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Monday, April 20, 2009

Supreme Court "Reverse Discrim." Case

Keep your eyes and ears open this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral aguments starting (and ending?) on a case involving firefighters, promotions, and "basic skills tests" in New Haven, Conn. (home of Yale U., no?) Anyway, some whites are pissed because they didn't get promotions they were "entitled to" as a result of getting the best test scores. (See full story at and elsewhere) Problem is, New Haven's population is 44 % white, 36 % black, 24% Hispanic. But at the time of the 2003 test, 86% of the captains were white. The department may have messed up if they gave the impression that the test would be the sole criteria for promotion decisions. They obviously have a legitimate interest in making leadership more reflective of the community it serves. And even if the test were not inherently biased, if it's measuring skills that are taught in informal, everyday settings by more experienced, higher up firefighters, we know that since 86% of existing captains were white, they are much more likely to choose out people of their own race, with whom they feel more naturally comfortable, to spend time with mentoring in an informal, everyday way. That's the way I see it. We'll see how the case goes. One source, the Wall Street Journal ( sees this as a "last chance" for the Bush-dominated court to make a conservative statement against Affirmative Action before Supreme Court retirements bring a leftward swing to the court.

My Response to the Va Tech Diversity Mess

This was originally intended this as a guest op/ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education, but someone else more knowledgeable than me (John L. Jackson, Jr.) beat me to it, and did it better than I could (see at Here's mine, for what it's worth:

“This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Stanley!” That’s my initial reaction, as a grad student at Virginia Tech and supporter of diversity initiatives, to the step announced yesterday (April 15, 2009) to backtrack on the wording of diversity as a criterion to be considered for promotion and tenure at my school. The problem is in identifying the “Stanley” that’s to blame. There are plenty of candidates:

1. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for raising a big fuss by branding the policy a “requirement” and “litmus test” and infringement on “academic freedom.” Of course, that’s their job, and their name makes their ideology, individualism, clear.

2. Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, for backtracking on the institution’s stated commitment to diversity as soon as the heat got turned up. Giving in to outside pressure groups like FIRE only empowers them, and disempowers the

3. Virginia Tech Provost Mark McNamee for apparently carelessly using the word “requirement” one time in a memo in referring to a policy which clearly was no such thing.

4. The Chronicle for Higher Education, for giving space to the complaints of a group like FIRE. What credentials does that group present, how large a constituency do they represent, that justifies opening the gate to allow their complaint to be aired uncritically to all your readers? And Robin Wilson used the term “requirement” as if that were what it was, rather than what some critics were characterizing it as.

5. We the supporters of diversity initiatives at Virginia Tech and other institutions of higher education. We weren’t vigilant enough, were complacent, too trusting that surely the “storm” that was brewing would be recognized as just a dirt devil and allowed to die without action.

No matter where we place the blame, once again damage is done to the reputation of a land grant college that is designed to serve a representative constituency of its residents whose tax support provides its lifeline, yet currently has a student body that is 4.3% African American (and the number for faculty is even lower), versus 18.4% of the state of Virginia , Aside from this most glaring statistic involving blacks, we also, like many schools, have an underrepresentation of women (especially as full professors on up), Hispanics, Native Americans, sexual minorities, the disabled, and other groups continuing to struggle against barriers intentionally constructed over many decades, and which require, in my opinion, intentional efforts to dismantle. When true diversity is achieved, we all win. What do we fear—loss of privilege?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Virginia Tech takes a Step Backward on Diversity

The spit hit the fan here in Hokie land on Tax Day, as it was announced that school president Charles Steiger and Provost Mark McNamee had given in to pressure from Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and a few like groups to change the wording of the school's diversity component in making promotion and tenure decision for faculty. FIRE framed it as a battle between, on the one hand, the individual rights and academic freedom of faculty members, versus the "requirement" and "litmus test" being imposed on them by the institution. FIRE raised some ruckus over the issue in the Collegiate Times student newspaper at Tech, as well as garnering coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And it worked. The administration caved, without consulting the vice president for diversity or other stakeholders until after the decision had been made. They claim that they have only taken the working out temporarily, until wording that makes involvement in diversity clearly optional can be agreed on. But it sends a very bad signal, for an institution where blacks and other minorities are badly underrepresented, and with a history of bad decisions that have hurt Tech's reputation in minority communities. Hope we can make our voices heard and get the reversal reversed again back to where it was, and where it belongs!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Neo-Hippie Indian Wanna-Be's Get Their Comeuppance

"So, like, man, we are totally noncomformist counterculturalists who like to party day and night, get neaked and great stuff like that, so we don't have to worry whether we trample on another race's sensitivities" Or maybe you do (read on)

Burners Torched Over Native Party
Local Native Americans go to war against insensitive Burners and win.
By David Downs

April 1, 2009

There was supposed to be a "private" Burner party last Saturday night at the Bordello in Oakland, complete with three hundred guests, twenty DJs spinning thumping techno and bass, dancers, a fashion show, micro-massages, raw food, an absinthe bar, and coconuts. Instead, the event ended in tears.

More than fifty Bay Area Native American rights activists converged on the historic East Oakland property at 9:30 p.m. to ensure the shutdown of popular Burning Man group Visionary Village's "Go Native!" party. The fired-up Hopis, Kiowas and other tribal members spent more than four hours lecturing the handful of white, college-class Burners about cultural sensitivity until some of them simply broke down crying. The emotional crescendo capped a month-long saga that started with a tone-deaf dance party flyer, led to an Internet flame war and a public excoriation of Visionary Village's young, neo-hippy leaders before real tribal elders in the East Bay demanded a cancellation of the event.

The strange saga all began in early February when Visionary Village — a loose group of artists and other young people who enjoy the annual Burning Man arts festival in Nevada — began routine publicity for a Burning Man-style "private event" at the Bordello on E. 12 Street in Oakland. The online flyer circulated on read: "GO NATIVE" in an Old West font set against a desert sun, and the dance party was advertised as a "fundraiser for the Native American Church." Native-rights activists got wind of it and publicized additional text from the web site indicating four "elemental rooms" would be themed: "Water: Island Natives (Maori); Air: Cliff Natives (Anasazi); Earth: Jungle Natives (Shipibo); Fire: Desert Natives (Pueblo)." Ravers were offered a discount off the $20 door fee "if you show up in Native costume," and the money would fund "neurofeedback research demonstrating causality between medicinal use [of peyote], improved brainwave patterns, and heightened mirror neuron activity in users." The 140-year-old Bordello property abuts Interstate 880 and an ancient Ohlone Indian site dated to the 12th century B.C., which was also promoted.

By Wednesday, March 25, Native Americans across the country were seething on the comment boards, especially — a popular web destination for alternative news and culture. American Indian Movement West member Mark Anquoe, a 39-year-old San Francisco resident, said he'd never seen such a swift reaction. The Burners touched a third rail when they invoked the Native American Church, which has had to fight for legal status from the United States for years. The costume discount, lumping distinct tribes in with each other and the promise of debauchery next to sacred Ohlone land, only added gasoline to the inferno. Commenters demanded that the event be canceled, started a petition amongst rights groups, and some began threatening Visionary Village with arson and rape. Among the most incendiary comments received by the Village: "YOU FUCKING CRACKKKERS[sic] ARE THE REAL DEVIL AS SPOKEN IN THE SCRIPTURE! SHIT LIKE THIS DOES NOT SUPRISE ME ONE BIT, ... I PRAY TO THE MOST HIGH THAT A METEOR WILL FALL OUT THE SKY AND HIT ... E. 12th Street AND ALL YOU FUCKING DEVILS WILL BE BURNING MEN ALRIGHT!!!!"

Anquoe said the sum of the Burners' actions turned them into a focal point for latent Indian rage over things as broad as the Cleveland Indians mascot and the Boy Scouts. "This is so many different levels all at once that the whole community from everywhere went up in flames all at once," he said.

The Burners quickly backpedaled online, signing a petition to distance the event from any Native themes and stating: "The decorations in the Air Room include a parachute. Our organizers are dressing as time-traveling aliens, Nickelodeon cartoon characters, and fire-dragons because that is how they identify their native identity. That is their NATIVE ATTIRE/COSTUME. ... Please stop slandering our event and misleading people."

But the bonfire was too big. Real Native Americans promised to protest the event and some DJs egged them on. On Friday, March 27, IndyBay reporter and UC Berkeley attendee Hillary Lehr proposed a meeting of both sides in Mosswood Park to work out their differences. Visionary Village leaders "Caapi" and Byron Page attended the meet with Anquoe and others. The Native Americans persuaded the Burners to come to the Intertribal Friendship House on International Boulevard in Oakland that night. There, they got blasted by Natives young and old for their party idea.

"They were brave for even coming," said Anquoe. "They saw the real tears of the people there and saw the heat of people's anger. The Village Elders demanded a cancellation. There was a ten-year-old girl sobbing in front of them."

Caapi and Page offered to cancel the event to wild applause, but the Native Americans planned on showing up Saturday night anyway. The event had been promoted for a month and they wanted the chance to talk to whoever showed up dressed in "native costume." More than twenty partygoers would arrive Saturday night, some in pattern-printed Hopi T-shirts or rustic, Andean fabrics and cuts, but all of them fled after hearing what was transpiring inside the Bordello.

Within the dark, labyrinthine walls of the 140-year-old former brothel, old Native Americans were lecturing young Burners on what it meant to be Indian. Lit by dim lamps under red glass lampshades, tribal elder Wounded Knee DeOcampo — wearing a black T-shirt that read "original landlord" — stood over performance artist "Cicada" in her sparkly, sheer scarf and layered hipster garb, lecturing her about his grandmother's forcible kidnapping and rape at white hands.

"There's a lot of pain," he said. "I don't want you to agree with me, I want you to understand!"

IndyBay reporter Lehr was nearby saying, "I've never seen anything like this. Their grievance is very real and it wasn't reconciled, it was escalated. We're starting to go down a long road now. It's not like everything's going to be okay. We're not going to sit around singing kumbaya."

At 10 p.m., activists and party planners sat cross-legged in a circle in the main room, lit by a lone spotlight and led by stern Intertribal Friendship House director Morning Star Gali. Native Americans vented and asked questions, while twentysomething Caapi — dressed in a Baja surf sweater — apologized profusely along with his crew. Byron Pope — noted for his Asian-Native American heritage and piercings, said he recently moved from his native Canada and was stunned at the response to his flyer. "I offer my sincere apologies. It's a different world here and I'm really learning that."

Caapi said his team's hearts were in the right place and they did not intend to steal Indian culture. "I think everyone here and inside of our community at large know how poorly promoted this event was in its iconography, in its text, in the affiliations and implications. I think perhaps after tonight the intent will be recognized for the good heartedness it was and the absence of anything resembling cultural appropriation."

But for every apology, the group often inserted a foot into its mouth. Some Burners said they'd been trained by shamans to build altars, others sang racist childhood songs, or noted the lack of Native Americans at Burning Man (which occurs on an Indian reservation). Others asked for Indian help with their Burning Man projects, prompting a Hopi woman to go off.

"I'm trying to articulate my feelings as best I can without completely losing it," she said. "What we do is not an artistic expression. And you don't have artistic license to take little pieces here and there and do what you want with it. That's something you people don't understand, probably never will understand.

"Name your little villages whatever you want, but don't ever associate it with Native Americans. Call it the Crystal Ranch or something. Call it the Mars Ranch. If you want to be spiritual — go be a Druid or something."

The back and forth went on until 1 a.m. and everyone was emotionally beaten, exhausted, and silent. No further reparations are planned, but the topic still smolders on places like The organizers lost thousands of dollars in party planning fees, and face the continued ire of the Natives as well as their own Burner peers.

"Elaine" on writes: "Dude, don't kiss anymore ass! [Visionary Village] did nothing wrong in the first place. This whole thing is blown completely out of context and out of control. The public apologies shouldn't have to be made. Its not like the theme camp was screaming some Michael 'Kramer' Richard shit at the tribe. Sorry this is just ridiculous."

Anquoe says the non-party was a rare example of effective conflict resolution that is unique to the Bay Area, and he commends Caapi for their actions. Those bystanders who claim overreaction should reverse the situation.

"If Indian people put together a fund-raiser advertised to benefit the Catholic Church where we did our version of a Catholic Church ceremony and there wasn't actually a fund-raiser — you know what the reaction to it would be in the white community!?" he asked. "People would take legal actions against us, it would be crazy, it would be far beyond not having a party. As it is, these kids didn't get to have their party and they had to listen to Indian people being angry and that's about right for the injury they caused the Native community."

Caapi maintains that the fund-raiser for the Native American Church was genuine, and will be providing the names and phone numbers of the event's beneficiaries as soon as he can collect them all.

It would Behoove Rep. Brown to Get a Clue

You may or may not have heard about this one yet--doesn't seem to have gotten much mainstream news coverage at this time. A Republican representative in the Texas General Assembly put her foot in her mouth and let her bi-ass show for all to see and hear in a hearing yesterday. She was trying to defend her precious Voter ID bill from the protests of Asian groups that the proposed law would suppress minority votes such as theirs, and cause a great deal of confusion.

Her argument basically is "Can't you people make it easier for us regular people by taking on a regular name like 'Bob' or 'Carol' so this name-matching problem won't get in the way of my precious voter id law?"

Of course, the joke is that someone were looking to commit vote fraud--which is what voter ID laws are supposedly intended to combat (it wouldn't be to suppress the minority and lower-income vote, of course not)--would do it through absentee ballot, where there is never any check of any kind, and which no voter id law proposal that I know of does ANYTHING to address.

Here is the story (from

Asians should simplify their names, GOP lawmaker says by John Byrne
Published: Thursday April 9, 2009

In a puzzling move which she insisted isn't about race, a Republican state lawmaker in Texas said in House testimony Wednesday that Asian Americans should change their names to ones that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

Democrats jumped on the comments by state Rep. Betty Brown. Her remarks came during a Texas House Elections Committee hearing, who'd invited a Chinese American representative to testify about ballot accessibility.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown remarked.

“Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?” she added.

A spokesman for the Texas Republican legislator told the Houston Chronicle her comments weren't about race -- she was only attempting to "overcome problems" with identifying Asian names "for voting purposes." Brown made the comment after the Chinese American representative, Ramey Ko, said people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent had trouble voting because their legal name may differ from the English name they use on their driver's licenses.

Democrats demanded an apology. Local Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie said that the Republicans were trying to suppress votes with a voter ID bill and that Brown is “adding insult to injury with her disrespectful comments.”

"State Representative Betty Brown's racially insensitive remarks have no place in America, and she should immediately and unconditionally apologize for her remarks," wrote Asian-American Democrats of Texas President AJ Durrani, according to a post on the Burnt Orange Report. "Please contact State Representative Betty Brown about her unacceptable remarks and ask her to apologize immediately in a public forum."

And here's the video link:

Sad Sequel to Jena in Louisiana

Quiet, well-respected 73-year-old black man gunned down at his own house by white cop. His crime? Apparently having a son with a record suspected of dealing drugs.

Say what you want about Rev. Sharpton, but the story isn't making news, doesn't come to my attention, isn't posted here if he doesn't get involved.

Black man's killing by police shakes La. town

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN and MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writers Michael Kunzelman And Mary Foster, Associated Press Writers –
HOMER, La. – For 73 years before his killing by a white police officer, Bernard Monroe led a life in this northern Louisiana town as peaceful as they come — five kids with his wife of five decades, all raised in the same house, supported by the same job.

The black man's shooting death is attracting far more attention than he ever did, raising racial tensions between the black community and Homer's police department.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize a massive 2007 civil rights demonstration in Jena after six black teenagers were charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate, led a peaceful march Friday afternoon in Homer to protest the killing.

"No justice, no peace!" demonstrators chanted. "We shall overcome!"

About 150 demonstrators marched near the neighborhood where Monroe, a 73-year-old retired power company lineman, was gunned down by police last February outside his home during a family cookout.

The half-mile march ended without incident at a park where the longtime civil rights activist told an even larger crowd of almost 400 people that "to shoot an unarmed, innocent man ... is a disgrace."

"We didn't come to the city to start trouble. We came to the city to stop trouble," Sharpton told the crowd. "Let (police) explain why they broke the peace and took the life of this innocent man."

Some white Homer residents said they feared Sharpton's visit would deepen tensions.

Linda Volentine, whose 1971 graduating class at Homer High School was the first to be fully integrated, said the town's race relations have had "ups and downs" in recent years.

"I'm hoping Rev. Sharpton can unite us again," said Volentine, who is white. "But if it's something that is supposed to drive a wedge, it will be harmful to the community, which we don't need."

Sharpton said afterward that he wants a thorough investigation of the killing. The FBI and State Police are investigating.

"We're going to keep coming to Homer until we get justice," Sharpton said without elaborating.

Rendered mute after losing his larynx to cancer, Monroe was outside his home on mild Friday afternoon in February when events unfolded during a cookout. A barbecue cooker smoked beside a picnic table in the yard. A dozen or so family members talked and played nearby.

All seemed calm, until two Homer police officers drove up.

In a report to state authorities, Homer police said Officer Tim Cox and another officer they have refused to identify chased Monroe's son, Shaun, 38, from a suspected drug deal blocks away to his father's house.

Witnesses dispute that account, saying the younger Monroe was talking to his sister-in-law in a truck outside the house when officers arrived.

All agree Shaun Monroe, who had an arrest record for assault and battery but no current warrants, drove up the driveway and went into the house. Two white police officers followed him. Within minutes, he ran back outside, followed by an unidentified officer who Tasered him in the front yard.

Seeing the commotion, Bernard Monroe confronted the officer. Police said that he advanced on them with a pistol and that Cox, who was still inside the house, shot at him through a screen door.

Monroe fell dead. How many shots were fired isn't clear; the coroner has refused to release an autopsy report, citing the active investigation.

Police said Monroe was shot after he pointed a gun at them, though no one claims Monroe fired shots. Friends and family said he was holding a bottle of sports water. They accuse police of planting a gun he owned next to his body.

"Mr. Ben didn't have a gun," said 32-year-old neighbor Marcus Frazier, who was there that day. "I saw that other officer pick up the gun from out of a chair on the porch and put it by him."

Frazier said Monroe was known to keep a gun for protection because of local drug activity.

Despite the chase and Tasering, Shaun Monroe was not arrested.

Monroe's gun is being DNA-tested by state police. The findings of their investigation will be given to District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, who would decide whether to file charges.

"We've had a good relationship, blacks and whites, but this thing has done a lot of damage," said Michael Wade, one of three blacks on the five-member town council. "To shoot down a family man that had never done any harm, had no police record, caused no trouble. Suddenly everyone is looking around wondering why it happened and if race was the reason."

Homer, a town of 3,800 about 45 miles northwest of Shreveport, is in piney woods just south of the Arkansas state line. Many people work in the oil or timber industries. In the old downtown, shops line streets near the antebellum Claiborne Parish courthouse on the town square.

The easygoing climate, blacks say, masked police harassment.

The black community has focused its anger on Police Chief Russell Mills, who is white. They say he's directed a policy of harassment toward them.

The FBI and State Police said they received no complaints about Homer police before the shooting.

Mills declined interview requests, saying he retained a lawyer and feared losing his job.

He and several Homer police officers stood alongside a road as marchers filed by Friday. In a town where many know each other, he shook the hands of several people.

Several Justice Department mediators accompanied Sharpton and the other marchers.

The Rev. Willie Young, pastor of the Baptist church where the march began, said "things begin to happen" when Sharpton lends his time to a cause.

"I want you to meet the new South," he said at the rally. "Things will never be the same. Homer will never be the same."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

UConn Women's Coach Mentions (GASP!) Race

While I was writing the previous post on men's basketball and race, I overheard a comment recorded from the day before on the Women's Final Four pregame show on TV. Unbeaten UConn's women's team coach Geno Auriemma, notorious for being controversial, didn't disappoint. I looked it up to get the words right. Here's what he said, unprompted by any question on the subject from reporters:

“I know this is going to get played out the wrong way,” said Auriemma, who was named the Associated Press women’s coach of the year for guiding Connecticut to a 37-0 record. “But I’m going to say it anyway. And I know I’m going to get criticized for this.

“White kids are always looked upon as being soft. So Stanford’s got a tremendous amount of really good players who for whatever reason, because they don’t look like Tina Charles or Maya Moore, the perception out there is going to be, well, they must be soft.

“Well, I think that’s a bunch of bull. I watched them play and nobody goes harder to the boards. Nobody takes more charges. Nobody runs the floor as hard. Those kids are as tough as any of the kids in the country. But people on the sports world like to make judgments on people by how they look. And it’s grossly unfair.”

I don't care much for Auriemma from what I've heard about him, but I commend him, too, for not dodging the subject. Sure, he had an angle he was working, a psychological game he was playing. But there's truth there, too. White women: sweet, soft, feminine, delicate, playing the finesse game. Black women: tough, physical, athletic, (maybe even mean?)

That's the stereotyped image. He was just calling it out, and debunking it. Good for him. (Not that I expect Stanford to beat them later tonight--no one has played Uconn within 10 pounts, much less beat them, this season!)

Race and (Men's College) Basketball

This notion that to even mention or think about race is bad is laughable. EVERYBODY thinks about it--NOBODY talks about it, and we cross our fingers and hope for the best. The latest colorblind nonsense comes from Dick Vitale et al. In a brave, insightful article in the Orlando Sentinel (,0,3051564.story?page=1), Jeremy Fowler takes on the subject head-on. Among the info he garnered: Two out of 20 starters on the 2009 Final Four teams are white (although both are big name: N.C.'s Tyler Hansbrough and Mich. St.'s Goran Suton). UConn and Villanova have zero whites on the roster.

Here are the p.c. "race doesn't matter" quotes:

"A lot of garbage," ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale called the notion of race playing a factor in basketball success. A coach "shouldn't be coaching" if he recruits with race in mind.

"I've never really thought about it [number of whites and blacks on the team] like that," Florida Coach Billy Donovan said. Donovan said he recruits players "who love the game" and pays no attention whatsoever to their race. It's all about a player fitting a system, Donovan said.

"We don't talk a lot in the recruiting industry about race," recruiting analyst Dave Telep said.

And the one expert whose job is to comment on it: Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport: "People don't talk about race, period — that's why they are uncomfortable with it."

Much of the article is built around an examination of programs with two or more Final Four appearances since 1997, as well as every school in the Southeastern Conference. The findings: in 12 of the 23 schools, men's basketball scholarship signees since 1997 were less than 20% white.

Number of white signees on the 11 teams with 2+ Final Four appearances over those years: Florida: 14
Duke: 14
Ohio State: 13
Kentucky: 13
Kansas: 11
UCLA: 10
Michigan State: 10
Arizona: 9
UNC: 9
Maryland: 7
UConn: 5

A partial list of the white signees of Southeastern Confererence programs since 1997:
1. Vanderbilt: 18
2. Florida: 14
3. Kentucky: 13
4. Arkansas: 11
Lowest number of white signees: Alabama: 2 and LSU: 6

Talking about the numbers is not a sin. People DO notice race. Other players do (Justin Knox, a black player from Alabama, says he has the mentality "you can come out and whoop on" predominately white teams. Chandler Parsons, a white player from Florida, admits: "You look at any school in the past that has had a white guy do well. If you're a white recruit, you look at that stuff.") Refs do. Fans do. Coaches do, despite their protests to the contrary. Recruiting analysts do; they just can't talk about it.

Once more, let me state my conviction that it is the AVOIDANCE of talking about race that is the problem. Talk about it. Be brave. Be sensitive. Be willing to laugh, to be shown you are wrong, to agree to disagree. I may not agree with Jeremy Fowler's implying that Duke and Florida have not done as well the last few years because they've recruited too many whites. But, hey, I'm glad he's expressing his opinions. I commend him for tackling the subject. As for Dick Vitale, keep living in your dream world, BAY-Y-BEEEEEEE! Ignore that elephant in the room, and maybe it will go away.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

McCain Looking out for the Interests of Long-Dead Blacks

Sen. John McCain, continuing his long regret over voting against the MLK Holiday in 1983 and equivocating over flying the Confederate flag in the South Carolina primary in 2000, is bravely stepping up in a grand effort to have first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, pardoned for his trumped up conviction on violating the Mann Act (his real crime was womanizing with white women, and then--egads!--marrying one!) The story is at

Of course, Johnson has been dead for over 60 years, so the pardon won't exactly get him out of jail or help him with potential employers.

Curious that McCain is willing to "stick his neck out" for this cause that will cost him and American taxpayers absolutely nothing, instead of fighting for better schools, job training, scholarships, compensatory rewards for discrimination suffered, etc.

The article says, "Both McCain and [U.S. Rep. Peter] King [R-NY] said a pardon, particularly one from Obama, would carry important symbolism.

"It would be indicative of the distance we've come, and also indicative of the distance we still have to go," McCain said.
Not sure what that means--that we still have more 90-some-year old convictions of 69-some-year dead blacks to overturn?

Distressing in another way is documentary filmmaker Ken Burn's take: Burns, however, sees a pardon more as "just a question of justice, which is not only blind, but color blind," adding, "And I think it absolutely does not have anything to do with the symbolism of an African-American president pardoning an African-American unjustly accused."

So the fact that Johnson was black has nothing to do with it? I don't get it. Again, I say, I am color blind. No, I don't mean I don't notice race. I mean really, literally, I'm likely to match blue and purple socks, a green shirts and brown pants, to pull over for a tow trucks yellow lights thinking it was the emergency red lights of an ambulance or cop. I see all of three colors in a rainbow if I'm lucky. Colorblindness for real is nothing to be desired. Neither is ideological colorblindness. To deny our differences, to refuse to recognize the lingering significance of race is to elevate the status quo, to set in stone the unquestioned, unexamined privileges of whiteness. Just say "No" to mindless parroting of the inane ideology of colorblindness!