."

But this wasn't about race. Just helping a fellow police officer. *roll eyes*

#115 ::: Carson ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 08:54 AM:

I think you're illustrating the point.

"But this wasn't about race. Just helping a fellow police officer. *roll eyes*"

Ummm, you don't think that would have happened if the officer's family wasn't white? Before jumping to the conclusion of racism, you might try asking a black member of the SWAT team if they would have done the same for his family.

Maybe the SWAT team is all white, I don't know... then, I agree with you, but uninformed accusations, or in this case insinuations just fuels the fire. When you jump to the conclusion and label people's actions and you're wrong (and I'm not saying your wrong in this case, I don't think we can know with the information on hand) or just blatantly don't care about the truth of the matter, the next time people just hear noise. It become's an excuse for people to ignore racism and not fix it.

When you ask, how can the SWAT team mobilize to rescue two people from the convention center but can't use the same means to rescue a steady flow of families? What other rescue missions for officer's did they perform? Were any officer's families left behind? I think you will find the problem, and if its racism, you won't need to call it out, it will be readily apparent to everyone.

Notice those questions weren't asked by the Press in this article, its easier to just say racism was accused, and here was the response. Leaving everyone to fill in the blanks with their preconceived notions of what happened.

Carson

#116 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 09:50 AM:

Racism: the new mccarthyism?

Instead of seeing communists behind every shadow, we see racists behind every bad event.

#117 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Greg -- you're really not helping. Not at all. You know what you're doing, right? You're trivializing McCarthyism and racism with this stupid Marie Antoinette-like frothery. You can't fail to be aware of this. Can you?

There's a reason why there are people who get to feeling that racism is behind every setback, even when it's clear that other forces are at work: it's because, as I've been trying to say, racism is a pervasive condition and a founding principle of the society they live in and not the actions and attitudes of certain bad people. Their true, everyday experiences set them up to think that racism is the immediate cause of everything that happens to them, because it is the immediate and distal cause of so much that happens to them.

And if you look deeper into the situation in New Orleans, yes, racism lies at the root and pervades the structure and essence of the whole situation. Why are Louisiana's needs for environmental reconstruction so roundly ignored for years while, say, California can protect almost all of its coast? Why is New Orleans below sea level, protected only by unmaintained levees, ungraced by effective building codes, with no emergency management plan and apparatus in place, when, say, California, whose disasters occur at much greater intervals and are already less destructive, has building codes, emergency management plans and apparatus, and massive public education for the event? It's not because California is composed of smarter people. People are people. It's because Louisiana lives under the shadow of slavery and anti-reconstruction: its elite are parasites who place themselves above the community because they have that history behind them.

That's what racism is about: the history of slavery. I don't mean to say it is limited to or centered in the South, because the history of slavery affects our whole society in different ways (California, for example, while admitted as a free state, enacted as its very first state law the provision for keeping native Californians in two types of slavery, one of which did not even require the masters to feed and house the slaves).

If you want to play word games, get out the Scrabble board.

#118 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 11:23 AM:

...California can protect almost all of its coast?

It doesnn't hurt that most of the coast is fairly vertical. You should hear the screaming, though, when the Coastal Commission puts forth a ruling that the folks in Malibu don't like, such as that beaches are public beyond a certain point. (Some landowners actually brought in bulldozers to recontour the beaches to make the beach private around their property. Didn't go over really well.)

#119 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 11:38 AM:

Greg responds to Lenora thus:

"You seem to be saying that because he chose a productive weay to challenge it, he wasn't talking about it. Nonsense."

No, he wasn't "talking about racism". he never mentions the word. He never labels the woman at all.

The idea that one is not talking about racism if one does not utter the word "racism" is logically similar to--possibly equivalent to--the idea that if we stop talking about racism it will go away.

#120 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 11:49 AM:

And now that I've said that, I would agree that sometimes we on the left are sometimes too quick to see racism where it might, or might not, be the issue.

That's way better than being too slow, but we could still improve.

#121 ::: shinypenny ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 11:58 AM:

Ummm, you don't think that would have happened if the officer's family wasn't white?

Coming in with a swat team in full riot gear to remove two black women? Yes, I don't think it would have happened. From all of the reporting I've seen on this it seems plainly evident that a good portion of the shoddy and delayed policing in this whole debacle was due to white fear of large numbers of black people.

Being afraid to call this what it is, racism, seems a bit silly and willfully obtuse to me. It seems obvious that I'm not going to convince you though. Oh, and btw, "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" = Voldemort.

#122 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 01:52 PM:

"racism is a pervasive condition and a founding principle of the society they live in"

If that's your premise, then you will arrive at the conclusion you arrived.

The problem is that you have as your basic sense of truth that racism is a pervasive condition, so arguing about arguments and solutions are fairly pointless when your premise is so fundamentally different. I'd say your premise is outright false, but that will probably sound like frothery to you.

#123 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Greg London: The problem is that you have as your basic sense of truth that racism is a pervasive condition, so arguing about arguments and solutions are fairly pointless when your premise is so fundamentally different.

It sounds to me as if you've interpreted that statement to mean "racism is a pervasive condition and a founding principle of the society they live in, so it will always be that way and there's nothing you can do about it."

Whyever shouldn't you be able to discuss solutions, even starting from different premises, provided none of those premises is that there is no solution?

#124 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 08:27 PM:

Greg, I have an example for you from this week's local newspaper. There are malls in this area that are taking various steps to ban people under 18 on Friday & Saturday evenings unless accompanied by an adult. Guess what color most of the teenagers are. Guess what color the customers are who mall management says are being frightened away by the teenagers -- without any actual evidence of misconduct. You can claim that this isn't about race and racism; most of the rest of us will snicker. Arthur Miller used to say when asked about a legal position, "You can argue anything you want -- grass is blue, the Pope's a Jew -- but you're gonna lose."

Consider acknowledging that racism exists widely, and \showing/ it. There was a test about gender attitudes a couple of decades ago, in which people were asked to describe baby pictures after being told whether the baby was a boy or a girl; half of those identifications were deliberately wrong, and the descriptions tracked the identifications rather than the actual genders. Yes, people resist being told they're racist -- so show them where their unconscious attitudes mislead them. Ask them to evaluate Turnerized photographs; ask them about crime percentages. (The latter is likely to be about as far off as the wildly-inflated idea most Americans have about how much their government spends on foreign aid). Don't deny the reality, but find the subtler ways to show it (cf the polls at the Boston bicentennial exhibit, where answers to questions of the time were matched with profiles, yielding ~35% Tories among the current population).

#125 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 09:40 PM:

the polls at the Boston bicentennial exhibit, where answers to questions of the time were matched with profiles, yielding ~35% Tories among the current population

That was approximately the percentage that were Tories in the 18th century also, IIRC.

#126 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 12:46 AM:

The problem is that you have as your basic sense of truth that racism is a pervasive condition, so arguing about arguments and solutions are fairly pointless when your premise is so fundamentally different. I'd say your premise is outright false, but that will probably sound like frothery to you.

Greg:
Aconite thinks you're saying that you think I don't think there are solutions. I don't think that's what you're saying --I think you're saying that because I see the problem so very differently from you there's no way we can discuss solutions to it, and I hope to the true and loving dog that you're wrong about that too, because people are always going to see things differently and unless we talk about solutions we're well and truly sunk.

It's less frothery for you to say "your premise is outright false" -- though you are still wrong -- than it is to make trivial comparisons between real, important, lethal things. Racism is real: if you don't think it is, I can't imagine how you explain US history and current events. McCarthyism is a real phenomenon, which incidentally has had a real and substantive effect on my own childhood and later life, so I wouldn't dismiss it. But I'd never equate them: they are simply different types of historical phenomena, operating on a different scale.

For some reason you're very devoted to downgrading racism as a historical and current cause and effect, and you'll try one thing after another trying to make one stick. I question what purpose is served by that -- it only results in obfuscation, and I know you're very interested in not making that happen.

#127 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 12:58 AM:

from the Greenville, S.C. paper:

Greenville Tech official resigns over remark
Official twice used racial slur to refer to Katrina evacuees

Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - 4:34 pm


By Ben Szobody
STAFF WRITER
bszobody@greenvillenews.com


A Greenville Technical College official who twice referred to New Orleans evacuees in Greenville as "yard apes" has resigned, school officials said.

"She's not a member of this institution today," said president Tom Barton. "Too much damage had been done."

Renee Holcombe, formerly an associate vice president for student services with a staff of about 40, told employees in two separate briefings last week that the school's aid for the mostly black hurricane victims staying at the Palmetto Expo Center would include sending yellow buses to pick up the "yard apes," said Barton and senior vice president Ben Dillard.

Dillard said Wednesday that Holcombe was referring specifically to the children of evacuees, who were provided separate transportation.

Reached at her home this afternoon, Holcombe said she was "numb and shocked." She declined further comment. She submitted her resignation to Dillard and there was no financial settlement, Barton and Dillard said.

She had been employed at the college for 19 years, Dillard said.

"Renee believed in her own mind that the best thing for her and the institution was for her to separate from us," Dillard said.

#128 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 01:08 AM:

Chip, I don't know if your story is racism or not. I don't really care at this point. I never said that none of this was racist. I do know that I dispute Lucy's idea of racism as a "pervasive condition" that it "lies at the root", that "Louisiana lives under the shadow of slavery", and that "Louisana's elites are parasites".

And because I refuse to swallow the "It's all about racism and nothing else" pill whole and without question, I've been accused of spreading "stupid Marie Antoinette frothery".

People aren't replying to what I've said, they're replying to caricatures of things I've said as viewed through their own distorted lens.

Since most of what I say is getting distorted and misquoted or improperly paraphrased, since I'm spending more time saying "no, that's not what I said" than actually disuccing anything, and since I'm now getting insulted for what I consider healthy skepticism, I think this discussion has gone past its useful life expectancy for me.

#129 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 02:09 AM:

Greg -- speaking of distortion: I never said that racism was the only force in American society, only that it is a basic and pervasive one. And I specifically said that absent the specious comparison of McCarthyism and racism, what you're saying is not frothery, it's just wrong. And I get to say that: I get to say you're wrong, and you get to say I'm wrong (although in this case, you are wrong).

When you're ready to talk again, we can talk again, but recall that I will object to trivializing statements. And I will keep saying that real life is about substantive things, not wordplay.

#130 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 02:40 AM:

I will agree that Louisiana's elite class is parasitical. But I see that as a class issue, not a race issue, and I don't think it significantly different anywhere else -- it may be more evident in areas with a long history of corrupt politicking, but that's hardly unique to LA, either.

#131 ::: Carson ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 08:29 AM:

shinypenny,

I could easily be convinced it was racism, I'm not in anyway under the illusion, having a family that originates in that part of our country, that racism isn't pervasive in the institutions and people of New Orleans, on both sides. That being said, to call out an incident like the particular one you brought up as racism with just an insinuative *rolling of the eyes* just hurts the cause. There isn't enough information in the piece to call it racism. You can believe it is, from personal experience, and information you have at only your disposal, but the face value of what was reported is in no way conclusive and will only lead people away from your conclusions. It is quite possible they would have done the same for two black women, Police take care of there own. They have to, they rely on each other not to get shot in the back. Even if they have racial issues between each other, those issues have to take a backseat to taking care of each other in a crisis. That being said, when people are suffering and dying I don't think sending a SWAT team in to save two individuals shows anything other than the complete lack of respect for the people these officers are supposed to serve. Is that lack of respect racism? Maybe. Its definitely easier to ignore someone suffering if you can say to yourself "they're not like me" and that's where we have to combat the problem. There is conscious racism, dogma that's taught and passed-on this can be stamped out by bringing it to light, and then there is unconscious discrimination. The unconscious discrimination is the hard part. You can't call it out because people don't want to believe it and calling it out only makes them resist seeing it within themselves. You have to have show people how they're alike their common humanity and it will disappear on its own.

Older people suppressing teenagers and how they act at the mall is all about "they're not like me" in Chips case it is they are young, they are black. In other parts of America, its they are young, they wear leather and have mohawks. Either way its discrimination the difference is wearing leather and a mohawk is a choice. This kind of discrimination is a human condition, not a condition of America. Communication can solve this problem, accusations won't.

The institutionalized corruption in New Orleans has always been a joke in America, we shake our heads and internally are glad we don't live there, "But its a nice place to party!" This kind of debacle is what happens when political corruption, institutional corruption, classism and racism all converge. The Federal Government expects when they show up with resources that some kind of plan, some kind of order, some kind of reasonable response has taken place before they arrive. This was not the case in New Orleans. New Orleans and the State of Louisiana, decided that the poor in New Orleans weren't worth the effort of making a comprehensive plan to save their lives and most of the money that should of been spent on Emergency Planning I'm sure went straight into some politicos back pocket. This left the public servants (Fire and Police) to their own devices to provide help and services as best they could, and from what I understand their efforts in most cases were heroic. Unfortunately the areas with the largest concentration of people (Dome, Convention Center) got almost no help. Local officials didn't have the capacity to help that many people in a concentrated area and only planned for getting them there, hoping that the Feds would solve the problem before it got out of control. Was Mr Nagin's decision not to declare mandatory evacuation until 14(?) hours before and to leave the school buses in a below sea level parking lot, when they could have been used to evacuate the people of New Orleans racism, bad planning, or "not his fault, he's only a Mayor"

Carson

#132 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 09:06 AM:

I was over at The American Prospect today, and they have three articles up looking back at last year's "The Death of Environmentalism" article. Each of those three articles talks about approaches to environmentalism in ways that can be usefully applied to race.

1, 2, 3.

Unlike Greg, I think race and racism is at the bottom (not by itself) of what's wrong with America today. Like Greg, I think the established ways of talking about race aren't always the best.

(Yes, I know Greg goes further. This is as far as I'm willing to go with him just now.)

#133 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 09:49 AM:

On another web discussion site (one composed of Dorothy Dunnett readers from around the world, discussing current events), a member pointed to the books Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer as a good source that may explain the basic cultural differences in the early US.

From Amazon.com:

From Library Journal
This cultural history explains the European settlement of the United States as voluntary migrations from four English cultural centers. Families of zealous, literate Puritan yeomen and artisans from urbanized East Anglia established a religious community in Massachusetts (1629-40); royalist cavaliers headed by Sir William Berkeley and young, male indentured servants from the south and west of England built a highly stratified agrarian way of life in Virginia (1640-70); egalitarian Quakers of modest social standing from the North Midlands resettled in the Delaware Valley and promoted a social pluralism (1675-1715); and, in by far the largest migration (1717-75), poor borderland families of English, Scots, and Irish fled a violent environment to seek a better life in a similarly uncertain American backcountry. These four cultures, reflected in regional patterns of language, architecture, literacy, dress, sport, social structure, religious beliefs, and familial ways, persisted in the American settlements. The final chapter shows the siggnificance of these regional cultures for American history up to the present.

Insightful, fresh, interesting, and well-written, this synthesis of traditional and more current historical scholarship provides a model for interpretations of the American character. Subsequent volumes of this promised multivolume work will be eagerly awaited. Highly recommended for the general reader and the scholar.
- David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle


Book Description
This book is the first volume in a cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins.

From 1629 to 1775, North America was settled by four great waves of English-speaking immigrants. The first was an exodus of Puritans from the east of England to Massachusetts (1629-1640). The second was the movement of a Royalist elite and indentured servants from the south of England to Virginia (ca. 1649-75). The third was the "Friends' migration,"--the Quakers--from the North Midlands and Wales to the Delaware Valley (ca. 1675-1725). The fourth was a great flight from the borderlands of North Britain and northern Ireland to the American backcountry (ca. 1717-75).

These four groups differed in many ways--in religion, rank, generation and place of origin. They brought to America different folkways which became the basis of regional cultures in the United States. They spoke distinctive English dialects and built their houses in diverse ways. They had different ideas of family, marriage and gender; different practices of child-naming and child-raising; different attitudes toward sex, age and death; different rituals of worship and magic; different forms of work and play; different customs of food and dress; different traditions of education and literacy; different modes of settlement and association. They also had profoundly different ideas of comity, order, power and freedom which derived from British folk-traditions. Albion's Seed describes those differences in detail, and discusses the continuing importance of their transference to America.

Today most people in the United States (more than 80 percent) have no British ancestors at all. These many other groups, even while preserving their own ethnic cultures, have also assimilated regional folkways which were transplanted from Britain to America. In that sense, nearly all Americans today are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnic origins may be; but they are so in their different regional ways. The concluding section of Albion's Seed explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still control attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.

Albion's Seed also argues that the four British folkways created an expansive cultural pluralism that has proved to the more libertarian than any single culture alone could be. Together they became the determinants of a voluntary society in the United States.--

#134 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 10:10 AM:

"Greg -- speaking of distortion: I never said that racism was the only force in American society"

you said racism as a "pervasive condition" that it "lies at the root", that its a "founding principle", "the history of slavery affects our whole society in different ways"

I don't buy it. I don't buy the idea that racism and slavery affects our whole society. I think remains active in some people, but not the whole society. I don't buy the idea that racism and slavery is at the "root" of the problem, either. Other, simpler explanations do a better job of explaining what happened. Stupidity and selfishness being two examples. I don't buy the idea that racism and slavery is a "founding principle" of our society. Well, I buy that it is from a historical perspective, but I don't buy the suggestion that it has any "pervasive" or "underlying" prevalence today. Of all the civilizations that existed before the industrial revolution, a great many of them had slavery. By extension of your logic, this "founding priniciple" applies globally, and if so, then we're all doomed because we've all got slaveholding ancestors and we all come from slaveholding civilizations.

I see there's racism happening on planet earth today, and it's happening in the US, and in NOLA. But I don't see it as the "root" of the response to Katrina. I don't see it as the "underlying principle". I see bureaucratic indifference all the way up and down the chain of command. The black mayor bungled this as badly as our white president. The governor bungled this too. FEMA bungled it. But being stupid, ineffective, untrained, undecisive, doesn't mean it was caused by racism. Failing to take command of a situation must not have its root cause be racism. Being greedy, selfish, doesn't require racism. Cutting funds to government projects doesn't require racism.

I do not subscribe to your attitude that racism is underlying, pervasive, and a founding principle affecting our whole society.

#135 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 11:06 AM:

So here we have the basic disagreement between us, Greg. You think racism is a bad thing bad people do, and I think it is a condition of the society in which we live. By the way, when I say "US society," "America," and "our society," I mean: this is what I'm talking about now. I don't mean "the US is a bad place and other places are good places." I don't mean "racism is nonexistent in other places." I mean "what I'm talking about is my own place that I know and love, and whose problems are familiar to me and the topic of my conersation."

So: that's the core disagreement. I think that you're very wrong, and that your way of understanding what racism is leads people to do ineffectual things. I think that blaming a few bad people for things allows us to feel smug when we vote against them or criticize them, and steers us away from systemic solutions. I think that seeing racismn as consisting only of the racial slur, the isolated cross burning, lynching, or rape or false accusation of rape, doesn't allow us to deal with the persistance of poverty, the inequality of schools, the uneven distribution of services, the disproportionate arrests, charges, sentencing, and treatment behind bars. We're left to say "that judge is racist" or "that policeman is racist" but then not grapple with why the law is so much harsher for certain drug offenses than others, or why the funding structure for schools is such that schools in poor neighborhoods can't even have safe wiring and full sets of textbooks.

Oh -- look -- I went from race to class in one sentence. There's a reason. Racism is about caste. And caste is the melding of ethnicity and class, which is what we have.

#136 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 11:28 AM:

"I think that blaming a few bad people for things allows us to feel smug when we vote against them or criticize them, and steers us away from systemic solutions."

I believe in individual responsibility, holding someone to account for their individual actions.

When you say "systemic solutions", I think of the time I've wasted at various workplaces doing mandatory "training" on something like "sexual harrassment". And I think that sort of thing is a joke and makes everyone suffer due to the moronic actions of a few. Start holding individual harrassers to account for their actions (fire them because your company will get sued) and presto, no more rampant problem.

Hold the few moronic racicst to account for their actions. If you leave the rest of us out of your "systemic solution" about racism, then we won't be annoyed having to do 'training' on it, we won't be annoyed by the newspaper article that says how "systemic" the problem is. If it's systemic, then us readers are part ofthe problem, and if we know we're not, then we'll dismiss the entire article as broad brushstroke blame gaming.

If, on the other hand, you are being the cahnge you want, if you are bringing equality and justice to the party, then us readers can jump on board that. We can identify ourselves with what you're proposing. We can back it, support it. The nation can demand it be made so.

That'll be a whole lot more effective than a nation getting blamed and guilted into how terrible, systemic, rampant, pervasive, their underlying principles are.

#137 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 12:13 PM:

Greg: In other words, if you know you're a racist, you're curable. If you don't know you are, then what?

There is a systemic problem as well as an individual problem. There are large areas of the US where racism exists without being an open and visible problem; it's much more subtle than that. Areas where one or another ethnic group predominates and all others are 'outsiders' are a form of racism tolerated by almost everyone, whether or not it's right. 'Driving while black' is only partly a joke; it's a real problem (not confined to blacks either). Poor areas, which are frequently minority, will have fewer public services (and poorer quality) than richer areas. If that isn't systemic, then I don't understand systemic. I, as an individual, am limited in what I can do about these.

#138 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 01:08 PM:

Apparently the Gretna City Council is fully behind their police chief.
Gretna Council


Paul Ribaul, 37, a New Orleans TV-station engineer from Gretna, said New Orleans and the suburbs have a complicated relationship.

"We say we're from New Orleans, but we're a suburb," he said. "The reason we don't live there is we don't like the crime, the politics."

Ribaul was among Gretna residents who praised the decision to close the bridge. "It makes you feel safe to live in a city like that," he said.

#139 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 01:12 PM:

Holding the blatantly racist people responsible for their actions is ethically right and would improve our world. But it's not enough.

It wouldn't cure the pervasive not-always-conscious racism that, for one example, means that the identical resume is more likely to lead to an interview if the name at the top is perceived as white than if that name is perceived as black.

It wouldn't do enough for the victims of a lifetime of systemic racism, who are now being told, in effect, "we aren't going to discriminate any further. Sorry about the bad schools and the lack of medical care that have left you in poorer health and without the education and experience you need to get a good job. See you."

#140 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 01:24 PM:

another point about below the surface racism--this time an analysis of Bush's speech last night.

Bush's speech

#141 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 01:24 PM:

it doesn't matter if someone is a racist. so it doesn't matter if they're "curable". It isn't illegal to think racist thoughts. the mind police haven't outlawed that yet anyway.

If someone behaves in a racist way, you get them for that.

This isn't to say it will be easy. Getting a police officer for pulling someone over for 'driving while black' won't be easy. it will be a tough thing to prove. But that's what you go after. You go after individual behaviour.

If you're going to go after an entire country's thinking, then browbeating them won't do it any better than the mandatory sexual harassment training that was (un)popular a while back. The appeal to brow beating isn't because of its effectiveness, its because is easier than busting individuals based on their behaviour.

Someone tells an anecdotal story and black people are involved and the story-teller says "see, that is racism". No, that's the easy way out. It's a blanket judgement applied to vague details.

So, here's the deal as far as I see it with regard to "curable". You nail the individuals who show racist behaviour. You focus the accusations of wrong-doing on the wrong-doers. The general population shouldn't be getting accusations leveled at them for thinking the wrong thoughts or for some "systemic problem" that isn't their individual fault. You don't tell them how bad their civilization is, and brow beat them for not doing something about it.

For the general population, you be the change you want. You speak and generate teh attitudes you want to have occur, you advocate, you invite people to join you. You give people something to step up to. many people will step up to make things better if you invite them.

#142 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 01:31 PM:

Greg: You're still missing the point.

Individuals are part of the problem. Individuals are not the entire problem, they are only PART of the problem.

How do we fix the part that is not individuals? Because it's real, it's there (whether you see it or not), and saying there's no problem means it doesn't get looked at, it doesn't get fixed, and it stays a problem.

#143 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 01:42 PM:

Greg:

The whole reason that Sexual harrassment sensitivity training was such a bother and a failure was because it addressed only a sympttom of sexism, not the actual real problem.

So now you're advocating addressing only the symptoms of racism and not the underlying problem.

Well, it makes as much sense as saying someone isn't addressing racism when they're directly responding to a woman's racist remarks, just because they don't use the words "Race" or blacks", but only "Those people".

#144 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 01:56 PM:

No, I'm not missing the point. The part of the problem that is not the individuals demonstrating bad behaviour is ... individuals thinking bad thoughts.

Someone says the word "systemic" or other blanket-like vocabulary, and somehow they start relating to these individuals thinking bad thoughts as something other than individuals. and then they start suggesting solutions that would obviously never work on an individual who thinks "bad" thoughts, but somehow because it is a "systemic" problem, the "solution" will work.

It doesn't.

What actually changed the racist woman at the superdome? No one put her in racism awareness class. No one called her a racist. No one told her not to think her thoughts. Instead, a black man stood up and told her "we're in this the same as you".

That's what you do with the individuals thinking racist thoughts. That's what you do with a group of individuals thinking racist thoughts. Just because its suddenly a group of racists, just because your audience is a nation holding racists, doesn't mean the solutions for individuals should be thrown out in exchange for browbeating and guilt trips. It doesn't work on individuals, it doesn't work systemically.

#145 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 02:18 PM:

Lenora Rose: I don't know about you, but I don't see this as going anywhere; Greg hears the words but not the music, I think. Anyway, it doesn't appear to be in his vocabulary or something, and I don't feel like going all-caps at him.

#146 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 03:02 PM:

this "underlying problem" is simply another way of converting this into a blanket-like statement similar to calling it a "systemic" problem.

What exactly IS the underlying problem other than racist thinking? How do you propose changing someone's thinking? Would you approach any racist individual and tell them they're a racist and must change? It wouldn't do anything. Why would it do anything simply because instead of a single racist, you address a group of racists?

What does saying racism as a "pervasive condition" that it "lies at the root", that its a "founding principle", "the history of slavery affects our whole society in different ways" do to actually change a racist's thinking?

All I see it doing is laying blame.


#147 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 03:42 PM:

Greg: Sincerely recommended history book (recommended by me, by my mother, by others): Albion's Seed. Read about the attitudes of the people who began this country, particularly the southern part, and then you can tell me that there isn't institutional racism--but I probably won't believe you.

#148 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 03:49 PM:

Greg--

What does saying that racism is not a pervasive condition, or that the history of slavery does not affect our whole society, do to change a racist's thinking?

Or is your position that these things are true, but unhelpful to talk about?

#149 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 04:21 PM:

Vicki,

there are two different things being discussed, the level to which racism exists and different ways to deal with it (and their effectiveness).

I've been saying that racism exists, and that I doubt it exists to the level of a pervasive, underlying, root of all problems that has been sugggested here.

I've also been saying an anecdotal story involving someone black followed by "See, this is racism" attitudes (racists behind every shadow) won't solve anything and will make people dismiss it all as crying-wolf too many times.

I've been saying that accusations of racism should be reserved for someone's behaviour that can likely be proven to be racism.

And I've been saying that blanket accusations of racism actually hinder fighting real racism. That headlines like "This is all about racism" causes the public to dismiss the entire article in total, ignoring any real behavioural problems that might be addressed. It becomes a simple matter of credibility being lost.

I've been saying that to persuade people to change their thinking you need to engage them where you want them to go, not tell them that where they are is wrong. The black man talking to the racist woman at the superdome didn't accuse her of racism, he demonstrated his own humanity/equality.

#150 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 05:17 PM:

Greg,

With the exception of:

I doubt it exists to the level of a pervasive, underlying, root of all problems that has been sugggested here

what you just said doesn't sound exactly like what I've been hearing you say, but what you are saying in that last post does make pretty good sense. I'm not saying I agree with it one hundred percent--I agree with a lot of it, and have said some of it myself, though I think you underestimate the on-going effect of racism in this country--but it does make sense.

#151 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 05:47 PM:

yeah, that's what I've been saying, with various side-tracks to clarify when someone paraphrased me wrong, usually to the effect of "so, what your saying is (insert something I didn't say)"

Things probably got a little cloudy when marie antoinette frothery came up, but otherwise, that's what I've been saying.

#152 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 06:36 PM:

But you know, Greg, as usual, you say you're talking about what I'm talking about, and then you're not.

When I talk about naming a thing so we can talk about it, I am most definitely not talking about looking at someone and telling them "You're a big fat racist and I hate you." I'm talking about looking at the world we live in and saying, "Here is a situation where racism is a factor, which means that to make it better we need to address racism as well as the proximal issue, because if we don't, it'll come right back and bite us again."

You're talking about blame and personal feelings, and calling it responsibility, and I'm talking about putting our shoulders to the wheel together, and I call that responsibility.

And because you've mentioned that Marie Antoinette phrase of mine more than once, I figure I hurt your feelings when I named that quip of yours that way. I'm willing to apologize for using language that hurt your feelings if you're willing to consider what else I said about it -- you don't even have to consider it out loud or in public, or promise to do it.

I do think we are discussing something of deep and lasting importance, and I think it matters very much how we look at this stuff.

#153 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 07:07 PM:

Greg says: I've been saying that accusations of racism should be reserved for someone's behaviour that can likely be proven to be racism.

What do you mean by "likely proven"? Do you mean proven to legal standards, scientific standards? Why?

Be careful: there are lots of people you do not want on your side who say the case against their heroes is not "proven".

#154 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 07:58 PM:

Niall, I mean that calling someone a racist should not become equivalent to McCarthy's accusation of communism or any other witchhunt.

Define it however you wish. But if the number of false positives and the number of accusations that remain unproven get to a certain point, then it becomes a matter of cryign wolf one too many times.

One requirement for a war to be moral is that you only enter it if you have a "reasonable" chance of winning it, otherwise, you're just going to get your men killed for no objective benefit. I would apply that same sort of principle here. Any accusation of racism should be treated like declaring war, and should only be leveled if you've got a "reasonable" chance of making the charge stick (for some defintion of "reasonable" and "stick"). Otherwise, an accusation that falls flat or can be easily dodged will become one false cry of "wolf!" and at some point people stop listening.

Anecdotal stories with little details would qualify as an immoral war against racism.

And so would statements that say racism is a "pervasive condition" that it "lies at the root", that its a "founding principle" that "affects our whole society".

Whether or not the claims are true is irrelevant to the damage they cause if they land on your audience as crying wolf.

And while we need to name a thing to talk about it, if the naming isn't true or is percieved to be untrue, then you've lost that war. A thing and its name are two different concepts. On a public blog, labeling a thing with the name racism is effectively declaring war. Make sure you can win that war. Make sure you can make the label stick in the court of public opinion. If it turns into "playing the race card", you've lost, and you've damaged the credibility of a legitimate fight.

Look at the bullets under Teresa's "Particles" on teh side of "Making Lights" home page. look for the link called "Katrina: The Gathering." Scroll through it. It sort of portrays some of the racism stuff in terms of a battle (or at least a game/battle)

Jesse Jackson gets "buried" if there is no media.

And the race card says "destroy all black creatures or destroy all white creatures" a reflection of how laying down the race card can completely backfire if you do it too early.

And Farrakhan's card says "sacrifice a black creature to give a white creature +2"

What I'm saying is don't make the accusation, don't lay down the card, don't declare war, unless you're sure you've got a reasonable chance of winning the hand.

#155 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 08:53 PM:

CHip, if you want to argue that there's horrible prejudice against kids in this country, I'll agree with you in a second. If you want to say it's only against black kids, well, take a look at some white towns up north. Stupid laws about kids are everywhere.

hrc, thanks for the Gretna link. I hadn't known that Gretna was 1/3 "black.". The way people were talking about it, I'd assumed it was an extremely "white" suburb. I think Nagin, in the same article, calls the situation accurately, "They made a decision to protect property."

Following the discussion here and poking around elsewhere has led me to put the following on my blog:

ending race: the finishing line

My last thoughts on "race":

"Race" is a recent idea. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the oldest example of "race" used in the modern sense of dividing people into groups based on physical characteristics comes from 1774: "The second great variety in the human species seems to be that of the Tartar race." Before this time, "race" was a more general term for groups of living things: the race of women, the German race, the race of heroes, etc.

Four centuries ago, slavery was colorblind. In the 1600s, 80,000 to 130,000 Irish were sent into slavery in America and the West Indies. The African slave trade was a simple exercise in capitalism: rich Africans sold slaves to rich Europeans who transported them to North and South America. Regardless of the place of origin, "white," "black," and "red" slaves worked and lived together under equally barbaric conditions.

The modern concept of "race" was promoted by rich Europeans in the 17th century to perpetuate slavery. When the idea was accepted, slavery did not get worse; the horrors of life in the race-obsessed plantations and mines of the Americas were much like the horrors of Rome's colorblind slavery in galleys, mines, and commercial farms. But among people who accepted the idea of race, circumstances for people who were seen as "white" improved slightly.

One monstrous aspect of the African slave trade, the tightly packed ships of the "middle passage," may be unique; little seems to be known about transporting slaves in the Roman Empire. Capitalism, not racism, explains the middle passage: it was the most profitable way to deliver human cargo. Humans do not need "race" to rationalize inhuman treatment of someone identified as "other": see the massacre of nonviolent Cathars for one horrific example.

The notion of race does not exist in many cultures today. It's strongest in countries affected by the slave empires of Spain and Britain. Though slavery thrived in Africa for thousands of years, the idea of race is weak there, where social dynamics are primarily seen in terms of gender, clan, nation, religion, and wealth.

"Race" is not ethnic identity. Ethnicity comes from cultural history, not biology. "African-American" is a unit of ethnicity; "black" is a unit of race. A "white" or a "black" can be ethnically Cherokee for generations, yet Cherokees who see the world in racial terms will vote to keep "impure" Cherokees out of the tribe.

For people who accept the idea of race, ethnicity is a component of race. This leads to confusion in the case of individuals like Condoleeza Rice, a rich African American who consistently acts in the interests of her class, the rich, but is called a "race traitor" by people who see the world through a racial filter.

Terminology becomes especially complex with groups like the Jews: an ethnic Jew may not be a religious Jew, a religious Jew may not be an ethnic Jew, and a Jew's "race" may be, to use slightly archaic racial categories, "Semitic," "Caucasian," "Negro," or "Oriental." Yet an Islamist who insults a Jew is likely to be accused of antisemitism, even if the Islamist is racially semitic and the Jew is not.

• The purpose of "race" is to exaggerate differences, create divisions, and confuse issues. A "black" person and a "white" person are, by definition, incompatible, even if the skin tone of the "black" is lighter than that of the "white." If a person is harmed by a person of another "race," the motive becomes confused: was the harm inspired by race or something else? In the recent case of the Katrina disaster, 85% of New Orleans' poor are "black," but 100% of New Orleans' poor were hurt by the government's failure to act quickly and efficiently.

Trying to solve the problems of "race" by addressing "race" perpetuates the idea of "race." Accepting the terminology of "race" is to accept a battleground chosen by the proponents of "race." It can create new areas of division: why should "affirmative action" help some poor people and not all poor people? The solution is to stop focusing on the symptoms of "race" and address the greater cause: social injustice.

• "Race" does not exist, but racism does. Devout racists and racialists will never change their beliefs. Treat them like anyone with bizarre beliefs: if they're harmless, tolerate them in the same way you would tolerate someone who believes in green and gray aliens. If they're violent, arrest them or have them committed. A Black Muslim and a Ku Klux Klan member are equally entitled to believe in racial purity, so long as they don't try to impose that purity on society.

"Race" can be discarded if people choose to discard it. Societies regularly abandon concepts. Few people today believe in "the divine right of kings," and fewer accept one of the Roman Empire's fundamental principles, that it's proper to divide society between citizens and slaves. Stopping the social concept of "race" is no different. We don't do it by waiting for everyone else to do it. We change the world by changing ourselves, and if we're right, the world changes. Gandhi said, "Be the change that you want to see in the world." If you want people to stop seeing each other in terms of race, let the change begin with you.

#156 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 09:19 PM:

"So here we have the basic disagreement between us, Greg. You think racism is a bad thing bad people do, and I think it is a condition of the society in which we live."

This is beautifully put, exactly correct, and it appears to have gone into one of Greg London's ears and directly out the other.

I'm beginning to think that one of the basic failure modes of the human mind is the belief that all problems between people can be solved by identifying the bad people who do the bad things and punishing or shaming them until they stop, go away, or die.

That's the entire basis of right-wing foreign policy. They're not interested in creating conditions in which America and Americans are secure; they're entirely focussed on determining who are the bad guys, and "standing up to" them in whatever way is most satisfactory.

Greg appears to be terrified that if we talk about racism as "a condition of the society in which we live," some particular individuals who have struggled to be Good Guys--individuals, one suspects, much like Greg London--will be subject to some kind of sinister group punishment despite all their best efforts. For so many Americans, nothing is more terrifying than the idea that someone might impose moral obligations on them no matter how hard they've tried to be free of encumbrances. It's the cult of I-Must-Maintain-My-Rigid-Individualism-Or-All-Is-Lost, and it's one of the chains their overlords use to keep them in line.

#157 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 09:37 PM:

And since Will is back over here, I will say that what I find myself inalterably opposed to in his (and Greg's) model is the sheer balls-out anti-empiricism of it. We are to believe that we can make something less of a problem by ceasing to talk about it. To condense several paragraphs down to their essence: I don't agree.

Greg had a point when he noted the effectiveness of the black guy who rebuked the fearfulness of the white woman. It's true. You don't always address racial problems by yammering at people about how they're being racist. There's a great deal to be said for pointing to the concrete facts of a situation, and (to the greatest extent possible) letting the truth grow inside your listener's own head. This is basic smart communications. But to extrapolate from that to a theory that racism is somehow encouraged and perpetuated by too much discussion of racism is simply nuts. It's not just pre-Enlightenment; it's practically pre-linguistic. It is a reversion to the deepest kind of wishful thinking. It's a turning away from the central enterprise of building a humane civilization. It is a kind of despair.

#158 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 10:51 PM:

Oops. Just got email saying that I forgot to mention which blog I posted that last bit to. It's at it's all one thing.

Patrick, we keep agreeing with pieces of each other's thought. Well, I keep agreeing with pieces of yours, anyway. Like this:

I'm beginning to think that one of the basic failure modes of the human mind is the belief that all problems between people can be solved by identifying the bad people who do the bad things and punishing or shaming them until they stop, go away, or die.

But isn't the desire to attack racists precisely that? Maybe my pacifism interferes with my vision, but fighting often seems to make the other side stronger, as it becomes more aggressive while thinking it's being more defensive. So rather than enter into a battle of "this is racist!" "no, it's not!" with people who could reasonably be called racist, I'd rather cut to the quick: poor folks are suffering. They can't deny that.

I have noticed that discussing this has resulted in fighting about whether the best way to fight racism is to fight racism or fight class privilege. But I'm not bright enough to figure out an end run around that one. Well, beyond practicing my principles and shutting up, which I really ought to do more often. So I'm done with the big posts on racism for now.

#159 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 11:02 PM:

Will, when are you going to notice that I have consistently, in this argument, said I have no particular "desire to attack racists"?

Quite the contrary, I've said I think identifying particular people as Bad Racists is the least interesting way of discussing race and racism, and the one most liable to lead us into moral complacency.

I'm quite sure I said this on your blog, in pretty plain terms.

#160 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 11:10 PM:

"individualism-or-all-is-lost".
huh-wha?

"racism is somehow encouraged and perpetuated by too much discussion of racism is simply nuts."
Yes, I would agree with said nuttery.

I think that the idea of crying wolf or whatever is valid though. It's not that discussing racism perpetuates racism, its that making false accusations of racism (or accusations of racism that are nigh impossible to prove) do nothing but make it harder to fight real racism when it shows up.

I don't know why, but this seems to keep getting spoken back to me as if I said "don't talk about racism, it'll make more racism" I'm not sure how many time's I've corrected that, but it seems to keep coming back that way.

I guess going back to the war analogy, what I'm saying is to pick your battles, only fight the ones you have a reasonable chance of winning, because each one you lose counts as one "cry wolf". This approach has the unpleasant result that means you can't fight all racist behaviour, because some folks are too slippery, because other excuses can easily cover their actions, and because people generally expect to be convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" before convicting. And maybe the idea of letting some racists go without a fight is too distasteful for some. but I've lost a level of idealism some time ago, and am far more pragmatic than I was in my younger days.

Farrakhan's claims would be the extreme example of crying wolf. even if his claims are true, there isn't anything to prove it, so the majority of poeple dismiss it as nuttery. And if that happens enough, then I think it hurts attempts to fight real racism, and it causes some to dismiss any problems reported around Katrina as part of the "race card".

The last poll said something like 9 out of 10 whites felt that the Katrina response was not racially motivated. Whether they're right or wrong is irrelevant to my point. My point is that if you make an accusation of racism, you've got 9 out of 10 white people that you'll need to convince, so I'd rather save it for the cases I can clearly prove.

Comments like Farrakhan's get played on conservative media to innoculate people against accusations of racism. 'See how crazy these poeple who keep saying "its racism" are?' Then people dismiss all accusations of racism. It's no different than the far right propagating anecdotal stories about frivolous lawsuits to push for their version of tort reform. "This old lady ordered coffee, and then she sued mcdonalds because it was hot. the nerve! What did she expect? cold coffee?"

So, I don't know what else to say. I'm not saying don't talk about racism, I'm not saying talking about it will cause more of it. I'm saying choose your battles to the ones you have a decent chance of winning, because every defeat will be turned into a sound bite on Fox news.

#161 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:08 AM:

As a preamble to being hired for most of the jobs I've had in the last ten years, I've been asked to sign a form indicating that I'm aware of the company's policy on sexual harrassment -- that it won't be tolerated in the workplace. Some companies also throw in a pre-employment briefing orientation on their internal policies. They specifically discuss this issue in the briefing.

Greg, do you think the law (and the accepted corporate practice of talking about it) actually lead to more workplace instances of sexual harrassment? What kind of forms did the Gretna chief of police sign, before he was hired? What kind of orientation did he get for his job?

#162 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:19 AM:

I'm not saying don't talk about racism, I'm not saying talking about it will cause more of it.

No, you didn't say don't talk about racism, that was Menolly. You said it was pointless to yell at people and call them names (though earlier in the thread yoiu seemed to be willing to flog them and call them names, which I have some trouble reconciling with what you said later, but I don't expect any of us to be altogether consistent all the time), and refused to believe that wasn't what was being proposed.

The disagreement remains what it always is: the understanding of what racism is, its causes, its effects, its place in society, its relationship to the various injustices and inequalities of our own home country.

Niall, I mean that calling someone a racist should not become equivalent to McCarthy's accusation of communism or any other witchhunt.

You did it again. It's bullshit, you know it's bullshit, and you know why it's bullshit, and you keep saying it.

I've been redbaited (several times!), and I've been falsely accused of racism (by squirrely little kids who figured out they could get a rise out of well-meaning teachers that way). It's really different, and it's stupid to compare them.

Except, of course, that in the real McCarthy era, the people to suffer the worst from redbaiting weren't the Hollywood types who had to drive cabs for a decade, but the black labor union members who were busted, jailed, hounded, beaten and sometimes killed in the anti-communist sweeps of that time.

#163 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:25 AM:

Patrick, my bad. It's just that I can't see how you can address racism without addressing racists.

#164 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:43 AM:

Lenny,

The people of Gretna didn't want looters smashing their windows and didn't want scores of people camping out on their football fields. And they were willing to enforce those property concerns at gunpoint, they were willing to enforce those property concerns by forcing victims back into a flooded New Orleans with no food or water or shelter.

Who the fuck cares if it was racism at this point?

They were willing to let people die to keep their streets neat and tidy. They shot over people's heads and sent them back into the mouth of hell to keep the unwashed from setting camp in their baseball diamond.

Racism is like the least of what's wrong with this picture. I'm not a lawyer, but the phrase "negligent homicide" comes to mind. Calling it racism is like worrying they didn't put money in the parking meter. What they did wasn't racism, it was inhuman.

#165 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 01:01 AM:

"in the real McCarthy era, the people to suffer the worst from redbaiting weren't the Hollywood types who had to drive cabs for a decade, but the black labor union members who were busted, jailed, hounded, beaten and sometimes killed in the anti-communist sweeps of that time."

So, mccarthism, according to teh definition, means "the practice of publicly accusing somebody, especially somebody in government or the media, of subversive or (racist) activities or sympathies, especially without real evidence to substantiate this".

It seemed to fit what I was trying to say. I'm sorry I wasn't around for the "real" McCarthy era. In case it wasn't clear, I wasn't implying anyone here is beating, hounding, jailing, and sometimes killing racists. It seems to be a bit of a leap to make that interpretation, but since its been made, time to clarify again.

wherever the word "mccarthyism" appears in my post, the basic dictionary definition (as described above) should be applied.

I'll make a note to avoid "red baiting" anyone in the future. sheesh.

#166 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 01:21 AM:

You still don't get it, Greg.

When I say that I'm talking about what racism is, its causes, its effects, its place in society, its relationship to the various injustices and inequalities of our own home country, and you say that no, the real subject is about McCarthyism only about racism, you're saying that -- contrary to what you have said you're saying -- there is no way to talkk about racism that isn't the same thing as a powerful political coalition of the right wing of the ruling class and the center hounding the left wing of the working class and its intellectual allies out of participation in public life.

Look at that again. What McCarthyism was, what McCarthyism is. It's very particular.

Now, if I say I want to discuss the effects of racism in society, and you say that my doing that is the same as McCarthyism, you're turning power relationships, class relationships, history, and truth itself, on their heads so you can paint facial features on their butts and call them whatever you please.

And that's what I take offense at. Okay? You're not just innocently hyperbolizing. You're lying. And it's not an innocent lie.

Now,in this case, I do believe you don't mean to be doing exactly this. But -- like you said yourself -- intentions aren't the thing we're working with, it's actions. And the action of equivocating McCarthyism and the discussion of the role of racism in our society is a lying, harmful action.

So please cut it out. If you didn't know better before, you do now.

#167 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 01:39 AM:

What they did wasn't racism, it was inhuman.

Well, we are in agreement on that.

As for racism, I must say, one of things that hasn't been noted this far is the fact that racism is a learned behavior. The idea that people of a different skin tone are bad is not something one is born with. It is an idea that is absorbed from somewhere. That's what is meant when racism is called 'systematic' and 'pervasive'. It is something that infects culture and is learned unconsciously by children. A mother steering her children away from a young black man on the street is not being overtly racist, but at the same time, the kids are learning that young black men are dangerous and should be avoided. Should she be punished, Greg?

Punishing individual, egregarious acts of racism is a good thing, yes, but what does it accomplish? Is it supposed to serve as a deterrant, a la capital punishment or large nuclear warheads? Does it actually change the offender's mind, or does it just make him more angry and possibley more subtle? Does it improve our society as a whole?

The problem with overcoming racism, as I see it, is that it requires thinking. And thinking is difficult, and humans are lazy. We have a ways to go yet.

#168 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 02:38 AM:

Luthe,

Yes, punish the individual offenders for their actions.

As for chnging people's minds, that was my point about engaging the public's humanity and sense of equality, rather than accusing society of rampant and fundamental-level racism. Get them to think in the terms you want them to think in.

#169 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 02:57 AM:

Lucy,

McCarthyism == accusations with little evidence

Whatever you took it to mean about killing black union members is stuff you made up.

I tried pointing that out, but you then you turned it into "the right wing hounding the left wing of the working class out of public life."

One more time: you're making mccarthyism mean something way beyond the dictionary definition that I was using it in.

I was talking about people telling an anecdotal story based on little or no hard evidence and making a blanket statement that it was a racist incident. OK? An accusation with little or not evidence.

I'm not turning truth on its head and putting smiley faces on its ass here. I'm using the dictionary definiton of "accusations with no evidence" and you morphed it into murdering people.

Wherever you see the word "mccarthyism" in a post, just wipe it from your mind and replace it with "accusations with no evidence". OK? Forget I ever used the word. I'm not attached to it. Obviously it has a strong meaning for you.

#170 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 03:08 AM:

"A mother steering her children away from a young black man... Should she be punished"

Holy crap, I just read this again and saw that you had two questions about punishing individuals. I was thinking about the Gretna police when I said "yes, punish the individual". If you're talkinga bout the mother steering her kids, then no, don't punish her. She caused no physical harm, so no physical punishment should be given.

The woman steering her kids is like the woman at the astrodome. The best thing would be for the black man to approach her and be human. maybe it won't change the mother, but it might change the kids.

#171 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 08:26 AM:

Via Majikthise, a recent news story: A Florida high school student came to school wearing a t-shirt depicting hooded Klansmen waving at a departing "just married" car, which is dragging behind it two black men on nooses. The student got beaten up pretty quickly, of course. Here's his take on racism:

"'I'm not racist or anything,' he said. 'It's just, some people I hate, some people I don't get along with. And black people just happen to be the ones because they think they're better than everyone else.'"

#172 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 09:10 AM:

Greg,

I'm trying real hard to be sympathetic to you, because I think your heart is in the right place, but, well, look: McCarthyism is nothing without power to back it up.

Here are some other definitions of McCarthyism, more useful than the one you found.

McCarthyism is also pretty well tied to a time and place. It's kind of a Godwin's Law thing.

#173 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 10:53 AM:

The woman steering her kids is like the woman at the astrodome. The best thing would be for the black man to approach her and be human. maybe it won't change the mother, but it might change the kids.

This IS addressing racism. This action, of walking up and talking and being friendly, IS addressing racism.

No, it isn't using the word.

But if you are taking an action that would be unnecessary if racism were not occuring right there, right now, you are addressing racism.

This seems to be the sticking point. You seem to keep going back and saying that the only thing that counts as addressing racism is to make accusations and/or punish people.

NOBODY is saying it is the only way to do this. Except you.

And this is why people keep arguing with you. This kind of thing, which you talk about as "Being the change you want to see" IS one of the ways to address racism. (And one of the more successful ways.)

But you THEN say that we shouldn't address racism.

Nobody is saying the ONLY way to address racism is to level accusations at people who are racist. Except you.

The one thing we disagree on, I think, is that you seem to think the actual word racist should only be levelled when there's no doubt at all. And the only reason I disagree with this statement is I don't think a comment like "Racism is prevalent in several aspects of our society" equates to levelling accusations at any individual, nor do I think it implies "We are all bad people who need training to learn to be good."

So, to sum up:
I agree that levelling accusations of racism at individuals or groups too often is a bad thing.

I disagree that every single mention of the owrd racism implies levelling accusations at individuals or groups.

I agree that, if being confrontational or levelling accusations at individuals and groups, one should pick one's fights.

I disagree that in cases where levelling accusations would make things worse, the matter of racism cannot be addressed in other, less literal means.

I disagree that a victim of racism talking to the person demonstrating racist actions in a manner that demonstrates their humanity and likeness, but happens not to use the exact language of racism, is NOT addressing racism.

I believe that addressing racism does sometimes require the use of the word, but more often in reaosnable discussions such as {most of} this one.

I believe that addressing racism sometimes does require a flat out accusation against someone, but that this should be reserved for severe cases and situations where there's little doubt.

I also believe that addressing racism sometimes requires a subtler approach that doesn't use obvious language or the tone of accusation.

I do not believe subtlety = not addressing the issue.

I think that any word which comes with more historic baggage than its literal meaning should be used with great care, particularly if the user attempts to use it absent its secondary connotations. The presence of those secondary definitions should not be denied, nor their presence dismissed as "All in the mind" of the one who points them out. (This goes just as equally for race and racism as it does for McCarthyism.)

#174 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 11:19 AM:

Hm, this is interesting, my use of teh word McCarthyism seems to have landed like "crying wolf". People are focusing on how wrong it was to use that term and are fairly well ignoring anything else I'm saying.

This is pretty much what I'm saying about the word "racism", i.e. use the word cautiously because it can get your entire message dismissed. I'll have to make a note to add "McCarthyism" to the list, probably should put "witchhunt" in there as well.

If anyone wishes to discuss the actual point I was trying to make about using the term "racism" carefully, choosing your battles, making sure not to accuse someone or even a vague group of wrongdoing unless you've got a reasonable chance of winning, then great I'd like to continue.

If the "M" term keeps coming up, then it will be clear that I've done the thing I said not to do, but with a different word, and now that word is being used to dismiss my entire message. If that's the case, then I may as well drop this, since my point has been turned into the equivalent of a Fox News soundbite and anything I say will be dismissed.

Either way, it was an interesting lesson to bungle into. If nothing else, I learned something.

#175 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 11:55 AM:

Lenora,

When reporting something like the Gretna polic blockade, why must everyone harp about how this must be racism, about how it was to keep blacks out, and take a very real chance that the whole thing will be heard as crying wolf and get dismissed? Why not report it like this:

The Gretna police didn't want looters smashing their city's windows and didn't want scores of people camping out on their football fields. And they were willing to enforce those property concerns at gunpoint, they were willing to enforce those property concerns by blockading the bridge and forcing victims back into a flooded New Orleans with no food or water or shelter.

They were willing to let people die to keep their streets neat and tidy. They shot over people's heads and sent them back into the mouth of hell to keep the unwashed from setting camp in their baseball diamond.

What these police officers did was inhuman.

No mention of the word racism, but still clearly reports evil actions. Why is every story coming out of the Katrina disaster being spun as proof of racism when some of the stories involve far more heinous crimes than racism?

This is the sort of thing I mean when I'm talking about accusations. I'm not talking about getting in someone's face and calling them a racist. I'm talking about something horrendously wrong getting reported as evidence for charges of racism. It wasn't racism. It was inhuman.

#176 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:08 PM:

Greg,

I only posted the definitions of McCarthyism because I wanted to get some clarity in usage on it. Your point that the usage and the results of that usage of the word "McCarthyism" has similarities to the usage and the results of that usage of the word "racism" is well-taken. That doesn't mean the meanings of terms themselves are similar.

I'd also say that sometimes it's fair to call "racism" when you don't have proof. I'm thinking of a particular incident nearly twenty years ago, back in my "liberal" college town, where there was one black guy who showed up at the blues jams. He's dead now, but in his day, he was quite an electric piano player--a left hand like god, till the stroke--and a singer.

I didn't necessarily consider it racism when a fair number of the white guys groused about him getting so much time on stage--I just considered it sour grapes. Given that many of them were getting at least semi-regular gigs, whereas this guy had trouble getting booked (though no trouble getting people to show up when he did), I just thought it was small of them.

However, when the grafitti got carved into the bathroom wall saying "Castrate Mr. Blues", it took me about three seconds of contemplation on the physical act of lynching to call that racist.

(I was cheered that, by the time I got back to the club with a chisel, the grafitti was already gone. I wouldn't doubt it was one of the grousers who took it off, or one of them who put it up.)

Now, were the club owners who wouldn't give this guy a paid booking racists?

That's a hard call.

I saw other bands with strong followings unable to get bookings. It could be that they didn't want the crowd that came to see him, and not the black people who came--old hippies can be obnoxious. One club owner who wouldn't book this guy was the first club owner in town to desegregate his club (a point I eventually got sick of hearing).

But of all those bars, do I figure there was at least one where racism got into the picture?

Oh, yeah. No doubt. I'm just not certain which ones. I think I know of one, but I'm not certain.

(Oddly enough, the one partly-owned at the time by the son-in-law of a nationally-known wingnut--an Alan Keyes supporter, I believe--was also the one which treated him the best, "C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.)

#177 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:17 PM:

Greg, if you think McCarthyism is just any old false accusation you're not plugged into the pulse of American history and culture and you're not paying attention. You're playing Humpty Dumpty with words - and honestly, I think you're playing Humpty Dumpty with the other hot-button words here too.

And it's clearer and clearer to me you know what you're doing and your pretense at innocence is only a strategy to keep doing what you're doing.

It's not the first time I've felt that way in a discussion with you.

#178 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:21 PM:

Greg: That's a perfectly valid description of the story.

Now name for me where I said it wasn't.

In fact, name for me where I said it was the way to go, and that there weren't {often better} alternatives. Just try.

Now, having failed to do so, STOP WHINING THAT WE ALL HARP ON ONE THING YOU SAY AND NEVER ADDRESS YOUR "REAL" POINT WHEN YOU KEEP DOING THE SAME DAMN THING TO EVERYONE WHO TRIES TO TALK TO YOU!

Okay. Done shouting. Sorry about that. Sometimes I need to vent a bit of steam, lest the anger carry through the posts that are theoretically reasonable and calm.

I'm ready to continue this conversation reasonably. If you're willing to bother reading what we write.

#179 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:23 PM:

"In fact, name for me where I said it was the way to go"

Read as:

"In fact, name for me where I said the racism version was the way to go"

Sorry. I get clumsy when I blow my top. Who doesn't?

#180 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 01:41 PM:

Greg:

You want to charge the Gretna sheriff with "inhuman" cruelty, yet you appear to be blind to the larger issue of averting this kind of behavior in the future. You appear to be making a cold political calculation: "hit him with a charge of general inhuman cruelty, because it will play better to your perceived audience than a charge of racism -- which is too vague to muster a criminal conviction as a public deterrent."

But understanding the "why" of the behavior is important if you want to develop a strategy to avoid the behavior recurring in the future. It's not just about the best political approach for prosecuting a crime that's already occurred.

What Lucy, and others in this thread, are trying to tell you is that the "why" of the behavior in Gretna involved irrational fear produced by a racism meme: that the Black "other" is not fully human, cannot be trusted.

Do you really believe that the sheriff's response would have been the same if the crowd on the bridge had been predominantly white? Are you trying to convince us that the "fear of looting" was a generic motivator for police inhumanity -- independent of who was actually on the bridge?

If so, you've got a tough sell, here.

#181 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 02:14 PM:

Lenora

"In fact, name for me where I said the racism version was the way to go"

I didn't. You said "This seems to be the sticking point. You seem to keep going back and saying that the only thing that counts as addressing racism is to make accusations and/or punish people."

And I'm not saying that. I'm not saying that the only thing that counts as addressing racism is to accuse and punish.

I'm talking about the stories flying around all the stuff that's happeneing around Katrina and how they all seem to be turned into "proof of racism" pieces. And I'm saying that doing that actually hurts investigating the incident and hurts the overall attempt of fighting racism.

I brought up the Gretna story, because it specifically demonstrates what I'm talking about. The story is getting passed around as "proof of racism", and I think that causes people to dismiss the problem entirely, so whatever happened in Gretna is buried. And I think calling it racism is missing the bigger picture of how inhuman their actions were.

I brought it up because that story is an example of my point. That kind of story is getting passed around as proof of racism, and no one is saying, "hey, wait a second". That's why I brought it up. That's why I showed the "inhuman" version.

I'm not saying anyone disputed my version of the story. But I AM saying that no one said "hey, wait a second" when the race-version of the story was getting passed around the blog-o-sphere. I see it as an example of making accusations of racism getting a real problem dismissed and/or buried. Those cops should lose their jobs at the very least, and serve time if possible. And the race version of the story is an example of making an accusation of racism that's hard to prove that ends up as a "cry wolf" sound bite on Fox news.

I'm not saying you were ever against my version, or that you or anyone else said the race-version was the one to use. I'm trying to say "hey wait a second" here, because I think the race version caused many to dismiss the need for an investigation into Gretna police, and added another "cry wolf" to the problem of fixing racism.

#182 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 02:20 PM:

adamsj,

No, I wasn't saying that "racism" and "McCarthyism" had similar meanings, only that they can both generate the same response as in "cry wolf".

As for the grout writer, was it racist? Don't know. I probably wouldn't call it that, simply because it could just as easily be ascribed to jealousy. I probably would have brought a chisel the next time I went to the club though.

#183 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 02:37 PM:

Greg,

I disagree. Castration being a well-known aspect of lynching, I can't interpret that particular threat as anything but racist. You're welcome to disagree, but in this case, you're just wrong.

#184 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 02:52 PM:

You want to charge the Gretna sheriff with "inhuman" cruelty, yet you appear to be blind to the larger issue of averting this kind of behavior in the future. You appear to be making a cold political calculation: "hit him with a charge of general inhuman cruelty, because it will play better to your perceived audience than a charge of racism -- which is too vague to muster a criminal conviction as a public deterrent."

Yeah, that's one way to describe at least part of it. I also think the charge of racism is fairly mute here. So what if it was racist? They were willing to LET PEOPLE DIE. I've lost my idealism enough that I won't demand they be charged on all counts (racism, negligence, deriliction of duty, homicide, whatever), I'm perfectly willing to see them lose their jobs because one charge stuck really well.

The cause for war may be ideal, but the tactics used in the trenches to fight it are not. There is no idealism in the trenches. Kill your opponent any way you can. I am perfectly willing to have teh entire police force lose their jobs becuse they were convicted of firing their weapons into the air and endangering civilians. whatever it takes. If charging them with "racism" won't get them convicted, it is a useless weapon to me.

But understanding the "why" of the behavior is important if you want to develop a strategy to avoid the behavior recurring in the future. It's not just about the best political approach for prosecuting a crime that's already occurred.

Racism is a lack of humanity. if you want to avoid that behaviour occuring in the future, then paint their racism as inhuman action. Show how inhuman they were forcing victims back into new orleans without food or water, convict them of that in a court of law, have them loose their jobs. Show that we demand police act with humanity and protect and serve everyone, and then it should be clear what behaviour is expected and what will not be tolerated.

What Lucy, and others in this thread, are trying to tell you is that the "why" of the behavior in Gretna involved irrational fear produced by a racism meme: that the Black "other" is not fully human, cannot be trusted.

So? Read the stories being passed around. Read all the different blogs that have carried the Gretna story. Take a look at the GretnaSucks.com website. None of them delve into "why". They simply call it racism. It does nothing. And it can get a real issue dismissed by the public. Yes, I'm saying that how these stories are passed around changes the public's perception to dismiss that there is any real problem because they dismiss the charge of racism that is given as explanation. You say racism is "why" they did. I say that the public doesn't buy it (9 out of 10 whites say racism wasnt the problem in NOLA) and will dismiss in totality any problems reported that are attributed to racism. "racism" is a useless weapon here, or at least it gives the enemy the high ground because you've got 9 out of 10 white folks to convince that you're right. And if you fail, it can actually turn against you and make it harder to draw public attention to the problem.

Do you really believe that the sheriff's response would have been the same if the crowd on the bridge had been predominantly white? Are you trying to convince us that the "fear of looting" was a generic motivator for police inhumanity -- independent of who was actually on the bridge?

These are all questions for an idealist. I don't care why they did what they did. I don't care what they were thinking. I don't care to play your "what if?" scenarios. I only care what they actually did, which was to send victims back into new orleans. They were willing to let people die from lack of food/water/shelter, they were willing to send the sick and injured and people who may have needed medicine/treatement back into NOLA empty handed.

Who cares about "motivators"? Who cares about whether this was a thought crime or not. They should be nailed for their actions, which were heinous enough regardless of whatever thoughts were going on in their minds.

#185 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 03:03 PM:

"You're welcome to disagree, but in this case, you're just wrong."

well, I'm glad we got that straightened out.

#186 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 03:15 PM:

Lucy, when you say,

And it's clearer and clearer to me you know what you're doing and your pretense at innocence is only a strategy to keep doing what you're doing.

I have to say that I don't know anything about Greg except what I've seen online, but I don't think that's a fair accusation to level at anyone. I say that partly because I've had people say things like that to me when I was espousing beliefs that I honestly believed, and they simply couldn't believe that I believed what I was saying. Ergo, I was lying.

Greg, you may've noticed this already, but when you're talking about world views, people personalize things that seem impartial to others, and the debate can grow more bitter as the gap in positions narrows. As demonstrated in Man on a bridge. So, well, cut folks all the slack you can, and cut them a little more if they won't do the same for you.

Lenny, I take it you missed this line from 'Racist' police blocked bridge and forced evacuees back at gunpoint:

The following day Mr Bradshaw said they tried again to cross and directly witnessed police shooting over the heads of a middle-aged white couple who were also turned back.

That couple wasn't in the mixed race group. That's two white people who were turned back, just like the black people, even though they could've been let through.

#187 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 03:57 PM:

Greg when you say, "Well, I'm glad we got that straightened out," I'm very tempted to take you at face value, but I think it better to go through this one last time.

Do I have absolute, airtight proof that grafitti was racist? No.

Do I have sufficient reasonable grounds to believe that it was racist? Yes.

Am I willing to listen to a rebutting argument? Yes.

Is "It could just as easily be ascribed to jealousy" a sufficient rebuttal? No.

Why do I say this? Because

This is my country
These are my people
This is the world I understand
This is my country
These are my people
And I know 'em like the back of my own hand


If we had something to say
We'd bounce it off the screen
We were watching and we couldn't look away
We all know what we look like
You know what I mean
We wouldn't have had it any other way

Have I explained myself clearly? Damn, I sure hope so.

#188 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 03:59 PM:

I don't understand the desperate need to deny racism on the part of the Gretnans and others in this country by so many liberals - it does seem a part and parcel of the Stockwell Syndrome displayed so often by even liberals and moderates ever since the doings at Abu Ghreib were revealed.

Every single person who was at that bridge on the wrong side of the guns, or at the convention center, who has been interviewed so far has had no doubt that racism was involved.

Those very same white people who were in that crowd, being foremost among them, as can be heard in their own voices via NPR's This American Life, which I have transcribed out at length on my blog.

I really don't understand the vehemence of the continued refusals to face our own national apartheid legacy, or even to admit its existence.

Except what I have said in the past - that we really, really stink at doing Truth & Reconciliation as a nation.

#189 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 04:43 PM:

Lenora Rose,adamsj, bellatrys: I have an opinion of Greg, which contains six inches of hardwood between his ears. He isn't hearing you, because what you are saying doesn't fit his view of How Things Work.

You are saying the same things that I am thinking. With ingrained, brought-up-with-it racism, it's hard even to see what you are doing: it looks normal to you. Getting outside your own culture/mindset is more than most people can or will do.

#190 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 11:25 PM:

"Greg, if you think McCarthyism is..."

OK, I think this is the third time saying it, but what the heck, its the charm. When I used the word McCarthyism, I was talking about making accusations of racism at every turn with little or no evidence.

You obviously hear something different. I'm not attached to the word and if I could edit my posts, I would delete McCarthyism and replace it with "make accusations of racism with no evidence". I can't so I told you that you would ahve to do that, and that I wouldn't use the word again.

But you're still holding onto it.

I told you what I meant when I said the word. Since the word means something different to you, I'm wiling to use a different word.

But if you're going to sit there and tell me that I really meant something other than what I said I meant, then I can't help you there.

I'm willing to admit stupidity in choice of a word, but if I say I meant something, that's what I meant. I may be stupid, but I'm no liar.

If you want me to confess to something other than choosing the wrong word, I can't help you.

#191 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 11:50 PM:

Adamsj, to know with absolute certainty whether the grout writing was racism or not would require mind-reading capabilities as well as the ability to travel back in time to find out who did it.

Yet you told me I'm flat out wrong: it was racism.

There seemed little point in replying against such an absolute statement, and I had enough abuse for the day, so I let it be "racism" by declaration. Your last post seems to reflect that you're at least aware of a lack of absolute certainty, however, your invitation for rebuttal and your statement that "it could be jealousy" is flat out insufficient, tells me that we have different approaches to how something can be known.

I don't know if it is racism. I would need some evidence that would rule out other non-racists interpretations to the point that the only reasonable explanation woudl be racism, and that would be ascertained beyond a reasonable doubt.

Until then, I don't know if it was racism or not. I'm a skeptic when it comes to all knowledge. Nothing is known until enough evidence can show it to be likely true.

You seem to have already decided it was racism simply by the words in the grout. It isn't enough for me. You invite a rebuttal, but since I know no evidence about the situation but what you've already told me, and therefore, you already know, I don't see how I could present any evidence that would convince you otherwise.

But I remain unconvinced. I don't know what the thinking was behind the grout writing, but several options pop up that seem reasonable to me that do not involve racism. None of them are any more probable than the other given what little I know about the case, so I will refrain from concluding it was this or that. i do not know what it was.

The other reason I'm not too compelled here is probably because my pragmatism is kicking in and part of me is thinking, "so what?". I mean, I don't see it being of any use to decide whether it was racism or not. Either way, it doesn't change anything that I can see.

That's why my reply was "well that's settled", because I couldn't determine if it was racism or not, you seemed attached to saying it was racism, and I saw no detriment to going along with your interpretation. You say its racism. OK. Now what?

I'm willing to go along with it as long as I can take your word that it was racism. So, what do we do?

#192 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 12:44 AM:

PJ "I have an opinion of Greg, which contains six inches of hardwood between his ears."

We've devolved to name calling already? It's not even midnight yet. Well, at least you gave me hardwood instead of knotty pine, or worse, balsa.

Actually, this isn't "ingrained, brought-up-with-it racism", this bit of hardwood is something I developed myself. I mentioned some of it just now to adamsj, but basically, this is a skeptical epistemology that I developed completely outside of what I was "brought-up-with" (hm, I suppose it could be argued that it was "in defense against" what I was brought up with, but that's a story foranother day). There's also a bit of pragmatism that came somewhere in my college years.

Were the Gretna police racists?

I don't know. There isn't enough to know with much certainty. It is a hypothesis with some evidence, but it could have multiple interpretations, so nothing conclusive can be known.

I refuse to declare "a priori" that the incident was racially motivated. Sorry, I have a serious problem with "a priori" stuff when it comes to dealing with meat world. I don't mind intuition and a little mystical revelation now and then when it comes to matters of my own spiritual life, but if I'm going to accuse someone of something I have to know "a posteriori".

So, was the Gretna situation racially motivated?

I don't know. Fine. OK. Pragmatism kicks in. What else do we know? Well, we know with certainty that they closed the bridge, that they refused to let anyone evacuate the city, that they fired shots over people's heads and forced them back into a flooded city with no food/water/medicine. That is known with certainty. It is also known with a high probability that this was motivated by property concerns, that they didn't want people smashing their windows and looting their belongings. So, it is fairly reliably known that they were willing to let people die by refusing them help and refusing to allow them to evacuate, to keep their windows from getting smashed.

OK. So that in and of itself is pretty heinous.

Were the property concerns generated out of their racial prejudice?

I don't know. At this point it doesn't seem to matter since we've got enough to convict.

Am I exhibiting the thought process of driftwood here? Is it six inches of hardwood because I refuse to simply accept as fact some accusation?

That's the root of this whole discussion, really. Reports came out after Katrina of incidents and they were attributed to racism. Basically, what I'm asking people to do here is say "wait a minute", and then take a really hard look at whether they really know that it's racism or whether they're simply forwarding a meme that contains the keywords that guarantee it will be forwarded and spread like a rampant virus.

Police block bridge, must be racism. Swat team evacuates family member, must be racism. FEMA is slow to respond, must be racism. Bush does nothing for days, must be racism. Wealthy people hire private security, must be racism. someone dynamited the levees, must be racism.

Basically, I'm asking people to stop and seriously ask if they know something that claims to be racism can be reasonably proven to be racism, and if not, drop the charge of racism from it. Not that they can just "divine" the answer a priori and then they just "know" it was racism, but like, no kidding, you can present the objective facts to people and even your opponents will agree it is racism.

Then the response usually gets all muddied, because people are afraid that if you don't know this thing, then you don't know anything, or that, heavens forbid, it isn't what you want it to be. It isn't racism, it was stupidity and greed, or whatever. ANyway, the basic explanation is that just because you don't know it was racism, that isn't the same as saying "it isn't racism". Yeah, it could be racism, but I don't have enough to reach any sort of reliable conclusion. I do have enough to pursue a flogging of some Gretna officials.

But, this is all the sure sign of hardwood between the ears. Whatever. If you wanna devolve this into personal insults, go ahead. If that sort of thing works for you, have at it.

#193 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 02:24 PM:

Greg,

You said:

Your last post seems to reflect that you're at least aware of a lack of absolute certainty...

What I said was:

Do I have absolute, airtight proof that grafitti was racist? No.

Not "seems to reflect" or "at least aware". I said there's a lack of absolute certainty.

Your brand of skepticism is one which produces epistomologically correct statements--note that I didn't say you were incorrect--which lead you to ethically wrong answers.

You are drinking the sterno of radical skepticism, an even more extreme sort than that which got the bishop's shins kicked, and it makes you go blind, one way or the other.

(There's much better Scotch stuff out there--it's worth the expense.)

Or, as I like to put it:

Skepticism is the worst form of gullibility.

Anyway, Greg, I'm about to use a perjorative to describe you, and I suggest you look up their definitions before you take it to heart, because you ought to understand what I say:

If some full-blown racist were reading this thread, he would not regard you as a fellow traveler, but he would recognize you as a useful idiot.

#194 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 03:51 PM:

USA Today poll

Six in 10 African-Americans say the fact that most hurricane victims were poor and black was one reason the federal government failed to come to the rescue more quickly. Whites reject that idea; nearly 9 in 10 say those weren't factors.

===

So, I'm confused adamsj, is the point to cry racism and call anyone who disbelieves a useful idiot? Will you be calling the 9 out of 10 whites who also disbelieve this to be useful idiots too? or how about the 40% of black people who disbelieve you claims that this was racism? Are they idiots too?

And if so, what have you accomplished other than to make an accusation, have squat for evidence, and insult anyone who doesn't jump to the same conclusion that you did?

That's worse then crying wolf, that's crying wolf and then burning down the village because they won't believe your cry of "wolf".

I mean, I realize you basic approach here is to speak the words that you don't have "absolute certainty" that this was racism. But that's just words. You're willing to call me an idiot because I point out you've got nothing but a leap of logic to say this was racism. You admit a lack of absolute certainty, but what you don't say is that you believe beyond a reasonable doubt that this was racism. I said "it seems" like you admit a lack of certainty, and you got extremely upset at that. But your actions are those of a man who is operating with complete certainty: you "know" this was racism and anyone who doesn't believe is an idiot. So, yeah, it "seems" like it based on your words about certainty, but it doesn't "look" like it based on you calling me an idiot.

Basic rule of logic: If you make the assertion, you supply the proof.

You and the entire network of racism-hunters failed to provide the evidence to convince 90 percent of whites, or even 40% of blacks, that this was racism.

In your defeat, you call me an idiot rather than acknowledge any failure on your part. Burn down the village because they wouldn't believe you. those useful idiots, you KNOW this was racism, why didn't they just listen to you.

---

And, what have I been saying all along? Nothing major really, other than to approach any accusation of racism with just a little bit of skepticism, with a little bit of the scientific method, with a little bit of empiricism.

"Racist gretna cops send blacks back into New Orleans!"

It certainly is a good headline for getting reader's attention. But how accurate is it? How much evidence do you actually have to support the claims of racism?

Why do you insist on crying "wolf" or racism when you have solid evidence for crying "tornado"? There may or may not be racism, but there was clearly inhuman behaviour.

Why shouldn't skepticism and empiricism and the scientific method and rules of logic apply when charges of racism are leveled?

If some conservative told a story of a frivolous lawsuit, of affirmative action gone awry, of welfare abuse, of guilty criminals going free, I would apply the exact same skepticism to that accusation as well.

But apparently I'm a useful idiot when I apply it consistently to all accusations, not just the enemies. Apparently I didn't get the memo that explains when to be skeptical and when to simply take something on faith.

#195 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 03:55 PM:

Faith-based racism hunting:
We just know when someone is racist.
And if you don't believe our accusations,
you're an idiot.

#196 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 04:01 PM:

Greg: Have you noticed you're talking to yourself a lot lately?

#197 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 04:27 PM:

Greg,

I don't have any reply to you that isn't snarky, having discarded several bon mots on that basis. I gave you one that might be of some use to you, if you'd read it carefully enough to understand.

Not to argue with it, not to reply to it, not to debate, not to play word games.

To understand.

#198 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 05:30 PM:

Greg, trust me, it's time to let this go. The trenches are only being dug deeper. People who insist on seeing racism everywhere will see racism everywhere; that's human nature.

It's often best to just present the evidence for your position and move on. Sometimes folks will agree with you after they've had time to reflect. A good number of Bush supporters have finally come around.

As one of my favorite philosophers said, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." I mostly float and sting like a sledgehammer, but I'm working on that.

#199 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 05:35 PM:

Greg, you cross the line into serious offensiveness with your remarks imputing that an unspecified group of people are engaged in "racism-hunting".

Like Will, you don't seem to be able to grasp that the people you're arguing with have little interest in convicting particular individuals of "racism." Personally, notwithstanding the fact that I sometimes shoot my mouth off, I don't actually believe I have the power to see into people's souls. Many good people sometimes behave abominably, and many rotten people occasionally do good. I'm not God. I do, however, want to talk about racism and how it entails a set of narratives and understandings which inform the way our society is organized. This is not "racism-hunting". Lucy Kemnitzer has made this point repeatedly and you have ignored her. Your determination to press on as if this point has never been clarified, repeating the insinuation in new words, has become indistinguishable from a determination to cause deliberate offense.

#200 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 05:37 PM:

And by the way. I'd like both Will Shetterly and Greg London to focus their giant brains on this interesting quiz question.

For what kind of Americans is thinking and talking about race mostly optional?

For what kind of Americans is it mostly not?

#201 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 05:42 PM:

adamsj should inspect the bottom of Making Light's front-page commonplaces section.

#202 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 06:35 PM:

I know it's showing my age, and I think it's probably iffy on the coolness factor, but at times like these, the song that comes to mind is Fogerty's Song for Everyone.

#203 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 06:41 PM:

Greg: Oddly, it's not your arguments or the points you are making that have been annoying me enough to hit the capslock key. It's not your particular point of view on racism that bothers me. (It's not mine, and thus I feel the need to debate it, but that's different from getting me annoyed.) If you actually read my lengthy post where, after making a few points, I reiterate my entire stance, you will see we have several points in common. So unless you're shooting for 100% only, we do ahve room to find common ground.

Except.

What offends me is that you seem to seize on one comment, in one paragraph, and build your reply on that phrase, ignoring its actual context in favour of a context based on your assumptions. You ignore whole swatches of commentary that might actually build a bridge between what we're saying and what you're saying, in favour of loading up paragraph on paragraph agaisnt those few, small excerpts.

Ever been in a conversation with someone so interested in making their own point that they only hear a sentence you say when they can build their next big argument from it? Ever been in a conversation where someone asks a question they're so sure is a winning point that they turn around and strut at those listening in -- and don't notice if you answer it at all?

This is the impression I'm getting. You're either a supremely sloppy reader, or wilfully warping our comments, or ignoring us in favour of the dialogue in your own head.

I don't like to think any of these is the case. You've contributed well to discussions in the past. But I'm being forced into those conclusions by what happens whenever I try to address you as if you're sincerely interested in what we have to say. You've done it far less to me than to others - but that doesn't mean I can't read their posts, and your misinterpretations of them.

You'll notice I'm not saying this to Will Shetterley, who thinks several of the same things you do on the subject at hand. That's because I get the impression he's listening and thinking about what we say.

For what it's worth, I do agree that racism isn't the only way to discuss events in Gretna. Or in the whole of this latest atrocity. I think those who've said, in several places, "I'm not sure this is about race so much as class." have another valid point. And I think that absent racism, what happened with Gretna is still inhuman.

I also think you discount how many discussions there have been about these events that are not all about racism, or how many people have said, "I'm not sure that's what's happening here." All of the things you want to hear (per your "Wait a minute" plea) have happened.

I ALSO think the possibility that racism played a part is worth debating, whether or not it's empirically proveable. I ALSO don't think raising the question "Is it racism?" is going to equate to crying wolf, or turning people away. 9 out of 10 white people may have said they don't believe it does -- but 10 out of 10 white people answered the question.


I repeat. It's not what you're saying. It's how.

#204 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 12:16 AM:

Patrick,

On this thread, I've been called a useful idiot, told I've got wood for brains, and been called humpty dumpty. Somehow, the "faith-based racism" comment doesn't land as quite so outrageously offensive by comparison. Quite a few seem able to dish it out.

But I do agree with Will that it's time to drop this. Probably should have dropped it when the wood for brains comment came up. Oh well. Live and learn.

I don't know when I'll be able to get on a computer again anyway, so it's just as well. Gotta report for jury duty tomorrow. Maybe it'll be a hate crime. That would be karmic. Or maybe the accussed will be black and another juror will be a racist. That would be a good chuckle. Last time I did jury duty, I wasn't looking forward to it, this time could be really educational.

Maybe there will be a lesson I can pass along to everyone when I get back.

Don't start the revolution without me.

#205 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 12:37 AM:

oops, Patrick directed a question at me, figured I should answer before I go:

(1) "For what kind of Americans is thinking and talking about race mostly optional?"

The kind who don't feel the effects of racism.

(2) "For what kind of Americans is it mostly not?"

The kind who do feel the effects of racism and can't do anything about it.

I suppose the easy answers would be (1) whites and (2) blacks, but for question (1) I don't think every black person is affected by racism, so there are some blacks who probably think its mostly optional (40% of blacks didn't think the katrina response was racially motivated, which would seem point to the existence of blacks who think it is optional) and as for (2) some white people think racism must be thought and talked about.

#206 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 01:23 AM:

http://grabthar.blogspot.com/2005/09/sport-conspiracy-theories.html

fits in w/ the topic

#207 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 01:30 AM:

For what kind of Americans is thinking and talking about race mostly optional?

For what kind of Americans is it mostly not?

Patrick, where did I say that any American could quit thinking about race? Talking in terms of race, yes. Focusing on race instead of class, yes. Imposing the concept of race onto other people, yes. Attributing wrongdoing to race where other factors may be at work, yes. "Thinking," no.

But, since you ask, well, if you're a rich American, talking and thinking about race is mostly optional. If you're a poor American, you've got to be aware that someone who sees the world in terms of race may come after you because of the color of your skin.

If you're suggesting that "white" people have some way to keep from thinking about race, I wouldn't know. Haven't ever lived in a place where there were only "white" people.

#208 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 03:57 AM:

I'd fallen behind on this thread and finally got the time to catch up tonight. I see why so many people are so irritated with (okay, a mild term) Greg London, but I also see his point regarding skepticism. In fact, I just spent half and hour arguing Greg's side (on a couple of points, anyway) with my husband. His "skeptical epistemology" is appealing--even kind of fun as you get to play prosecutor, defender, judge, and jury as you figure out which side of the argument has the burden of proof and all those other courtoomy concepts--but I think he needs to reconsider what he'll accept as evidence.

Soon after my (now) husband and I started dating, I mentioned to him that I'd noticed as a young child that my looking toward bright sunlight or bright white artificial lights often caused a sneeze reflex. And so sometimes, when I feel the need to sneeze, I quickly turn toward the sun or a light and that helps me sneeze. He insisted that it was just coincidence. I told him I *knew* it was more. He said he'd *never* had that experience. After a couple more rounds of disagreement, he made a noncommittal this-isn't-going-anywhere noise and I grumped off, feeling as if he had called me either a liar or gullible.

No, I certainly couldn't prove a causal relationship. But *I knew* there was one, and I was as certain as I could be that it wasn't, as he once suggested, a learned response. It really rankled; didn't he think enough of my ability to observe and reason to trust me when I said I was certain about something I'd experienced and he hadn't?

Turns out that somewhere between 15 and 25% of people have this "photic sneeze reflex"--including our 2 yo daughter. My husband doesn't (no surprise, the unfeeling cad isn't ticklish either ). But you know what? Even before I had corroborating evidence that the phenomenon was a real one, I was *right* and I knew it *in my bones.*

Anyway, all that to say that just because your experiences haven't proven to your satisfaction that racism is a pervading force in our culture doesn't mean it isn't. Maybe you should allow yourself some "expert witnesses" in your courtroom of the mind. Will you consider me as one, if I tell you that racism is a pervasive condition and a founding principle of the society that I live in?

What are my credentials? After all, I'm not black. I've never had to wonder if I was pulled over by the cops for driving while black. I've never, to my knowledge, had folks cross the street to avoid me, even in my yard-hippy college days. But I have lived in a small town in Arkansas most of my life. My high school graduating class of 144 included not even one black student. My parents were careful to try to teach me that people of different races are no different from whites, but my very lack of exposure to anyone who looked different meant I was awkward around the first non-white friends I had in college. I'd like to think there's been progress throughout my adult lifetime, but even today, when I pass a cop who's stopped a car with a black or latino driver, though I *hope* it wasn't a racially motivated stop, I know there's a good chance it was. (My husband is far more likely to make that assumption; I tend to want to give the police the benefit of the doubt; he's probably right more often than I am.) I've had black friends get what seemed like heavy punishments for far lesser offenses than those my white friends only got slaps on the wrists for. I've heard cops and teachers and respected business leaders make public racist remarks with what seemed to be no fear of reprisals. I've seen a basic fear and distrust within my society of anyone who's "different," particularly those who are "taking our jobs!" It's pervasive, Greg.

Don't believe me? So am I imagining it? Am I lying? Am I just gullible? Or could I be right? Could Lydy and Lucy, and Lenora be? (No sexism intended; just a lovely alliteration.) Is there really no room in your belief system for personal testimony?

And are you so quick to tell us all that we should avoid using the word "racism" for fear of turning off our audience, but so blind that you're alienating us with your unwillingness to believe us when we talk of our own experiences and knowledge?

I have no doubt this post has holes a mile wide in it. It's late. I shouldn't post it. But here's hoping you'll actually read it before you leave for jury duty...

#209 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 04:38 AM:

It was suggested to (then) General (later Field-Marshal the Earl) Haig in 1916 that he should adopt different methods, and that this would involve not attacking while retraining his troops and adopting new weapons, and choosing ground other than Flanders, where rapid movement was impossible, and where his preparations were under close observation from higher ground.

He rejected those suggestions, dismissed or reproved those who made them, and attacked on the old ground by the old methods. The result was the Battle of the Somme. He did it again the following year, only more so, and the result was the Third Battle of Ypres.

Haig was right, strategically. To win, he had to attack, and he had to defeat the German army on the western front, of which his main responsibility and strength was in Flanders. His errors were on the level of not seeing that men cannot traverse barbed wire over bottomless mud while advancing into machine gun fire. These were only tactical errors; but they produced disasters on a scale beyond words, the slaughter of a generation, and the futile destruction of everything that Haig himself most valued - the old British army, and his own ruling class's place commanding it.

I'm just sayin'.

#210 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 06:16 AM:

No, Will, but white people, by virtue of being immune it, do, manage to be totally oblivious* to what their black neighbors go through, even poor ones, even to the point of insisting that there are no unfair extra traffic stoppages by the law, (speaking from liberal" New England) - even when the disemvoweled Massachusetts state PD is caught red-handed doing unfair extra stoppages, I have heard a young white young woman, literally ex-trailer park (yes we do have trailer parks up here) say, to the room,

"But maybe black people just speed more! And that's why they get pulled over more!"

(At which, yes, a couple of us said to each other after we got over our shock: "You can take the trash out of the trailer, but you can't take the trailer out..." in a deliberate riff on the old racist conservative sneer.)

Come on. You're smarter than this. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt...

*ObRef - CJ Cherryh, Wave without a Shore (1981)

#211 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 08:39 AM:

Bellatrys, never said racism didn't exist. I am that smart. Said class is a better model for explaining the problem, especially with Katrina, where "race" covers 85% of the situation, but "class" covers 100% of it. Never denied there were individual acts of racism with Katrina, either. Just pointed out that race doesn't explain the acts of our institutions: "whites" turned back on the bridge who were not part of the mixed-race group, individuals pulled out of the Superdome who had connections to law enforcement while individuals who were "white" but did not have family connections were left in the Superdome, private Hyatt buses took all of their guests and staff regardless of "race", etc.

Looking at Katrina through a filter of "race", it's easy to conclude that folks were hurt because they were "black" instead of poor, so long as you're willing to ignore the 15% of the poor who weren't "black". But where's the "white privilege" for the folks who were there? You can't say that everyone was equally mistreated and it's still racism. Well, you can, but I'm not smart enough to understand colorblind racism. I continue to see examples of people being hurt because they were poor and helped because they were rich, regardless of their "color.

#212 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 08:41 AM:

This morning's Paul Krugman makes an interesting point on the issue of race/class:

[W]ho can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I." A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, "Why should I be taxed to support those people?"
Source

#213 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 09:41 AM:

Will,

I think there are sound tactical reasons for attacking class directly with social policy rather than focusing on race. I suspect such focus is part of what's helping the right make what inroads among the socially conservative black churches. To devise such a policy which will work, well, I think you gotta figure in race, or you'll get a policy that's not realistic.

I spent most of 2001 and part of 2002 in Birmingham, during the terrorism trial, and (being unable to not listen to the people around me), on one occasion during that trial, I heard a guy, who was successfully (I think) picking up a woman in a bar (yes, I was jealous and single), explaining why the charges against that Cherry guy just didn't hold water.

I don't know that he was a racist. But in context:

At about that same time, a block away I overheard another conversation, a table full of college kids (I was living a block from Little Five Points, toward the campus), one black. What caught my ear was the blonde explaining to the black guy that their--hers and her people, his and his people--blood was different. That, and the black guy going, "Wait, now. Wait a minute."

Was she putting him on? Maybe, but it didn't sound like it to me.

I'd always assumed that sort of talk would die out as the people who believed it died out. I was wrong. Somehow, it never occurred to me they'd reproduce their ideas along with their DNA.

A guy who worked doing archival and museum type work for the city of Little Rock (the details of his job are fuzzy in my mind, but it was to do with local history in some way) got interviewed in '98 or '99 for the D-G (local paper). He'd been in the mob outside Central High. He didn't want to talk much about it, but he made it clear he wasn't repentant or regretful.

I had to admire that, in much the way one admires some of Gordon Dickson's characters (I'm a fan--don't take that wrong), and remember thinking I hoped he didn't lose his job over the interview.

That really confused me to think (or feel) that, since that mob, more than Faubus (for whom, again, I have a perverse admiration), symbolized in a literal, concrete manner, evil for me.

Bottom line: Racists have a right to a job, too.

Didn't stop me from smiling when I heard an editorial board member of _The Spotlight_ got it in the OKC bombing--read the news in a right-wing health food store allied with the local Klan.

(How to quickly spot a right-wing health food store? Look at their books on AIDS.)

My personal philosophy? There was a band we really needed for a benefit for (what else?) Rock Against Racism, and the last member I had to convince was the bassist. I caught up to him in a bar we both frequented. When I asked, he told me, "Well, Johnnie, I'm a racist." Was he putting me on? Was he honest? Was he good-hearted and self-conscious of his own flaws?

(I could've said the same thing, in a certain context.)

What I told him was, roughly--strike that. What I told him, more-or-less but kindly as I could, was what I cared about was how he treated people and how he behaved, and that what was in his heart was his own problem. He played the gig, but I've always wondered whether I was too easy on him for the obvious selfish reasons, or maybe because I liked him. I don't think so, but I wonder.

Do I have a predisposition to see racism as the root of many social problems,especially class? Yes. Am I aware of it? Yes. Do I struggle with it? Yes. Am I wrong sometimes? Yes.

That's the best I can do.

#214 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 09:55 AM:

Lis, 49% of the folks living below poverty in the USA are "white." Racism doesn't explain that. Class does.

adamsj, devout racists are going to die racists, no matter what the society does. But if you want to eradicate the idea of race, you've got to quit dealing with the concept as though it were any more valid than predestination.

#215 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 10:03 AM:

Krugman's point is that race has colored (pardon the pun) American perceptions of class.

Instead of viewing the poor as "there but the grace of Gd" it's us and them. Class issues warped by racial ones until they become fused.

Sure, some blacks can become "us" (think of the lifestyle portrayed in the Cosby Show) but more often poor whites become part of "them"

That's what happened, I think, in Gretna. Even though some of the people seeking access were whites, they had become so associated with "them" that they were no longer "us" and thus not welcome.

#216 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 10:33 AM:

Lis Riba: well said, I have only one more comment to offer on this. The no of whites on the bridge, huddled in the entrance to the Convention Center, outside the Superdome, were an extremely small percentage of those present. I wouldn't even give it the 20 % Shetterly does. Even so, granting him that no, those on the bridge w/ the guns would have seen only black faces b/c those were the predominant color there.

I would bet there are psychological or sociological studies verifying this.

#217 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 10:49 AM:

Lis, have you read Zinn's People's History of the US? The situation for poor whites has always sucked in this country. It's true that race has divided the efforts of the working class. Ditto for gender. The rich have always been good at dividing the underclass. So I think it'd be nice to tell them they can't have "race" anymore.

hrc, I wish people would quote more accurately. The New Orleans statistics on folks below the poverty line are 85% "black." I haven't seen how the other 15% breaks down.

Also, the articles about the paramedics says, "The following day Mr Bradshaw said they tried again to cross and directly witnessed police shooting over the heads of a middle-aged white couple who were also turned back." It's hard to imagine how people could shoot over the heads of a couple of middle-aged "white" people and think they were shooting over the heads of a couple of "black" ones. Do note that this couple is not part of Bradshaw's group.

#218 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 11:06 AM:

Okay, now I seem to diverge from the people I was agreeing with before.

1. White people are affected by racism, and I don't mean that they are affected by racism because it poisons the soul. I mean white people get the daily shaft because they are in communities which are hurt by racism. I mean white people died in Louisiana because of it. I mean white children go to terrible schools because of it. I mean the South went uderdeveloped for years, and now has terrible labor laws and environmental protection, because of it.

2. If you go after social problems by addressing the damage done by the inequalities of class, you are addressing racism. When the UC system was forbidden to maintain any of its affirmative action programs, the folks there redefined them in terms of class -- "first in family to go to college," income determiners, where-you-come-from determiners -- and that was shut down too, partly because it's Republican policy to starve education and partly because -- well, outreach programs to poor neighborhoods with underfunded schools work.

3. "Race" is not about the color of your skin. "Race" is a defining concept in the construction of class in the US, and its underpinnings are not color. We get blinded by color when we talk about it, but you go out in the world with the accent, body language, and originating neighborhood of poor white, and your experience is remarkably similar to that of a "minority."

The aryan-nation illness spreads fast in that group, but so do anti-racist movements, and that's also where the "mixed" families happen the most. Because racism isn't about race. It's about class. Race isn't about race either. There is no biological fact of race in the human species (we have some populations with a couple of genetic markers here and there, but the really distinguishing ones are not visible). Race is about caste. Not too long ago people could speak with a straight face of the races of Europe, and place them on the same ladder of respectability they placed the races they defined by color. It means just as little to speak of races now as it did then.

#219 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 11:27 AM:

Will,

Respectfully, your statistic actually proves the opposite. Race is a huge factor in poverty. US Census

Let me put this in different terms. If you're white, you've got about a 8 in 100 chance of being poor. This is less than people overall (12 chances in 100); that means being white is an advantage. If you're black, you've got about a one in four chance. One in four. That's racism.

Yes, half the poor are white. Because the US is overwhelmingly white. If it weren't for racism, the poverty rate would match the racial percentages overall.

It's also a fact that racism has been with us since humans started writing down history. Check out the Greek writings about the Persians and also their visual depictions. It is full of race. They even have words like Persianize that equate to being a race traitor. Aristotle has lots of fun things to say about the inherently inferior soul of slaves (and women). I'd go find some sources to cite, but I'm feeling kind of cranky. No, it isn't about white people and black people, but it is still racism.

By and large, I see the reaction of the US to this crisis as racist. There are many kinds of racism, and one kind is a sort of "not me" detatchment. No "black people are evil" needed, just "that could never be me".

Finally, you keep pointing out the two white people in the group as some kind of proof that what happened wasn't racist. Have you ever learned a language that subsumed females into male groups? A group of all women is a female construction, but add one guy, and you switch it to male construction. That sort of language quirk comes from unconscious framing of groups. If you get 100 black guys in a room, and add two white people, many people will look into that room and see a bunch of black people, not a group of mixed people. If you do the opposite thing, almost all whites, most people will see the group as "white". Lots of studies on mixed race neighborhoods and so called white-flight back this up.

#220 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 12:04 PM:

The lesson I gathered from Krugman's article, Will, is that race and class are so intertwined in the American mindset that you need to address them both together. If you deal with one or the other in isolation, the ignored half will act as an anchor to drag the other part back down.


I guess I wasn't clear enough in what I was trying to say about the middle-aged white couple.
That's what happened, I think, in Gretna. Even though some of the people seeking access were whites, they had become so associated with "them" that they were no longer "us" and thus not welcome.

It's not that the shooters couldn't see the color of the people trying to escape, but everybody left in NOLA has already been lumped together as undesirable. And that mental narrative is so powerful that it's easier to cram middle-aged white couples as associates of dangerous black looters (and thus threatening in and of themselves) than to reconsider everything one's been told (and has already done). After all, if the officer is wrong about these folks, that could open the floodgates to a whole lotta unwelcome and inconvenient soul-searching.

What's the line from Chicago? "You gonna believe what you see or what l tell you?" People try to fit what they see into their existing mental models.

How much research shows that eyewitness evidence is less reliable than what used to be derided as circumstancial? There's a woman who is still convinced (all evidence to the contrary) that a group of Arab musicians travelling on her flight were actually terrorists. Look at urban legends which, no matter how often they're debunked, continue to make the rounds.
Facts alone aren't sufficient. These are emotional gut beliefs, which we have to counter with other compelling narratives.

"That could be me" is not a comforting thought. People sleep much easier by distancing themselves. To combat that, we need to bridge the differences, of race as well as class. But we can't ignore that both exist.

#221 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 02:35 PM:

Elizabeth, my numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau. I just ran them to make them objective. For the full version, see race and class in the USA.

Of course "black" and "brown" people have higher percentages of people in poverty. They began poorer. There are still twice as many "whites" in poverty as blacks or Hispanics. Is the goal to make poverty colorblind, or to eliminate poverty?

"Persianize" is ethnicity, not race. They're different kinds of prejudice. That's why Terence could be se seen as a Roman, not as a "black." For more on this, see ending race: the finishing line.

As for the two whies who were turned back, please reread the sentence. They were not in the "mixed race" group. They were observed by the paramedics, but they were not in the paramedics' group. Based on the newspaper article, they were alone.

"Racism" that doesn't include race privilege is not racism. Here's how racism works: The cops point at the people who they think are "white" and say, "You folks, come on through." They point at the ones they think are "black." "You folks got a problem with your papers. Come back when you got the right papers."

When cops are shooting over the heads of solo whites and not letting them cross, you have to consider the possibility that something other than racism is at work.

#222 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 03:43 PM:

I understood the situation of the two whites who were turned back since you first raised it.

My point is that by the time this incident occurred, the officers' perceptions of those trying to cross the bridge were already fixed so they weren't letting ANYBODY across. Why not? Presumed guilt. But that guilt was presumed because of racism.

"Racism" that doesn't include race privilege is not racism.
That doesn't seem like a valid argument.
The first counterexample that comes to mind involves a different -ism, though, so I hope you'll interpret accordingly:

As students started forming clubs to promote tolerance (gay-straight alliancees, or GSAs), sometimes people trying to block these clubs went to the courts. Courts ruled that if schools permitted other interest-groups to form clubs, then they had to permit GSAs. In response, several school districts shut down ALL afterschool activities rather than allow GSAs to exist. Now, there's no straight-privilege here -- their clubs were canceled as well -- but can you deny that the cause is heterosexism?

I'll also point out -isms can exist WITHOUT the target group even being present.
A documentary from about 10 years ago called Shtetl looks at a Polish town. No Jews have lived there since the Holocaust, but people still hold antisemetic attitudes. And when the town historian starts researching the town's Jewish history, he becomes a target of antisemitic attacks, even though he's Christian and lived there all his life.
[NOTE: this is not an attempt to Godwin, or even make accusations against all or a majority of Poles. I bring this up because I'm familiar with the story (my late grandfather was part of the genesis of the documentary, when he wrote the town historian researching his own geneology)]

#223 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 05:01 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer writes: "'Race' is not about the color of your skin. 'Race' is a defining concept in the construction of class in the US, and its underpinnings are not color."

Precisely. This is what's worth discussing, not the "racism hunting" that Greg London so kindly accuses us of. The question of whether particular individuals are "racists" (as if "racism" were something akin to measles, or stamp collecting) is largely uninteresting.

The point of Paul Krugman's observation is that "race" is a powerful means by which, in a society built on making "racial" distinctions (like South Africa, or Australia, or the United States), the privileged can view a large number of the less-privileged as in some essential way "other." The existence of privileged black people and poor whites does not obviate or disassemble this dynamic.

I don't agree with Will that the answer is to stop talking about race. Indeed, I feel quite confident that if all of us were to do as he suggests, those comfortable with racism would be as delighted as the sun is warm. I continue to wonder exactly what social progress was ever made by deliberately avoding analysis, discussion, and thought.

#224 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 05:01 PM:

I disagree. Here's the Merriam Webster definition of race: "2 a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock b : a class or kind of people unified by community of interests, habits, or characteristics".

It doesn't have to be about skin color, though in America it mostly is. The Greeks ignored skin color for culture and nation; that dynamic is still racism. I harp on this because you seem to think that the dynamic is new (only 300 years old or so), but it is very old. Treatment of Italian and Irish immigrants in the 1800s did not depend on skin color. Understanding the dynamic and recognizing it in different clothes is part of finding the cure.

People of color are poor now because they began poorer?!!!? I can't believe you said that. Women with the same level of experience as men, doing the same job, make 77% of men's wages. Can you see that discrimination affects wage rate which affects poverty?

Yes: many of the poor are white. My goal is decent living for everyone. Part of that means recognizing that some people get better chances than others, that this is often an unconscious problem, that is pervasive in many societies under different guises, and so on.

Lis Riba perfectly explains what I was trying to get at about the white couple.

#225 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 05:30 PM:

When cops are shooting over the heads of solo whites and not letting them cross, you have to consider the possibility that something other than racism is at work.

Solo whites?

Try 3 whites surrounded by/leading, circa 800 (or more) African-American/Latin-American/eg "brown" people.

As per, once again, the given testimony of said whites at the Ponchartrain Expressway Bridge.

Maybe the Nile's actually that Big Muddy river down the middle of the USA...

#226 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Back to Krugman, I don't think Reagan ever explicitly identified his Cadillac-driving welfare queen as black, but I somehow always knew that's what Reagan was talking about. [Found an interesting academic study on the media portrayals of welfare issues with statistics strongly showing that poverty is portrayed as a racial issue.]

Likewise, if you read the comments to that article, people start going on about "the rampant fatherless children in our inner cities" another problem that I primarily see reported as a black problem.


BTW, not sure how familiar you are with Malcolm Gladwell's writing, but have you heard the genesis behind his latest book (on snap judgments), Blink?

"When I was in my 30s, I went from having conservative, short hair to growing a wild afro. There were some good consequences to this. Many people treated me like I was cooler and funnier. But I also started to run afoul of police all the time. I got ludicrous speeding tickets and stopped for no good reason.
"Then one day, I was walking on 14th Street in New York City, and a van pulled up with three police officers in it. They thought I looked like a rapist they were looking for and grilled me for 20 minutes before letting me go. It was at that moment I realized my hair was enormously relevant to how people decided who I am."

#227 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 08:10 PM:

Elizabeth, I think it would be lovely if you'd go back to the pre-1700s definition of race, but once you do that, I don't see how useful it is to claim that vague units of genesis and kind are useful. I mean, yes, you could say the race of the Irish has been badly treated by the race of the British, and the race of women has been badly treated by the race of men, but I'd just as soon talk about nations and tribes and gender and leave "race" out of the discussion at that point.

And this really should be my last post in this thread. We're way past trying to convince anyone. You focus on race, and I'll focus on wealth, and here's hoping we meet in a better land.

#228 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 08:11 PM:

just a little time to post:

"racism hunting" that Greg London so kindly accuses us of.

Actually I didn't accuse everyone. It was directed at adamsj after he so kindly accused me of gullibility and being a useful idiot. He was hunting the grout-writer.

I do confess it wasn't the most adult response possible.

#229 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 09:06 PM:

Here's the Merriam Webster definition of race: "2 a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock b : a class or kind of people unified by community of interests, habits, or characteristics".

Nobody ever actually uses "race" any more to mean a group of people "unified by community of interests, habits, or characteristics" except when they are being ironic. It's like speaking of people "of the Jewish persuasion:" archaic, ironic, usually insulting.

The word is, in any of its senses, useless to describe any group of people. It's fraught with obsolete notions and horrible history.

If you want a word to refer to a group of people, you should choose the one that expresses what you mean to express about that group of people.

#230 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2005, 11:14 PM:

White people don't think black people are just like them

Go forth and read. And then tell me racism isn't real.

#231 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 12:14 AM:

Will:

"Racism" that doesn't include race privilege is not racism. Here's how racism works: The cops point at the people who they think are "white" and say, "You folks, come on through." They point at the ones they think are "black." "You folks got a problem with your papers. Come back when you got the right papers."

You mean like this? Farai Chideya's report from her uncle at the Astrodome (the 9/16 entry, I couldn't find a permalink.)

For those who don't want to follow the link, her uncle who got evacuated from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome reported that after he was settled at the Astrodome, he noticed a lot less white evacuees than there had been at the Superdome. After he asked around, a priest told him that local hotels were being paid to take evacuees. The white evacuees were told about the hotels.

Unconfirmed as yet.

#232 ::: Xgy ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 10:02 AM:

thnk tht Lwsn ws trng t kp ltrs t, nt blck ppl. Th fct tht t ws s dffclt t tll th dffrnc btwn th tw ss mr bt blck ppl thn t ds bt Lwsn.

#233 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 10:47 AM:

You focus on race, and I'll focus on wealth, and here's hoping we meet in a better land.

...and if, Will, you think you can do a better job of addressing poverty while you pretend that the fact that the vast majority of the poor in this country are black and the vast majority of black people in this country are poor, are somehow unrelated to anything in the real world or majority attitudes in this country - well, I guess you'll go on doing as good a job at solving the problems of poverty and oppression as the Left has done so far...

#234 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 11:20 AM:

Well, hello, Xguy! Come to play bait the liberals, have we? That's nice. I'm not biting.

Greg, would you like to punish this egregious offender? He seems just the type you were talking about as needing punishment.

#235 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 11:22 AM:

And so, via Xguy, the blog rolls back to August the 30th, to reveal that White people find things. Black people loot things.

#236 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 12:18 PM:

Xguy: I'm sure that's a comfort to the L.A. merchants who had stuff taken during the King riots by white people in luxury imported cars (they were filmed doing it).

If the police in Gretna can't identify people as elderly, children, handicapped, or white, instead of 'black therefore looter', they're in a lot more trouble than they think.

#237 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 12:20 PM:

I don't think "vast majority" applies, bellatrys.

The closest statistics I can find quickly that addresses this doesn't directly give the number I'm looking for but it's close to Will's 49% white poverty rate. Table number 682 gives ~34million total people in poverty in 1999, which is of course a low estimate though the 2000 census made a sincere effort to count the difficult to count(I know first hand, I worked for the census that year both for pay and as a volunteer), of whom ~19 million are counted as "white" (which is closer to 56%), while black people in poverty come to about 9 million, which is about 26%.

Looked at a different way, though, the same table says that about 9% of white families live below the poverty level, and almost 25% of black families live below the poverty level. That's where you can see the disparity.

But I don't think this discussion is all about numbers anyway. If you look at the numbers for other "races," you'll see only 608 thousand Native Americans counted. But they're important too. Their poverty matters.

Will has a point -- that economic justice is the core issue. I just don't think that denying the existence of racism, or failing to talk about it, helps address economic justice.

#238 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 01:09 PM:

NPR had interviews with Gretna's mayor and police chief this morning, or at least I think so; I was only half-awake when it aired and haven't listened to the online audiofile yet.

#239 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 01:13 PM:

Several years ago, Patricia Williams wrote an article for The Nation that is relevant to this conversation.

She recounted her experiences buying a house on the East Coast (Connecticut, maybe?). She's well-off, a Professor of Law at Columbia, and was buying in a wealthy neighborhood. She was also doing the whole transaction long-distance, from NYC.

She had a loan approved, was all set to close, and then got a call from the bank saying that they had to raise the interest rate on her loan. Why?

Well, she'd checked the 'Black' box on one of the forms she filled out during the homebuying process. And the fact of a person of color moving in to the neighborhood changed the hood's rating with the bank to a slightly more transitional one, so the house was a slightly less good risk. Williams wrote about the knotty material reality that, yes, the more people of color a neighborhood has, the more property values tend to fluctuate, and that she herself, by the very fact of the color of her skin, was now looking at a slightly-less-good investment than she had been before she'd checked that box.

That is pretty much the textbook definition of institutional racism. Where is the individual who is behaving badly here? It's the 'objective' world of finance, determined by the agglomeration of many many individual decisions, packaged up into one implacable reality. The social patterns of racial discomfort are concretized into financial risk that are, after all, pretty damn important to people-- housing is a big investment.

And how will any of it get addressed if we can't talk about race? Tell people that they should take a hit on their property values? Mock them if they won't? It's **bigger** than that, way more diffuse, can't be accessed by a rhetorical 'Christian Science' approach.

#240 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 03:38 PM:

bellatrys, see race and class in the USA. If my numbers are wrong, say so. But no one's spotted a mistake yet. The basic breakdown by "race":

Asian persons in poverty: 2.92% (or 3%)
Black or African American persons in poverty: 25.17% (or 25%)
Hispanic or Latino persons in poverty: 22.68% (or 23%)
non-Hispanic Whites persons in poverty: 49.23% (or 49%)

The reason you think most poor people are black is because you've been getting your perspective from people who're focused on race. One tricky factor is that the "black" poor tends to be urban and the "white" poor tends to be rural, and rural folk don't get much attention. The news centers, after all, are all urban.

Um, this is just a correction of an error, not a return to the discussion.

#241 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 04:21 PM:

What you've proved, Will, is that there are more White people in the US than any other group.

That's neither terribly interesting nor terribly useful.

#242 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 05:38 PM:

Mr. Shetterly, to get anything meaningful from those percentages, you have to compare the percentage of each race living in poverty with what percentage each race is of the overall population. If, for example, Race X represents 70% of the overall population and 51% of those living in poverty, while Race Y represents 25% of the overall population and 40% of those living in poverty, that does mean that most poor people are Race X, but Race Y is represented disproportionately.

I hope someone can explain this more clearly than I, fumbling thing that I am.

#243 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 05:47 PM:

Will, your numbers answer the question "what percentage of poor people are black?" as distinct from "what percentage of black people are poor?"

Yes, in statistical terms one can equally well ask "how likely is a randomly selected poor person to be black?" as "how likely is a randomly selected black person to be poor?" However, while "race" is a societal construct and not fixed over time and place, race is much more of an influence on socioeconomic status than the other way around.

#244 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 05:58 PM:

Sorry to add to the pile here, Will, but one other problem with your statistics. Quoting the Census Bureau,

People of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Hispanic origin is a separate question from race
I'm taking a look at the actual Census tables and hope to give some better numbers shortly.

#245 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 05:59 PM:

Jim, a surprising number of people think there are more "black" people living under the poverty level than "white." All I'm trying to say is that poverty affects everyone, so the solution to poverty should affect everyone, too. Why focus on 51% of the problem instead of 100%?

Aconite, the US Census Bureau has those figures for you. If you follow my link above, you'll see that's where I started.

#246 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 06:01 PM:

Oh, hell. Everyone, please excuse the slaughter of meaning in my poorly worded last post. It's over 100 degrees up here and my brain is only working somewhat. I'm probably about to make things worse, but I'll try to correct the worst errors:

Take 2: To get anything meaningful from those percentages, you have to compare what percentage of each race is living in poverty with what percentage each race is of the overall population. If, for example, Race X represents 51% of those living in poverty and 70% of the overall population, while Race Y represents 40% of those living in poverty and 25% of the overall population, that does mean that most poor people are Race X, but Race Y is represented at a disproportionately high level.

#247 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 06:12 PM:

Lis, that's why I only did the calculations for non-Hispanic whites. If you'd go to the page where I did the math (race and class in the USA), you'll see several links to the Census Bureau site, which is oddly organized. Follow those links, and you should find what you need. I thought it was simplest to stick with their basic breakdown rather than create my own.

Why the Census Bureau didn't do a simple pie chart of the racial breakdown of poverty strikes me as odd. But if you want to see poverty as primarily a problem for "people of color," their approach makes sense. I suspect it's a limitation of their vision, and not a deliberate attempt to make the problem look smaller than it is. But the effect is to make the problem look smaller than it is.

Still clarifying, not discussing....

#248 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 06:38 PM:

But, Will, if you follow my links what you'll find is that though (in that table) 56% of poor people are white, 9% of white people are poor. If you compare those figures for other ethnicities you get similar differences.

It's not helpful to think that poverty is an issue of what color the individual poor person is. It's also not helpful to ignore the role that racist institutions have in perpetuating and exacterbating poverty and its effects.

I think, if you hadn't come into the conversation with this idea that it was about calling people racists on the one hand or giving racism the power of uncritical universal explanation, you wouldn't be saying things I have to disagree with -- you'd be talking about other things, where we would agree.

Not that agreeing with me is the goal of the conversation. It's just that I don't want to be in a position of drawing up sides based on a disagreement about what we're talking about.

#249 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 06:59 PM:

Jim, an afterthought: It may not be interesting to you, but the reason I mentioned those numbers here is because bellatrys had just said, "you think you can do a better job of addressing poverty while you pretend that the fact that the vast majority of the poor in this country are black and the vast majority of black people in this country are poor." Bellatrys is not the only person who's wrong about those things.

Lucy, I am grateful for that link. But as for this business of relative racial poverty, poor "whites" have been poor for generations, just like poor people of other "colors." I don't think that makes them more deserving of being poor. Even if you accept the idea that children should suffer for the sins of their parents, their parents were never rich enough to be in the slave trade, neither as New England shippers or Southern plantation owners. They're just poor. Why should the percentage of poor "whites" relative to rich "whites" matter? Poor is poor.

Sigh. Back in the discussion. But I'll edge toward the door again soon!

Will

#250 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 07:13 PM:

Will, you draw a very remarkable conclusion from those statistics. What should jump out and poke you in the eye is that the rate of poverty for blacks is three times higher than it is for whites.

25% of black people are poor vs. only 8% of whites.

Think of it this way: if the death rate before the age of sixty for smokers were three times the rate for non-smokers, would that mean something to you? Even if there were more than three times as many non-smokers, so that the total number of non-smokers dying was greater?

#251 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 07:16 PM:

The easiest census data I could find quickly was a 2000 report (on 1999 data). You can see the full numbers broken out on my blog, but here's the quick overview:

Here's the racial breakdown:

  • Whites
    • 75% of the total population is white. 56% of poor people are white.
    • 9% of whites are poor. 12.4% of the total population is poor.
  • Blacks
    • 12% of the total population is black. 24% of poor people are black.
    • 25% of blacks are poor. 12.4% of the total population is poor.
  • Asians
    • 4% of the total population is Asian. 4% of poor people are Asian.
    • 13% of Asians are poor. 12.4% of the total population is poor.
  • Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
    • 13% of the total population is hispanic. 23% of poor people are hispanic.
    • 23% of hispanics are poor. 12.4% of the total population is poor.
  • Non-Hispanic Whites
    • 69% of the total population is non-hispanic whites. 46% of poor people are non-hispanic whites.
    • 8% of non-hispanic whites are poor. 12.4% of the total population is poor.

If there were no racial differences, the percentage of poor people who are X would be the same as the percentage of all people who are X, like you can see among Asians.

Whites are disproportionately less likely to be poor, and Blacks and hispanics are disproportionately more likely to be poor.

#252 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 07:51 PM:

All I'm trying to say is that poverty affects everyone, so the solution to poverty should affect everyone, too. Why focus on 51% of the problem instead of 100%?

In this country race has affected attitudes towards poverty to such an extent I don't believe they can be divorced.

Maybe you're thinking that racial initiatives will only benefit nonwhites? Because I don't see it that way.
I think you will uplift more people (white, black and every color of the spectrum) in a more lasting way by working on both race and class issues, rather than either one in isolation. Because without addressing the toxic societal attitudes towards race and class, those stigmas will just drag people back down.

I don't think anybody's suggesting there can (or will) be only one monolithic solution to poverty. It's a complex problem that can't be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach. Not even by giving them money.*


*Think Progress pointed out that the President's planned $200 billion for New Orleans equals a $400,000 check to every family displaced by Katrina. But money alone wouldn't solve their problems. Without financial planning assistance in handling such a windfall, it would be all too easy for them to end up poor again.

#253 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 10:11 PM:

But as for this business of relative racial poverty, poor "whites" have been poor for generations, just like poor people of other "colors." I don't think that makes them more deserving of being poor. Even if you accept the idea that children should suffer for the sins of their parents, their parents were never rich enough to be in the slave trade, neither as New England shippers or Southern plantation owners. They're just poor. Why should the percentage of poor "whites" relative to rich "whites" matter? Poor is poor.

What? What part of this discussion does this relate to? I don't understand what this has to do with anything.

I will try to respond anyway, which is probably silly since I don't get what you're doing here.

I'm not saying that poverty is one thing if you're white and another thing if you're black. (and actually long ago and far away in another thread or maybe this one I talked about caste markers for poor whites and the discriminatory experiences they have) I'm saying that racist institutions and racist conditions are major shapers of poverty (and other things) in US society. I've also said that white people frequently suffer materially from the effects of racism. White kids going to school in predominantly minority neighborhoods will suffer the same bad wiring, mismatched textbooks, broken chairs and desks, and draconian discipline policies as the other kids. (Although at Berkeley High School, they have managed, through academic tracking, to have a white school and a black school on the same campus)

In short, I'm not talking about differences in experience -- though I could, but that would be a different conversation -- I'm talking about the pervasive effects of long-standing conditions and social forces.

#254 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 01:04 AM:

Niall, if you want to treat the problems of smoking, focus on smokers. But if you if you want to prevent smoking, don't look at smoking. Look at the things that drive people to smoke.

Lucy and Lis, here's another try:

Poverty is generational. Poor "whites," poor "blacks," poor whatever "color" you want. It's racially disproportionate because people of different "colors" found themselves in the United States of America with different amounts of wealth. In rural places like Appalachia, you've got "white" families who never had money since before the Civil War. In urban places, you've got "black" families who never had money for just as long. It's economics. The solutions include education and health care for everyone, regardless of "race."

Dunno if that helps. Please tell me to shut up when I'm blatantly repeating myself.

#255 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 02:37 AM:

Will, what you've said here makes sense as far as it goes, but it's not in contradiction of what I've been talking about -- it's just another bunch of things. Which is what I expected would happen if we were really talking about things.

#256 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 08:03 AM:

Will, you are making sense, but let me take it one step further.

  • Reagan played upon racist tropes in the 80s with his talk of Cadillac-driving welfare queens. He then used that rhetoric to cut poverty programs in ways that hurt all poor, black and white, rural and urban.
  • Same thing in the mid-nineties. Criticism of generational poverty focused on the inner city single-mother families, but again politics applied that in ways to affect all poor.
  • And there's plenty of evidence that racism was involved in the response to Katrina, in blanket ways that also affected non-blacks trapped in the city.
  • In these ways anti-black racism hurts poor whites.

    The solutions include education and health care for everyone, regardless of "race."
    I'm not suggesting that programs be racially targetted, but that combatting racism is part of the solution that benefits everyone, along with education and health care and jobs and the rest of it.

    Does that make sense?

    I think much of this disagreement comes from focusing on different parts of the same elephant. We're each looking at the events through the perspective of our own experience. But holistically, we all want the same end result: less (or no) poverty for all races, and less (or no) bigotry (classist, racist, etcetera).

    Given our differing interests and backgrounds, it's only natural that some among us may focus on one aspect more than others, but as long as other people are addressing other aspects, we're all on the same larger side. Maybe that understanding can reduce some of the divisiveness and turn the focus towards how to achieve these aims?

    #257 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 08:08 AM:

    Perhaps more salient to the discussion of race and poverty is something I just read.

    "Black people are more likely not only to live in lower-SES (socioeconomic status) communities than non-Black people but to live in lower socioeconomic communities than non-Black people with the same income level. For example...in metropolitan areas in 1990, only 6.3% of poor white people lived in high poverty areas, compared with 33.5 percent and 22.1 percent of poor Black and poor Hispanic people, respectively."

    Robert, S.A. and Lee, K.Y. (2002) Explaining Race Differences in Health among Older Adults: The Contribution of Community Socioeconomic Context. Research on Aging, 24, 654-683.

    The rest of what I've been reading focuses on poverty rate of older Americans, and how race affects that. And I'm not sure that is pertinent to the discussion.

    #258 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 08:15 AM:

    And, as usual, my husband manages to say in one sentence what it took me several paragraphs to elaborate.

    The government uses racist rhetoric to enact classist policies.
    Therefore, combatting racism will also benefit the fight against classism.

    #259 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 01:30 PM:

    Incidentally, Will, the last time you were on your way out, you said:

    We're way past trying to convince anyone. You focus on race, and I'll focus on wealth, and here's hoping we meet in a better land.
    But this argument didn't start because you were murmuring a collegial and friendly observation about what we might want to be "focusing" on. This argument started because you flatly announced (on your own blog, to which I linked) that people should "stop talking about race and Katrina."

    I'm all for complex social problems being "focused on" from a variety of perspectives. Who isn't? That's never been what was at issue here, and you shouldn't be claiming that it was.

    #260 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 01:38 PM:

    Will, you're not covering yourself with glory here. I'd have thought you understood that government and the courts don't get involved in most human transactions. If the only varieties of racism you're prepared to notice are prosecutable acts, and you're actively unwilling to discuss the contexts in which those acts arise, you've redefined racism as a problem which not only can't be solved, but can't be addressed. This is approximately like telling Edward Jenner that when it comes to smallpox, the only legitimate subject of inquiry is how you should treat the lesions once they appear.

    #261 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 04:04 PM:

    Patrick, why do you keep ignoring the fact that I said "Please"? That's a request, not an order. You might also notice that despite my wish to focus on wealth, I've been talking about race, albeit iin the context of wealth.

    Teresa, I think your focus on race is analogous to addressing the lesions. Do you really believe the US's economic inequalities are due to racism?

    Michelle, all of the problems of racism come from economics. With poor "whites," it can go as far back as being sent over here as indentured servants. With poor "blacks," it often comes from having been released from slavery without 40 acres and a mule. The nice thing about addressing poverty is it helps everyone.

    Lis, people keep saying that conservatives are using racial codewords in their war on the poor, but I think liberals are stuck in the 20th century fighting racism while conservatives have finally acknowledged that the contest is ultimately over money. So liberals are desperately trying to explain how things that hurt poor whites as well as poor blacks are really examples of racism while the conservatives keep hauling in the bucks for the rich of all "colors."

    Lucy, our difference is both tiny and enormous. We agree that the symptoms are wrong. But we point in very different directions to the roots of the problem.

    #262 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 04:32 PM:

    Will, since we're agreed about class being the real root problem, I think what we're really disagreeing on is the shape of the root structure, and again the structure of the phloem, and the role that the leaves have to play, and various specific qualities of the fruit. The general structure of the tree, and the fact of the fruit, seem to be the points of agreement, and I imagine it depends on the conversation which of these is more important.

    #263 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 05:18 PM:

    Lucy, how can I quibble with anyone who uses "phloem"? Which is also called "bast", which has got to be useful in a story someday? We definitely agree that the tree is a mess.

    #264 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 06:47 PM:

    Michelle, all of the problems of racism come from economics.

    No offense, but that's not right.

    A couple months ago a guy who regularly comes into where I work left his wallet. We opened it to see who it belonged to, and the first thing we saw was his Aryan Nation membership card.

    West Virginia is something like 97% white. This guy hasn't lost jobs to minorities, he's not suffering economically because of minorities, he's just a jerk. And curing poverty isn't going to change his opinion.

    Yes, we desperately need to cure poverty. But curing poverty isn't going to solve all our problems. At least not as long as guys like this are around.

    #265 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 08:27 PM:

    Michelle, both the Aryan Nation and the Black Muslims recruit heavily from poor, ignorant people. Get rid of poverty, and you get rid of the racists' best hunting ground. And you can't expect everyone to quit being racists any more than you can get everyone to quit lining their hats with tinfoil. But you can make it clear that "race" is as discredited as phrenology and every bit as deserving of being ignored.

    #266 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 10:16 PM:

    Rivka of Respectful of Otters has a welcome, timely post on this issue.

    Katrina and Kent State

    #267 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 11:31 PM:

    I don't want to reignite the thread, but I have to say I find this statement jawdropping:

    people keep saying that conservatives are using racial codewords in their war on the poor, but I think liberals are stuck in the 20th century fighting racism while conservatives have finally acknowledged that the contest is ultimately over money.
    Maybe conservatives aren't actually racist, but just cynically pandering to racists to achieve their monetary goals, but... it's taking a lot of self-control not to pull up dozens of recent counterexamples from rightwing politicians and pundits.

    #268 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 11:53 PM:

    Will, if the contest is solely about money, then why are the conservatives screwing the poor out of every cent they earn?

    #269 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 03:21 AM:

    I think we'll all get a lot more out of these conversations if we drop the use of words like "solely."

    What groups like Aryan Nation do is they go after the most vulnerable and exploited of the white working class and tell them that the reason they're getting screwed over is that there are other people -- people of color, uppity women, godless, depraved people -- who are taking their jobs, their chances at happiness, their space on the earth. The language they use is pretty well overt (though projective, if that's the word: they accuse those others of having these competitive thoughts about white boys). They exploit and exacerbate the hopelessness of being at the bottom of the heap. They get turned into the terror brigades of capitalism. But it's not because capitalism has anything to offer them. Except the things it's been feeding us all -- fear and mistrust, and powerlessness.

    #270 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 09:11 AM:

    Today over at Salon, Jonathan Kozol, one of my heroes since I was a teenager, agrees and disagrees:

    Look, whether it's cruel indifference or the natural predilection of a parent to do the best she can for her own child, or originates in some very profound racist suppositions about minority children -- it doesn't make a damn bit of difference to the kids that I write about. There are unquestionably overtly racist white folks in the country, but I don't think that is an accurate portrayal of most white people in America. I think there is something peculiar about the culture wars that thrive in New York City; there's a venomous atmosphere around racial issues here that I don't find in most of the United States. Most white Americans with whom I talk -- and I don't mean people who read the Nation and the New York Times, just regular Americans -- are fair-minded and generous.

    For instance, some of the children I write about endear themselves to readers. One little girl in the Bronx named Pineapple, whom I first met in kindergarten, and still remain close friends with, was just an irresistibly charming little kid; she used to boss me around, like a pint-sized Oprah Winfrey. And people read about her in Ohio or wherever, and they fall in love with her. And if they met her, they would do anything they could to give her the same opportunities they gave their own children. The genius of segregation in America is that it never gives most decent white Americans the opportunity to meet a child like Pineapple. And because they don't know these children in their years of innocence, they are protected from their own best instincts. If they knew them, most good people in this country could not tolerate the destruction of these children's destinies. People are more decent than the politicians they elect. At the highest levels of government -- and especially George W. Bush -- our politicians appeal to the worst instincts of Americans rather than their most generous.

    #271 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 09:25 AM:

    I probably should've waited till I'd read the whole thing, because by the end of it, Kozol comes down pretty firmly on one side of the debate without disrespecting the other:

    Salon: What makes you so convinced that the inequalities stem from race and not class? If any one of the children you befriended in the Bronx suddenly inherited $100,000, wouldn't they be able to buy themselves a new start? Poor is poor, whether you're black or white.

    Kozol: I believe the racial factor is the most decisive. A lot of intellectuals, even radical intellectuals, love to shift the ground to class instead of race, and I think there's a reason. It's because for all it's unfairness, class injustice sounds less toxic. It's less of a theological abomination than racial injustice, which has its roots in the sins of American history. In this nation our racial history is our greatest national humiliation. In any case, it's a distinction without a difference because the most deeply hyper-segregated schools in America are far, far more likely to be schools of concentrated poverty than are racially integrated schools. So I still believe race is at the heart of it.

    #272 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 10:29 AM:

    The belief systems cut both ways. Upper Middle Class White Males run this country (if you have facts that disprove that, I'd like to see them). They dress in suits. Or dress slacks and a dress shirt, with or without a tie. John Malloy's Dress for Success is written for a very limited environment, but the basic concepts are very valid. You cannot stand on the outside of the stadium and complain about how the game is played. You gotta put on the uniform before they'll let you play.

    Personal example, viewed just the other day. I'm a temp, going from place to place. The current place I'm working was holding entry level group interviews. Three people showed up for one. Two were a young man and woman, wearing sloppy t-shirts, clean but worn jeans, tennis shoes, and they came in holding hands. The other was a woman whose eastern european accent was so thick you could barely understand her. She was dressed in a simple a-line skirt, dress shirt and worn but clean dress shoes. The young couple were in the conference room no more than twenty minutes before they came meandering back out, still holding hands. The woman in the skirt and blouse stayed for over an hour, and came out shaking hands with the two people holding the interview. I can't tell you if what these people wore made any difference to how they were treated, but I can tell you by my personal observations, the effort taken with clothing was also reflected in the attitude of the people who wore them.

    And reflect, if you will, on the very successful program of putting poor women into donated suits before sending them out into the work force. They are wearing the "game uniform" and it's reflected in both the attitudes of the people who hire them, and more importantly, in themselves.

    #273 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 10:45 AM:

    I don't want to try to speak for Greg, but I had an experience that I think is what he was talking about. My family, bless them, is full of Republicans. When Katrina hit, they were appalled, angry, shocked. When I talked to them recently, they were no longer engaged. People on TV were blaming the whole mess on "racism."

    I was told that there was no reason to have an inquiry. I asked if they didn't want to know what could be done better next time. They told me that "those people" aren't interested in doing better next time, all they are interested in is showing that everyone is "racist" except them, because they are so much better than the rest of us. There was a lot more back and forth, but that's the gist of it. The use of the word "racism" had turned them off, completely and irrevocably. This is a situation where not using that word would have helped, because I really don't think that my family is that unusual.

    I told them that white and black people define racism differently. White people tend to hear black people saying "Evil bigots sat around and said,'how can we killl as many n** as possible?' while cackling and rubbing their hands with glee." This is nuts, and they respond by saying so. The black people then hear the white people saying "Systems are not set up in this country so that white people benefit first and most" which is so untrue as to be delusional, and all meaningful communication ceases.

    This was rejected out of hand, but I asked them which was more likely, that so many people were insane, or that white and black people define racism differently. This did at least get them to stop and think, but I suspect that another round of Democrats on TV saying "racism" will wipe that out. (Although my dear sister, who gets Christmas cards from GWB, did tell me that she would ask some black friends how they define racism.)

    The Respectful of Otters piece is really insightful, and helps a lot in addressing this. When people are suffering from such extreme cognitive dissonance, you can't attack their core beliefs frontally. You have to gently move around the side, and start slow. This can be an opportunity for opening eyes to the deep, systemic way racism warps our national life. But it needs to be done gently, or it won't work.

    #274 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 11:03 AM:

    There is a point where being slow and gentle with people is no longer worth it.

    People were slow and gentle and non-confrontational as a whole about slavery, about Civil Rights, about women's rights, and it got us exactly where? Nowhere. Back, in fact, in a lot of instances. Because so long as the privileged are not *forced* to think about their privilege, they won't.

    That is historical fact. Over and over and over again, you *do not find* any effective *renunciation* of privilege, until someone like Francis gets up in the faces of their elders and betters, strips naked in the public square, disowns their family and runs amok.

    It just doesn't happen. And yes it pisses off the Nice. Fck the nice. The Nice are putting bandaids on amputations and pretending they're not holding the machetes cutting off limbs.

    It's better they be offended, than that we end up reenacting Froissart's Chronicles.

    I say this as a formerly much-offended, much-resistant Theocon, btw. But one who - unlike most conservatives, AND most liberals, was too committed to overcoming my own cognitive dissonance to *not* do research on my own, trying to disprove those damn liberal bigots, and too committed to Truth not to admit that I'd been had by home-grown fascists, when I read the old testimony...

    Are there a lot of people like me out there among the Nice, Decent Republicans keeping their heads under the Podsnap covers? I don't think there's any way to ask that question other than rhetorically: if the Rockefeller Republicans had been filled with such, then Jeffords wouldn't be the only ex-Republican Independent fighting the good fight in DC.

    #275 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 11:08 AM:

    --part of that is of course that no matter how overall mild you are, they will always pick the one firebrand and say "Because of Michael Moore, the Democrats are just as bad as the worst of Ann Coulter, so I'm going to go back to planting my tulips and ignore my moral responsibility to the Republic, and feel perfectly righteous about it." (This is only slightly summarized version of attempts at arguing with own Republican "nice" Christian relatives.)

    This was, in fact, the argument made by guru of the academic Catholic right, Orestes Brownson, the Vermonter convert who was the ancestor of the Romance of the Old South sorts, who argued after it was too late to matter that although he thought that slavery was wrong, he was against working actively in DC to end it, instead of waiting for it to die off naturally, because a) he was afraid that *pushing* to end it by Congress in the 30s and 40s would result in a civil war and b) anyway, the anti-slavery movmenet was full of dirty hippies - Romantic poets, free love anarchists, atheists and radical feminists...

    We all know how well *that* worked out.

    #276 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 12:32 PM:

    Oh, I totally agree that systemic injustice doesn't end because people are nice. In my professional life, I organize people to demand justice. It often surprises people who know me socially how "not nice" I can be professionally.

    Justice happens when the people suffering injustice demand justice, and demand it in such a way that they cannot be refused. It never happens because those committing injustice spontaneously decide to "do the right thing."

    I'm talking about individuals, not systems. We fight all this on two levels, I think. Kozol was right, people will often be spontaneously generous and decent on a personal level. The question is how do you move people from personal niceness to seeing and fighting the systemic problems that surround them? My experience is that systems are invisible to the people in them, unless something has opened their eyes. Then, all you can see are the systems. Kind of like fnords. In a lot of ways, my professional calling is to reveal the sytems behind the curtain. And I find that it always starts with the personal, but can't end there.

    My point above was that using the word "racism" can cut off all conversation, and lose an amazing opportunity to open people's eyes to the system.

    #277 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 12:48 PM:

    Juli, "racism" means many different things to many differrent people because it's a word like "Adoptionism": You have to accept an underlying theory for the word to make sense. So people's ideas of "race" will affect their ideas of "racism."

    In case I forgot to mention it earlier, that's another reason to address class rather than race: "Race" and "racism" are so emotionally weighted that even talking about accepting or rejecting the words can infuriate people.

    #278 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 12:56 PM:

    Juli, crossposted. My message above was a response to your earlier post. If I'd read your:

    My point above was that using the word "racism" can cut off all conversation, and lose an amazing opportunity to open people's eyes to the system.

    I would've just said, "Well said!"

    #279 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 01:10 PM:

    When people are suffering from such extreme cognitive dissonance, you can't attack their core beliefs frontally. You have to gently move around the side, and start slow. This can be an opportunity for opening eyes to the deep, systemic way racism warps our national life. But it needs to be done gently, or it won't work.

    Agreed.

    This actually brings me back to something Will wrote a while ago that I've been meaning to address.
    In his ending race: the finishing line (in the comments above and his own blog) Will writes:

    "Race" can be discarded if people choose to discard it. Societies regularly abandon concepts. Few people today believe in "the divine right of kings," and fewer accept one of the Roman Empire's fundamental principles, that it's proper to divide society between citizens and slaves.
    General attitudes regarding both these subjects evolved only after centuries of contentious debates, reams of published writings, and several bloody Civil Wars (English and French for the former, America's over slavery). If we take those as our examples, that's a direct exhortation that we have to actively challenge the status quo. We have to convince others the concept is a worthless one.

    That doesn't mean directly attacking people -- direct confrontation puts folks on the defensive and makes them tune out what you're saying. But you have to find ways to make them realize how ridiculous some of these beliefs really are, in hopes they'll change their own minds to avoid looking stupid.

    Back to Will:
    "Race" does not exist, but racism does. Devout racists and racialists will never change their beliefs. Treat them like anyone with bizarre beliefs: if they're harmless, tolerate them in the same way you would tolerate someone who believes in green and gray aliens. If they're violent, arrest them or have them committed. A Black Muslim and a Ku Klux Klan member are equally entitled to believe in racial purity, so long as they don't try to impose that purity on society.
    I don't think we can achieve racial justice by ignoring racism. True, we may not be able to change a hardcore bigot's mind, but what about hir children? What about other children who witness someone espousing such attitudes? The first amendment gives them the right to espouse trash, but doesn't mean you have to let them pass unchallenged. Why not think of these as teachable moments?
    Trying to solve the problems of "race" by addressing "race" perpetuates the idea of "race." Accepting the terminology of "race" is to accept a battleground chosen by the proponents of "race." It can create new areas of division: why should "affirmative action" help some poor people and not all poor people? The solution is to stop focusing on the symptoms of "race" and address the greater cause: social injustice.
    Again, I disagree. This sounds like a call to turn away from combatting racism in favor of other programs that will hopefully indirectly bring about racial change. While both may be necessary, that doesn't quite pass my smell test.

    In the 1860s and again in the 1960s, women subsumed their demands for equal rights within broader movements for societal equality. And when push came to shove, the constitution enshrined suffrage and rights on the basis of race long before gender was considered. For similar reasons, I don't think you can expect social justice movements to fully encompass all these diverse needs. Thus people do need to deal with the issues of subgroups separately, in addition to working on the broader goals.

    I've been trying to think of historical examples where bigotry was countered successfully and how that was done.

    What comes to mind first is the WW2 account of Danish gentiles wearing Jewish stars to confuse the Nazis*. Unfortunately, Snopes says that's a myth, but I think there's a good lesson to be learned from it.

    The success in this story didn't involve people ignoring the Nazi's fallacious attitudes about race, but subverting them until it became obvious that the divisions were arbitrary and ludicrous, and people were forced to abandon them.

    Are you familiar with the effect blind auditions have had on the gender balance of orchestras?
    In his recent book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the impact blind auditions have had on the gender composition of symphony orchestras. Since orchestras started requiring musicians to audition behind screens instead of in full-view, the number of women hired has increased fivefold. A study by economists Cecilia Rouse and Claudia Goldin found that the results are even better for women who play what have been traditionally considered "male" instruments like brass and percussion. [source]
    Again, this doesn't ignore the existance of bias, but finds ways to circumvent them to minimize its effectiveness. And here, most people participating in the process weren't aware of their own subconscious bias until blind auditions provided the evidence.

    In both these cases, the actions focus on changing the results, more than changing people. Can anybody suggest some other successful examples?


    * I'm not trying to Godwin this thread; it's just been on my mind recently...

    #280 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 01:30 PM:

    While "racism" itself may be a trigger-word, I think there are plenty of opportunities in recent news to open people's eyes and help them reconsider their own notions.

    white and black people define racism differently.
    Been able to see that even in this thread. But just because you're not seeing obvious signs of white privilege in some situations doesn't mean racism isn't at work.

    Digby has written several excellent posts recently about the role of race as related to Katrina. To avoid exceeding the link limit, I'm just going to quote from the first:

    I've heard many good people insist that race is not a factor. They seem to think that racism is only defined as an irrational hatred of black people. It's not. It also manifests itself as an irrational fear of black people.
    [Digby points to a slideshow by a photographer trapped in NOLA during Katrina.]
    If you look at that picture (#193) you don't see a rampaging mob. You see a bunch of black people standing around. He sees their plight. But he also assumes that he is personally in danger because he doesn't "fit in." He had been walking around lawless New Orleans taking pictures throughout the crisis and the only time he expressed fear for his personal safety was when something exploded nearby. But when faced with a large group of African Americans he immediately feels terribly threatened. He is proud that he "maintained utter calmness" in the face of it.
    That's subconscious racism. And many white people succumb to it without even knowing what they are doing. The New York Times reported that the Louisiana authorities were "terrified" --- just as this guy was frozen with fear. He is not a bad person. Neither are most of the cops or the others who succumbed to this fear. They just do not know themselves. And that lack of self-knowledge ends up coloring their decisions, both political and social, in ways they don't understand.
    You can read the rest at 1, and more good stuff follows at 2, 3, and 4. They're all worth reading.
    So too are the articles by Krugman, Rivka, and Kozol linked in other comments above.

    #281 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 04:01 PM:

    And, as is typical for me, after I spent so much time writing, somebody else says it better. This time it's Jeanne d'arc of Body And Soul who could be responding to recent comments in this very thread.

    She begins

    While race and class are central issues that are largely ignored by middle-class Americans, and therefore need to receive more attention from the left, we need to acknowledge that there is an effective way and an ineffective way to go about approaching the debate.  First, realistically, most suburban, middle-class white voters are not going to be prepared for this dialogue, because for them, racism simply does not exist.
    Later in the entry:
    The problem is challenging people's assumption that racism is past, and pointing out continuing overt and unconscious racism without denigrating individuals. On an individual level, I think that's doable. But on a larger scale, the media gets in the way.
    I'm not going to quote the whole thing, but it seems part and parcel of what's being discussed here, and I think it's worth reading.

    #283 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 10:49 AM:


    Yes! That's it! That's the thing that's been rattling round my head while following this thread.

    Not only are the middle classes blind to racism, but they also have a great deal invested in believing that they live in a place, in a time, when racism is impossible.

    We have a lot invested in being too enlightened to notice someone's skin colour. Admitting that race is an issue means we have to notice people's skin colours.

    If we acknowledge that class and race are linked, then we have to acknowledge that the good guys haven't won even that fight, yet. We have to admit that our very important stories of equality are stories of a better world. We have to further acknowledge the gap between our myths and those other people have. We have to, with great discomfort, examine our own assumptions again.


    We have to return to a struggle we want our parents to have won for us.


    #284 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2005, 11:39 PM:

    I just thought it worthy of note that a similar debate is forming aroung Bill Bennett's statements regarding aborting all black babies and reducing crime.

    Armando at Kos has a good post up.
    Bennett debate

    #285 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2005, 10:59 AM:

    Bennett's remarks are interesting even with more context than Armando has posted.

    from the CNN story:
    Bennett, who held prominent posts in the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, told a caller to his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday: "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.

    "That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down," he said.

    The story in the NY Times, in which Bennett claims he was trying to show a link between the abortion debate and crime (I find that argument to be very weak):
    White House Condemns Bennett's Remark

    #286 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2005, 01:39 PM:

    I think Bennett's statement may come from a grotesque misinterpretation of a hypothesis that Steven Levitt discusses in Freakonomics:

    In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years-the years during which young men enter their criminal prime-the rate of crime began to fall. What this cohort was missing, of course, were the children who stood the greatest chance of becoming criminals. And the crime rate continued to fall as an entire generation came of age minus the children whose mothers had not wanted to bring a child into the world. Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.
    I haven't been able to get the book from the library yet, but the excerpt posted on the website seems to indicate that he looks at a number of different sources of data to support it.

    #287 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 02:20 PM:

    Well, I guess I am a little late here. I live in the South, some 80 miles from New Orleans and my house was looted by my neighbor after the storm.

    New Orleans is a huge tourist spot (or was) and most of you screaming racism have been there or atleast seen news about New Orleans before. You have known for many years that there are alot of poor people living in sub-standard housing and poverty all over the country. Infact I would be willing to bet that there is a ghetto right there in the town you live in. So unless your out there doing something about it then your just a Hypocrite.

    Secondly, the facts are not all in and your calling for hangings and floggings. What happened to Due Process. You scream that these police where wrong for assuming that the crowds were coming to loot and pillage, but, you are doing the same thing.

    You are making rash and unfounded statements based on rumors and spotty news. You are nothing more than a mob ready to hang someone before the trial and you all should be ashamed.

    Now it is months later, and I still have none of the facts becuase I have spent my time bring relief loads down to the disaster area. I am content to believe that Justice will be served as best it can be. Will it be perfect, no I don't think so. Will it be better if I rant and complain on the internet while my neighbor goes hungry? Not likely.

    So Let's change the discussion to what have you personally done to change the situation, I don't want to hear about the money you donated cause we all know that donated money just makes rich non-profits richer. What have you done to stop poverty, and racism. What have you done to insure that next time 1000's of americans will not be trapped in a disaster area.

    Pfft. I already know someone is going to say I called this person or that person to complain. HAHAHAAHAH! so you wasted 15 minutes of your time and the guy on the other end of the phone.

    I asked what have you done?

    #288 ::: Fragano Ledgister sees blue pill spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:01 PM:

    I do not like blue pills of spam,
    I do not like them worth a damn.

    #289 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:13 PM:

    Would you prefer it in XP
    Or Vista? On a Mac, maybe?
    Would you read the comment box
    In IE or Firefox?
    Would you like it on a screen
    Matte or with a glossy sheen?
    Are you unlike poor Abelard?
    line deleted in the interests of good taste

    I do not want to carry on
    So I have zapped the spam; it's gone.

    #290 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:22 PM:

    This person obviously completely mistook the meaning of Superdome.

    #291 ::: [perky spam deleted] ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 04:45 AM:

    [posted from 62.141.56.160]

    #292 ::: Jon Meltzer sees a future VP candidate spamming ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 05:50 AM:

    You betcha!

    #293 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:01 PM:

    Justice Dept. officials' online trash talk torpedoes Danziger Bridge verdicts"


    (CNN) -- Jury selection was minutes away for five ex-New Orleans police officers accused of shooting unarmed civilians after Hurricane Katrina when a commenter ripped into the defendants on a newspaper website.


    "NONE of these guys should had have [sic] ever been given a badge," the commenter, identified only as "legacyusa," wrote. "We should research how they got on the police department, who trained them, who supervised them and why were they ever been promoted. You put crap in -- you get crap out!!!"


    "Legacyusa" turned out to be one of the top federal prosecutors in New Orleans. His post was just one of many anonymous barbs that led a federal judge Tuesday to throw out the convictions of those ex-cops in the Danziger Bridge shootings, which left two people dead and four seriously wounded.

    #294 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:05 PM:

    293
    That's the kind of fail that leads some of us to wonder if they deliberately torpedo some of their cases.

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